Asbestos in Asia: Breaking Through the Silence in Lao PDR

Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA project officer, Matt Hilton, talks about the threat of asbestos in developing countries and APHEDA’s expansion of its asbestos disease prevention project into Lao PDR.

Australians know that asbestos kills. We are historically one of the highest per capita miners, manufacturers and consumers of asbestos in the world. Almost all public buildings and around one third of all private houses were built with asbestos. And the toll was heavy – by 2020, Australia will have had 13,000 cases of mesothelioma and over 40,000 cases of asbestos related cancer.

Broken bags of asbestos cement lie in open storage

Broken bags of asbestos cement lie in open storage at a factory in Laos.

Globally, it is estimated that 107,000 workers each year succumb to asbestos or asbestos related cancers. And the centre of this new epidemic is Asia. The World Health Organisation estimates that 60% of the 125 million people exposed to asbestos in their homes or workplace are in Asia. And that figure is set to increase – already half of asbestos consumption occurs in Asia with 90% of the global increase in consumption between 2000 and 2004 occurring in Asia. Continue reading

Photos from award ceremony in Vietnam

On the 21st of November we received a Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) award acknowledging of our significant contribution to poverty reduction and development in Vietnam. Here are some photos from the award ceremony.

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Harrassment of garment workers striking in Cambodia

Tens of thousands of workers undertook strike action earlier this week to demand an increase in the minimum wage. Many workers were harrassed and some beaten. Many have had their employment terminated despite the strike being legal under Cambodian Labor Law.

It is also being reported that the leaders of the unions will soon have court summons issued to them.

The current minimum wage for garment workers in Cambodia is USD 61 dollars per month. Unions estimate the living wage for a worker in Phnom Penh is at least 91 USD per month. Continue reading

Photos from our projects

Big thanks to Christine W for this post. Christine was here with us last week as a work experience student.


These women from Uatiliana village in Timor-Leste, began learning to read and write in their native Tetum one year ago. After starting with the basics, the 15 women, including a mother and daughter, are now learning local place names and other essentials for daily life.


Mae La Oo Camp

Mae Ra Moe Camp

Tens of thousands of refugees live in these camps on the Thai-Burma border . The conditions are cramped and there is little to do. All structures need to be non-permanent (made of bamboo and natural material). The camps have been there for over 25 years.  For the babies born in the camps this has been their only home.


APEHDA and the national institute of Labour protection formally launched the Vietnam Asbestos Disease Prevention Project on 8th February 2010. Vietnam continues to use asbestos extensively putting workers at risk of asbestos disease. This project will establish a permanent National Resource Centre to produce research, conduct health checks for at risk workers and promote protective equipment and alternatives.


APHEDA supports health care for the elderly Palestinian residents of Bourj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

Australian unions condemn aid convoy deaths and call for lifting of blockade of Gaza

MEDIA RELEASE – Australian Council of Trade Unions

Australian unions have condemned the killing of nine people and wounding of an Australian citizen aboard an aid convoy bound for Gaza this week.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow said incident was an outrage and the blockade of Gaza should be lifted.

“A full, open and independent inquiry is needed to establish the precise details of what took place when armed Israeli soldiers boarded vessels in the convoy, which was organised to bring supplies to Gaza,” Ms Burrow said.

“Those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice.”

Ms Burrow said Australian unions expressed their deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives, and hoped that the wounded, including an Australian  shot in the leg, would have a full recovery.

She said it was also unacceptable that an Australian journalist and photographer along with other Australian citizens had been detained and threatened with deportation.

Ms Burrow welcomed the strong condemnation of the attack by the Australian Government.

“This appalling development underlines once again that violence and confrontation will not bring peace and justice to Palestinians and Israelis,” Ms Burrow said.

“The only acceptable way forward is through negotiation based  on a commitment on all sides to renounce violence.

“Meeting a humanitarian convoy with military force is unacceptable.”

Ms Burrow said the ACTU supported a call by the international union movement for an end to the blockade of Gaza to bring an end to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.

Contact: Mark Phillips, ACTU Media Co-ordinator, (03) 8676 7266

APHEDA at cutting edge of Asbestos disease prevention in Vietnam

Opening Board of the Conference

Report from the Strengthening Capacity of Research and Information on Asbestos-Related Occupational Diseases Conference in Hanoi

Supporters familiar with APHEDA’s ideology and practice might be scratching their head as to why we are sponsoring a conference? True, APHEDA’s modus operandi is direct capacity building, community development and tangible results. But this is no conference for a conferences’ sake, rather, it marks the formal launch of the National Resource Centre for Asbestos Related Disease. This centre will be the first centre dedicated to researching asbestos disease in Vietnam and crucially is located within the trade union movement who in many countries, including Australia, have lead the charge to protect workers from asbestos related disease. Continue reading