Ep: 62 Michelle Johnston – Dustfall

Dustfall is the tale of the crushing consequences of medical error, the suffering caused by asbestos mining and the power of storytelling.

Dr. Raymond Filigree, running away from a disastrous medical career, mistakes an unknown name on a map for the perfect refuge.  He travels to the isolated town of Wittenoom and takes charge of its small hospital, a place where no previous doctor has managed to stay longer than an eye blink. Instead of settling into a quiet, solitary life, he discovers an asbestos mining corporation with no regard for the safety of its workers and no care for the truth.

thirty years later, Dr. Lou Fitzgerald stumbles across the abandoned Wittenoom Hospital.  She, too, is a fugitive from a medical career toppled by a single error.  Here she disco era faded letters and barely used medical equipment, and slowly, the story of the hospital’s tragic past comes to her.

Read more about Michelle here


  1. Wittenoom, and Barayugil in NSW, loom large in Australian OHS as disasters in relation to asbestos. Michelle suggests that tailings etc are far less dangerous or risky to safety, but in reality whole families were ‘infected’ by the men bringing asbestos home in their clothing. Women doing the washing ended up with mesothelioma, so unfortunately no level of exposure is safe.
    I’m glad Michelle has written this novel as it seems that this story has disappeared from general knowledge in WA. The setting sounds wonderful for the individual issues of the two doctors.
    I look forward to reading it. Great interview, Rose.


  2. Hi Glenda,
    Thank you for the comments on Wittenoom and asbestos, yes, I agree it would not be a place I would feel safe going to, even now, so many years after the mine has been shut down. Probably a good reason that it has been taken off all official maps, although the surrounding country sounds very beautiful.
    The story is written in such an interesting way and it wasn’t until the end that I got that ‘ah-ha’ moment. I think you’ll enjoy it.


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