Aboriginal environmental health

WA has approximately 300 Aboriginal communities mostly located on Crown Land and in remote areas accommodating some 17,000 people. There are serious and widespread environmental health problems facing the Aboriginal population. These include:

  • inadequate and poorly maintained housing
  • lack of suitable sewage facilities
  • inadequate and poor quality water supplies
  • lack of other basic facilities such as power, drainage, communications and roads.

Aboriginal Environmental Health Program review

In March 2022, a review of the Department of Health’s Aboriginal Environmental Health Program was completed by UWA’s School of Population Health in collaboration with Think Culture. 

Led by Professor David Preen and Think Culture’s Mandy Gadsdon, the review explored the public health interest and perceived value of the program to Aboriginal people living in Western Australia now and into the future. 

The Department of Health has funded environmental health activities in remote Aboriginal communities for many years, responding to long-standing need and perceived value.

In 2014, an evaluation of programs and services for remote Aboriginal communities was conducted on a range of allied health programs including environmental health services. Findings, published under the Holman Report, strongly supported the continuation of environmental health activities and recommended increased investment in the environmental health program.

The 2022 review exclusively analysed the Aboriginal Environmental health program, assessing the mix of service providers and monitoring and reporting outcome measures aligned to the Aboriginal Health Performance framework. 

Learnings from the assessment informed recommendations for the future focus of the program and funding allocations by the Department of Health.

The completed review includes a main report and an options paper which provides a range of recommendations to better support the program into the future:

The main report provides detailed data analysis which demonstrates the wide breadth of information gathered.

The report makes 33 of recommendations relating to procurement, contract and program management. 

The department will work closely with the Aboriginal health sector and environmental health service providers to co-design the program moving forward, including its focus, expectations, outcomes and reporting requirements – all of which will be reflected in future contract tenders and terms.

The Department of Health is proud to fund this program into the future, working together with Aboriginal people and organisations.

Review structure

Leaders and practitioners in Aboriginal health were invited to form the Steering Committee of the review. They included: 

  • Pat Turner, CEO, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
  • Vicki O’Donnell, Chair, Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA)
  • Russell Simpson, Director Aboriginal Strategy, WA Country Health Service, (WACHS)
  • Phillip Graham, Environmental Health, SA Health 
  • Wendy Casey, Director Aboriginal Health, Department of Health.

The review was commissioned by but conducted independently of the Department of Health Environmental Health Directorate. 

Independent program evaluation of government initiatives is imperative to ensure that public monies invested by government departments demonstrate the funds are required, valued, have a positive impact and represent value for money.

Service Provider reporting 

Service Providers are required to report on a six-monthly basis to the Department of Health. The reporting periods are January-June (due mid-August) and July-December (due mid-February). Please use the Service Provider reporting template below for this process.

Campfire newsletter

The Environmental Health directorate produce the Campfire newsletter for environmental health practitioners working with Aboriginal communities in Western Australia.

Latest editions:

Guidance materials

A range of guidance materials are available to assist environmental health practitioners with their role.

More information

Environmental Health Directorate
Department of Health
189 Royal Street
East Perth WA 6004
Phone: 9222 2000
Email: ehinfo@health.wa.gov.au

Last reviewed: 09-06-2022
Produced by

Environmental Health Directorate