It’s time to empower and resource remote Australia

20 November 2012


IMGP0029The people of remote Australia must have the ability to participate equally in and have equal access to the community in which they live and contribute, Frontier Services National Director Rosemary Young told the 4th Australian Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium today in Adelaide.

Ms Young spoke about the imbalance between the city and the bush in terms of resources, understanding and equity in a keynote presentation.

“The problems of remote Australia are often perceived as the dysfunction of remote Aboriginal communities but, despite the fact that a rapidly increasing proportion of the people who live in remote Australia are its traditional owners, it is not an indigenous issue,” Ms Young said.

“Where services exist, separate services for Aboriginal people often disguise failure and deny government responsibility. Programs designed for urban Australia are rolled out without consultation but with the same reporting requirements and often the same funding levels.”

“The people of remote Australia are too far from the centres of power; their voices are relatively few and they are spread over a vast area – yet they are absolutely committed to being heard.”

“We have to empower communities to reach solutions for themselves and ensure that resources are available to enable that to occur.”

Ms Young was speaking at the Symposium on the topic “Has anything actually changed for remote Australia in the past 100 years”, an apt perspective as Frontier Services and its predecessor, the Australian Inland Mission, celebrate a century of support for people in remote parts of Australia.

Ms Young reflected on the challenges posed by mental health for people in rural and remote Australia because of the difficulties in accessing support and the greater visibility attached to mental illness in small communities.

She outlined the following steps needed for change:

  • Improved accessibility of mental health care services
  • Recognising the effect disadvantage has on mental health and wellbeing
  • Ensuring cohesive interventions not only by traditional health services but also by other services including financial counsellors, drought support workers, psychiatrist and psychologists and ensuring telehealth access to them and community capacity building
  • Starting early on teaching children to care for their mental health
  • Improving understanding of the dangers of the overuse of alcohol and other substances
  • Providing mental health awareness campaigns and access to mental health first aid
  • Attending to detailed research and best practise in the area of suicide prevention

"And most of all, we must care for each other," she said.