Sylvia Lovenfosse is a survivor of Wittenoom. She and her husband Phil spent two years there in the late 1950s. In the mid-1970s they began to hear stories about the children of Wittenoom who were dying of asbestos-related diseases.
These weren’t strangers but the children of friends and neighbours from their Wittenoom years and Sylvia decided then that she was going to tell their story. This meant going to university to do a degree in modern history, followed by an honours degree that involved collecting the interviews of as many children of Wittenoom that she could track down. As a result of her studies over the years she has now collected 55 interviews in all by the time she finished.
These years of study were dogged by personal tragedy as her husband contracted the deadly asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma and she contracted breast cancer at around the same time. Phil’s illness and subsequent death forty years after they were in Wittenoom made her more determined than ever to complete her ambitious project.
She is at present studying for her Master of Philosophy degree on the subject. Here Sylvia tells her family story of the days at Wittenoom and the devastating aftermath.