Health campaigns was a feature of a 2019 Historical Society newsletter. This article was written by Cathy Jones.
Strathfield Council has a long history of running campaigns to improve the public health of the community which include immunisation, infectious diseases controls, fly reduction, rat eradication, fire safety and mosquito control.
As noted in the book Oasis in the West (Jones 1985: 107) described actions to reduce flies: “The Inspector of Nuisances was particularly keen to reduce the fly menace, particularly severe at Strathfield because of the proximity of the sale yards and abattoirs at Homebush”.
1917 saw an extensive anti-fly campaign co-ordinated by a committee. Council’s health Inspector experimented successfully with treating manure to make it unattractive to flies and Nock and Kirbys provided a free display of fly control equipment, some of which was stolen – a sign of a severe fly problem. A competition was held and 119 local children wrote essays about flies.
The Council, following and supporting its crusading Inspector, distributed pamphlets and constructed some large flies for advertising the campaign. Some of the signs were pulled down and the Inspector grimly noted in the minutes that this action suggested people who ‘had not evolved from ‘primaeval man who would have to shoulder guns in wars to improve their ‘miserable carcasses”.
In the 1920s, another campaign involved eradication of mosquitos. Mosquitos were a problem in Strathfield and Homebush due to the presence of marshes, low lying land particularly around the Cooks River forming puddles with stagnant water, mangroves around Powells Creek and Parramatta River and the nearby sheep and cattle saleyards. Council invested significant resources into local campaigns and lobbying for action on a regional and state level.
In 1927, Council initiated a mosquito reduction campaign involving a dedicated clean up week of receptacles such as rubbish bins, old boxes, bags and bulky rubbish that could harbour mosquito breeding places. Works were also done around the Cooks River to clean out mosquito breeding areas. This initiative was reported in September 1927 in the Evening News:
“STRATHFIELD Council is conducting a ‘garage clean up week’ with the object of thoroughly cleaning up all garbage, and other places which are likely to become mosquito breeding grounds during the coming summer. It was announced to-day that council has had pamphlets distributed to every householder in the municipality, urging people to clean up garbage of all descriptions. A motor lorry has been engaged removing loads of this garbage, and it special officer is making an Inspection of all of the premises and streets throughout the municipality. Notices regarding the campaign have been prominently exhibited throughout the district. Last year council conducted an extensive campaign, in which the co-operation of other suburban councils was sought, and it was specially commended on the efficacy of its work. The mosquitoes were practically eliminated from Strathfield.”
On 13 April 1928, it was reported in the Mussellbrook Courier that Strathfield Council decided to intensify its’ campaign for the elimination of the mosquito. ‘At a meeting, the health inspector recommended that two ratepayers be prosecuted for having allowed mosquito infestation to take place on their properties. He said that the ratepayers had received sufficient warning and had no excuse for allowing such breeding grounds to remain. He produced three samples of water containing mosquito larvae which he had taken from the places concerned. The health inspector’s report was adopted, and the prosecutions agreed to. The matter later came on at the Burwood Police Court, and each defendant was fined £1, with £1/10/6 costs.’
In today’s urban environment in areas like the Inner West of Sydney, mosquitos are viewed as pests and nuisances, rather than being life threatening. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes are a major threat to global public health. In its report titled ‘Global strategy for dengue prevention and control 2012-2020’, WHO says that nearly 50-100 million dengue infections, caused by mosquitos, are reported every year.
The WHO estimates that every year there are more than 725,000 deaths caused due to vectorborne diseases. For more reading on what Bill Gates calls the “world’s most lethal animal”.
Evening News, page 4, Friday 16 September 1927
Jones, M, 1985, Oasis in the West, Allen & Unwin
‘Ignoring the Mosquito’, Muswellbrook Chronicle (NSW : 1898 – 1955), Friday 13 April 1928, page 5
Striped Terror (1929, February 27). The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), p. 11. Retrieved January 29, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article230381192