Senate inquiry into Support for Australia’s thalidomide survivors

31/01/2019

Gordon Legal’s Senior Partner, Peter Gordon has today appeared at the Parliament of Australia’s Senate inquiry into Support for Australia’s thalidomide survivors.

In his submission to the committee, Mr Gordon said the failure of the Australian Government to properly care for and support the thalidomide community justified a national apology.

“At the very least, the government should guarantee if the funds of the Australian Thalidomide Trust are ever exhausted, the government will continue to fund beneficiaries,” Mr Gordon said.

“Failings in the medicine and the investigation of the thalidomide disaster permitted the companies responsible for thalidomide in Australia to vastly under-estimate and under-compensate the thalidomide community in the first fifty years after the disaster occurred.  The thalidomide tragedy was at least three times larger than was recognised and compensated.”

Mr Gordon also said the government should consider measures to bring to account the principal drug company wrongdoer Chemie Grunenthal for the damage caused to the thalidomiders and their families, and the wider cost to the community.

“Families of survivors have never been compensated and Chemie Grunenthal has never been held to account.”

Mr Gordon told the inquiry he established the firm Gordon Legal to act for thalidomide survivors in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), and worked exclusively on thalidomide cases involving more than 150 families between 2009 and 2014.

“Our work contributed to two settlements for thalidomiders*; the first to supplement compensation for ANZ thalidomiders first compensated in the 1970s and the second, class action settlements for 105 newly recognised ANZ thalidomiders; amounting to a total of a little over $150,000,000 all up.  It was both the most challenging and the most satisfying work we have ever done, and a privilege to have been involved in,” Mr Gordon said.

 

* the expression “thalidomiders” is used in this statement to refer to people who suffered congenital malformations due to their mother’s thalidomide use; it being an expression many themselves use and prefer.

Listen to the inquiry here