Fibro Modernity: Life and Death in an Asbestos Australia

Asbestos Warning road sign, photo by James Watson

In the first few decades after World War II, Australia embraced asbestos as an essential ingredient of Post-War Reconstruction and suburban modernity. The legacy of this development is one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world and a lingering anxiety of our built environment. Since the 1970s, individuals, unions, lobby groups, and governments have relitigated the making of post-war Australia in response to asbestos tensions in homes, courts, and public spaces. This thesis provides a social history of Australia's entanglements with asbestos, from the opening of the first mine in Gundagai to the recent Mr Fluffy scares, and explores themes of class, citizenship, and modernity as mediated through asbestos.

James Watson is a PhD candidate at the ANU's School of History, where he is writing a social history of the use of asbestos in Australia.

Please note that the School of History seminars will run in-person only this semester.

Date & time

Wed 04 Oct 2023, 4.15–5.30pm


RSSS Auditorium, Ground Floor (Level 1), RSSS Building, ANU, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


James Watson


School of History


David Romney Smith


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