The system of public health in Western Australia, and in all jurisdictions in Australia, is based on a partnership of interlocked responsibilities between Local, State and Commonwealth governments. At an international level, this partnership also includes World Health Organisation.

Local Government provides an extensive range of public and environmental health services, including food safety, school and community immunisation programs, human waste and waste water control, business inspections and health risk assessments.

New Public Health Act

Currently the WA State Government is introducing a new Public Health Act for Western Australia which will require Local Governments to develop local public health plans. Local Government works with partners to ensure better health outcomes for their communities. This is through legislation such as the Public Health ActFood Act 2001, Tobacco Control Act 2006 or the Caravan and Camping Grounds Act 1997, Emergency Management Act  2005 and their accompanying responsibilities for hygiene and safety.

Local Government also support the delivery of the National Partnership Agreements established by the  Council of Australian Governments (COAG) which is  the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia. The members of COAG are the Prime Minister, State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

More generally, Councils also provide a significant but often unrecognised contribution to public health and mental wellbeing by providing public and social infrastructure such as roads and recreational facilities. This also includes community services such as playgrounds, sporting facilities, parks and lighting and public services such as home and community care, libraries and support following an emergency like a bushfire or flood. All of these contribute to the health and wellbeing of individuals and their communities.

WALGA Advocacy

Local Government have requested for WALGA to continue to advocate for funding, support and resources from State and Commonwealth Government to assist with their transition to the new obligations under the Act and support for improved health outcomes for their communities.

In response, WALGA established the Public Health Advisory Group to support WALGA’s Public Health advocacy activities and to provide technical advice to inform WALGA submissions and advocacy on behalf of member Local Governments. In February 2017, WALGA surveyed Local Government about their readiness to meet their obligations under the Act and future health workforce needs seeking feedback on environmental health workforce planning and local public health planning in order to ensure appropriate resources and reporting frameworks are established to allow the sector to meet their responsibilities in this role. As a result, two Draft Discussion Papers were developed for Member consideration.

The Role of Local Government in Community Health and Wellbeing discussion paper was prepared to inform members on their obligations under the Act, assist with Local Public Health Planning, and identify what further support and resources are required to assist Local Government.  

Environmental Health Workforce Planning discussion paper provides the results of the WALGA survey of the Local Government Environmental Health workforce, and encourages Local Governments to plan for their future workforce by following recommendations and resources provided by the former Department of Local Government and Communities. (Now the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries)

In July 2017, the Department of Health released the First Interim State Public Health Plan for Local Government comment. The First Interim State Public Health Plan sets the public health policy prirotities for Western Australia. Local Governments can give regard to these priorities when preparing their Local Public Health Plans. WALGA's Submission on the First Interim State Public Health Plan was developed  based on engagement with Local Governments. The submission was endorsed by WALGA State Council and submitted to the Department of Health in December 2017.