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Guide to Councils

Health services

Council environmental health officers provide a variety of environmental and public health services including health education and the enforcement of relevant state legislation. The Health Act 1958 was replaced with the Food Act 1984.

Activities may include:

  • Inspecting businesses to ensure compliance with the Food Act and to provide advice and training for food vendors. This includes registration of premises, food safety programs, food complaints, temporary events, safety standards, labelling requirements.
  • Registration and inspection of other premises such as accommodation, beauty salons, hairdressers and body piercing establishments to ensure correct hygiene and safe practices.
  • Examining nuisance complaints monitoring for noise, smells and smoke.
  • Giving pest control advice, including pests with a potential health impact such as European wasps, mosquitoes, rats and mice. For advice, contact the Agriculture section of the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR).
  • Preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Monitoring and approving individual domestic septic systems in unsewered areas.
  • Monitoring compliance with tobacco laws, including tobacco sale and smoking in public places.

Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan

The Health Act requires every council to have a Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan (MPHWP). This plan is to be prepared every three years and reviewed annually.

A Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan must:

  • identify and assess actual and potential public health dangers affecting the municipal district
  • outline programs and strategies which the council intends to pursue to prevent or minimise those dangers
  • enable people living in the municipal district to achieve maximum wellbeing and provide for periodic evaluation of programs and strategies.

Food safety

The Food Act is primarily administered and enforced by councils. They are responsible for the regulation of food manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing of food on premises within their municipalities. They do not regulate the primary production sector.

The role of councils includes:

  • carrying out the powers and functions vested in councils under the Act
  • promotion of the objectives of the Act
  • cooperation with other councils and the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to the administration of the Act
  • promotion of the consistent application of the Act.

A key statutory duty of councils is to register and inspect premises that sell food, with the exception of low-risk premises such as newsagents.

Councils employ qualified Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) who are specifically authorised to enforce the Act. The EHOs have the power to make orders under the Act, including the power to close down a food premises until such time as the council is satisfied that specified steps have been taken to ensure that food sold or otherwise handled at the premises is safe and suitable for human consumption.

Council EHOs carry out various statutory functions, including:

  • inspecting food premises such as restaurants, cafes, aged care facilities and caterers
  • procuring food for sale for the purpose of analysis
  • acting on complaints including those pertaining to undeclared allergens in food.

Councils have the role of providing day-to-day advice to food businesses and monitoring them. Councils advise businesses on how to handle food safely and may require remedial action to address identified risks. Where appropriate, councils take enforcement action against food businesses for breaches of the Act or the Code.

By law, councils must report their activities under the Act to the Department of Health and Human Services, which in turn publishes an Annual Report on the food safety website.

View the Memorandum of Understanding for more information regarding food regulators and their roles.

Each council's performance for Food Safety can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Public pool safety

Under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 a council has the role to protect, improve and promote public health within its municipality. Councils must operate pools and aquatic centres in accordance with the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009. They have the power to investigate and ensure operators of public aquatic facilities are complying with their responsibilities under regulations.

Many councils work collaboratively with pool operators, guiding and educating them in order to achieve compliance. Parameters that must be maintained to certain standards include: water clarity, filtration, disinfection, microbial quality, temperature, alkalinity and chemical testing.

Pools and aquatic facilities that are not open to members of the public are considered to be private and do not fall under the scope of the Regulations.

Each council's performance for Aquatic Facilities can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.

Immunisation

In Victoria, immunisation services are a function of councils according to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (PHWA), Part 3, Division 3, s.24. (Annex 2).

Councils in Victoria have always played an important role in delivering immunisation services to the Victorian public. They currently provide approximately 45% of all immunisations carried out in Victoria for children aged two months to four years of age. They also contribute significantly to promoting the importance of immunisation throughout local communities.

Councils administer approximately 90% of immunisations due at school age. Victoria’s immunisation coverage has consistently scored in the top three for states/territories at the key milestones of 12, 24 and 60 months of age in Australia. The success of Victorian immunisation services in attaining high immunisation coverage reflects the priority given to this aspect of the service.

Under the current legislation, councils may provide a variety of services and utilise various models of delivery to fulfil their responsibilities. Currently, the delivery of immunisation services occurs either through immunisation programs managed, staffed and resourced by individual councils contracting out to immunisation service providers.

Maternal and child health

The Child Health and Wellbeing Act 2005 stipulates that maternity hospitals report all births to local governments. Maternal and Child Health (MCH) nurses then contact the household of the new baby and invite the mother to use the MCH service.

The Universal MCH Service is a free, statewide service for families with children from birth to school age. It supports parenting, health prevention and promotion, developmental assessment, early detection and provides referral and social support.

In addition, the MCH Service can:

  • help to identify children and families who require further assessment, intervention, referral and/or support
  • bring families together, foster social networks, support playgroups and strengthen local community connections
  • deliver other services and supports, such as family support services and immunisation.

The MCH Line provides 24-hour telephone advice, support, counselling and referral to families with children from birth to school age. The service is instrumental in linking families to the Universal MCH Service and to other community, health and support services. While the MCH Line offers support and advice to parents, it is not an emergency service.

Each council's performance for Maternal and Child Health can be viewed and compared in the Compare Councils section of this site. To do this, click on the service area icon, select your council from the filter, then use the checkbox to select three additional similar councils for comparison from the list.