Aboriginal communities across Western NSW have recently concluded a grass-roots, community effort to remove asbestos and other dangerous waste.

Led by the Bourke Shire Council in partnership with Brewarrina and Walgett councils, NGOs and community members, the Office of Local Government funded the first stage of a pioneering Aboriginal Community-Based Asbestos Remediation (ACBAR) program. 

To date, participants of the ACBAR program have removed:

  • 431 cubic metres of asbestos;
  • 520 cubic metres of legacy waste;
  • 102 disused cars;
  • 129 cubic metres of scrap metal.

The remote communities involved in the project have also been provided with 118 new household rubbish bins, 22 public litterbins, and 22 new signs. 

Aboriginal community governance was at the core of the project, with Local Land Councils and Community Working Parties extensively involved. The project provided jobs and training to 23 remote Aboriginal community members.

Ross Earl, general manager of Bourke Shire Council said the great thing about this model is the real benefit for our Aboriginal communities.

"Not just with the removal of asbestos, but through capacity building and employment of our local Aboriginal community members," Earl adds. 

"The removal of this waste makes community parks and spaces safer, cleaner and more sustainable." 

The project's working group has produced a document outlining the ACBAR model, as well as an asbestos management guide for the Local Aboriginal Land Councils.

It is now seeking to share its knowledge and data with heads of the Asbestos Coordination Authority in order to help reduce asbestos in other Aboriginal communities across NSW.

"We have been very enthusiastic to participate in clean-up projects in our local Aboriginal communities over the last 18 months and are proud of what we have achieved alongside our communities," said Brewarrina Shire Council's Jeff Sowiak.

Waste Aid managed the project with invaluable assistance from:

  • The Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett Shire councils
  • The Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett Discrete Aboriginal Communities
  • NetWaste.
  • Lendlease
  • The Office of Local Government