Terry Miller OAM: tireless advocate for South Australian asbestos victims passes away

Speeches & Opinions - June 1, 2018

South Australian asbestos advocate Terry Miller OAM has been remembered as a champion of fellow asbestos victims who devoted nearly two decades of his life to support families, campaign for improved laws, and educate the public about the ongoing dangers of asbestos.

Mr Miller, who suffered severe asbestosis following two decades working for James Hardie, passed away last night (Thursday 31 May, 2018), aged 76. He is remembered by his children, Karen and Scott, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Terry developed his disease following heavy asbestos exposure over two decades at the James Hardie pipe factory in Elizabeth West, where he worked from November 1966 until it shut in March 1987.

Terry grew up in Waikerie, in the South Australian Riverland, before moving to Elizabeth where he started work at the factory as a table hand, labourer in the tool room, and lathe operator. Over the years he worked nearly every job in the factory, eventually becoming a shift foreman in 1977.

Conditions at the factory were awful. Terry described coming home covered in asbestos dust, which stuck to his clothes, skin and hair.

It was his hundreds of fellow workers, and the tens of thousands of others around the country exposed to asbestos, that inspired him to devote his time and effort to helping asbestos victims and work to prevent other people being exposed to the deadly substance.

Mr Miller was part of a small group that met in 2000 to form what became the Asbestos Victims Association of South Australia. In 2002, after his asbestosis forced his early retirement, he agreed to take on the role of secretary of the association.

Under his leadership, the AVA championed groundbreaking legislation that passed the South Australian Parliament with bipartisan support in December 2005. The law, an Australian first, fast-tracked the process for asbestos victims to receive compensation and ensured additional support for their families.

Behind the scenes, Terry devoted himself to the challenging and unglamorous work of providing practical support and assistance to asbestos victims and their families. While he often found this heart wrenching, he received great satisfaction from helping families through these most difficult times.

“There are very few people who have worked so tirelessly, for so many years, to help so many people,” AVA president Kat Burge said.

“Terry knew first-hand just how terrible asbestos diseases are, but he used that personal experience to fight for the rights of fellow asbestos victims, to ensure they received justice, and to support their families through incredibly difficult times.

“Thousands of South Australian families have directly benefited from Terry’s devotion over two decades.

“Terry’s efforts around public education and improved safety practices have also likely saved thousands more people from being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres.

“While the loss of Terry is very difficult for all of us, but in particular his family and friends, we will honour his commitment by continuing his selfless efforts to support and advocate for all asbestos victims.”

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