Trish Jackson, one of 37 Thalidomide Survivors who missed out on millions od dollars in compensation, at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: News Corp Australia
SHE was born without arms and has six holes in her heart because her mother took an anti-nausea drug. But the only compensation Trish Jackson’s mum received is $9,200.
The 52-year-old Queenslander is one of 35 thalidomide victims who’ve been cheated by the legal system and ignored by our government. As other governments around the world pay out their victims, she wants help.
Thalidomide was launched in 1957 to treat nausea in pregnant women but it caused severe birth defects including missing and stunted limbs, missing organs, deafness and blindness in more than 10,000 babies worldwide.
Forty per cent of the babies born with these defects died before their first birthday and the world’s worst drug scandal led to the establishment of Australia’s medicines watchdog the Therapeutic Goods Administration..
In 2013 when 100 other Australian thalidomide victims shared $89 million in compensation Trish and 35 surviving thalidomide victims missed out.
Her parents were forced to waive their right and her right to any further compensation for her injuries when they received a $9,200 compensation payment from the company that distributed thalidomide in the 1970s.
Trish Jackson was initially denied a disability pension despite missing two arms as a result of an anti-nausea drug her mother used while pregnant. Picture Kim Smyth News Corp. Source: News Corp Australia
Trish was aged just ten at the time her legal rights were signed away.
A further small settlement was reached between these 35 victims and the distributor of the drug in 2010.
Trish is angry that while other governments have helped the victims in their country the Australian Government has ignored victims here.
In 2012 the British government provided 20 million pounds compensation for its thalidomide victims, the Irish Government topped up a German compensation scheme and paid its victims a lump sum payment and monthly allowance in the 1970s.
The Canadian Government this year offered its 95 thalidomide victims a $125,000 lump-sum payment and access to a medical assistance fund of up to $168 million.
The Australian Government has done nothing for our thalidomide survivors, instead Trish says its bureaucracy has humiliated them.
When she applied for the dole as a school leaver Trish Jackson was told her she had to prove she could work before it would be paid and she was sent to a sheltered workshop.
She later got a job as a receptionist.
Trish Jackson says she even had to fight for a disability pension several years ago because the bureaucrat considering her case failed to notice she was missing her arms.
She’s written to every federal and state MP about her plight and that of 37 other survivors like herself.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott told her to contact her state community services department and gave her a 1300 number to call at the Department of Human Services when she sent him a letter asking for compensation similar to that provided to overseas victims.
Dr William McBride, the Australian doctor who discovered risk of Thalidomide to unborn babies. Source: News Corp Australia
When she came to Canberra this week Social Security Minister Scott Morrison refused to meet her.
Former Labor assistant health minister Jan McLucas promised to help Trish and other thalidomide victims in 2008 but nothing came of it.
Ms Jackson’s local MP Senator Chris Ketter raised her case in federal parliament this week.
When Trish Jackson took the Prime Minister’s advice and called the state community services department it offered to install a hand rail in her home even though she doesn’t have any hands.
The federal Human Services Department told her they didn’t know what thalidomide was and had no funding for her.
“They are just waiting for us to die so the problem goes away,” she said.
Trish says she wants the government to apologise to her parents for allowing the medicine into Australia and compensation to help modify her home so she can live with the disability caused by the drug.
“How do you put a price on being stared at, laughed at, made fun of, all the heart operations I’ve been through, being told by the government you are not disabled, sent to work in a sheltered workshop, the lost relationships, the lost work opportunities,” she says.
Trish Jackson wants government compensation to her modify her home to cope with problems caused by the drug thalidomide. Picture Kim Smyth News Corp. Source: News Corp Australia
Trish dreams of having enough money to tile her floor so it is flat for her wheelchair, she needs her bathroom revamped to suit her needs, her swimming pool needs updating to remove steps so she can get the only exercise she can do.
Most of all she wants an apology to her parents over the drug that caused the birth defects because she says her mother blames herself for Trish’s birth defects.
Trish has a 21 year old daughter and worked for 15 years before the strain of brushing her teeth, doing her hair and other basic tasks with her feet and mouth took its toll on her body.
She lives with a constant headache, thalidomide damaged her nerves so merely brushing against her can produce pain like being hit by an axe.
When 100 other thalidomide victims received millions in compensation in 2013 Trish’s father called thrilled to think she had finally got help.
He cried when she told him she would get none of that compensation because he had signed away her rights.
“I’m a happy person, I’ve never been woe is me, the world owes me,” she says.
“This is how I was born, this is what I live with I just get on with it,” she says.