- Animal health experts from Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga join $4.3m DFAT-funded program, which aims to prevent the spread of diseases in animals to humans
- Charles Sturt has been awarded $1m of the DFAT funding to lead the program’s training of animal health workers in five countries in the Pacific region
- The program includes more than 40 experts from veterinary schools across Asia-Pacific and will be rolled out in 11 countries across South-East Asia and the Pacific
Animal health experts from Charles Sturt University are part of a $4.3 million program which aims to prevent the spread of zoonotic and animal diseases in South-East Asia and the Pacific.
The program is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and will train animal health workers in 11 countries.
A consortium of more than 40 experts from veterinary schools across Australia, New Zealand and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region will deliver the program.
The consortium will engage with government-run animal health authorities and educators in the Asia-Pacific region to strengthen the capacity to detect, respond, control and prevent animal disease outbreaks that could affect human health, animal health and farmer livelihoods.
Associate Professor in wildlife health and pathology from the Charles Sturt School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation Dr Andrew Peters (pictured) will lead the paraveterinarian component of the program in Pacific, which has been allocated $1 million of the $4.3 million DFAT funding.
Dr Peters said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the cause of which is a virus that is thought to have originally come from wildlife, highlights how important animal health and this project is.
“The part of the program Charles Sturt University, through the Graham Centre, will be running is focused on leading a new approach in the Pacific region to train paraveterinarians, also known as animal health officers,” Dr Peters said.
“They aren’t veterinarians, but these workers are trained to deal with a range of significant animal health problems.
“They make up the bulk of the animal health workforce in our Pacific neighbours and it is essential they receive the proper training because, as we have seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, animal health is particularly critical to regional biosecurity, human health and the economy.”
The team of experts led by Dr Peters will develop new resources to train the paraveterinarians on how to identify and manage viruses and pathogens that appear in animals and have the potential to spread to humans.
He will be joined by fellow Charles Sturt experts Dr Nicola Wunderlich, who is the program’s project manager, Senior Lecturer in population health and production Dr Victoria Brookes, and Ms Tania Areori, a final-year Charles Sturt veterinary student who will become the first female veterinarian in Papua New Guinea when she graduates.
Additionally, more than a dozen other Charles Sturt staff will be contributing to the program.
Dr Peters said he and his Charles Sturt colleagues are looking forward to working on the program because it is an opportunity to make a meaningful difference to animal health and the wellbeing of communities across the Pacific region.
“The experience my Charles Sturt University colleagues and I have working in the region has been recognised by the $1 million funding grant from DFAT,” he said.
“We are looking forward to working closely with our Pacific partners over the next three years to sustainably improve animal health in the region.”
The entire $4.3 million program is funded by the Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security at DFAT and will be rolled out in 11 countries across South-East Asia and the Pacific.
Charles Sturt’s component of the program will run through the Graham Centre for three years in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu and Fiji.