The Bernie Banton Foundation is set to close by 30 June 2020, with Karen Banton retiring from her role as CEO of the Foundation. The decision will allow Banton to take a break, following 20 years of asbestos-related disease advocacy. The board felt the best way forward was to close the charity, particularly as the organisation bears the name of Banton’s late husband. The Foundation’s funds and assets will be distributed in accordance with its Constitution to charities that share similar objectives with the company. More details will be made available via the organisation’s website prior to the charity’s closure. A statement released by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) responded to news of the organisation’s closure with sadness.
“The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency notes with sadness that the Bernie Banton Foundation, established in 2009, will be winding up in mid-2020 with Ms Karen Banton’s retirement as CEO. The Agency wishes Ms Banton and her partner Rod Smith well in their well-deserved upcoming retirement, and warmly thanks them and all Foundation staff for the work they have done supporting victims of asbestos disease over the last decade.”
Established in 2009 by Karen Banton, the Foundation is an apolitical, not-for-profit organisation which strives to support sufferers of asbestos-related diseases and their loved ones, while raising awareness of the continued risks of asbestos exposure. The Foundation helps people navigate the difficult journey following an asbestos-related disease diagnosis and enables people to have informed choices about specialist asbestos dust litigators, medical professionals and care providers. The Foundation also raises awareness of mesothelioma asbestos cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. Additionally, the Foundation provides an asbestos disease support helpline, online information, and peer-based emotional support and encouragement from people who have lived a similar journey.
“I’m extremely proud of what the Bernie Banton Foundation has achieved,” Banton said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is our peer-based support program for asbestos-related disease sufferers and their families. My partner in the Foundation and in life, Rod Smith, has done an incredible job driving this program.” Over the last decade, the Foundation has supported more than 1100 asbestos-related disease sufferers and family members, reaching more than 14 million Australians through their advocacy efforts. The organisation has also advocated for ongoing research to help current and future asbestos-related disease sufferers.
“Now, after 20 years of advocacy for victims, Rod and I both losing a spouse to mesothelioma cancer, and 10 years with the Foundation, it’s finally time for us to retire and spend some much needed time together as a family. Bernie was a major force in the fight for justice and compensation for asbestos-related disease sufferers. It has been an honour to continue Bernie’s legacy of supporting victims and their loved ones. We’re ready to pass the baton to the other asbestos-related disease organisations already carrying out the good work of supporting victims and their loved ones and raising awareness of the risks of exposure,” Banton said.
The Foundation also advocated for changes to the Dust Diseases Board (DDB), resulting in improved lead times for the registration process for dust disease claimants. The Foundation partnered with icare Dust Diseases Care, via the DDB’s Grants Program, to fund the distribution of asbestos disease support brochures to GP waiting rooms across New South Wales, which are predicted to reach more than 70,000 people by the end of the program in May 2020.
“We encourage government, organisations and advocates to continue their support for asbestos awareness as a means to prevent future asbestos exposure and also for medical research into asbestos-related diseases in an effort to discover new treatments toward ultimately finding a cure,” Banton said.