Abstract

Health and well-being are influenced by access and quality to safe drinking water, wastewater treatment, and hygiene practices and settings. This is recognised in the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals for water and health. As a signatory to the UN Goals, Australia has a commitment to ensure the access and quality of these resources is attained for all, including Indigenous Australians living in remote communities. This research sought to identify the status of water, sanitation and hygiene services within remote communities on mainland Australia. Interviews were conducted with representatives of organisations providing water, sanitation and/or hygiene to communities. The quality and access of WASH services in remote Indigenous communities were revealed in this research as lacking at times in many communities. The qualitative results indicate that drinking water supplies can be contaminated by microbes or naturally occurring chemicals, wastewater treatment can be poorly maintained with irregular monitoring, and the health of residents is negatively impacted by crowding in houses, which affects residents' ability to maintain healthy hygiene levels of people, clothing, bedding and infrastructure. Effective responses require a collaborative and systemic approach by the respective government agencies responsible that effectively partner with – and adequately fund – Indigenous communities to provide options that are ‘fit for purpose, place and people’.

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