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7 December 2004

Veteran parliamentarian Kim Beazley will recall the devastating impact of childhood polio when he opens the new exhibition, A World Without Polio: Truly Remarkable, at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra this Thursday.

Mr Beazley, who was hospitalised with polio at the age of five, was one of 4 million Australians infected by the polio virus before the discovery of a vaccine ended the threat which peaked here in the 1950s.

'Polio was the behaviour altering, fear inducing disease of the 1950s and it still haunts communities elsewhere,' Mr Beazley said.

A World Without Polio traces the widespread fear that gripped the Australian community when 40,000 people contracted the most severe paralytic form. It also examines the effects still suffered by people today and continuing efforts to eradicate the disease overseas.

The exhibition tells the personal stories of people with polio, from media magnate Kerry Packer and talkback radio host John Laws to I Can Jump Puddles author Alan Marshall and Canberra Hospital nurse Judith Shakespeare.

Mr Beazley will launch A World Without Polio in the National Museum's Hall at 11am on Thursday, 9 December.

The exhibition was developed by Rotary in partnership with the National Museum and opens on the eve of Rotary's centenary and the end of the polio virus. It traces Rotary's vision of a polio free world back to 1979 during the international presidency of Queenslander Sir Clem Renouf, who will attend Thursday's opening alongside Professor Frank Fenner, who worked to eradicate smallpox in the same year.

'A World Without Polio captures one of the National Museum's key themes — extraordinary achievements by ordinary people,' said National Museum director Craddock Morton. 'Australian inventors and health workers developed new treatments and Australian Rotarians provided the vision and volunteers for the global eradication program.'

The exhibition includes a plywood iron lung invented by South Australian Ted Both, striking images of the worldwide effort to stamp out polio and historic newsreel footage including nurse Elizabeth Kenny's controversial but pioneering physiotherapy.

A World Without Polio is on show in the National Museum's Nation Focus Gallery from
9 December to 27 February. Entry is free.

For interviews, images or more information please contact public affairs director Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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