Coming together: high quality care in rural and remote communities

  • Ngayubah Gadan Consensus Statement cover
Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart
Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart
National Rural Health Commissioner,
Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner

The challenges each remote or rural community faces are unique, but when several communities come together to address shared challenges their unified voice speaks with authority that cannot be silenced. For health and wellbeing to be strong in our society, community members and health care workforce alike must engage to design the health care and community responses to benefit our community.

In thriving communities people have access to health services when and where they need them. This is possible because of the dedication and hard work of health care professionals, workers and teams that grapple with geographic isolation and scant resources. A community engaged approach to health care is a philosophy we must embody; it should not be just a catchphrase.

Multidisciplinary teams are critical to the provision of local community engaged care. Such teams can optimise the rural and remote health workforce and address current inequities, providing fit for purpose, culturally safe and responsive and locally codesigned solutions. One-size-fits-all approaches, designed in metropolitan centres are often ill fitted to rural and remote communities.  We must always begin with the needs of the community, and then look at the resources within that community – the health professionals, assistants, and health workers, who must be supported and enabled to work together.

In our pursuit of better rural and remote health, it is essential to break down silos, foster teamwork, and provide opportunities for skill-sharing. It's about rural and remote people, patients, and connected communities. Recognising this need for collaboration and multidisciplinary care the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner has worked closely with a broad range of rural and remote health stakeholders to develop the Ngayubah Gadan Consensus Statement[1](pronounced nai-yah-bah gah-duhn), which provides a nationally relevant definition of rural and remote multidisciplinary health teams. It is a unified call from rural and remote health stakeholders to support, fund and enable rural and remote multidisciplinary health teams to deliver high quality care to the communities they serve.

Importantly, the Statement recognises that providing culturally safe and responsive care and addressing and eliminating racism in all health services is essential to delivering high quality care. As is ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities, and organisations are represented in policy development, leadership roles, as fundholders, as organisational leaders, in co-design with community and by working and training in rural and remote multidisciplinary teams.

In June 2023, Assistant Minister Emma McBride launched the Ngayubah Gadan Consensus Statement: Rural and Remote Multidisciplinary Health Teams at the 9th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium.

The Ngayubah Gadan Consensus Statement has, to date, been endorsed by 57 key rural and remote health stakeholders. It is increasingly being used as a key reference document by government, policy makers and fundholders, workforce planners, training, service and peak organisations, health professionals and workers, and communities.

The release of the Ngayubah Gadan Consensus Statement comes at a time when multidisciplinary team care is increasingly recognised as vital for the delivery of high-quality primary care by the Australian health sector and international authorities.

We must keep championing the cause of rural and remote health, and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the communities we serve. We can make a difference, but only if we work together with unwavering commitment and a shared vision for a healthier and more equitable future for all Australians, regardless of where they live.

[1] Ngayubah Gadan means Coming Together in the Yidinji language. The Minjil Indigenous cultural group in Gimuy (Cairns) have given their permission to use these words to the name for the Consensus Statement.


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