Western Australia Labor government dismisses water contamination risks in indigenous communities
20 April 2019
Like its Liberal Party predecessors, the state Labor government in Western Australia has contemptuously denied damning evidence of water contamination in largely indigenous rural towns and communities.
In office since 2017, Labor has continued to dismiss the findings of 10 years of research by the Western Desert Kidney Health Project (WDKHP), showing a potential correlation between poor water quality and elevated levels of kidney disease and type-2 diabetes.
These diseases are one of the reasons that Aboriginal people nationally have life expectancies of up to 20 years less than the non-Aboriginal population. Indigenous people suffer type-2 diabetes at four times the non-Aboriginal rate and have the fourth highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Dr Christine Jeffries-Stokes, a paediatrician based in the city of Kalgoorlie, probed further into the origin of these problems. The project conducted investigations in five rural towns and five remote Aboriginal communities of Western Desert language groups. It found that the biggest health risk factor was not ethnicity, but environment, leading to an investigation of contaminated water supplies.
The research found no difference between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children for the risk factors for kidney disease and diabetes, and the differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults were much less than expected.
For example, the WDKHP found one or more renal markers—indicators of potential problems with kidney functions—in 58.5 percent of Aboriginal women, 33 percent of non-Aboriginal women, 27.8 percent of Aboriginal men and 22.4 percent of non-Aboriginal men. All the levels were well above…