One size does not fit all in rural and remote health

22 November 2016

Three rural and remote health leaders addressed the National Press Club today outlining the challenges and privileges of delivering health services in rural and remote Australia and to present the National Rural Health Alliance’s five key priorities.

“The Alliance has agreed on five key areas that we think represent the best investment in making a real difference in rural and remote Australia: unlocking the rural and remote economy; incentives to get the right workforce into place; a greater focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health; further support for the 15 Primary Health Networks supporting rural and remote Australia; and through supporting the best possible start for mothers and children, looking to and building on The First 1000 Days* project,” Ms Malone said.

Geri Malone, Chair of the National Rural Health Alliance, together with Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives; and Martin Laverty, CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service spoke of the passion they have for rural health and of people whose stories had touched them in their rural health journey.

Geri Malone talked about the challenges in supporting a 12-year old boy with severe behavioural issues and his family – working with city based services that couldn’t handle the level of need and had no idea how to respond constructively, leaving a Remote Area Nurse having to finagle a solution.  The result for the 12-year old and his family was an additional ten days wait for help.

“This would not be tolerated in the city. So why is it acceptable in rural and remote Australia?  It isn’t, is the answer,” said Ms Malone.

“Most Australians wouldn’t know of May Yarrowick,” said Janine Mohamed.

“But they should.  In 1903 she was the first Aboriginal woman to train as a nurse.  There are now over 3,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives working in Australia, and May began this tradition in 1903.  We need to celebrate her.

“Health care in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities relies on relationships between the people and the health workforce and on care that is culturally safe.  In New Zealand there is a legislative requirement for all health workers to be trained to deliver culturally safe care.  We need this in Australia too,” said Ms Mohamed.

“Almost every health outcome in rural and remote Australia is worse than in major cities.  Remote Australians die 2 years earlier, the rate of Type-2 diabetes is 3.7 times higher; and you are 4 times more likely to die in a road accident,” said Martin Laverty.  “Added to that are social disparities relating to poverty, employment and education,” he said.

“Country people don’t complain,” Martin Laverty noted.  “They accept these disparities and no longer hold governments to account for worse access and poorer outcomes.  The Alliance and its 39 members have to stand up and say this is NOT acceptable.  We need a fairer go”.

For information about today’s Address, including the NRHA’s key priorities document go to:

Media Enquiries: 

Geri Malone:  Chair, National Rural Health Alliance, 0409 899 050
David Butt:Chief Executive Officer, 0411 474 912