The National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) is pleased to provide a submission for consideration in the 2023–24 Federal Budget.
The Alliance is the peak body for rural and remote health in Australia. We represent 45 national Members and our vision is for healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote (rural) communities across Australia.
Rural Australia is not only home to more than seven million Australians, it also contributes the majority of the nation’s economic worth, with around two-thirds of Australia's export earnings coming from regional industries such as agriculture, mining, tourism, retail, services and manufacturing.
Despite the enormous contribution made by rural Australia to the general prosperity, resilience and wellbeing of the whole country, 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 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.
We urge this Government to correct the problems of market failure associated with healthcare access for rural Australian communities.
Despite a high level of awareness of the significant disparities in health outcomes between urban and rural Australia, health outcomes for rural Australians have not been considered a priority, beyond disaster support, with health outcomes stagnating and, in many instances, declining.
The Alliance advocates 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 Australia, especially when Australians as a whole rely on and benefit from the primary industry, mining, tourism and service export and supply income from this 30 per cent of the population.