1980 – 1982: Coffs Harbour Banana Plantations

Our first child was born healthy in 1977 and the next year we moved to Coffs Harbour. Our house was on the roadside corner of a banana plantation and we asked the owners of the house and the real estate agent about the pesticides and were told only white oil and fertilisers were being used – nothing harmful. We bought the house and moved in.
One morning, while hanging out the washing a spray plane came over so low I could read the numbers on it and see the pilot. We were all covered with a fine wet rain of pesticide from the plane. It burnt my eyes and face and I felt like vomiting, doubled up and was sick. The plane came over again and again, and we got sprayed some more. We staggered inside and the showered. By this time I had bad stomach cramps and was really ill. I had blinding headaches, nose bleeds, and chronic diarrhoea with sores on my arms and legs the size of 50 cent pieces. I later found all but three of my chooks dead, they were bleeding from their beaks.
Soon after, I found that I was pregnant and the doctor told me that this was the reason for my illness. The remainder of my pregnancy I was very sick and in and out of hospital. My baby never slept. She thrashed about in rigid jerking movements rather than just shifting or rolling. Near the end of my pregnancy, they finally X-rayed me and found that the baby was not going to live. Jennifer was born on the 1st of June 1981 and died at birth. The autopsy revealed that she had no top on her head, a cleft lip and palate, spina bifida and her bones had hooks and barbs on them. There were no wrists or elbows. She could not be lain flat, half her heart was missing, and her organs were all shrivelled, her liver with cancerous lesions.
Two years later I had the same experience. I was not aware that I was pregnant and we were all outside. I was hanging out the washing and my husband and son were in the garden. The plane came over and on the third sweep I was drenched and crawled vomiting and bleeding towards the house. Our goats fell down and vomited, aborted and bled from the mouth and bowel and all but two of our 16 chooks died too. Our big ginger cat died two weeks later. The vet said he had been poisoned. Cattle in neighbouring paddocks also got sick.
My pregnancy was confirmed nine days later after this second spray incident and the pattern was the same as the first. My baby thrashed about continually, I was sick the whole time and in and out of hospital. Nikita was born dead on April 13th 1982. She had a hare lip and palate and hydrocephalus and the autopsy revealed that she was deformed inside; cancerous lesions on the liver, completely cleft palate and a hare lip, heart defect, shrivelled fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus and no actual spine except for a small amount at the base.
This time I was told I must have a genetic fault, either that, or both my husband and I did. I was told our chances of another live healthy child were nil. I asked for tests to show me the problem and I was then told that it was a genetic fault found only in females and passed from mother to daughter. A year later, living in a clean environment, I gave birth to a healthy daughter. ***. Gold Coast, Queensland 1991.  p 54/55 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short 1994