PM apologises to thalidomide victims for the ‘devastating harm’ caused by the pharmaceutical disaster

Nov 30, 2023
The Federal Government apologised to those affected by the drug's use, recognising the lasting impact on families, mothers, and children caused by thalidomide. Source: Getty Images.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has officially expressed remorse to those whose lives were adversely affected by the harmful drug thalidomide over six decades ago.

Administered to pregnant women in the 1950s and early 1960s for various conditions such as morning sickness and insomnia, the drug, after almost ten years of usage, was discovered to be responsible for miscarriages, premature childhood deaths, and profound birth defects in numerous children.

On Thursday, November 30, the Federal Government issued an apology to those affected by the drug’s use while acknowledging how the lives of families, mothers, and children were impacted forever by thalidomide.

“This apology takes in one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history,” Albanese said.

“Expectant mothers, through no fault of their own, were exposed to a drug with devastating effects that were realised too late.

“To the survivors: we apologise for the pain thalidomide has inflicted on each and every one of you, each and every day.

“As survivors have requested, the National Site of Recognition will be much more than “a plaque in a park”. It will be a prompt for our collective conscience, a call to our nation’s heart.”

Following Albanese’s apology, it was declared that the Australian Thalidomide Survivors Support Program will be reopened, ensuring that those who might have missed the previous chance to seek support will now have the opportunity to receive the assistance they rightfully deserve.

This program, designed as a lifelong support package, comprises a one-time lump sum payment as a recognition of the endured pain and suffering, along with ongoing annual payments. Moving forward, instead of keeping these payments fixed, the Government will actively support increases through indexation for all current and prospective qualifying applicants.

Additionally, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler is set to unveil a national memorial dedicated to the survivors of the thalidomide tragedy and their families in Canberra on Friday, December 1.

“The Government’s Thalidomide Survivors Support Program will be re-opened to ensure that anyone who may have missed the previous opportunity to apply for support does not miss out on the support they need and deserve,” Butler said.

“The national memorial was designed in collaboration with thalidomide survivors – to honour and respect them, to acknowledge their pain and courage and to ensure this tragedy is never forgotten.

“The words inscribed in the glass bricks were chosen by survivors to reflect their experience. It’s impossible to read those words and not be profoundly moved by the impact and legacy of the tragedy.

“The thalidomide tragedy provides a powerful lesson about the need to be vigilant to safeguard people’s health.”


Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up