1973 – 1984: Coffs Harbour. Birth Defects

The inadequacy of Commonwealth record-keeping of birth defects was dramatically illustrated in Coffs Harbour. In 1986 local residents Grace Bartram and Lorraine Wright noticed what appeared to be an excessive number of children born with cleft lips and palates. With the help of a sympathetic local doctor, they checked their information against official records and discovered that the two sets of figures did not tally. It became clear that the hospital had failed to notify the Commonwealth Perinatal Statistics Unit of all children born with facial abnormalities between 1981 and 1984. Shocked by what they had discovered, Bartram and Wright spoke to many women from Coffs Harbour region, as well as many from interstate and abroad. They discovered things which official records did not mention, including the fact that at least six women who had visited Coffs Harbour in early pregancy, had returned home to give birth to deformed children within the period of the identified birth defect cluster. They also spoke confidentially with a nursing sister who had worked at the Coffs Harbour Hospital during the 1970’s. She had reported that in 1973 there were 12 neural defects and a further 11 major defects from a total of 320 births, an extremely high level of abnormalities. p189 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. 1994 Kate Short.