Clean bedding, towels and clothes is a crucial to being healthy. Having working washing machines with access to hot water and good detergent is harder than you might think for some people. We believe public laundries are a necessary service in communities where overcrowding is common.
Overcrowding in the NT is the highest in the country, where up to 56% of people living in state owned and managed Indigenous housing are considered overcrowded (AIHW 2017). The more remote the housing, the more prevalent the overcrowding.
Imagine you’re living in a house with your family, in the room next door is another family and their four children and in the final room in your house there is another family – 20 people in all.
Washing clothes in Aboriginal communities is harder than you might think. A public laundry where the machines work, detergent doesn’t run out, and the water is hot is a crucial part of keeping families healthy.
Nasty bacteria and parasites
While overcrowding inarguably puts strain on the health and wellbeing of all occupants, there are some particularly nasty ones that can be slowed down and even stopped with regular washing of bedding, towels and clothing.
It’s all about repeated infections – overcrowding means people (especially children) are exposed to nasty bacteria over and over again. Eventually the bacteria destroy hearts, eyes, ears and kidneys.
Improving sanitation through washing clothes, bedding and towels will help to break the cycle of repeat infections.
Rheumatic Heart Disease
A preventable disease, RHD is caused by repeated bouts of rheumatic fever which permanently damage the heart.
Children living in overcrowded, unclean houses in rural and remote Aboriginal communities are most at risk. In 2015 there were 1,637 children and young adults living with RHD in the NT.
Shamefully, Australia has some of the highest rates of RHD in the developed world. A public laundry with working machines will help to kill the bacteria that causes the infection.
Young children from Aboriginal families who live in overcrowded houses in remote communities are most at risk of this preventable diseases which if untreated causes blindness.
Caused by repeated infections with bacteria chlamydia trachomatis, it causes painful blindness in older people who have had severe active trachoma usually in childhood.
Trachoma infection is treated with antibiotics, but improved care and sanitation practices will prevent the disease altogether. Community laundries form an essential part of personal hygiene particularly where resources are limited.
Scabies and skin sores
Scabies is a skin condition caused by a microscopic mite called sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow under the skin and make the host very itchy.
It is a common problem in many remote NT Aboriginal communities where in some areas up to 50% of children and 25% of adults are affected.
Scratching often causes secondary streptococcus and staphylococcus bacterial infections.
Streptococcal infections can be associated with inflammation of the kidneys (glomerulonephritis) which increases the risk of kidney failure later in life.
Streptococcal infection can also be associated with inflammation of the heart (acute rheumatic fever) which can lead to rheumatic heart disease and heart failure. (https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/health-conditions-treatments/parasites/scabies).
Medication and washing bedding, towels and clothing is an important when trying to break the life cycle of of the scabies mite.