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Innovation

Asbestos Innovation

Overview

Senator Chris Evans at the Asbestos Innovation Fund launch in Adelaide

Senator Chris Evans and Terry Miller from the Asbestos
Victims Association at the Asbestos Innovation Fund
launch in Adelaide

Comcare is committed to helping strengthen expertise in the prevention and better management of asbestos exposure, to improving the treatment and support available for asbestos-disease sufferers and improving the management of the Commonwealth’s common law asbestos responsibilities. We are doing this in a number of different ways including supporting a Flinders Medical Centre research initiative, and underwriting and administering the Asbestos Innovation Fund (the Fund).

Asbestos innovation fund

The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, launched the $1.5 million Fund in December 2010. In launching the Fund, Senator Evans said, 'It is a sad reality that asbestos has touched, and continues to touch the lives of many ordinary Australians. Tackling the threat of asbestos diseases in Australia will require action and collaboration on all levels.'

‘It will require new research into better treatments for those Australians suffering from exposure to asbestos, and their families,’ Senator Evans said.

The Fund has been designed to encourage the development of both practical initiatives and research projects that will raise awareness in relation to asbestos, assist in the management and removal of asbestos as well as improve the treatment and support available for asbestos-related disease sufferers and their families.

Projects supported by the Fund will also help achieve the Government’s policy priorities of building a stronger and fairer Australia through increased productivity, better work health and safety, and improved social inclusion.

Flinders Medical Centre

Flinders Medical Centre staff conducting mesothelioma research Comcare has provided funding for an innovative research project that is seeking to improve the prognostic factors for and treatment of malignant mesothelioma. The Flinders Medical Centre is a public teaching hospital and medical school, and is co-located with Flinders University and Flinders Private Hospital.

The research is being headed up by Associate Professor Sonja Klebe, an internationally renowned expert in this field. The work Dr Klebe is undertaking has resulted in the identifi cation of a new and independent prognostic factor for malignant mesothelioma, which is believed will assist doctors to more accurately predict the prognosis of individual patients. Initial results also suggest that the work may positively influence treatment strategies for patients.

The outcomes of this research are due to be published in the international peer reviewed Journal of Cancer later this year.

The researchers at Flinders Medical Centre are responsible for diagnosis of many malignant mesothelioma cases and review all asbestos disease institute cases.


Staff from the Flinders Medical Centre

Staff from the Flinders Medical Centre

The Asbestos Innovation Fund Assessment Committee

The newly formed Asbestos Innovation Fund Assessment Committee (AIFAC) held its first meeting in May 2011, with the first call for funding applications made in July 2011. The external members of AIFAC have extensive experience in the asbestos field:

  • Professor Niki Ellis, CEO of the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR)
  • Professor Douglas Henderson, Surgical Pathologist at the Flinders Medical Centre
  • Mrs Vicki Hamilton, CEO of Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support (GARDS).

The role of this committee is to:

  • assess applications for funding
  • identify where potential projects may be linked
  • make recommendations to Comcare’s Deputy CEO on funding applications
  • monitor the performance of funded projects
  • ensure compliance with funding agreements
  • advise the Deputy CEO on matters relevant to the administration of the Fund.

Types of projects and programs to be supported

It is intended that a wide range of projects and programs will be supported by the Fund. This may include communications and education campaigns, workplace training solutions, skills development programs, projects that target the development of safe removal systems, medical research into improved diagnostic, treatment and patient care practices, and approaches to systems of compensation and support.

2011–12

It is anticipated that two rounds of funding applications will be run in 2011–12, with funding being made available to successful applicants in December 2011 and June 2012. The AIFAC is looking forward to receiving applications and developing a greater understanding of the types of projects and programs of work that are being undertaking in the asbestos area. AIFAC is also anticipating, however, that the requests for funding will far exceed the funds available. It will therefore be challenging for the committee to select which projects to support.

Further information

For further information visit the Asbestos Innovation Fund webpage.

Table 1: Meeting attendance

Commissioners Eligible to attend Attended Attended by Deputy Attended as observer
Peter Henneken AM 4 4
Michelle Baxter 4 3 1
Burt Blackburne (appointment expired 9 June 2011) 3 3 1
Professor Niki Ellis 4 4
Rex Hoy 4 4
Lt Gen David Hurley AC DSC 4 2 2
Sandra Lambert (appointed 10 March 2011) 2 2 1
Paul O’Connor 4 4
Sue Powell 4 4
Graham Rawstron 4 4
Stephen Somogyi (appointment expired 25 May 2011) 3 3