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’.
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’.