Atomic veterans celebrate gold cards in Mandurah

Recognised: Local veterans Colin Haigh, Bevan Pearce, Ken Dines, Tom Cornock, Arthur Bushe-Jones, John Duzevich and Geoff Becker with Canning MP Andrew Hastie.
Recognised: Local veterans Colin Haigh, Bevan Pearce, Ken Dines, Tom Cornock, Arthur Bushe-Jones, John Duzevich and Geoff Becker with Canning MP Andrew Hastie.

A group of atomic veterans from across the country came together in Mandurah on Saturday to mark the issue of Department of Veterans Affairs gold cards after a 61 year battle.

The men, who celebrated with about 30 of their original 86 members, were exposed to dangerous radiation from atomic tests in the Montebello Islands in the 1950s.

Bevan Pearce, now from Meadow Springs, was a national service conscript who witnessed a 1956 atomic test.

“A lot of our blokes are suffering with cancer,” he said.

“They wanted to come, but couldn’t get there at last.

“We’re all 80-year-olds or better. We had a reunion at 40 years and 50 years and 55 and then 57 and a half because we were all dropping off the perch.”

He said this reunion was a special one because they were gold cards which “meant so much to our fellas”.

Mr Pearce paid tribute to Canning MP Andrew Hastie who he said had worked hard to ensure the government recognised their service.

“For these men it is recognition they did serve in hazardous conditions, that they were exposed to nuclear radiation after atomic testing, so for them it means a lot, especially since quite a few of them have suffered from cancer,” Mr Hastie said when he announced the men would receive recognition of their service.

Mr Pearce said the gold cards meant all the medical expenses of the atomic veterans were now covered by the government.