Nimbin-born lawyer’s services honoured on Australia Day

NIMBIN-BORN lawyer Armando Gardiman was honoured on Australia Day with an Order of Australia, recognising his decades of significant service to the law and community.

Armando's work assisting sufferers of asbestos diseases was highlighted by the Council for the Order of Australia, including several precedent-setting victories that opened the door to thousands of Australians receiving compensation.

The son of Italian migrants, Armando grew up in a humble weatherboard hut on a small banana plantation on Gungas Road Nimbin.

"As the son of migrants, when I arrived at Nimbin Central School I couldn't speak speak a word of English," he said.

His father Guerrino (Gerry) Gardiman first laid eyes on the Nimbin Valley in 1944, while working as a farm labourer after becoming a prisoner of war in Northern Africa. He was so impressed by its beauty that he resolved to return following the war.

This love affair with the land eventually cost Gerry his life, as he became ill and then died as a result of his exposure to agricultural chemicals, sparking his son's passion for the law.

"Dad would kills the Crofton Weed and lantana with pesticides 245-T and 24-D. There was never a doubt in my mind that's how he was killed."

"My Dad taught me social justice. He taught me that the little people should have the same rights as the big people. And he taught me the value of education" said the lawyer.

Mr Gardiman, now based in Sydney's Haberfield, said it was the work ethic of his Italian migrant parents that propelled his success.

He worked before and after school on the plantation while attending Nimbin Central School and later Richmond River High School.

"I still have strong connection with the Italian community of Nimbin. My mother and sister lived there until my mother passed in 2003," he said.

In 1982 Mr Gardiman ran the first product liability claim against James Hardie on behalf of Ronald Baker, who was dying from mesothelioma. The legal precedent set in that case subsequently allowed tens of thousands of people suffering from asbestos diseases to be compensated.

In 1994, his case on behalf of Vivien Olsen, who was exposed to asbestos as a child growing up in the mining township of Wittenoom, again set a precedent. The case resulted in CSR compensating families and in particularly children who had contracted asbestos diseases from the town's toxic blue asbestos dust.

Armando was a founding member of the Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia and his contribution to ADFA saw him rewarded with Life Membership in 2005.

His significant efforts to improve the legal process for sufferers of asbestos diseases, including in 1998 successfully lobbying of the NSW Government to amend legislation putting an end to the need for death-bed hearings, have also improved the lives of countless families.

In 2001 he was instrumental in preparing a submission to the NSW Government that lead to the establishment of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute.

In 2004, Armando represented a number of unions and asbestos disease support groups before the Jackson Commission of Inquiry into James Hardie's compensation scheme.

Armando joined Turner Freeman in 1981, became a partner in 1985, and finally became managing partner of what was now a major national firm in 2011.

"I am deeply humbled by this honour. My parents would have been so proud. Mr Gardiman said.

"Sadly, since my first case, more than 40,000 Australians have been diagnosed with asbestos diseases. Every year 600 more are diagnosed with the aggressive lung cancer mesothelioma.

"Seeing first-hand the terrible toll asbestos takes on individuals and their families, I look forward to a time when these numbers finally begin to decline."

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