The Australian Asbestos Network – how journalism can address a public health disaster


  • Gail Ann Phillips Murdoch University
  • Mia Kersti Maria Lindgren Monash University



asbestos, public health, narrative medicine, journalism, online communities


Asbestos presents an ongoing health disaster worldwide. First through mining and manufacturing, and now through workplaces and the home, exposure to asbestos is presenting a public health hazard that will continue well into the 21st century. Yet it is a hidden epidemic with litigation often silencing the voices that could attest to the destructive impact of what was once called the ‘magic mineral’. This paper describes a unique collaboration between journalists, doctors and public health researchers where journalistic techniques are used to bring the peoples’ stories of suffering and caring to public attention. The project illustrates the value of interdisciplinary collaboration as well as demonstrating how journalistic activity can be the subject of legitimate academic research. The outcome is a website, with three functions: first, as an historical archive of asbestos stories through audio and video interviews with asbestos diseases sufferers, their families and carers; second, as a one-stop-shop for public health information about asbestos risk where journalism skills are employed to translate often complex information into accessible language and formats; and third, as the nucleus for a future online community where patients and doctors can interact and experiment with more collaborative models of medical and public health interventions.

Author Biographies

Gail Ann Phillips, Murdoch University

Associate Professor, Journalism

Mia Kersti Maria Lindgren, Monash University

Senior Lecturer, Journalism




How to Cite

Phillips, G. A., & Lindgren, M. K. M. (2010). The Australian Asbestos Network – how journalism can address a public health disaster. Observatorio (OBS*), 4(4).