A 27-year-old mother with terminal cancer is suing the Education Department for $3.8m over asbestos exposure she says she experienced as a student.
A 27-year-old mother with terminal cancer is suing the Education Department for $3.8m over asbestos exposure she says she experienced as a student.

'School gave me cancer': Dying mum sues for $3.8m

A TERMINALLY ill single mother and nurse who is believed to have contracted an asbestos-related cancer in primary school, is suing the state for $3.8 million.

Mackay mother Brooke MacDonald, 27, was a pupil at Dundula State School, near Mackay, in 1998 and 2002, when there was work on buildings containing asbestos.

Her Supreme Court claim alleges that exposure to asbestos at the school caused her to develop peritoneal mesothelioma.

It is a rare cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen and is caused by ingestion of asbestos fibres.

Ms McDonald, who is the sole carer for her son Chayse, has had treatments and operations in a bid to buy more time with her six-year-old boy.

Her lawyer Jonathan Walsh, of Maurice Blackburn, said Ms MacDonald potentially had only days or weeks to live.

He said the cancer was very aggressive and progressing and doctors said her life expectancy was incredibly unpredictable.

"Here is a young woman, really just at the beginning of her adult life, committed to raising her young child and helping others in her role as a nurse, now having to face this cruel disease,'' said Mr Walsh, a specialist dust diseases lawyer.

Ms MacDonald, who became a registered nurse in 2017, the year she developed symptoms, was diagnosed with the cancer last August.

She was admitted to Mackay Hospital, where she had nursed, and in February she had an operation at a Brisbane hospital.

"Sadly, the cancer came back rapidly soon after the surgery," Mr Walsh said.

Dundula State School at Bakers Creek near Mackay
Dundula State School at Bakers Creek near Mackay

He said Ms MacDonald was flown home to Mackay on Friday and was now being cared for by her sister, a nurse, at her mother's home.

Mr Walsh said Ms MacDonald had been remarkably stoic in the face of tragic circumstances and had even hoped to return to nursing.

"Brooke's likely exposure to asbestos as a young girl at her local school is every parent's nightmare," Mr Walsh said.

"It emphasises the need for every builder, every government department or home renovator not to take any short cuts when it comes to demolishing or renovating buildings built before 1990."

The claim alleges school buildings containing asbestos were demolished or renovated near students, but no measures were taken to avoid risk of exposure to fibres.

"Brooke is the most dedicated and loving mum who has fought this disease so hard, and is devastated she won't be around to see her boy grow up," her family said.

"It seems to us that the least the Education Department should do is to make sure that Brooke receives the justice she deserves for having her life cut short so cruelly and to give her peace of mind.

"Our family just needs to focus on Brooke now for the time we have left together."

Ms MacDonald's case against the State Government is due to go to trial in June, but Mr Walsh said it was hoped it could be settled well before then.

Originally published as School gave me cancer: Dying mum, 27, sues for $3.8m



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