Emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities

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The Remote Aboriginal Communities Plumbing Scheme enables authorised Aboriginal environmental health workers (AEHWs) to carry out simple, urgent plumbing repairs in eligible remote communities if a licensed plumber is unavailable.

The AEHWs are engaged by service providers contracted to the WA Department of Health, which provides the scheme in partnership with the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety – Building and Energy Division (on behalf of the Plumbers Licensing Board).

The initiative aims to ensure emergency plumbing issues are addressed as soon as possible to avoid the risk of drinking water contamination, unsanitary conditions or water wastage until a licensed plumber can attend.

The scheme has operated since December 2016 when the Plumbers Licensing and Plumbing Standards Regulations 2000 (the Plumbing Regulations) were amended to allow suitably qualified AEHWs  to undertake a limited range of simple plumbing repairs in eligible communities. The scheme currently operates in 274 WA communities.

A Building and Energy consultation paper in September 2019 and a decision paper in July 2020 were part of a review that found the scheme continues to meet its objectives. This review also contributed to an expansion of permitted work that AEHWs may carry out and other minor changes, which came into effect on 10 February 2024.

Record of emergency plumbing work by authorised workers in remote Aboriginal communities

The Plumbers Licensing Board has developed templates for use by service providers

Record of emergency plumbing work in remote Aboriginal communities 

Record of authorised workers 

Frequently asked questions

What plumbing work is permitted under the scheme?

The Plumbing Regulations define permitted work as:

  • replacing or repairing shower heads;
  • replacing domestic water filter cartridges;
  • maintaining or repairing a tap, other than a thermostatic mixing tap;
  • replacing “P-Traps” and “S-Traps” in readily accessible locations, such as under sinks, basins or troughs;
  • replacing leaking hose taps, hose connection vacuum breakers, cistern stop taps and flexible hose assemblies;
  • replacing leaking cistern washers, valves and flush pipe connectors;
  • capping a burst water main, damaged waste pipe or sanitary drain for the purpose of preventing a risk to human health or safety or a significant waste of water;
  • replacing general covers (e.g. missing or broken inspection mounds, gully mounds, grates and vent cowls);
  • clearing blocked waste pipes and drains by the use of plungers or flexible hand rods;
  • unblocking toilets, showers, basins, troughs, sinks and baths by the use of plungers or flexible hand rods; and
  • other plumbing work approved by the Plumbers Licensing Board.

Which remote communities are eligible under the scheme?

The 274 WA communities participating in the scheme are based on the former Department of Aboriginal Affairs’ “Remote Aboriginal Community List – Western Australia”. The eligible communities list does not generally include town-based reserves because licensed plumbers are  more accessible in these locations. However, the Building Commissioner can consider including additional communities on a case-by-case basis.

What does the scheme mean for licensed plumbers?

The scheme should not adversely impact licensed plumbers because its purpose is to enable simple plumbing emergencies to be attended to in circumstances where a licensed plumber cannot get to a remote community in a timely manner.

The 2020 Decision Paper states: “The purpose of the scheme is not to replace licensed plumbers, but rather to complement them by ensuring there is capacity within each remote community to deal with basic and simple emergency repairs until a licensed plumber can attend.”

A licensed plumber must still be engaged for all plumbing work not covered under the scheme.

What qualifications are required to carry out the work?

The AEHW must hold a qualification at Certificate II level or above in environmental health, Indigenous environmental health, population health, public health, preventative health or an equivalent qualification approved by the Plumbers Licensing Board. 

They must also have completed all of the qualifying plumbing units as defined in the Plumbing Regulations.

The AEHW must be employed or engaged by a service provider contracted by the WA Department of Health to provide Aboriginal environmental health services in an eligible remote community.

What are service providers' obligations under the scheme?

Service providers are required to keep records of all workers involved in the scheme and the work they carry out. The Plumbers Licensing Board has developed template forms (see above) for service providers to use.

These records should be made available for inspection by a plumbing compliance officer or a licensed plumbing contractor who reasonably requires them to carry out other plumbing work in the community.

Service providers must also ensure their environmental health workers are appropriately trained and equipped to carry out work under the scheme safely, competently and only in emergency situations where a licensed plumber cannot get to the remote community soon enough.

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