GARDS- Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc.
Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support Inc. is a non-profit, non-government voluntary organisation that supports those affected by asbestos related diseases through out the whole Gippsland area in Victoria, servicing people living in places as far-extending as Phillip Island, Pakenham, Raymond Island, near Lakes Entrance, and Orbost.
CEO and Secretary Vicki Hamilton and a group of volunteers run its office in Newborough, in the Latrobe Valley. GARDS has approximately 250 financial members and including their family members the organisation services about 1000 people.
The organisation provides monthly support group meetings for those exposed to asbestos or suffering from an asbestos related disease, where people can share their experiences and listen to talks from guest speakers. Volunteers also provide home and hospital visits and a 24-hour telephone information and support line. The GARDS office is open five days a week where members and the general public can visit to get information and support.
GARDS also loans out medical equipment to its members free of charge to assist with the expenses that come with caring for someone with an asbestos related disease, including oxygen concentrators, oxygen conserving devices, walking frames, wheel chairs, shower chairs and more.
GARDS plays a large role in advocating for and educating about asbestos awareness as well, running International Workers Memorial Day and Asbestos Awareness Week events every year and teaching at tutorials for Monash University medical students and the Clayton and Gippsland campuses. GARDS workers also do speaking engagements for events, expositions, clubs, occupational health and safety representatives, businesses and service organisations.
With the help of medical professionals, unions & law firms GARDS ran a successful campaign to have a $21 million cancer care centre installed at the Latrobe Regional Hospital, which was opened in 2006. GARDS also created the Asbestos in the Home Removal Kit with the help of the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, Latrobe City Council, the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria, and negotiated an apology from Premier John Brumby in 2008 to the power workers of the Latrobe Valley and their families to acknowledge their exposure and suffering.
GARDS was a collaborative partner with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre & Melbourne University on the establishment of a Latrobe Valley Power Industry Cohort and Biospecimen Bank for the Study of Asbestos Related Disease, for which 800 power workers have given their blood for the last three years to help advance research.
To become a member of GARDS visit http://gards.org/membership.php or call 03 5127 7744.