Sunday, 20 April 2008 09:08

New bush broadband comms network to save lives in Western Australia

The state of Western Australia (WA) is Australia’s largest, covering an enormous area that truly brings to life the “tyranny of distance”. But now, a new broadband communications network in WA aims to bring comms in the bush firmly into the 21st century – at last!

The Australian Federal Labor Government has worked with the WA State Labor Government to deliver on a $9.3 million ‘Clever Networks Program’ to improve telecommunications networks in Western Australia.

The Clever Networks program was actually a product of Australia’s previous Federal Government, a $113 million program that was part of a larger $1.1 billion ‘Connect Australia’ package, proposed and implemented by former Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan.

The new project is called “Bush Medivac WA” and is a new telecommunications system to improve the crisis co-ordination capacity of Western Australia’s rural and remote health and emergency service organisations.

Launched at the Bunbury Hospital last Friday by WA Industry and Enterprise Minister Francis Logan and Federal Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy Minister Stephen Conroy, it’s good to see the Senator Conroy fulfilling previous Government promises and bringing much needed communications infrastructure to rural and regional areas.

Senator Conroy said in a statement that Bush Medivac WA highlighted the Federal Government’s commitment to deliver productivity and life-changing capabilities to the most remote citizens and communities using broadband.

He was quoted saying: “The Bush Medivac WA project will deliver improved emergency and health services to Australians living in regional and remote areas by providing state-of-the-art terrestrial and non-terrestrial broadband network infrastructure.”

Bush Medivac WA will use terrestrial and non-terrestrial network infrastructure and innovative applications of broadband technology to improve the voice and data communication capabilities between the State’s regional health and emergency services.

It is expected that it will be absolutely invaluable in emergency situations previously hampered by a lack of communication and isolation.

Continued on page 2.

WA Industry and Enterprise Minister Francis Logan said: “WA is the largest State in Australia and our population is widely dispersed and separated by long distances.”

Logan continued, saying: “Bush Medivac WA will address the barrier of distance and improve the delivery of health and emergency services for 454,000 Western Australians, across an area of 2.55 million square kilometres.”

Minister Logan said public health and safety were particularly important issues in the lives of residents and businesses in isolated communities.

“Rural communities also have a high level of local participation through volunteer emergency service workers and health aides and rely on partnerships with State and local government agencies to access the relevant tools and technologies to do the job,” he said.

“Bush Medivac WA will allow these workers to deliver enhanced health and emergency services more efficiently and safely, and it will also extend their operational reach into the more remote areas of our massive State.”

South-West MLC Adele Farina said that communities in the South-West region would welcome the Bush Medivac WA system.

“Past emergencies in the South-West, such as the 2003 Bridgetown bushfires, highlighted the need for a comprehensive emergency communications system across rural areas,” Ms Farina said.

“Bush Medivac WA will fill that vital need and I congratulate the Carpenter and Rudd Governments on taking the project forward.”

Work on Bush Medivac WA is expected to be finished by June 2010.  It is being developed by the WA Department of Industry and Resources in partnership with the Department of Health’s WA Country Health Service, the Department of Environment and Conservation, St John Ambulance Australia, Surf Life Saving WA and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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