The lawyer representing the communities who fought the federal government for compensation for the effects of PFAS contamination said the government had finally been forced to accept responsibility for decades of toxic pollution.
"The announcement today that an in-principle agreement has been reached to settle these class actions against the Australian Government does not mark an end to the battle for this "forever chemical" to be cleaned up in Australia and for the Australian Government to take full accountability," lawyer Ben Allen said.
"The comments from the Australian Government today when announcing the terms of settlement are encouraging. They show that the Government will now take their responsibilities seriously and are committed to engaging with those impacted by PFAS contamination in Australia."
He paid tribute to the residents of Williamtown and surrounding communities who refused to remain silent.
"They were badly underestimated. Feeling that their concerns were not being heard by the polluter of their land, it was a group of dedicated community members on behalf of Williamtown and its surrounding communities who travelled to Sydney and engaged global law firm Dentons and litigation funder IMF/Omni to take on one of the first ever environmental class actions against the Australian Government," he said.
"This was a complex legal matter but not only did the community spend significant time understanding the issues, they have, as acknowledged by the Senate, become national experts in the dangers and risks of PFAS."
Oliver Gayner, investment manager of IMF Bentham, the company that funded the litigation, said the result should not have taken five years to achieve.
"The Senate twice recommended that communities be urgently compensated to allow people to move on with their lives," he said.
"Compensation is only one part of the solutions needed to make communities safe from toxic "forever chemicals". But today's settlement shows that, finally, their voice is being heard."
Mr Gayner also applauded the affected the communities for fighting for justice against the might of the federal government.
"The team at IMF Bentham / Omni Bridgeway backed the communities at Williamtown, Oakey and Katherine for five long years. We congratulate them on reaching this milestone, but more so we thank them for their courage in never stepping back in fighting for what's right."