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WA Indigenous communities promised water service upgrades in COVID-19 recovery plan

The Western Australian (WA) government has announced $38.9 million in funding to improve water service delivery in the state’s Aboriginal communities. 

The funding, which will be delivered by Water Corporation, in partnership with local Indigenous communities, will see upgrades to water and wastewater facilities with an aim to provide remote communities with access to the same standard of essential services enjoyed by other Western Australians.

Water Minister Dave Kelly said the funding was brought forward to improve infrastructure and provide employment opportunities as a part of the state government’s $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Critical to the success of this program is early engagement and a partnership approach with Aboriginal communities to deliver the infrastructure upgrades,” Kelly said.

"We look forward to working with these communities to deliver outcomes which support and enhance their way of life."

There are some 274 remote Aboriginal communities in WA. A 2015 report by the state’s auditor general found that, while these communities have reliable power and water supply, water quality often does not meet Australian standards, with four out of five communities receiving water delivered by a state-run program testing positive for unsafe levels of E.coli or Naegleria.

The upgrades will see the Water Corporation become the licensed water service provider for the remote communities of Ardyaloon, Djarindjin, Lombadina and Beagle Bay on the Dampier Peninsula in the West Kimberley, with planning and investigations to also commence for other remote communities. 

Water services will also be upgraded at several town-based communities throughout the state.

The government said the program also aims to create jobs for local Aboriginal people and businesses, including sustainable traineeships and new employment opportunities to assist with essential service delivery, operations and maintenance once the project is delivered.