Three Reasons Why Rolf Harris Supports A Worldwide Asbestos Ban

Most people know Rolf Harris as a popular entertainer and artist, but he is also a passionate supporter of a complete worldwide asbestos ban,and has backed a new Australian anti asbestos website, launched this week in Perth Australia. This is an abridged version of his views as told to Perth Now.  

Rolf has his own personal reasons for supporting the new website, in fact he has had three close experiences with the deadly mineral. Rolf was first exposed as a boy, while growing up in a one-room house his father Crom had erected on land overlooking the Swan River. The Harris`s family home was made of pressed asbestos fibre boards nailed to upright timbers – a death trap to anyone who might later drill into or damage the walls. “People should be educated to the fact that you don’t mess around with that sort of material, Don’t drill into it, don’t sand it down, don’t create dust from it, don’t saw it…Get experts in (to remove it)… The ordinary Joe Public should never tackle anything to do with asbestos-related material.” Rolf explains in a video interview.  

Rolf`s second experience happened in his late teens and involved the deadly blue asbestos. Rolf at that time was a university student and was looking for a summer job His mother sugested he should get a job in the now infamous blue asbestos mine at Wittenoom Western Australia. The money would be good, she argued, and the aspiring young artist could paint the purple-blue beauty of the gorges in his spare time. “I was told in no uncertain terms that this is what I should do,” recalls a grinning Rolf, “so off I went.” Searing heat and living in tents was bad enough, but Rolf soon discovered the cramped mine was a hellhole to work in. “I was useless,” he recalls, “I was bent double trying to carry great lumps of rock…I never filled a single truck.”

Looking back, Rolf feels lucky he was soon taken off the mine’s work gang. He feels even luckier that he was never sent to work in the crushing mill, where clouds of lethal airborne asbestos fibres were breathed in by hundreds of men who passed through the mine before it closed down in 1966. “It’s a killer…but nobody had any idea at that time,” he says.  

Rolf`s final and saddest memory is of his own father Crom dying a painful death from a lung disease Rolf`s Dad had spent his working life at the East Perth Power Station, where heated water pipes were covered in woven asbestos fibre lagging. During periodic repairs, a temporary turbine was wheeled in which would knock the pipes, dislodging killer fibres into the air. “Dad said it was like walking into a blue grey fog,” Rolf recalls. “You couldn’t see from one end of the turbine (room) to the other…That was day and night for a month. “Forty years later, he’s coughing up blood and wondering what on earth is the problem. Why does he feel so weak and dizzy? They X-rayed him and found little filaments of asbestos on his lungs…It created lung cancer which killed him.”    

Rolf Harris says having a relative stricken down, years after exposure to the silent killer, is sad. “It changes your whole attitude to asbestos to have someone so close and so dear to you killed by the stuff…I’m behind anything which will get this message through to the ordinary public that they must be very, very aware of it.” The last time Harris saw his father was when he flew to Perth midway through an Australian tour. The once-strong man greeted him in a dressing gown, physically weak and dying. “I’d got word that he was ill and it was the shock of my life to see this man suddenly…brought to a stage where there was nothing I could say or do to help,” recalls an emotional Harris, shaking his head. “Awful.”  

If you want to see some videos of Rolf talking about his asbestos experiences on the new Australian anti asbestos website  CLICK HERE   Please take your time to browse through the pages in the website. You can read through and listen to the stories and experiences of people who have been, and in some cases still are, affected by asbestos and its ongoing legacy.  

About the Author: Charity Faith Hope wants to highlight the fact that thousands of people around the world are facing an early death from mesothelioma and asbestosis. You can find out more about these deadly diseases by visiting

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