Most people living in Australia do not need to consider how to access safe drinking water and power or how waste water and rubbish are removed from their homes and managed. If their house is damaged or any water or power connections, fittings or outlets are not working, it is a straightforward process to get the problem fixed.

For many remote Indigenous communities however this is not the case. The distances from regional towns, service providers and tradespersons can be vast, making access to repairs and maintenance expensive and slow. This can and does affect the quality of the living environment and, in turn, affects the health of community residents.

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) make up a workforce that targets environmental issues which affect health, particularly in Indigenous communities where mainstream services may not exist. They undertake a wide range of activities, from the level of individual households, to the community and regional levels, and make a genuine and highly valued contribution to improving Indigenous health.

This manual was originally developed to provide the teaching resources required for the Aboriginal Environmental Health Worker training program which commenced in Western Australia in 1986. Workforce development and training has evolved considerably since then, as has the sophistication of equipment used, but the core activities of EHPs continue to include work in key areas discussed in this manual.

Although this manual is no longer used as a primary teaching resource for environmental health training its significance as a reference for EHPs engaging with Indigenous communities has been nationally recognised at the 7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference in Kalgoorlie and warranted its review and update. The Australian Government, under the auspices of enHealth’s Working Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health, funded the revision of this version of the manual. This revision was coordinated by the Environmental Health Directorate of the Department of Health Western Australia.

Electronic copies of this publication are available free of charge from the Department of Health and Ageing website at http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm, the Western Australian Public Health website at www.public.health.wa.gov.au and from the Indigenous HealthInfoNet at
www.healthinfonet@ecu.edu.au. Hard copies can be ordered free of charge from health@nationalmailing.com.au or by phoning 02 6269 1000 or fax
02 6260 2770. You may also be able to source copies from state or territory departments responsible for Indigenous environmental health.