The harrowing experiences of those affected by the Williamtown PFAS contamination disaster will be top of mind for Medowie’s Jarrod Sansom during next week’s national youth summit in Canberra.
Mr Sansom recently won the ABC’s Heywire competition for sharing the story of his family’s connection with the Red Zone through a video about the effects of this contamination on his loved ones.
The win has secured Mr Sansom an all-expenses-paid trip to the Heywire Summit in Canberra, where more than 30 participants will work together in groups to develop ideas and make positive changes to their communities.
Mr Sansom hopes to bring the plight of PFAS-affected communities to the elite youth think tank and last week met with representatives from the Williamtown and Surrounds Residents Action Group, Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group and the Salt Ash Community First group to hear first-hand about the continued impact the contamination is having on their lives.
The meeting took place at the office of Federal Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, and was jointly hosted by Ms Swanson and State MP for Port Stephens, Kate Washington.
Mr Sansom heard from people who were stuck on contaminated properties without any means to sell or borrow against their homes.
He heard about anecdotal reports of a 52-case ‘cancer cluster’ on Cabbage Tree Road, the relentless psychological toll experienced by residents in the Red Zone, and the difficulty of trying to reach a solution when dealing with three levels of government and the Department of Defence.
He was also briefed on Ms Swanson and Ms Washington’s ongoing campaign to bring forward a resolution for affected families.
“It was fantastic to meet with people and get better insight into the issue,” Mr Sansom said.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to provide a voice in Canberra and do whatever I can to put the issue forward.”
Ms Swanson commended Jarrod for his commitment to informing young people about the PFAS contamination crisis that was sweeping the country.
“I think the residents who spoke with Jarrod were grateful that a young person cared enough to come and hear their stories and take them to the national Heywire summit,” Ms Swanson said.
“It’s harrowing to hear what people are enduring, and I thank Jarrod for caring enough to come, listen, understand that pain, and commit to fighting for justice.”
Kate Washington reflected on the fact Jarrod’s family had its own harrowing story about PFAS contamination.
“I think he’s learned a lot about the families who are still stuck living on contaminated properties. They have nowhere to go, through no fault of their own,” Ms Washington said.
“We should be so proud of Jarrod and the skill he has telling important and meaningful stories.
“Now he’s armed with an even deeper understanding of what these families continue to face, and we have another strong and local advocate to fight for a resolution and hold the government to account.”