Aberfan – The Untold Story
An Aberfan father at the coronial inquest
In October 2016 a BBC News documentary commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster as a mistake that cost a village its children. A thixotropic avalanche of tailings slid down a hillside and engulfed the Pantglas junior school. It resulted in the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults and wiped out a generation. Many more suffered physical injuries, which were superficial compared to psychological damage. The local chapel was used as a makeshift mortuary and death certificates were issued at the fish and chip shop across the road.
The bitter aftermath was a saga of cruelty and indignity. Surviving infants had no childhood and were deprived of a formal education. Divorce rates, nervous breakdowns and premature deaths increased through alcoholism and use of anti-depressants. Pastoral care was stigmatised and viewed with stoic suspicion. Families became embroiled in a bitter legal battle to obtain money for their children’s gravestones. Meanwhile, the disaster fund was plundered by the government to cover the cost of removing the remaining slag heaps. It was proposed that compensation claims be limited via proof of emotional proximity. The report following the prolonged tribunal of inquiry was unsparing and concluded…….The disaster was a terrifying tale of bungling ineptitude and blame rests with the National Coal Board There were no criminal charges and none of its employees were demoted or lost their jobs. In October 2016, which is designated as National Safe Work Month in Australia, I contacted Safe Work Australia and each state and territory regulatory authority about organising a special event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster. The response was a resounding silence…….The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there: