Charles Sturt University will expand allied health student training and placements across the Riverina with a grant of $1.87 million announced today by the Federal Coalition Government.

Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack said ensuring people in rural NSW had access to high quality health care continued to be a priority for the Coalition Government.

“This investment enables Charles Sturt University to provide intensive, high-quality rural education experiences in Forbes and Parkes through its Three Rivers Department of Rural Health,” Mr McCormack said.

“Through the additional local training and placement opportunities, students across a range of allied health disciplines – including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, exercise physiology, speech pathology and podiatry – will have exposure to the delivery of rural health care.”

Charles Sturt, in collaboration with the Western NSW Local Health District, the Primary Health Network and local health providers, identified these opportunities to increase student placements. The program of work will also increase the opportunities for local clinicians to become involved in teaching, supervising and mentoring of students through rich rural health experiences.

“The funding will also be used to purchase a four-bedroom house in Forbes for student accommodation, to ensure students have a place to live when they arrive for their placements,” Mr McCormack said.
Federal Regional Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie said the funding was granted through the Coalition Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program, which was boosting the recruitment and retention of health professionals in rural and remote areas.

“It’s a very successful program, because while students get the opportunity to study in rural and remote Australia, they also fill gaps in community health services,” Dr Gillespie said.

“Clinical supervisors here in the Riverina will be supported to enhance their skills through access to clinical educator, CUC workshops, and professional mentoring and education with a focus on rural practice and pathways to higher degree studies.”

Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Renée Leon said the provision of a strong and skilled health workforce for regional, rural and remote Australia is one of Charles Sturt University’s most important responsibilities.

“Students in Charles Sturt University’s Three Rivers Department of Rural Health live and study in regional Australia, affording them a unique and clear understanding of the health needs of these communities,” Professor Leon said.

“Charles Sturt University is excited to be able to offer more opportunities for student training and placements in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work, exercise physiology, speech pathology and other allied health fields.”

Charles Sturt, through Three Rivers Department of Rural Health will create additional positions to be located within the Forbes and Parkes region, including the following:

  • A First Nation’s Allied Health Clinical Educator
  • The equivalent of four Clinical Supervisors
  • Three Senior Aboriginal Health Workers

Charles Sturt intends to run an average of five weeks’ placements per year per student for roughly 53 students, totalling approximately 265 placement weeks annually.

Three Rivers Department of Rural Health Director Christine Howard said student presence across these local communities would increase significantly.

“This will be a boost to health service provision but will also support the local economy as students spend money in these communities whilst on placement,” Ms Howard said.

“Additionally, the investment in housing for students also supports local business through property management, security, cleaning, and linen services.”

Mr McCormack said the new rural health demonstration training site at the Parkes Country University Centre (CUC) would provide crucial student support for the delivery of training.

“Expanded rural and cultural experiences are planned as part of the program which will be co-designed with local Elders, clinicians and Aboriginal health workers,” he said.

“Indigenous students can access Charles Sturt’s mentoring program to support them through an exciting and valuable program of study.”

Dr Gillespie said there was increasing evidence demonstrating that health and medicine students that study in a rural or regional area during their training are more likely to stay in the bush once qualified.

“They soon realise, like I did, that working in regional communities provides a tremendous opportunity to really make a difference in health outcomes and enjoy a satisfying career in the bush,” Dr Gillespie said.

Media Release issued by the Hon Michael McCormack MP