A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) Report on community engagement and the Western Sydney Airport was launched yesterday by Western Sydney Community Forum and the Centre for Health Equity Training Research and Evaluation (CHETRE).
The HIA showed that community consultation processes for the Western Sydney Airport have so far fallen short of successfully addressing potential health and wellbeing impacts for the communities involved. The findings suggest that better consultation processes can positively influence community responses and attitudes toward large scale infrastructure and development.
The Report was jointly completed by WSCF and CHETRE – a research centre of the University of NSW – and South Western Sydney Local Health District’s Population Health Unit.
The report’s findings offered insight into a range of potential health impacts and defined best practice recommendations for future community engagement, indicating that future engagement needs to improve, to generate more positive results in communities.
The launch was attended by a cross-section of participants, including Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman, Member for Macquarie Fields Anoulack Chanthivong and Member for Granville Julia Finn. West District Commissioner Sean O’Toole also attended and Western Sydney Business Chamber Director David Borger participated on a panel discussion.
Director of CHETRE, Professor Evelyne de Leeuw, tabled the report. She made reference to international research on building healthy airports that are designed with community wellbeing in mind. This was reinforced by panelist Dr Stephen Conaty, Director at Population Health South Western Sydney.
Ms Lisa Jeffery, a resident of Greater Western Sydney, said that better community engagement could have made her an advocate for the airport development, but that lack of information and consultation had fostered fear and uncertainty in her community. Another community representative and panelist Mr Gordon Stevens called for a “social champion” to advocate for community voices in future consultation processes.
These views were echoed by other community members in attendance and aligned with the views of those surveyed for the HIA research.
WSCF’s CEO, Billie Sankovic, was encouraged by the recently established Forum On Western Sydney Airport (FOWSA) as a positive step forward for community engagement. The forum is chaired by Western Sydney University’s Professor Peter Shergold.
“FOWSA can now advocate for better community engagement, which will provide local residents and business with an opportunity to participate in frank conversations.
The HIA report shows there is potential for decision-makers to now manage ongoing consultation with a clear definition of what good engagement looks like and how to implement it in the future.”