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Closing the Gap: The need to consider perceptions about drinking water in rural Aboriginal communities in NSW, Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2018-03-02, 00:00 authored by FG Jaravani, PD Massey, Jennifer JuddJennifer Judd, J Allan, N Allan
A crucial objective of the Australian Government's Closing the Gap program is to improve Aboriginal health, and to achieve morbidity and mortality rates similar to those for non-Indigenous Australians. Reducing public health risks due to drinking water of unknown quality will help to close the gap. Factors such as hardness, taste, colour and odour of water may influence perceptions of risk and quality. Increased contact and familiarity with a hazard is associated with individuals becoming desensitised and habituated to its presence, so that their risk judgements may reflect their behavioural experiences. Consumption of water of unknown quality, such as rainwater, instead of treated town water in Australian Aboriginal communities may be a community norm, a part of a community's culture or a result of lack of trust in government water suppliers. Partnerships between service providers and communities can ensure that the service is responsive to community needs, is conducted in a culturally appropriate manner and is beneficial to the community. Governance of drinking water in Aboriginal communities cannot be comprehensive without active engagement of the communities involved, and greater understanding of cultural issues, perceptions and behaviours towards drinking water quality. This Perspective article reviews the literature to shed light on the need to consider New South Wales (NSW) Aboriginal perceptions about drinking water and its acceptability. We urge more dialogue and research, and a policy focus that includes partnerships with discrete NSW Aboriginal communities to develop a deeper understanding of perceptions of drinking water and encourage consumption of safe water. © 2016 Jaravani et al.






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Sax Institute

Additional Rights

Public Health Research & Practice is an open-access, quarterly, online journal with a strong focus on the connection between research, policy and practice.

Peer Reviewed

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Open Access

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Cultural Warning

This research output may contain the names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. We apologize for any distress that may occur.

External Author Affiliations

Hunter New England Population Health, Newcastle, NSW; James Cook University; Walhallow Local Aboriginal Land Council, Caroona, NSW

Era Eligible

  • Yes


Public Health Research and Practice