Water tap

Water Corporation has held a number of industry forums in Broome and Kununurra to introduce Indigenous businesses to the Aboriginal Communities Water Services (ACWS) program.

Civil, mechanical and electrical contractors were among 15 local firms at the two events along with various trades services companies.

Announced in mid-2023 as part of an initial $200 million commitment by the Western Australian Government, the ACWS program, managed by Water Corporation, aims to improve the standard of water and wastewater services in 141 Indigenous Australian communities.

Over an initial ten years, the program will ensure Indigenous communities have access to reliable drinking water that meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines, and wastewater services that meet or exceed relevant standards under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Water Corporation is working with community residents and relevant representative organisations to foster sustainable relationships grounded in mutual respect.

The Western Australian Government said that engagement has commenced with 37 communities to understand their individual water service requirements and help scope future infrastructure projects.

In September 2023, Mowanjum, near Derby, became the first community to receive improved infrastructure under the ACWS program, following an $8.3 million Water Corporation project to enhance wastewater infrastructure.

In 2022-23, Water Corporation awarded 51 contracts to Indigenous businesses, totalling close to $92 million.

Western Australian Water Minister, Simone McGurk, said, “This program will not only deliver important health and wellbeing outcomes for people living in these communities, it’s creating business opportunities for local Aboriginal businesses that will benefit the whole region.

“These forums were a chance to introduce businesses to the program with a view to maximising involvement among local contractors and subcontractors, consistent with the Western Australian Government’s Aboriginal Procurement Policy.

“The Aboriginal Communities Water Services program is a long-term commitment by the State Government to improve the standard of water services in these 141 communities. Water Corporation will work with residents at every stage to ensure service improvements and socio-economic outcomes are defined by the community.” 

Western Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Tony Buti, said, “This is a fantastic initiative that will significantly improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the Kimberley.

“Clean and reliable drinking water and wastewater services that meet the relevant standards are imperative to Closing the Gap and providing Aboriginal people with a strong foundation for the future.”

Kimberley MLA, Divina D’Anna, said, “It’s great to see this vital program creating opportunities for our Aboriginal businesses here in the Kimberley.

“With so many important projects occurring right throughout the region, these community forms provide a terrific opportunity to learn more about the work available now and in the future.”

Water Corporation’s Aboriginal Communities Water Services program manages water services in 141 Indigenous communities across Western Australia.

Over an initial ten years, it is expected to deliver water infrastructure upgrades to provide safer and more reliable water services.

Previously, management of water services in these communities sat with the Department of Communities, before the Western Australian Government transferred responsibility to Water Corporation on 1 July 2023.

The 141 communities, of varying sizes, are located in:

  • Kimberley (101 communities)
  • Pilbara and Mid West (26 communities)
  • Goldfields and Central (14 communities)

Water Corporation has overall management of the services with operational support delivered by existing local and Indigenous-owned regional service providers, who maintain the water services and infrastructure.

Improved monitoring and reporting is being implemented to better understand individual requirements and identify potential improvements, following comprehensive infrastructure condition assessments.

Communities with critical water service concerns, such as operational safety, water quality and water reliability, will be prioritised for upgrades.

Under the previous Essential and Municipal Services Upgrade Program, Mowanjum, Ardyaloon, Bayulu, Bidyadanga, Djarindjin, Lombadina and Beagle Bay, as well as several town-based communities, were identified as priority communities for water and wastewater upgrades.

Image credit: Philip Schubert/Shutterstock.com.

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