Moving from urban to rural Australia: welcome them

  • Ah Dam Jeon, pharmacy student, Charles Sturt University; Allied Health Officer, NRHSN. Miss Jeon receiving her COVID-19 vaccine at a local centre.

(Left): Ah Dam Jeon, pharmacy student, Charles Sturt University; Allied Health Officer, NRHSN.
(Right): Miss Jeon receiving her COVID-19 vaccine at a local centre.

Rural and regional areas across Australia are facing a shortage of health workers, with a large disparity between the availability of health services in urban centres and rural and regional areas. The lack of health workers in rural and regional areas can lead to a range of issues, including decreased access to health services and poorer health outcomes. 

To address this issue, it is important to encourage students or others from urban centres to relocate to rural and regional areas to study and work in the health field. This approach is beneficial for both the students, who are given access to a variety of educational opportunities, and the local community, which is provided with a larger and more skilled health workforce. 

Pharmacy student Ah Dam Jeon reflects positively upon her journey to the regional town of Orange in New South Wales. She reflects on the day she opted to study in Orange, instead of remaining in Sydney.

'Relocating from urban cities to rural and regional areas is not an easy process, however, it can be accomplished if one is equipped with a positive attitude and determination to enhance access to health services, reduce health inequality and create more job opportunities,' she said.

The benefits of relocating to a regional area include living in a smaller community, with the opportunity to meet new people and learn about their cultures. Students are likely to stay and work in rural and regional areas during and after completing their studies, if they have developed a sense of belonging and loyalty towards the area. They are also able to interact with the locals and develop a better understanding of how the residents live their daily lives.

However, there have been voices expressing concern that they felt unwelcome after relocating from the city. The complaints were made because they felt the locals were resistant to newcomers and did not want to accept them into their community, making them feel as though they did not belong. Miss Jeon has had similar experiences, feeling like a foreigner or a visitor.

'I have also had previous experiences where I felt I was not welcomed by a few local residents, particularly because I am Asian Australian and look different to the locals. However, I wish they [would] know that I am here to help and support them,' she said.

This is the challenge that both new arrivals and local communities should work together to overcome, in order to build a better community. Lowering the social barriers in rural and regional areas, and being less vigilant of newcomers and students from urban areas, is crucial to allow prospective members to learn more about the society, and improve the likelihood that they will stay.

The opportunity for newcomers to feel connected and develop a sense of belonging in their new community is an important aspect of social integration. As a result, inviting them to community events can help to reposition newcomers. Frequent interactions and experiences can have a significant impact on newcomers' sense of belonging.

Treating newcomers and students from urban areas as neighbours rather than as foreigners is a crucial step in lowering the risk of a limited health workforce in rural and regional areas and will create a more positive society. This step also entails attempting to develop inclusive approaches to newcomers and becoming aware of their experiences, in order to help them successfully adapt to new environments. It is necessary to welcome them and assist them in becoming accepted and integrated into the community, for the benefit of all.

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