Auditor General: State Government failing Aboriginal communities on water quality

The Auditor General has found that the State Government has failed in its responsibility to deliver safe drinking water to remote Aboriginal communities over the last two years.

In a report tabled in State Parliament today, the Auditor General identified that drinking water in more than 90 communities often did not meet Australian standards. Testing over two years to June 2014 detected either E.coli or Naegleria microbes in at least one community, every month. In the same period, four communities exceeded safe levels of uranium in their water and fourteen communities recorded nitrates above the safe level for bottle-fed babies under three months old.

The State Government has responsibility for delivering housing, energy and water services to Aboriginal communities, under an agreement signed with the Commonwealth Government and the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 1997.

Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA) Chairperson Michelle Nelson Cox said the State Government had failed thousands of Aboriginal people.

“This report is a damning assessment of the State Government’s performance in looking after its own people,” said Ms Nelson-Cox.

“The State Government is obligated to provide and maintain safe drinking water to Aboriginal communities, but it has failed in this very basic task.

“There is no way that anyone else in Western Australian would be asked to accept such a basic failure in service delivery from the State Government.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said Mr Barnett needed to apologise to the Aboriginal communities affected and allocate money in next week’s State Budget to fix the problems.

“Many Western Australians have been misled by Mr Barnett into thinking that there are problems in Aboriginal communities that will only be solved by closing them down.

“The reality is, the health and wellbeing of many Aboriginal people is far better in Aboriginal communities than in cities and towns, where exposure to drugs and alcohol are higher, with associated higher levels of incarceration.

“In fact, following the Auditor General’s report today, it appears that the biggest danger to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people living in remote Aboriginal communities is the quality of the water the State Government is responsible for providing.

“Aboriginal communities are vital to the health, wellbeing and continuing culture of Aboriginal people. We call on Mr Barnett to invest in these communities, to preserve and improve them, rather than withdrawing services and forcing people to leave country.”

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