On 26 February 2020 Shine Lawyers reached an in-principle agreement with the Department of Defence, successfully achieving justice for Oakey residents affected by the PFAS contamination. Of the total settlement figure negotiated for landholders in Oakey, Katherine and Williamtown, $34 million was attributable to the Oakey class action. On 5 June 2020 the Federal Court approved the settlement and distribution scheme which determines how compensation is distributed to members of this class action. We will communicate directly with group members to provide further information about their compensation entitlements.
What is the Oakey PFAS Contamination Class Action about?
In 2017, Shine Lawyers launched a class action against the Commonwealth of Australia, specifically the Department of Defence, for the alleged contamination of soil and groundwater in and around Oakey due to the use of firefighting chemicals containing per- and poly- fluoroalkyls. Click here to download a copy of the investigation area map.
This action was brought on behalf of over 500 individuals in the Oakey community who own, or have owned, residential and/or commercial property in the contamination area. Omni Bridgeway, one of Australia's largest litigation funders, funded the Oakey case.
Shine Lawyers fought for compensation for the economic loss suffered from a decline in value of residential, agricultural and/or business land due to the contamination. On 26 February 2020 Shine Lawyers reached an in-principle agreement with the Department of Defence, successfully securing compensation and acknowledgement for the impact the contamination had for the landholders in Oakey.
The Oakey PFAS Contamination Class Action did not include personal injury claims for exposure to the PFAS contamination.
Frequently Asked Questions
How did the Oakey groundwater contamination happen?
From 1970 to approximately 2005, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) regularly conducted firefighting drills at the Army Aviation Centre Oakey using a specific type of firefighting foam. The ADF has advised that chemicals in this firefighting foam have penetrated soil on the base and contaminated the groundwater.
Contaminated groundwater has been detected several kilometres to the west and southwest of the base.
The ADF has advised local residents not to drink their bore water or creek water.
What is PFAS?
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyls (PFAS) are a class of harmful chemicals commonly found in products that reduce heat, stains, grease and water. They are common in many household products, such as carpets and non-stick cookware. PFAS are concerning because they do not naturally degrade. They are ingested by humans and animals, and accumulate in the body. A small amount of daily exposure can lead to high concentrations over time.
PFAS soil and groundwater contamination can lead to high levels of the chemical in drinking water, agricultural land, animals and residents.
The full effect on human health is not known.
What levels of PFOA and PFOS have been detected in Oakey groundwater?
The Australian Defence Force has indicated that the levels of PFOS present in Oakey’s groundwater range from 0.2ug/L to 500ug/L and levels of PFOA range from 0.4ug/L to 500ug/L. These ranges exceed the short-term health advisory limits published by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 (normally intended to protect for one or ten days of exposure) which are 0.2ug/L for PFOS and 0.4ug/L for PFOA.
What is a class action?
When Governments, large companies or institutions do the wrong thing and people are harmed or suffer loss as a result, an individual can have little to no means of bringing a legal claim.
Class actions are an important mechanism within Australia’s legal system that allow large groups of people to come together to pursue a claim collectively.
For a class action to take place, there are three criteria that need to be met:
There must be 7 or more people that have claims against the same defendant; and
The claims relate to the same or similar circumstances; and
The claim must relate to at least one common issue of law or fact.
For more information about how class actions resolve, click here.
How long do class actions take to resolve?
It can take up to several years for a class action to resolve. The time taken from case commencement through to resolution and settlement administration depends on the particular case, and the nature of the claim.
For more information about class actions and how they work, click here.
Does it cost anything to join a class action?
Shine Lawyers is committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of their background or financial situation, has access to justice. We run our class actions in a way that means you are not exposed to any costs or financial risk, so joining a class action will cost you nothing.
When a class action is successful, the legal fees and costs to run the class action are deducted from the settlement amount that is approved by the Court. If the class action is unsuccessful, we will ensure there are no out-of-pocket costs to you.
Will my contact details be kept private?
Yes, your contact details will remain confidential and we will seek your consent before disclosing any of your personal information (including before such disclosure is required by the Court).
Shine Lawyers will only use your personal information strictly for the purpose of the legal proceedings.