The Alliance recognises the importance of initiatives funded through the Future Drought Fund and understands that more initiatives will need to be supported and funded through this or other similar funds to support rural communities that bear the brunt of the impact of drought. In this submission, we are taking the opportunity to bring to your attention a range of issues and initiatives that the Alliance believes will support rural communities preparing for, and impacted by, drought and provide this information in the context of your term of reference to:
• Provide specific and practical advice to inform the development of a new Funding Plan; the development, delivery, monitoring and evaluation of future programs, arrangements and grants; and the processes and systems to administer the Fund.
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, tourism, retail, services and manufacturing. Add mining and resources to this equation and it becomes stark that rural Australia is producing the great majority of Australia’s exports with the Reserve Bank noting that resources alone are 62.8 per cent of Australia’s exports. Farmers produce about $60 billion worth of goods each year. The agriculture supply chain supports 1.6 million jobs. More than 99 per cent of Australia’s agricultural businesses are wholly Australian owned, the majority are family owned and operated.
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.
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.