Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, officially opened one of the world’s largest research centers dedicated solely to research on asbestos-related disease. The center is located at Sydney’s Concord Hospital and was named after Bernie Banton, a victim of mesothelioma and an avid campaigner on behalf of asbestos-illness victims in Australia.

The Rudd government will contribute $5 million to the new center that was a cooperative development effort between the NSW government and the ANZAC Research Institute at Concord Hospital. The work at the center will be complemented by a culmination of 11 research facilities throughout Australia and in 2010, the program hopes to expand with the addition of the Center for Research Excellence into Asbestos-Related Disease that is planned for development using $2.5 million in federal funds to support world-class research.

By the year 2020, an estimated 13,000 Australians will suffer from malignant mesothelioma, a terminal cancer caused by exposure to airborne asbestos. An additional 40000 cases are estimated for Australians with other asbestos-related illnesses. The predicted numbers are growing every year, and it is important that the Rudd government has recognized and realized the needs and pain of those suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

Bernie Banton died of mesothelioma, but not after fighting long and hard, even in his darkest days, for the rights of the thousands suffering from asbestos-related illnesses. In addition to the center being dedicated to the 2007 Australian of the Year, the Bernie Banton Asbestos Research Fellowship was established under the National Health and Medical Research Center Fellowship Program for researchers. In addition, the new center is focused on promoting prevention and educating Australians, Asians and probably the world about asbestos-related disease.