Health study to continue amid scope review

The study into the long-term health impacts of the Hazelwood mine fire will continue to run as planned as an independent review of its scope is carried out.

As part of the study, a large survey of Morwell adults is expected to begin next week and continue until the end of the year.

The State Government announced it would review the study to determine whether it should be expanded to include additional cohorts of people who do not live in Morwell, including emergency responders to the fire.

Hazelwood Health Study principal co-investigator Judi Walker welcomed the government’s decision, which was a response to the recommendations of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

Professor Walker said she was aware the government had engaged an independent consultant to undertake the review.

“We understand that the consultant’s report will be made public and it will make recommendations to government about how to meet the aims and objectives of the long-term health study,” Professor Walker said.

In the meantime, researchers are rolling out the adult survey component of the study.

“The adult survey is the final research stream to roll out as it is the largest and most complex part of the study,” Professor Walker said.

“The success of the study depends on as many people as possible completing the survey, the higher the participation rate, the better the outcome for the community.”

Some streams of the overall study – the early life follow-up and the schools study – include participation by the entire Latrobe Valley.

Morwell and District Community Recovery Committee chair Carolyne Boothman said it was positive to hear the government’s affirmations about the study review and the committee looked forward to seeing further detail.

“We wish to be involved in any consultation about who those people are that need to be in the study,” Ms Boothman said.

“It should be open to anybody who believes they were impacted because they had to be in Morwell at the time.

“We have to be grateful for the support we got from all over Australia at the time and we need to look after those people who literally put their lives on hold to support us.”

The Hazelwood Health Study is led by Monash University, with assistance from Federation University, the University of Tasmania, the University of Adelaide and the CSIRO.

It has been commissioned by the Department of Health for an initial 10 years, with a government commitment to continue it for at least a further decade.

The State Government has re-affirmed its commitment to the 20-year period, as was recommended by the inquiry.