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Utility stress as a social determinant of health

Utility stress as a social determinant of health: A study of the increasing cost of public utilities on the poverty and health status of Aboriginal people in urban areas across Australia

This project was a scoping study to develop research partnerships and a research methodology to examine the impact of the rising cost of public utility services on the socio-economic status, and the associated health status, of Aboriginal people in urbanised (major cities and rural towns) locations across Australia. The past two decades have seen significant change in the regulation, provision and management of water, but also other essential services such as electricity, gas and telephone services to the Australian population. Two significant factors in this shift have been the privatisation or full retail contestability of once publicly-owned utilities, such as electricity, water and telecommunications, and in the case of water, a move by the Federal Government to full cost recovery in the interest of sustainability under the National Water Initiative (COAG 2003; Committee for Melbourne 2004). The impact of these moves has been to increase costs for consumers, many of whom are now experiencing hardship in meeting repayments.

This project has so far resulted in:

Over the longer term, the project aimed to inform the development of strategies to reduce the percentage of total income costs Aboriginal people must allocate to essential services. This would be done by:

This project aimed to extend the research of the Flinders University Water Research team (Aboriginal Communities) beyond domestic water supply in remote settings to take in the full range of essential services in urban and rural settings across three Australian states. Seed funding was provided by CRCAH to bring together key stakeholders (Aboriginal consumer organisations and researchers from universities/institutions associated with the CRCAH) to design the research project. Partnerships were developed with Charles Darwin University and AHCSA (the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia), and a literature review was completed in early 2008.

Related resources:
Project leader

Eileen Willis



Administering institution:

Flinders University