Former Victorian Crown Lands Department employees say their health has suffered after being exposed to toxic chemicals like cyanide and Agent Orange, which were used to kill off weeds and animals from 1965 to 1995.The Victorian Government today announced an independent inquiry, and former employees want to know why safety practices were so lax.
"They gave us, like, disposable overalls at one stage, but we weren't really made to wear them. Most of the time over summer we just wore a pair of shorts and gumboots," said Lindsay Murnane, a weed sprayer with the department in the late 1970s.
Mr Murnane is undergoing treatment for cancer, after he was diagnosed two years ago.
"I've finished chemo from that about six months ago, whether that's all linked to it I'm not sure," he said.
Ben Davis from the Australian Workers Union (AWU) said the union was in touch with a few dozen former employees, many of whom were suffering from ill health.
"We've had evidence from a number of former lands department employees and others about these sorts of things happening across Victoria," he said.
One of them is Greg Purcell.
Mr Purcell joined the lands department in the 1970s and is also unwell.
"I've got skin problems that have haunted me for years; I've got nervous problems," he said.
"Agent Orange was sprayed as a defoliant in the Vietnam War. Medical science has now proven conclusively and did say decades ago that it is carcinogenic and causes cancers."