A mostly abandoned, asbestos-filled town in Western Australia will be destroyed by the WA Government to stop influencers visiting it. You’d think the asbestos warning alone would be enough but apparently not!
Anything for the gram, including exposing yourself to incredibly dangerous minerals I guess.
Join me on a fun little tour of Australian history to explain exactly what went down in the (ex) town.
Wittenoom is in the Pilbara region of WA. The town was established to support a big fuck-off asbestos mine in the early 20th century.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wittenoom’s also the largest asbestos-contaminated site in the whole Southern Hemisphere.
The mine was shut down in the mid 1960s when people realised that asbestos was bad, actually. WA then removed Wittenoom’s town status in 2006. It was removed from maps and roadsigns a year later.
But apparently influencers have still keen on rocking up and taking pics.
WA Land Minister John Carey criticised the folks who still travelled to Wittenoom.
“I do not understand these Instagram influencers … who go out there because it is idiotic,” Carey said, as per the ABC.
But now there won’t be anything left to visit. The Wittenoom Closure Bill has passed through WA’s Parliament. The Bill essentially means that the State Government will now own and be able to demolish the last 14 buildings in Wittenoom.
“The passing of the Wittenoom Closure Bill is a significant step in resolving this longstanding industrial tragedy that will protect public health and put an end to a dark period in our State’s history,” said Carey.
“Despite the very clear health risks of travelling to the area, people have continued to visit the site, but this new legislation means there will be nothing left for people to visit.”
The Bill might stop influencers snapping asbestos-tinged pics. But Traditional Owners of the area have called for a plan to properly clean it up.
Greens MP Brad Pettit read out a letter by Banjima elder Maitland Parker in WA’s parliament yesterday.
“After decades in the courts, on 14th March 2014, Banjima people achieved Native Title over our homelands but we didn’t get our country,” Parker wrote.
“We were handed back the largest contaminated site in the southern hemisphere, with no support, help or plan to fix it.
“We can’t afford to, so somebody must be liable and our government just needs to ensure that whoever is responsible foots the bill.”
“We want what is rightfully ours as determined by the courts; we want our country back. We want Ngambigunha back.”
Parker and other Banjima People have been calling for a clean-up for over a decade. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma (a form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure) in 2016.
“It’s simple – clean the place up is our message,” he told NITV in 2021.
Wittenoom still has traces of blue asbestos fibres which, yes, are a massive health risk. So if you’re planning an Insta-worthy trip round WA, please don’t risk it for the gram. Just drive on by.