Fed Uni to bid for smoke crisis health study

An impending study into the long-term health effects of the Hazelwood smoke crisis could be conducted by a local institution, if a bid by Federation University Gippsland is successful.

Head of campus Dr Harry Ballis this week revealed to The Express his intention to lodge a formal application for FedUni to carry out the 10-year project in partnership with Monash University’s school of rural health.

“We believe we have the expertise to do this. The people I’ve spoken with have indicated with enthusiasm that they’d like to be involved in this exercise,” Dr Ballis said.

The study is expected to include the monitoring of a sample of residents – the size of which is yet to be decided – for respiratory and heart conditions as well as the possible development of cancer.

Dr Ballis said the study would be treated as “more than simply just another project” if it was conducted by a Gippsland-based university.

He said local academics had the capacity to add a multidisciplinary element to the study.

“It would have the formal, science-based, health-focused assessment sort of thing, but as well as that there are a whole lot of other community consequences for this and we’ve got a team with expertise in social resilience,” Dr Ballis said.

“There will also be a flow-on potential for students, (including) being able to conduct high level statistical analysis of non-identified data.”

Dr Ballis said securing the project would help build the university’s research capacity, which was “an imperative part of the health of the region”.

He now plans to convene a meeting of interested groups ahead of lodging a formal application to conduct the study.

While the broad framework of the study has been set, the finer details will be decided by whichever research body secures the tender.

Upon revealing the parameters of the study last week, Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Rosemary Lester said she did not expect to see any long-term health issues resulting from the Hazelwood mine fire, however its “unusual” nature meant a long-term health study was important.

Information sessions

The public has the opportunity to be briefed and provide feedback on plans for a study into the long-term health impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire on Tuesday at the Italian Australian Club Morwell.

Sessions will be held for the public from 1.30pm and 6.30pm; and from 4.30pm for GPs and health professionals.

To register phone 5177 2567 or email DH.gippsland@health.vic.gov.au

For those unable to attend, feedback can be lodged online at