Research report

Pillars of communities: service delivery professionals in small Australian towns 1981 – 2011

7 Dec 2017
Description

This research has several implications for policy makers, specifically:

• Support community led initiatives. Some towns are bypassing state and Commonwealth processes in order to attract service delivery professionals to their communities. Some places have worked around administration-heavy procedures to entice education and health professionals by offering attractive housing or low-rent business premises. These efforts should be encouraged and supported as part of professional support programs.

• Flexibility in the roles of professionals in small towns. Where there are service professionals located in small towns, their scope of work needs to be flexible enough to better meet community needs. For example, perhaps pharmacists and nurses should be able to provide vaccinations, dress wounds and take x-rays.

• Virtual service delivery methods such as online services should complement the presence of service delivery professionals in small towns rather than replace them outright. Virtual services have the potential to significantly widen the scope of services that can be delivered to small town populations without the need for extensive travel. However, there is still considerable debate about the effectiveness of virtual only services that are delivered in isolation from local professionals, and how to embed virtual services most effectively. Services that complement and extend the scope of practice for local generalists rather than seeking to replace them should be the priority.

• Incentives need to target hard to staff areas. The growth in inner regional service professionals combined with their proximity to more populous places with a great range of services lessens their need for support. Incentives to professionals should be closely targeted to promote growth in the professionals available in the remote areas that need them most.

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