National Rural Health Alliance—2022–23 Pre-Budget Submission

28 January 2022

The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) is pleased to provide a submission for consideration in the 2022–23 Federal Budget. The Alliance is the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia. We represent 43 member bodies (see Appendix 1), and our vision is for healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote (rural) communities.

Rural, regional and remote Australia is not only home to more than seven million Australians, it is also the source of the majority of the nation’s economic contribution, with around two thirds of Australia's export earnings coming from regional industries such as agriculture, tourism, retail, services and manufacturing.[i]

The Australians who live in rural, regional and remote Australia enjoy the benefits of living in smaller communities with a strong sense of community spirit, less congestion and, depending on location, more affordable housing. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that Australians living in towns with fewer than 1,000 people generally experienced higher levels of life satisfaction than those in urban areas and major cities.[ii]

However, people living in rural Australia have poorer access to health services than other Australians, with the number of health professionals (including nurses and midwives, allied health practitioners, general practitioners, medical specialists and other health providers) decreasing as geographic isolation increases. Per capita, rural areas have up to 50 per cent fewer health providers than major cities. As a result, Australians living in rural, regional and remote areas have, on average, shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury, and poorer access to and use of health services, compared with people living in metropolitan areas.[iii]

Despite there being a high level of awareness of the often significant disparities in health outcomes between urban and rural Australia, health outcomes for rural Australians have not been consistently improving over time, but rather are stagnating or, in some instances, declining.

The National Rural Health Alliance believes that all Australians, wherever they live, should have access to comprehensive, high-quality, accessible and appropriate health services, and the opportunity for equitable health outcomes. The Alliance does not consider that poor health or premature death should be an accepted outcome of living in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The Alliance has two 2022-23 Pre-Budget proposals which support strategies and initiatives to expand access to healthcare and improve the health outcomes for rural Australian communities:

Rural Area Community Controlled Health Organisations (RACCHOs)

a new National Rural Health Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Further information on these proposals and detailed costings are provided below.