Read the full article by Sean Tarek Goodwin and Kelly Fuller (ABC News)

“The federal government has reached a $22 million settlement over PFAS contamination from firefighting foam with the Wreck Bay Aboriginal community on the New South Wales South Coast. 

Last week the Commonwealth was accused of not listening to the First Nation’s community after it was singled out as the only group from eight applicants not to secure a payment in the $132.7 million multi-site PFAS contamination settlement with the Department of Defence.

The residents of Wreck Bay alleged Defence negligently allowed perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals to leech into surface water, groundwater, and soil.

The chemicals are found in firefighting foams that had been used on neighbouring naval base HMAS Creswell and the Jervis Bay Range Facility for more than three decades since the 1970s.

Up to 1,000 people are eligible and the settlement relates to the community’s ability to live on or conduct cultural activities on its land.

The community said its country and water had been poisoned and its culture seriously compromised.

In the Federal Court, Justice Michael Lee told Shine, the group’s lawyers, he wanted to make sure it was clear to the community that the settlement does not relate to any potential health impacts which could be compensated through further legal action.

The $22 million sum includes at least $5 million in legal and administrative costs.

The terms of the settlement must now be approved by Justice Lee.

The matter is set to return to court on June 19 for approval after community members are consulted on the deal. 

There will also be court supervised sessions with the community about how the settlement will be distributed.

Bittersweet outcome

Outside the court, Shine’s joint head of class actions Craig Allsopp said the result was ‘bittersweet’ for the community.

‘While this is a victory for this First Nation’s group, the Wreck Bay community has to grapple with the impacts of PFAS contamination for years to come,’ he said.

Mr Allsop said the judge was at pains to make it clear personal injury claims were not cut off by this settlement ‘and that is something that Shine is actively looking at’, he said.

‘It has been good to get some compensation for essentially a land value claim, but I believe in the years ahead the real fight will be in relation to the personal injury claims.’

The settlement was reached following days of mediation after the court had set a trial date of May 29 for the claim.”…