Why ‘small things’ matter – clean, cool drinking water.
Providing a supply of free, clean, chilled water into a school in north western NSW was a strongly driven local health initiative. The project provided the water, 5 bubbler points and personal drinking bottles for each child. In a small way, this work has been supported by HH.
For 30 years the work of HH in Australia has been improving small things in houses lived in by Aboriginal and Islander people to improve health. Doing this work we have learnt a few important things:
- You need strong partners on the ground … over 75% of all of Housing for Health staff nationally have been local indigenous people
- You need to put in the very best technology and materials to reduce maintenance and running costs for the householder.
- Small changes, made in over 2,000 houses lived in by Aboriginal people over a 10 year period, reduced hospital admissions by 40%. This independent report was done by that radical body … the NSW Health Department.
We have also learnt that further you travel from any local community to the state capitals like Sydney or worse the national capital Canberra, small changes are dismissed out of hand. You are told you need big budgets, big national partners and big photos opportunities. Sadly, way too often, these big projects become big failures!!
The size of a project should never be the measure of a project’s worth, if well considered, designed, constructed, locally supported and maintained any project can make improvements to health.
The chiller unit and 5 water bubbler points before the opening
Kids with their new water bottles await the opening of the new chilled water dispenser
This chilled water initiative ticked most of the HH major boxes :
- there are strong local partners – The Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) and the school,
- a more distant but influential partner, the Rotary club of Dee Why Warringah,
- money and care was spent to install good technology which is being monitored and evaluated,
- this work provides a drinking option that may improve nutrition and certainly will improve dental health.
HH will learn from the results of this program and use what is learnt to help other communities achieve a similar result.
The bubblers, and in the foreground, the water meter that will measure the use of the chilled water
Congratulations to all those involved in the work – the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service, Walgett School, the Rotary Club of Dee Why Warringah. HH is proud to have been a small supporter of the project.
The Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service (WAMS) Dental team outline the benefits to dental health of the drinking water.
The system is open… and the kids fill up their new water bottles on a hot day in Walgett