Campfire In this issue Issue 3, December 2013

Issue 3, December 2013
In this issue
9th Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Environmental Health
The Australian Indigenous Health
Infonet ………………………2
As we wrap up another year of Environmental Health I
encourage you to read the Christmas edition of
Campfire published electronically by the Environmental
Health Directorate. The team at the Environmental
Health Branch would like to take this opportunity to
wish you and your families an enjoyable Christmas and
New Year.
A New Initiative to help Close the
Activity Data
Environmental health worker bitten
by snake………
Robert Mullane, David Jarman, Matthew Lester
Elf Yourself have a laugh on us
Contact Us
Matthew Lester
Manager Aboriginal
Environmental Health
Phone: 9388 4819
Robert Mullane
Senior Program Officer
Aboriginal Environmental Health
Phone 9388 4935
This publication is produced by WA Health’s
Environmental Health Directorate. Any queries or
submissions for future editions should be forwarded to
David Jarman by email at
[email protected]
The 9th Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference
By Matthew Lester
It was great to catch up with many of you in Adelaide at the National Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference. WA had the largest representation there of all
the states and the conference proved to be a rich forum for exchanging knowledge and
awareness of the large range of programs offered by environmental health practitioners.
The presentations at the conference covered a wide range of topics specifically related to
environmental health in Aboriginal communities. My personal thanks go to those who made
presentations at the conference on behalf of WA– Chicky, Kenny, Louie and Aaron from
Nirrumbuk Environmental Health, Georgina from Kimberley Population Health, Emma, Scottie
and Genevieve from the Shire of Derby West Kimberley and Mark from the City of Greater
Geraldton. It takes a lot of guts to stand up at a national conference and present a paper but
your effort helps to show that many good things are being done in WA and it can inspire others.
A special presentation was from Miranda Poynton who showed us a quick guide to the
Indigenous Health InfoNet’s Environmental Health website. I have asked Health InfoNet to
provide some information about navigating your way around this website and I would encourage
all of you to go to look at this article, access the site and make use of it – especially the yarning
place which has been set up for environmental health practitioners.
WA delegates who attended the conference in Adelaide
Australian Indigenous Health Infonet
How to use the HealthInfoNet for your work and study The Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet is a great tool for anyone working or studying in the
area of Aboriginal environmental health.
(Below, left to right: John Bonney, Jason Roe, Miranda Poynton, Louie Bin Maarus, Geoff
The team from Nirrumbuk used the HealthInfoNet website at the NATSIEH conference in
Adelaide recently: The HealthInfoNet website can help you:
 connect with other AEHPs in WA and Australia
 locate EH laws and policies
 get ideas about programs to run in your
 learn about new health promotion resources
 find books and manuals you need for your work.
This article will give a brief ‘how to’ on using the
HealthInfoNet site.
Go to the HealthInfoNet’s main website: You can also google
“Aboriginal health” and it’s the first thing that comes up. This is the HealthInfoNet’s
From here, go to the environmental health section by clicking on this button near the bottom
of the homepage:
Now you’re looking at the HealthInfoNet’s environmental health section:
This section covers 9 topics:
 water supply
 waste management
 housing and community
 food safety
 personal hygiene
 communicable diseases
 animal management
 caring for country
 emergency management.
The types of information you can find here are:
 key facts
 regulations and standards
 policies and strategies
 programs and projects
 resources
 publications
 organisations.
There is also a ‘workforce’ section that provides information about:
 jobs
 training
 conferences and workshops
 journals and newsletters. Have a play around and see what you can find.
The Yarning Place You can also join the HealthInfoNet’s environmental health ‘yarning place’.
A ‘yarning place’ is an online place for chatting and networking. It’s free to join.
The yarning place looks this:
Once you’re a member of the yarning place, you can use the:
 mob members’ directory
 events calendar
 ‘message stick’ e-mail list
 yarning board for discussions
 yarn rooms for instant messaging and live chat.
If you’re a member of the yarning place, you’ll also receive a fortnightly email about
Indigenous environmental health.
The yarning place currently has about 200 members. To join, click on the ‘yarning place’
button on the HealthInfoNet website:
If you have a question about the HealthInfoNet or the yarning place, send it to Millie at the
HealthInfoNet and it will be answered in a future edition of Campfire.
Millie Harford-Mills
Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet
[email protected] or (08) 9370 6842
A new initiative to help “Close the Gap”
By Robert Mullane
In an effort to support ‘Close the Gap’, Pilbara environmental health workers and health
project officers developed four books on managing common Aboriginal environmental health
problems four Pilbara aboriginal communities.
Pilbara Meta Maya Aboriginal Corporation (PMMAC) environmental health workers and
Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health (CUCRH) project officers produced the
colourful and helpful books to highlight, and provide solutions for, many environmental health
issues that occur in the Pilbara’s Aboriginal communities. The books have been produced to
educate and empower people to reduce many environmental health issues that occur in their
homes and community.
The four books are all unique and
have been developed with a strong
sense of community ownership. Each
community identified their
environmental health issues and
decided on appropriate solutions.
Although the environmental health
problems are similar in each
community, the books remain
personal and contain photos of local
people and details specific to their
‘own place’. Topics covered include;
environmental hygiene, sewage,
pests, dogs, food hygiene, rubbish,
rubbish tips & cars.
An evaluation of the book’s impact will be conducted next year and will investigate whether
community members’ knowledge and understanding of environmental health issues and
solutions has improved and whether their actions and behaviours have changed.
Depending on the findings of the evaluation, additional books may be developed and
distributed to the remaining Pilbara communities serviced by the PMMAC environmental
health team. Alternative strategies may be trialled if the books are unsuccessful. However,
reactions to the project so far have been very positive and the books may prove to be a
useful tool and strategy to help ‘Close the Gap’.
Financial and resource support for this project was provided by; the Office of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Health; CUCRH; PMMAC; Traditional Elders and community members
from Warralong; Greg McConkey from Empower Education; and the Directorate.
Activity data
By Robert Mullane
2013 has been a busy year for the Aboriginal Environmental Health Workers and
Practitioners in the communities. Service providers have actively worked with communities to
improve living conditions and reduce the impact that the environment has on the health of
Aboriginal people.
They have been sending through activity data on core work that has been undertaken to help
communities be self sufficient and solve issues independently so illness and disease may be
eradicated at the community level.
The information sent by service providers has helped us determine what is working well and
what sort of activities environmental health practitioners are involved in.
The most common activities reported are:
 Solid Waste
 Community Housing
 Health Promotion
 Animal management
 Drinking Water
 Travel
Rob Mullane has prepared some tables (for the period April-June 2013) which provide a
general view of the activities reported by contracted environmental health service providers.
The tables have been arranged to show reported overall activities reported for each health
region and the last one showing the same for the whole State, individual community, agency,
regional or state-wide level. The tables, can for each issue, show either the ‘number of times’
things were done, the ‘time spent’ (person hours) doing those things or what was done e.g.
‘inspected’, ‘improved’, ‘fixed’, referred’ or ‘advised’.
Environmental health worker bitten by snake
By Matthew Lester
Rossy Phillips, one of the Nirrumbuk
Environmental Health team, had an
encounter with one of Australia’s most
venomous snakes earlier this month.
Walking back from the showers at Port
Smith Caravan Park in the dark after a day
working at nearby Bidyadanga community,
Rossy was bitten on the ankle by a small
compact orange-brown snake which was
thought to be a death adder.
Whilst in good health, Rossy now wears
knee high boots and has developed a
vigorous intensity for examining the ground.
He recalls two memorable snippets of
conversation that occurred in the
commotion that followed the suspected bite
– one was where a colleague was heard to
say, “That was a death adder – you’re
definitely gonna die”. The other occurred on
the long trip to Broome where colleagues
were asked, “Do we still have that
tomahawk … just in case we need to
remove the leg”.
Pictured are Rossy and his emergency
medical support team
He alerted his colleagues at the camp who
immediately immobilized his leg and
applied a pressure bandage in as taught
during their first aid training. Unable to find
the snake, they contacted the Bidyadanga
clinic and were advised to get to Broome
Hospital. Local police based at Bidyadanga
met the Nirrumbuk team on the North West
Highway and escorted them to Broome.
Rossy spent the night in hospital
undergoing blood tests and was released
the next day when it was apparent that no
venom had entered his body. He was very
lucky to have avoided a more serious
reaction and his colleagues deserve praise
for their quick thinking. Rossy returned to
work the next day.