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20 April, 2022

Growing our rural health workforce

A NEW organisation aimed at growing the region’s future health workforce will start in earnest later this year after Minister for Northern Australia David Littleproud announced it would be the recipient of a Northern Queensland Development Program, Business and Community grant.


(from left) Health Workforce Queensland service delivery manager Andy van der Rijt, Health Workforce Queensland engagement and development manager Andrew Hayward, Minister for Northern Australia David Litttleproud, and LNP Kennedy candidate Bryce Macdonald.

The $281,000 grant, through Health Workforce Queensland (HWQ), will enable health students to be immersed, trained and skilled for employment in Mareeba, Atherton, Ravenshoe and Herberton, adding to and complementing their university schedule. 

The grant will allow the organisation’s GROW Rural Northern Queensland to start in September this year. GROW Rural NQ is a collaborative involving local communities, service providers and health professionals, who will actively contribute to the program’s planning and development. 

It will give health students a unique experience, provide them with the skills they need for local employment, while developing familiarity and a deeper understanding of the professional and personal life they will have when working in rural north Queensland. 

HWQ’s engagement and development manager Andrew Hayward said training health students in the regions had many benefits. 

“Connecting with community, building familiarity and developing the skills they need to succeed has a major influence on a health students’ decision where they will practice – this grant is a massive boost for our Northern Queensland rural communities,” he said. 

HWQ’s strategic plan recognises that for the rural health workforce to be sustainable, it is better for students to be exposed to rural practice during their undergraduate studies as they are then more likely to take up rural practice in the future. 

HWQ aims to create a pipeline of health graduates trained and ready for a health career in rural practice through a three-year program that targets a group of first-year medical, allied health and nursing students. 

“We will increase activities over this time to enhance engagement and ensure they have the necessary skills and support required to commence a career in primary health care in the communities of Mareeba, Atherton, Ravenshoe and Herberton,” Mr Hayward said. 

“Over the course of the program, the students gain firsthand experience of working collaboratively with other students from different disciplines. Students are taught about indigenous history and culture by Elders and listen to rural career stories from local health professionals, as well as learning and improving their clinical skills by participating in scenarios that focus on the real issues faced by specific rural communities.” 

Health Workforce Queensland CEO Chris Mitchell said the grant from the Australian Government would allow GROW Rural NQ to start in the footsteps of athe successful of GROW Rural Central. 

“Only a few years ago, GROW Rural was just an idea. After the outstanding success of GROW Rural Central Queensland, and the expansion into Southwest Queensland, the announcement by Minister Littleproud means that more health students will have the opportunity to be part of rural communities and discover how integral rural health professionals are to community wellbeing,” he said.

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