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This Woman's Kids Are Getting Really Sick From Coal Seam Gas

"I want recognition for the people that are suffering there. And to make sure that it’s not the next Flint disaster."

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Sandra Bamberry got up during last night’s Q&A to ask the deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, how she could get justice for her kids, who she says have been exposed to lead levels several times the safe limit.

Even with proof of contamination from CSG, why are we being ignored by the government? @Barnaby_Joyce #QandA https://t.co/KckVcnj2VL

I am born and bred in the New England. We have been forced to move our children back here from our home in Tara, Queensland. Without us knowing, a gas field had surrounded us. Over 25 gas wells within a seven-kilometre radius of our home. We have tests that show contamination of our air and our water, with lead levels too high for the kids' safety. Yet even with proof, we have been ignored by government at all levels. We are tired of this nightmare. We have done everything possible to get help. My husband is a shearer and we have worked hard to get our land. What will you do to help the little people like us get the new beginnings we deserve?
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Last night’s Q&A was filmed in the country NSW city of Tamworth, in the deputy PM’s seat of New England, to highlight some of the issues facing regional people this election.

The Northern Daily Leader. Sparks did fly as our great Tamworth audience took control of #QandA

“The kids got sick – mainly blood noses, rashes, constant viruses,” Sandra told BuzzFeed News after the show.

Marni Cordell for BuzzFeed News

“We spent nearly four months sick. We’ve had the water tests – they’ve come back and found the lead, the government have found it, around my home.”

“We moved our kids out over 12 months ago, because they were that sick. No one would help us, no one would do anything.”

The property Sandra owns with her husband is just north of Tara in regional Queensland. It’s surrounded by coal seam gas fields.

A detailed survey of the area, performed by a Brisbane GP in 2013, found widespread sickness in the community, and noted: “The rural residential estates near Tara are the most densely settled area in Australia to have seen intensive CSG development”.

“[Since we left] we haven’t had a virus, a flu or the rashes and blood noses,” Sandra told BuzzFeed News.

ABC

"But our little one is going to have constant effects from the lead. It was four and a half times safe drinking standards over 12 months ago, and being only a two-year-old, it probably will affect her forever."

The kids had also experienced behavioural issues, she said. "Because our children were so little, it really affected them."

The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, told Sandra on Q&A that he was “very aware of the issues that surround Tara”.

Rashida Yosufzai / AAPIMAGE

"You've got virtually an industrial site next to you," he said. "I know the fight that the people of Tara have had, to try and make sure that they get treated justly."

But then, Joyce passed the buck.

"Noting Sandra that this is state legislation – [the Queensland state government] are the ones who get the royalties, they're the ones who actually approve the exploration licences."

"It's well and good us ventilating this at a federal level. Of course overwhelmingly it's state laws, and if you go beyond what you're able to do at a federal level, of course that becomes an issue where the state will just take you to the high court and most likely win."

No one was buying it.

It's just not good enough for you to pass the buck @Barnaby_Joyce. You are the deputy PM. You need to have a voice. #qanda

Least of all Sandra.

“That’s just passing the buck. It is our air. We have a basic right to clean water and that is a ~national~ law,” she said, to loud applause.

“I want recognition for the people that are suffering there. And to make sure that it’s not the next Flint disaster,” she told Buzzfeed News.

Marni Cordell is Head of News for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Marni Cordell at marni.cordell@buzzfeed.com.

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