Small project with huge benefits

AIG Laundry Project

AIG will build and manage fully contained, permanent laundromats in 7 northern remote communities of the Northern Territory. Barunga community has been identified as the first laundry and the purpose-built structure will be installed 1 October, 2018 and become operational by February 2019. 

Each laundromat will be appropriately sized for each individual community, Barunga will have 4 x 10kg washing machines and 4 x 10kg dryers – the laundromats are fully automated.

In terms of project design, primarily we were looking to address the serious health issues associated with living in unhygenic conditions such as scabies and trachoma.

“The health consequences of diseases like Scabies are nothing short of catastrophic and are entirely preventable”. It is unacceptable that 50% of aboriginal children living in remote communities will contract scabies before their first birthday’’.

In terms of other benefits, there is perhaps a feelgood side in terms of the project and outcomes that we perhaps take it for granted, that is the value of clean clothes and bedding –  certainly we see clean clothes and an impediment that some people face to gaining employment and in general just feeling good about themselves.

Health

Being able to wash clothes and bedding for people living in remote communities in the NT is paramount for preventing infectious diseases such as trachoma and scabies. The industrial sized machines in our laundries will be able to wash bedding as well as clothes.

Scabies:

  • 50% of children living in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT will have had scabies before their first birthday.
  • 25% of adults are living with scabies in remote Aboriginal communities in the NT.
  • Scabies make the skin itchy in between the fingers and toes particularly, the itching breaks the skin and causes infections.
  • Skin infections create entry point for nasty bacteria (streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria) which cause rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease. (I think you should just say nasty bacteria instead of using the long nanes)
  • Washing clothes and bedding is important in breaking the infestation and transmission cycle.

Rheumatic Heart Disease:

  • 2% of all Aboriginals in the NTare living with rheumatic heart disease (RHD). Young adults are most at risk (3% of all young adults).  
  • RHD is an illness caused by an autoimmune response to strep A bacteria and repeat cases of rheumatic fever cause permanent damage the the heart valves.
  • RHD is a disease of poverty and is prevented by living in hygeninic conditions – washing clothing and bedding is a key way of preventing the ideal conditions fort he Strep A bacteria to thrive.
  • An Indigenous person in the NT is 54.8 times more likely to die from RHD complications than a non-Indigenous person.

Trachoma:

  • Trachoma is a bacterial eye infection (a bit like conjuctivitus). Repeated infection combined with the body’s immuse response causes intense irritation, scarring and eventually blindness.
  • Life is horrible for people who have trachoma and it is endemic in some Aboriginal communities.
  • Australia is the only developed country that still has prevalent trachoma in certain communities. It is entirely preventable in well santitation.
  • It remains a disease of poverty and disadvantage where water is scarce, and washing is difficult.
  • Spread through unwashed hands, dirty face wiping cloths and flies who have been on the face of an infected person.
  • Women suffer much more frequently than men – usually transmitted from sick children
  • Washing with soap is the best way to prevent Trachoma – this includes clean clothes, face wipers and pillows.

Health promotion potential for existing service providers (collaboration)

  • Additional health promotion flow on effects will be created by providing a forum for communicating health messages while people are waiting for their cycle to finish.
Overcrowding
  • Overcrowded houses are at the root of disadvantage for Aboriginals in the NT and its gets worse the more remote you go. Four or five families can be living in a single house.
  • Overcrowding makes is hard to maintain good hygiene, especially when water pipes block or electricity is unpredictable or people living in the house can’t afford to buy washing powder, disinfectant and soap.
  • Disease spreads fast in an overcrowded house.
  • Overcrowding is blamed as a main cause of eye and ear disease as well as other nasty diseases such as respiratory infections, tuberculosis and bloodstream infections.
  • Washing clothes and bedding makes a significant difference to the hygiene of a household.
Barunga as trial site
  • AIG was approached through deputy Chairperson of our board to help tackle trachoma in the Barunga community
  • After consultation with the Barunga community, AIG came up with the laundry concept.
  • Permanent dwelling with industrial sized machines to be managed by community members – creating employment.
  • Not mobile because communitity should be able to choose when they want to wash – we want using the laundromat to become embedded in day to day living.
  • Trial for 1 month to fine tune opening hours, management, wash cycle costs, maintenance etc.
  • After trial period AIG will eventulally roll out to 6 other sites around the northern regions of the NT.
  • Board members (who represent the 7 regions) will advise on rcommunities of greatest need and channels of consultation with identified communitities.
Potential questions
  • Why not mobile (like orange sky Lockhart community mobile laundry model)
  • How did the idea for this project come about?
  • How are you determining which communities get a laundry and which ones don’t?
  • How much will this project cost?
  • What has been the process for community consultation before starting this project?
  • How do you know it is going to work?
  • Do you anticipate paying for washing will be a major barrier to using the laundromat?
  • Why not supply each house with a washing machine instead of building a laundromat?
  • How will you mitigate vandalism?
  • What is the local employment potential of the project?