Meeting environmental health needs

Delivering environmental health services to a community spread over 105,000 square kilometres presents a number of logistical challenges. However, the introduction of national food safety standards now requires managers and staff of food premises to demonstrate appropriate skills and knowledge to maintain required standards.

As a result, Environmental Health Officers carry out an audit rather than an inspection. This has significantly reduced the number of times premises need to be visited each year from six to three.

Council’s Environmental Health team also works closely with the Shire’s five Aboriginal communities. Some 350 people live in the outlying communities of Bellary Springs, Ngurrawaana, Wakathuni, Yathalla and Youngaleena Banjima. Council recognises that problems in communications between Government agencies and service providers, plus deficiencies and duplications in the delivery of public health services to remote Indigenous communities, is widespread through the State and across Australia. This means less than desirable outcomes and little improvement to living standards.

To address this situation, Ashburton has developed an Aboriginal Environmental Health Strategy and employs Stan Goody as an Aboriginal Environmental Health Worker. Stan regularly visits the five communities working with local Aboriginal Health Workers to improve health and hygiene.

With a fully equipped four wheel drive, Stan is able to fix various plumbing problems such as leaking pipes. He provides advice on the management of pets, undertakes water sampling and carries out vital risk assessments using an established checklist.

“I visit all of the communities at least once per month, sometimes staying for a few days,” Stan Goody said. “If the need arises I will visit more often.”

The results have been a marked improvement in the safety of food and water supplies, control of diseases and pests and increased personal hygiene. The Shire’s more recent involvement in health and building control aims to improve living standards, increase longevity and heighten public health issues.

“Ashburton’s Aboriginal Environmental Health Strategy is unique in that it provides up to date community statistics,” said Steve Goodridge, Council’s Principal Environmental Health Officer. “It also identifies current service providers so as to pinpoint where there are deficiencies and to avoid duplication. The Strategy is a blueprint for Council’s current work and for future planning. Council’s efforts in this area have been widely recognised with Stan Goody invited to present a paper at the National Indigenous Health Conference to be staged in Adelaide in November this year.”