7th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference Kalgoorlie, WA

Studying Environmental Health at Batchelor: A Student’s Experience

Page last updated: December 2010

Patrick Alberts & Tait Farran, Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, NT

Patrick Alberts: On behalf of my self & Tait Farram we would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land upon which we meet here today, the Wongatha people.

My name is Patrick Alberts and I come from Cherbourg in Queensland. My grandmothers and grandfathers were sent to Cherbourg (formerly Barambah) not because they wanted to but because they were ordered to. Sounds familiar? Most people who were born in Cherbourg now claim to be a part of the traditional owners of the area the Wakka Wakka tribe/clan.

Studying at Batchelor in the Northern Territory is quite an experience. I applied in 2006 and would never ever think that I would be constantly travelling for studies in the NT. I tried studying at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) in 2003 but did not agree with certain things. This was another reason for me to try my luck at Batchelor. It is turning out to be the best thing I have ever done. The services provided are first class and administration is as good as can be expected.

I’ve never spent more than five days at a tertiary institute but I can see me doing everything I can to gain my Degree level at Batchelor. The Degree level I opted to do was Environmental Health because I am employed by Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council (CASC) as the EHW. I began my employment with CASC in 1999 and then had a two and a half year break. I gained my Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma in Primary Health Care at Cairns TAFE being completed in 2002.

Tait Farram: This presentation should give people an idea, of what, we; the students of the Institute, think of the Bachelor of Applied Science, Environmental Health Degree at Batchelor.

I first heard of the Institute at the 5th National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health (NATSIEH) Conference at Terrigal in NSW, and became interested in studying there.

Entry requirements and how you can study at Batchelor.

Patrick Alberts: If you are interested in studying at Batchelor, the entry requirements for the Institute include:

  • a satisfactory year 12 program, or
  • pre Tertiary Studies (PTS) Enabling Program - for students who have not completed year 12, or
  • equivalent tertiary enabling / bridging programs offered by universities or
  • Diploma/Advanced Diploma in Environmental Health or
  • appropriate work experience in and environmental health related field (discuss with course coordinator
Further information is available at the Institute’s website: www.batchelor.edu.au

How you can study at Batchelor;
  • 3 years full time course,
  • part-time over 6 years,
  • students travel for a 1 to 2 week block for their various courses.
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What do the students learn?

Tait Farram: First year of study students travel for an orientation week at the Batchelor Campus where students are able to get to know the campus facilities, meet the lecturers and some fellow students. This week is very helpful for students as I found out in my third year when I got to finally do it, a bit late, but better late than never.

The Common Units, both Public Communication and Telling Histories are also very helpful with your study. These studies are completed by all students at Batchelor.

Patrick Alberts: The main study load for Environmental Health Science in the first year of study is focussed on introducing the students to environmental health science, environmental health hardware and construction issues as well as sustainable biodiversity and environmental management practices. First year covers environmental health from a broad perspective.

Students also learn about human physiology and different environmental health issues and their determinants.

Second year study introduces students to further construction issues, as well as sustainable community development, planning and Industrial process and methods of pollution control.

Students learn microbiology, as well as public health knowledge, professional development skills and the various environmental health laws and legislations.

In the second year of study students also choose one of the following electives:
  • Independent Studies
  • Information Technology in Environmental Health
  • Sustainable Land Care and Management

Third year study at Batchelor

By the third year students are prepared for learning about food safety and legislation, emergency management preparations and quarantine and vector control knowledge, as well as water quality monitoring and assessment and further study on construction before students undertake practical placement, working as an EHO. Third year units focus on specific environmental health issues.

Electives in the third year include a choice of one of the following:
  • Independent Studies
  • Waste Management
  • Environmental Impact and Assessment
The study and exam weeks for BIITE are held in June and November and Graduation ceremonies are held in June and September.

Tait Farram: Due to time restrictions, we have limited our talk about these units and I will talk about just one of the units involved in the degree, but this does not take away any credit from the other units.

The following slides are photos of environmental health hardware during a BIITE BASEH unit workshop on water quality monitoring and assessment.

The students travelled with a BIITE lecturer and a local community health worker to a remote community in the NT and investigated the water supply there and things such as; where the community’s water came from, where it was store, and what the water is used for. The students measured different parameters of the water from different sources throughout the community with testing equipment, and students were asked to make recommendations that could be made to improve and maintain the water supply and possibly improve the water quality for the community.

The two students are using monitoring equipment to record data about this community’s water quality; the photo next to it is of leaf litter caught in the downpipe of a rainwater tank.
Photo of the two students are using monitoring equipment to record data about this community’s water quality photo of  leaf litter caught in the downpipe of a rainwater tank

This photo shows the students investigating the water storage tanks and the associated pumps and pipe work.
Photo of the students investigating the water storage tanks and the associated pumps and pipe work

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In these slides you can see dust built up on the solar panel and leaves caught in the gutters of one household. There were also leaks in some of the pipe work; as shown in the next photo.

Photo of dust built up on the solar panel and leaves caught in the gutters of one household
Photo of leaks in some of the pipe work

Photos of different Bores
Photos of different Bores

These photos show a comparison between the bore set-ups at some remote communities and a city’s bore, notice the top photo as the bore has no protection.

To hear the different opinions and suggestions from fellow classmates as well the lecturer about the water and health hardware issues within this community was a valuable experience for myself in my own work due to my involvement in town water sampling within my own shire at the time working for Bega Valley Shire Council.

The Institutes BASEH Lecturers

Patrick Alberts: Previous and current lecturers of the degree are listed here in recognition for their efforts towards the degree; we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contributions.

Dr Peter Stephenson – Pro Vice Chancellor (Research) BIITE

Zane Hughes – Indigenous Affairs Advisor for Xstrata mining company, North Queensland

Dr Emma Young – Research Development Coordinator, BIITE Michael Honer – PhD candidate in the School for Environmental Research at Charles Darwin University

The current lecturers are:
  • Dr Kirstin Ross – BASEH Course Coordinator
  • Steve Patman – Lecturer

Lecturers involvement in the BASEH Degree at Batchelor

Tait Farram: These lecturers have also contributed to the Degree and also deserve the students’ thanks:
Dr Christopher Reynolds, Dr Gerhard Ehlers, Paul Endres, Dr Ron Proudford, Richard Luxton, Dr Robyn Grey Gardner, Jasmine Raju, Emma Kraft, Jeff Standen, Dr Kate Senior & Dr Richard Chenhall, Menzies School of Health (Darwin), Dr Catherine Holmes, The common units’ lecturers and all of the Institutes staff.
NB: Some of these people are no longer the course lecturers.

The locations for study

Patrick Alberts: Students study at BIITE in various locations throughout Australia, some of these include;
  • Batchelor, NT
  • Alice Springs, NT
  • Darwin, NT
  • Cairns, QLD
  • Townsville, QLD
  • Brisbane, QLD
  • Adelaide, SA
The main locations for study are Batchelor and Alice Springs.
NB: Some of these locations are no longer used by the Institute.

The services that the Institute provides

Tait Farram: The Institute provides a wide range of services for students:
  • all flights to and from campus locations for workshops
  • accommodation on and off campus for workshops
  • 3 meals a day on campus (breakfast lunch and dinner)
  • 24 hour computer / internet access
  • library / on-line library for students
  • counselling services, campus doctor & first aid officers
  • night patrol/security
  • TV - movie/games room and some musical instruments
Map of Batchelor Campus
Map of Batchelor Campus
Details of the map are located at the BIITE website, www.batchelor.edu.au/main/maps

Photo of Institute accommodation at Batchelor
Photo of Institute accommodation at Batchelor
Air-conditioning, shared bedrooms, shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry facilities.

Photo of Batchelor Institute Library
Photo of Batchelor Institute Library
Batchelor Library is for students and the community. It has computers, on-line library, books and other learning resources

Photo of the Institute’s basketball court
Photo of the Institute’s basketball court
Tait Farram: The basketball court at the Institute is a good place to meet other students.

The Institute’s student coffee shop and convenience store.
The Institute’s student coffee shop and convenience store.

Tait Farram

BIITE Recreation Hall

Another great asset to the Institute is the recreation hall, where students, staff and lecturers can gather for different occasions. Some of the events held there that I was able to attend, and in some cases be involved in, included; traditional cooked meals, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional singing and dancing, also break-dancing and hip-hop classes, where I attempted to rap and dance. Yes, many fond memories and many fans now.

Photo of BIITE Recreation Hall

Map of Alice Springs Campus
Map of Alice Springs Campus

Alice Springs Campus has similar services to the Batchelor Campus; smaller campus, close to town, share accommodation, bathrooms and laundries. Women’s accommodation on the inside of the East Building and Men’s around the outside of the East Building.

Details of the map are located at the BIITE website, www.batchelor.edu.au/main/maps

New site for the Institute’s Alice Springs Campus

Tait Farram
The Alice Springs annex of BIITE is being redeveloped at a new site in Alice Springs that is known as the Desert Peoples Centre (DPC). it will also incorporate the Centre for Appropriate Technology (CAT ). The new campus is up and running at the moment, with further courses and staff to move to the new site over 2009 and 2010. Student accommodation is also planned for the new site. Dr Peter Stephenson confirmed this by email on 24 March 2009.

Possible Study Troubles

Tait Farram: Some possible study troubles that students may encounter;
  • long travel
  • late arrivals/departures
  • coping with weather changes
  • getting used to meal times and change of diet
  • sharing a room
  • phone problems
  • finding the time to get the study done.
  • time away from family and work.
Patrick Alberts: Issues with both students and staff can, and have arisen at times throughout my study at Batchelor, but in the end, we have to work together as a team which our Environmental Health group have been able to put into practice very well in various courses.

It should be noted that these have been our own problems and they do not necessarily represent the possible study problems experienced by other students.

The BASEH course at Batchelor

Patrick Alberts: The Bachelor of Applied Science Environmental Health (BASEH) Degree course began at BIITE in 2004 with 4 students, since then it has grown to 17 students with its first graduates to graduate this semester.


Patrick Alberts: We would like to say congratulations to;
Brendan Sherratt and Frank O’Donahoo. First BIITE BASEH Graduates 09

Tait Farram: The rest of the students at BIITE also deserve congratulating for their efforts. Keep up the good work.

Our experience at Batchelor

Tait Farram: My experience of BIITE has been excellent, it has made me stronger as a person, and I feel that both the degree and the work have broadened my work and life opportunities. The course has been inspirational many times, through the people I’ve met, the conversations I’ve had and through the various units I’ve studied.

I am glad to have chosen this line of work and study; and would recommend this study to anybody with an interest in ensuring the health of the environment in their community.

Throughout my study at BIITE I have been encouraged and supported by my lecturers and fellow students, my family and workmates.

Through my work for Bega Valley Shire Council I have been able to improve the health of my local environment and the living conditions for many people through education and awareness of environmental health issues relevant to their situation.

It’s the right idea, as far as I can see, to train Indigenous people in environmental health practices and procedures, enabling them to help their own people who can then educate others within the community as well.

Education is the key; you are never too old to learn something new.

Patrick Alberts: Since I began my studies at Batchelor I have accomplished things that I thought I would never achieve. Things like meeting strangers who end up being colleagues and friends. Being surrounded by Indigenous students from all over Australia has been an experience never ever encountered before for myself. The Institute has a comfortable way of studying, has excellent surroundings to live in, professional attitudes by students and lecturers and many different locations for study.

The things my self and Tait, have liked about studying at BIITE include;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people studying together in a both-ways learning environment.
  • The friendships formed and the networking opportunities for us.
  • The knowledge that is gained over time and the group outings on free time.
  • The Professional and friendly lecturers, and the travel destinations for courses.
  • Inspiration to study more.

The role of an Environmental Health Officer

Patrick Alberts
  • Upon graduation students can become environmental health officers (EHOs) anywhere in Australia.
  • An EHO has knowledge that can be utilised in many work and community related roles.
  • An EHO does also have the legal tools for their particular jurisdictions that support them in their roles, as an example, the Environmental Protection Act.
  • These associated powers allow the officers to carry out the work required for the job.
Some of the work an EHO can do includes:
  • food shop inspections
  • health & building related inspections
  • water sampling and monitoring
  • investigate pollution threats - minimise damage to the environment and protect public health
  • have a say in local environmental policy making and local development issues
Tait Farram: A few reasons to study to be an EHO:
  • Over the course of the degree, students will gain the knowledge to help sustain healthy communities.
  • To gain the knowledge to deal with health related problems within your own community.
  • To help promote community action through working with the community to produce healthy outcomes.
  • Environmental health officers can be great facilitators for community health education.
  • The work can also be diverse as there are many different aspects to an EHO’s job.
  • It can be rewarding, fulfilling work and you can get a sense of achievement out of your work’s outcomes.
  • The study and the work you do can be inspirational.
  • You can be an EHO anywhere in the world.
  • EHOs are also in great demand.
I believe that Indigenous people both remote and in cities and towns, throughout Australia and the Torres Strait, should all, have some sort of access to an Indigenous EHO who has the Environmental health knowledge that is applicable to the health hardware associated with their housing and also to promote healthy living practices in a culturally appropriate manner.

Thanks for listening.

We would like to thank again, the traditional owners and elders, BIITE and fellow students, BIITE BASEH lecturers past and present, The 7th NATSIEH conference organisers, and everybody here today, for listening.

Thank you.

Information to enrol at BIITE
Free call; Batchelor Campus:1800 677 095
8:30am – 4:00pm CST
Course Co-ordinator: Dr Kirstin Ross
Department of Applied Science
School of Business, Health and Science
Ph: (08) 8946 3831
Fax: (08) 8946 3833
Email: kirstin.ross@batchelor.edu.au

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education 2009, about Batchelor Institute, BIITE, viewed 23 March 2009, www.batchelor.edu.au/institute/about-batchelor-institute
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education 2009, maps, BIITE, viewed 23 March 2009, www.batchelor.edu.au/main/maps

Photos: Tait Farram, Merle O’Donnell & Kirstin Ross.

For more information

Tait Farram
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
PO Box 106, Parap, NT 0804
Ph: 08 8946 3831 Email: TFarram@begavalley.nsw.gov.au