Supporting sustainable waste solutions for First Nations councils

A remote Queensland Shire will get $3 million to improve waste management as the state government moves to support more sustainable waste solutions for First Nation communities.

Yarrabah Mayor Ross Andrews

The money will be put towards a two-stage project to remove waste from an old landfill site at Yarrabah Aboriginal Shire Council (YASC) and upgrade its waste transfer facility.

The initiative comes after the government last year released its Respecting Country strategy for sustainable waste in Indigenous communities.

Yarrabah, the traditional country of the Gunggandji and Yidinji people, is an Aboriginal local government area in Far North Queensland about 60km south-east of Cairns.

It’s also a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and is surrounded by important ecosystems including mangroves and rainforest.

In a familiar story for Indigenous communities, Yarrabah’s remote location makes transporting waste a challenge, and YASC hopes the funding will cut reduce transport costs and prevent delays in waste removal.

“This will allow us to obtain critical infrastructure and resources to manage this issue in a more efficient manner,” Mayor Ross Andrews said in a statement.

Tailored waste management solutions

The First Nations waste strategy aims to empower Queensland’s 17 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils with tailored waste management solutions that also offer economic benefits to local communities.

The strategy says First Nation Councils face unique challenges including scare resources, isolation, long transport distances and often harsh and unpredictable climates.

According to the report, 85 per cent of Aboriginal Councils in Queensland have limited or no landfill capacity and 72 per cent of landfill and transfer facilities have difficulties meeting compliance conditions.

Only one of the 17 councils offer kerbside recycling and less than 25 per cent have container refund points.

The strategy was designed in partnership with  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils and overseen by a project steering group comprising council CEOs, Department of Environment and Science (DES), the project consultant and Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).

DES and YASC are also investigating potential opportunities to prevent future waste issues at Yarrabah, including stockpiling of white goods and the mixing of recyclables, the government says.

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