Although environmental health conditions in Aboriginal communities are often identified as being below the standards found in the wider community, Aboriginal people have been under represented in the environmental health profession across Australia, and fewer still at a level beyond community worker.
In an effort to develop an Aboriginal workforce with the leadership and technical skills to progress environmental health issues into the future, the NSW Health Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program was developed.
What is the Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program?
In April 1997, NSW Health (with some initial funding support from the Commonwealth government) launched a program to train and provide study support for Aboriginal people across NSW to become Environmental Health Officers.
The first Aboriginal Environmental Health trainee graduated in 2001. By 2013 there is total of 13 graduates and 11 current trainees in the program. NSW Aboriginal Trainee Environmental Health Officer Placements details the locations of trainees and graduates across NSW.
The Training Program is a priority of the Aboriginal Environmental Health Unit and is identified in the NSW Aboriginal Health Plan 2013 -2023, and the NSW Health Workforce Strategic Framework 2011-2015.
Trainees are employed full-time by a Public Health Unit or Local Government Council as a Trainee Environmental Health Officer (EHO) in urban, rural and remote NSW. The Trainee EHOs are given increasing responsibilities over the life of the traineeship. Trainees have the opportunity to actively participate in a wide range of environmental health issues and in some areas play a leading role in driving and ensuring the success of a number of public health projects.
A qualified and experienced Environmental Health Officer in each PHU and/or Council supervises and guides the workplace training and professional development of the Trainees.
The salary scale for the Trainee employed by councils varies according to specific each councils the employee agreements.
Trainees employed by Public Health Units are paid according to the following scaled pay rates:
1st year - $43,199.00 per annum
2nd year - $44,791.00 per annum
3rd year - $46,395.00 per annum
4th year - $47,989.00 per annum (top of the range)*
* Note: These are the current rates as at 2 July 2012 and are adjusted in accordance with any changes to salary movements in the Health Professional and Medical Salaries (State) Award.
Employment for Trainees beyond 4th year is paid at the 4th year rate (top of the range).
Applicants who are successfully recruited and offered employment in a Training Program, sign the Aboriginal Trainee Environmental Health Officer Conditions of Employment which outlines the conditions and responsibilities of the Trainee.
Trainees undertake a six year, Bachelor of Natural Science (Environmental and Health) degree by distance learning through the University of Western Sydney (UWS).
Trainees study attend the university campus at least once a semester for on-campus residential workshops (for up to one week at a time) and again for tutorials and exams at the end of the semester (usually a few days).
As a general guide, students need to study for a minimum 10 hours per week per subject. Whilst students are entitled to study leave, they still need to study during their own time at home.
The Badanami Centre for Indigenous Education at UWS has a support centre and support staff for students on campus. The centre offers a range of services and support to guide students through their study, including assistance with university entry, tutoring and university administration. Indigenous Student Support Officers (ISSOs) are available on each campus of the university.
During University semester trainees are entitled up to 6 hours per subject per week study leave, up to a maximum of 2 days per week. At the completion of their study, trainees may be offered some employment with the Public Health Unit or Local Council as a graduate EHO to consolidate their skills.
The program covers the cost of travel and expenses associated with the trainee's employment or study. Course fees (including HECS) fo a full degree course load and any other associated costs (including text books, technical equipment, tuition and graduation costs) are met by NSW Health and partner council and/or PHU.
Costs for any repeated or additional subjects other than those required to complete the degree are paid for by the trainee.
Full funded tutoring is provided through the Indigenous Tutoring Assistance Scheme for 2 hours per subject per week. Trainees can make a request for additional hours of tutoring if required.
Work Experience and Professional Development Opportunities
There are a number of skills relevant to the development of the trainees beyond those provided in the degree. To assure trainees have access to a broad range of work experiences and relevant professional development the NSW Health developed EHO Trainee Program Competency Guide (currently under review).
A Competency Guide has been developed by:
- Trainee Environmental Officers, their supervisors
- the Environmental Health Branch and
- external stakeholders including UWS, Environmental Health Australia
Each trainee competency is assessed annually by independent assessors. The aim of the Competency Guide and assessment process is to increase the quality of the work experience component of the program.
While the original intention of the program was to offer opportunities to train Aboriginal people as Environmental Health Officers there have been many additional benefits.
The development of the Training Program has coincided with a number of key NSW Government initiatives in Aboriginal environmental health. Of particular relevance has been the Housing for Health program run with a number of Aboriginal communities and the NSW Aboriginal Community Water and Sewage Program.
Participation in these and other initiatives, by many trainees and graduates from the program, has been a significant feature of their work in NSW Health. Trainees and graduates are playing an increasing role in ensuring the success of public health projects in communities and also in developing links between communities and the public health units.
Trainees are also entitled to student membership of the Environmental Health Australia the professional body for Environmental Health.
Review of the Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program
A review of the Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training Program was completed in 2009. The review identified Aboriginality had increased from zero to over 17% in the NSW Health environmental health workforce over the life of the program and improved relationships between Public Health Units and Aboriginal Communities (see Summary Report: Review of the NSW Health Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Training)
The 17 recommendations from the Review are being implemented including an expansion of the Program through funding and support partnerships with Local Health Districts and Local Government.
Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer Trainees Recruitment 2013 / 2014
A number of Aboriginal EHO Trainee places will be recruited for by the PHUs and Councils throughout 2013 / 2014. The location of these traineeships will be dependent upon the partnering PHUs and Councils.
- Proof of Australian Aboriginality is required
- Work experience in associated fields, aptitude and an interest in environmental health work are taken in account
- Education requirements are flexible with provision for highly suitable candidates to have additional time and funding to undertake tertiary preparation courses where necessary
Advertisements for the Traineeships are placed by the employing PHU's and Councils on the NSW Health and general recruitment websites, Australian Indigenous Health Infonet and in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Media such as Koori Mail, Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine.
For AEHO Training Program enquiries, email ENHWU@doh.health.nsw.gov.au or phone 02 9391 9790.
See more information on Useful Links.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Environmental Health ?
Environmental health is the interaction between the environment and the health of populations of people. It looks at the effects of the environment on our health and aims to create and maintain environments which promote good community health.
What do Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) do?
EHOs are responsible for carrying out measures for protecting public health, including administering and enforcing legislation related to environmental health and providing support to minimize health and safety hazards. They are involved in a variety mix of activities in the offices as well as out-and-about in the community. For example:
- Responding to enquiries, attending meetings and writing reports
- Inspecting public facilities (food premises, swimming pools, skin penetration premises e.g.), investigating public health nuisances, and implementing disease control
- Monitor and control water, air, soil and noise pollution and collect samples for analysis.
For more information about Environmental Health Officers visit:
How do I get a traineeship?
- You can apply when you see advertisements for the traineeships.
- You can register your interest with the Aboriginal Environmental Health Officer training program at any time with the Aboriginal Environmental Health Unit.
How often are placements offered?
2-4 times a year
If I don't have school qualifications can I apply for traineeship?
Yes. There is some limited funding available for exceptional applicants to do some supported uni-preparation to qualify for entry to university.
When will a traineeship be available near my home?
Traineeships are available all over NSW. It is dependent on the employers having a place available. New traineeships are being negotiated on an ongoing basis. Contact Training Program, Aboriginal Environmental Health Unit to discuss your area of interest. There may be a traineeship coming up in your area.