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 Department of Health has established an expert health panel to provide independent advice on the potential health effects of PFAS exposure. Visit the Department of Health Website for further information or to download the expert health panel report.
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 Australian Government provided free blood testing for PFAS for people who live or work, or who have lived or worked, in the RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW, Army Aviation Centre Oakey, Qld, or RAAF Base Tindal, NT Investigation Areas and who had potentially been exposed to PFAS.
On June 30 2019, The Australian Government PFAS voluntary blood testing program concluded.
The ending of the Voluntary Blood Testing Program was aligned with the next stage of the Australian National University epidemiological study which is looking into the potential health effects of PFAS.
As a precaution, enHealth recommends exposure to PFAS be minimised wherever possible while further research is undertaken on the potential health effects of PFAS exposure.
This precautionary advice takes into account the uncertainties in the current scientific evidence (i.e. the lack of causation data on human health effects) and the ability of these chemicals to persist in humans and in the environment.
If you live or work in a PFAS contaminated area, your state or territory health department can provide you with local advice on how to minimise exposure to PFAS. For more information, contact your state or territory health department, or the Commonwealth Department of Health.
Phone: 1800 941 180
Defence has adopted a precautionary approach and has been providing alternative sources of drinking water as an interim measure to eligible residents located within an area currently under investigation or management where PFOS, PFOA or PFHxS is detected above the Health Based guidance Value in a residential bore, rainwater tank or other existing source of drinking water. 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 investigation 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, Defence will fund the supply and delivery of alternative water.
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 investigation 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.
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 333 362) to register their details and access further information.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.