William Verity and Veronica Apap
About one-third of the Australian population lives in a rural, regional or remote area, however they don’t enjoy the same high standard of well-being and access to health services as those living in cities. The University of Wollongong is committed to improving the health and well-being of people living outside of cities through a range of programs.
UOW’s Graduate Medicine seeks to address the shortage of doctors and health professionals in the rural workforce. One way it does this is by offering extended work placements in rural and remote communities to students studying medicine. The hope is students will get a taste for life in the bush and return to work there after they graduate.
The Mudgee community has been a shining example of how a valued partnership supports the University and a regional community. UOW and the Mudgee community have shared a partnership for over a decade with students completing work placement in Mudgee each year. To support those students the Mudgee community has contributed to the construction of a five-bedroom student accommodation facility.
Simon Jones from Mid-Western Regional Council says: “The community wants to see more health professionals in the region and wants them to experience life in our region in the hope that they can see the benefits of living in such a wonderful environment and may one day make our community – or communities like ours – their home too.
“It is the deepening of this relationship between the University and the Mudgee community that is central to why Council was inspired to be part of the Mudgee Region Community Scholarship.”
The Mudgee Community Scholarship was established in 2017 and renamed the Mudgee Regional Community Scholarship in 2018 due to Mid-Western Regional Council, Club Mudgee, Wilpinjong Coal and Moolarben Coal Operations all agreeing to provide further financial support.The scholarship assists students from the Mudgee region to realise their dreams of a career in health. It provides students with $2,500 per year for the duration of their undergraduate degree at UOW. It is hoped medical students from the rural community will return to their hometown to work in the area after graduation.
Wilpinjong Coal employs about 500 people in the Mudgee region and its workforce – along with their families – led to an increase in demand for health services in the area. The company became involved in the partnership with UOW to address concerns about waiting times for doctors in the region.
Environment and Community Manager at Wilpinjong Coal, Kieren Bennetts, says: “Our involvement in the program is also driven by the fact that we are part of the community and we interact with the medical professionals of the town. We understand the challenges that are involved in sustaining adequately-resourced medical services for the size of the town given its rural location.”
He says it is important to support local students, because their family ties ensure they are more likely to return to work in Mudgee or its surrounds.
“The demand for regional doctors can be hard to meet however, statistically, students who complete their HSC in the Mid-Western Region are more likely to return here to set up practice,” he says.