24.3 C
Byron Shire
February 23, 2024

Thalidomide apology recognises injustice

Latest News

An adventure of a different kind

Two years ago adventurer Emma Scattergood discovered that a journey doesn’t always involve travel. In 2022, Emma was told she had stage 3 invasive lobular breast cancer. 

Other News

The Light of Loving Kindness

‘May the light of the sun and moon of loving kindness and compassion permeate the entire world forever more, dispelling the darkness of the suffering of beings, and filling space with peace and happiness’ – Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche.

Police confirm two babies dead on February 11 in Mullumbimby

NSW Police have confirmed that at about 2am Sunday 11 February, emergency services were called to a home in Mullumbimby following reports of a concern for welfare.

1,000 people attend BJJ tournament

Over 1,000 people flocked to Byron Bay on the weekend to either compete or spectate at one of Australia’s...

Green Convoy

Michael Trevaskis (Letters, 8 February) might have enjoyed the extra three years of the miserable and mean Morrison government...

Government amends Biosecurity (Fire Ants) Emergency Order

As the spread of fire ants into the north of the state becomes more apparent, the NSW Government has made amendments to the Biosecurity (Fire Ants) Emergency Order in an attempt to stem fire ant migration.

Koala chlamydia and Wildlife Hospital funding boost for Northern Rivers

As the pressure mounts from the NSW Labor state government to increase the amount and density of housing, and as a result increase the population, across the Northern Rivers the impact on wildlife will continue to grow. 

Brett Nielsen travelled to Canberra to hear the National Apology to all Australians impacted by the Thalidomide Tragedy. Photo supplied

Last week, Labor PM, Anthony Albanese, delivered a national apology to all Australians impacted by the thalidomide tragedy.

For Mullum local, Brett Nielsen, it was a long time coming, but one for which he told The Echo he was very thankful for.

The apology comes with a lifetime support package, ‘that helps with out of pocket health care costs and also daily living costs’.

‘The package makes a difference to me’, he said, adding that after meeting the PM in Canberra, he thought he was ‘a lovely guy, and down to earth’.

Marketed as a sedative and treatment for morning sickness in pregnant women in the late 50s and early 60s, thalidomide caused babies to be born with a range of disabilities, including shortening and malformation of limbs.

Brett is known as the first baby born in Australia with the effects of Thalidomide, and as such, is without arms. 

But as many in the community know, his disability has not hindered him in pursuing a fulfilling life. 

Brett uses both feet to create art, operate vehicles – even an excavator (Big Toe Back Hoe)… there’s nothing it seems he can’t do. 

As a piano player, composer, recording artist and sound engineer, he operates Big Toe Studios.

Brett says it’s estimated around 146 people were affected by thalidomide in Australia, a figure that rose by around 100 in 2012, after investigations by lawyer Peter Gordon.

According to www.thalidomidetrust.org, ‘It is generally estimated that over 10,000 babies were born worldwide, and today fewer than 3,000 survive’.

‘It went from being an over-the-counter drug to a prescription drug’, Brett says. ‘The marketing arm then promoted it as anti-nausea. It was criminal’. 

System failed 

In the PM’s November 29 apology speech, he said, ‘These parents, these mothers, did nothing wrong. These parents did not fail their children. The system failed them both’. 

‘Which is why, as so many survivors have requested: the apology we offer today embraces and includes their parents and their families as well.

‘This apology takes in one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history.

‘Even after the grave dangers of this drug were known, importing thalidomide was not prohibited. Selling it was not banned. Products and samples in surgeries and shops were not comprehensively recalled or entirely destroyed’.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Brett might be known as the first victim but I believe Kenneth Hayden, who was born in Grafton with no arms or legs, seventy-one years ago, was earlier. It might be of interest to know Thalidomide is still being prescribed.
    Cheers, G”)

    • Dr Google says: “ Thalidomide is used today for the treatment of myeloma (a type of cancer that starts in the bone marrow) and also for the treatment of Hansen’s disease (once known as leprosy).”

      Is this what you’re referring to?

  2. Bring on financial Australian Government Department of Health & Ageing National Drug Strategy Compensation for families impacted by Methamphetamine Addiction Train Wreck


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Police confirm two babies dead on February 11 in Mullumbimby

NSW Police have confirmed that at about 2am Sunday 11 February, emergency services were called to a home in Mullumbimby following reports of a concern for welfare.

Just what the doctor and nurses and midwives ordered

It seems like nurses and midwives are always struggling under the weight of poor patient-to-staff ratios. It is hoped that an influx of new workers could help ease the load. This will be a welcome relief for local staff.

Affordable housing summit next week

As the affordable housing issue shows no signs of easing in the near future, key figures in the housing, property, and finance sectors will come together to tackle the country’s housing challenges at the ninth Affordable Housing Development & Investment Summit

Lorikeets on the mend as paralysis season eases

A poorly-understood phenomenon where lorikeets in the region becoming paralysed and unable to fly is thankfully coming to an end for 2024, says WIRES wildlife vet, Dr Tania Bishop.