Use of washing machines in Indigenous communities

Centre for Appropriate Technology Discussion Waste and reuse Use of washing machines in Indigenous communities

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  • #2612
    Lily Luu
    Participant

    Hi,

    I would like to ask about the current usage of washing machines (generic, electricity-powered ones typically found in populated cities) in the remote Indigenous communities in Cape York. Have the residents of these communities expressed discontent or dissatisfaction with using them?

    From my impression of the information available, they have limited electrical power being provided to each household due to the stations being off the grid, there are limited sources of freshwater to use in washing clothes, and there is a huge issue around excessive amounts of waste being produced each year from washing machines breaking down. Furthermore, the average household income in Cape York is below average compared to the rest of Queensland while a washing machine can be quite costly.

    Do these points I’ve raised pose a significant issue to the residents of the Indigenous communities currently? Have they expressed a desire to use a more environmentally-friendly, low-cost and/or energy-efficient clothes washing system, albeit it being more labour-demanding and time-consuming?

    Thanks for your time and I hope to hear from you guys soon!
    Lily Luu

    #2721
    Rachel Alford
    Keymaster

    Hi Lily,

    Great questions!

    You’re correct in identifying the use of generic, electricity power machines being the ones currently in use in Cape York, and identifying the range of issues associated with using them.

    In terms of your design, the commonly identified issue is the one outlined in the design brief – the waste associated with them – as it’s often cheaper and easier to buy a new machine rather than fix a broken one. A flow-on impact is that disposing of broken machines in an appropriate and environmentally safe way is difficult due to the remoteness of Cape York. With that in mind, the other issues you’ve identified are definitely of concern and can be incorporated into your design to achieve maximum positive impact.

    When thinking about your design, it’s important to consider the value proposition for your alternative vs the machines already being used, and how you will communicate this to your users to encourage uptake. For example, if you’re proposing that community members switch from their current washing process to a more time and labour intensive system, what is the benefit of them doing so? If it saves them money or is more environmentally friendly, how can you articulate and communicate the benefits of your system over their current processes in a way that encourages them to switch?

    I hope this helps, and please reach out with any further questions!

    Thanks,
    Rachel

    #2723
    Lily Luu
    Participant

    Hi Rachel,

    There’s an often neglected point that I just thought of. Due to the humid climate in Cape York, air-drying clothes may be a problem and can take several days for them to dry properly. Do the residents in Indigenous communities at Cape York use dryer machines by any chance? Do they utilise other methods of drying clothes?

    Thanks for your time!
    Lily

    #2736
    Rachel Alford
    Keymaster

    Hi Lily,

    It’s safe to assume that residents in Cape York will be air drying their clothes, despite the humidity. There is limited electrical capacity in communities on the Cape and dryers are quite power intensive. People are mostly on Country during the dry season, so there wouldn’t be too much rain to worry about, and keeping in mind the disposable incomes of people in Cape York, it’s a reasonable assumption that using clothes dryers would be quite rare, with residents opting to air dry their clothes instead.

    Thanks,
    Rachel

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