In an important win for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tenants, the Northern Territory supreme court has ruled the jurisdictions’ Department of Housing is required to provide safe drinking water.
The decision, handed down on Monday, comes after a multi-year battle launched by residents of the remote community of Laramba, which involved multiple governing bodies and agencies refusing to take onus on providing safe drinking water.
The community found 205 kilometres west of Alice Springs detected uranium levels three times the maximum safe level according to the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines and until Monday’s decision the NT government wasn’t responsible for fixing it.
In April this year – four years after the initial legal challenge – the NT government opened a new water treatment plant in Laramba, but yesterday’s decision has the potential to assist the 250,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote communities who are unable to access safe and healthy drinking water.
In a press release from legal support service Grata Fund, Dan Kelly, Solicitor at Australian Lawyers for Remote Aboriginal Rights says the decision will benefit communities across Australia.
“Tap water in more than 500 remote Indigenous communities across Australia isn’t regularly tested and often it isn’t safe to drink.
Today’s (Monday’s) win has confirmed that Indigenous peoples have as much right as any Australian to safe drinking water, and the government can be held to account when they fail in their most basic obligations.”
Grata Fund Executive Director Isabelle Reinecke congratulated the community.
“I warmly congratulate the community of Laramba on their important win today, for leading the way and fighting for their rights to better health outcomes and safe drinking water for their families, and for all tenants in the NT.”