There are several programs to support members of the community that are impacted by PFAS contamination. Details can be found under the headings below.
Defence cannot provide health advice. This is the role of respective Australian Government, State/Territory and local health authorities and practitioners.
Defence relies on the enHealth Guidance Statements on per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, available on the Department of Health website: www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-publicat-environ.htm.
The following links are provided to support community awareness:
The PFAS Coordination Unit at the Department of Health has established a public information service for all public enquiries relating to health and the Health-led initiatives developed in response to PFAS contamination. They can be contacted using the details below:
Further information from NSW agencies is available below.
The Australian Government has committed to a number of health initiatives to assist the communities affected by PFAS contamination, in particular at Williamtown, New South Wales, Oakey, Queensland and Katherine, Northern Territory.
The Australian Government has has commissioned the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University to undertake an epidemiological study that will look at potential causes and patterns of health effects in the Williamtown, NSW, Oakey, Queensland and Katherine, NT communities.
Voluntary Blood Testing Program
The Department of Health is administering a voluntary blood testing program for those who have lived or worked in the Williamtown, NSW, Oakey, Queensland and Katherine, NT investigation areas. Where individual consent is given, the PFAS voluntary blood test results may be used as part of the epidemiological study.
The Australian Government is aware that some non-government organisations are promoting blood testing for PFAS to the communities surrounding PFAS contaminated. Any blood testing that is conducted outside of the parameters of the voluntary blood testing program arrangements will not be funded by the Australian Government.
Mental Health and Counseling Services
The Department of Health is providing additional dedicated mental health and counseling services in affected communities of Williamtown, NSW, Oakey, Queensland and Katherine, NT.
These initiatives are running in Williamtown, Katherine and Oakey because the extent of contamination and exposure pathways at these sites is well understood. Once further investigations of other areas have been completed and the extent of the contamination and exposure pathways are better understood, the Australian Government will be in a position to consider whether it would be appropriate to expand the voluntary blood testing program, epidemiological study and additional mental health and support services to these investigation areas.
The Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advises that there is currently no consistent evidence that exposure to PFOS and PFOA causes adverse human health effects.
However, because these chemicals persist in humans and the environment, enHealth recommends that human exposure to these chemicals is minimised as a precaution.
Accordingly, Defence has adopted a precautionary approach and is providing alternative sources of drinking water as an interim measure to eligible residents located within an area currently under investigation or management where PFOS or PFOA is detected in a residential bore, rainwater tank or other existing source of drinking water. Defence may also provide drinking water to residents in other exceptional circumstances. Each household’s drinking water requirements will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate water supply arrangements that Defence may be able to provide.
To arrange to have your bore or rainwater tank tested or to find out if you are eligible for water assistance, please contact the project team by phone or email. You will be asked to complete a short survey to gather information about your water use and this information will be used to assess your eligibility for alternative water.
If you are eligible for water assistance as an interim measure, there is no cost in getting alternative water delivery from Defence.
The provision of alternative water supplies by Defence will be reviewed on completion of the environmental investigation, or sooner if information obtained during the environmental investigation suggests such a review is warranted. The project team will contact residents directly about any proposed changes to water assistance arrangements.
Defence is funding the connection of eligible properties within the Army Aviation Center Oakey and RAAF Base Williamtown Management Areas to town water. Properties that are connected by Defence will also receive funding to cover water access charges, water consumption charges and annual backflow prevention device inspection and testing fees for three years.
Expand the Hunter Water Connections section on this page for further information.
The health and safety of military and civilian personnel is a primary concern of Defence.
While we know that PFAS can persist in humans, animals and the environment, there is currently no consistent evidence that PFAS are harmful to human health. However, since these chemicals remain in humans and the environment for many years, it is recommended that human exposure to PFAS be minimised as a precaution.
More information around potential health effects and exposure pathways can be found on the Australian Government Department of Health factsheet.
The following services are available to current and former Defence members in relation to exposure to PFAS:
ADF Historical Occupational Exposure Record
For current ADF members, Defence has developed the ADF Historical Occupational Exposure Record to facilitate reporting of past exposures to any potential occupational hazard. This allows ADF members to record any historical exposures that have not already been recorded in their medical record.
Current ADF members should consult with their ADF Health practitioner for advice on accessing this scheme.
ADF members using the Australian Defence Force Historical Occupational Exposure Record should use this system alone and not report additionally via the DAHCES.
Defence Asbestos and Hazardous Chemicals Exposure Scheme (DAHCES)
The Defence Asbestos and Hazardous Chemicals Exposure Scheme (DAHCES) is open to current and former employees of the Department of Defence and former ADF personnel (including Cadets), who suspect that they have been exposed to asbestos or a chemical (including PFAS) as a result of their employment with Defence.
Persons wishing to participate in the DAHCES should call 1800 DEFENCE (1800 333 3623) to register their details and access further information.
Australian Defence Force members who live or work, or have lived or worked in the Williamtown or Oakey Management Areas or Katherine Investigation Area are able to access PFAS blood tests through their usual ADF garrison health service.
On 4 September 2015, the NSW Government temporarily closed commercial and recreational fisheries in the Tilligerry Creek and Fullerton Cove areas near RAAF Base Williamtown. On 27 October 2015, the NSW Government extended the ban on commercial and recreational fishing in the area until 30 June 2016. On 24 June 2016, the NSW Government extended the temporary closures until 30 September 2016.
On the 4 November 2015 the Australian Government announced a financial assistance package for eligible fishers and businesses affected by the Fullerton Cove and Tilligerry Creek fisheries closures. This financial assistance package is administered by the Department of Human Services and consists of an Income Recovery Subsidy for individuals, and Business Assistance Payment and Business Hardship Payment for businesses.
From 1 July 2016 a Business Transition Payment of up to $25,000 was introduced to assist businesses pursue alternative sources of income if they wish to do so. This may provide support to commence fishing in another fishery, for example.
On 27 September 2016, the NSW Department of Primary Industries announced the fishing closures will be lifted on 1 October 2016. The financial assistance package will remain available for a further 8 weeks from the reopening of the fisheries (i.e. 25 November 2016) .
The reopening of Fullerton cover and Tilligerry Creek to both commercial and recreational fishers is based on recommendations by the Williamtown Expert Panel and follows the release of Defence’s Human Health Risk Assessment and the outcomes of the independent review of the enHealth interim guideline values.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries has advised that a restriction for the catch of the Dusky Flathead will be applied in the Hunter River for commercial fishers from 1 October 2016. This restriction is in response to the elevated and highly variable levels of PFAS detected in sampling of this species and will stay in place until the results from further testing become available. The Department of Defence will continue to consult with the NSW Government to consider, what support may be required in relation ot the fishing restrictions in place for the Dusky Flathead in the Hunter River.
Rural Financial Counseling Service (RFCS)
The RFCS provides free rural financial counselling to agriculture and fishing businesses who are suffering financial hardship and who have no alternative sources of impartial financial information. The RFCS aims to help clients understand their financial and business position and options.
Follow the link to find out more information about the RFCS or for people in the Newcastle area seeking an appointment, call (02) 6662 5055 during business hours.
If an individual or business considers that they have suffered a loss or injury as a consequence of Defence activities, it is open to that individual or business to make a claim. Each claim should identify:
Alternatively, an individual or business may complete a claim form.
The claimant should attach any relevant documentation to support their claim, whether they use the claim form or not. Once a claim is received and considered by Defence, the claimant may be requested to provide further documentation.
Claims can be sent by email to email@example.com or by post to:
Office of Defence Special Counsel
Defence Legal Division
PO Box 7911
Canberra ACT 2610
All claims will be assessed consistently with the Attorney-General’s Legal Services Directions 2005.