Problematic staff turnover of social workers and other human service professionals has plagued rural communities, employers, employees and their families, and led to significant financial and human costs. This paper reports the findings of a two year longitudinal study of 194 Australian rural social workers and the high staff turnover they experienced during 1994-1997. Regression analyses of survey data revealed that employer-related factors were strongly associated with premature departure, while community and personal factors tended to influence retention positively. Social workers who were well provided with social, emotional and financial support by their employers and colleagues tended to stay long enough for the lifestyle attractions of rural practice to take increasing effect. On the other hand, unsupported practitioners tended to depart early. Hence, problematic staff turnover can be addressed with different approaches from employers, educators and staff. A range of remedial strategies is generated including preparatory briefings, increased training, better-targetted recruitment, and enhanced support and supervision of staff.