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Projects targeting homes and health

A RANGE of projects and initiatives is helping to improve basic infrastructure in Aboriginal communities throughout the State.

Up until the 1990s, most Aboriginal communities lacked basic needs such as secure housing, sewerage, water and electricity.

This lack of housing and infrastructure is at the heart of health problems in indigenous communities throughout the nation.

It wasn’t until 1994 that major work was started in remote communities under the National Aboriginal Health Strategy (NAHS), which is administered by ATSIC and aims to provide a targeted approach to improving living conditions in communities most in need.

There are more than 160 major Aboriginal communities in Western Australia. NAHS’s work, valued at $43.44 million, is being carried out at 16 localities in the Kimberley, Western Desert and the Goldfields as part of a 2000-2003 program.

The project is being managed by PPK – a multi-national consultancy firm employed by ATSIC.

PPK community liaison consultant Alan Beattie told Business News that ongoing training is being provided in some Kimberley communities as a way of fostering indigenous maintenance businesses which can service their own communities and, where feasible, compete for work in nearby towns.

“In Looma we have 13 people on general construction traineeships and at Mardiwah Loop we currently have 15 people undertaking a pre-employment course. Out of that, 10 will go into general construction traineeships starting in mid November,” Mr Beattie says.

“The key outcome is to improve living conditions by upgrading environmental health infrastructure. Currently we are in the implementation phase of providing that infrastructure, which includes upgrades or new housing, water, power sanitation systems, roads and rubbish tips.”

The delivery of the new infrastructure is designed to improve health standards in those communities and, as a by-product, PPK is promoting the increase in skill levels in infrastructure maintenance within the communities to improve the assets’ sustainability.

“That, in turn, provides an opportunity for training and employment,” Mr Beattie says.

“We see this as a long-term opportunity to develop main-

tenance skills in housing within

the communities and nearby towns, and that forms the basis

of small business opportunities through individuals or through existing corporations.”

He says that, while the current round of works (round two) has delivered vast improvements in more than a dozen localities, it hasn’t even scratched the surface compared with what needs to be done.

A health impact assessment was undertaken by PPK on behalf of ATSIC in WA and, from that assessment, a list of the most urgent needs was generated. The top 16 on that list have been included in round two.

“There’s a large number of communities that still have unmet needs,” Mr Beattie says.

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