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Careers in health in rural and remote Australia can be fascinating experiences

Working in Central Australia

Carolyn Coleman
29 June 2016

Annie Farthing, APAM, has lived and worked in Central Australia since 1992, taking on physiotherapy roles in urban community health, rehabilitation, remote allied health practice and aged care.

Since 2012, she has been employed at the Centre for Remote Health (CRH), where she develops and coordinates clinical placements for undergraduate nursing and allied health students. CRH is a joint centre of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University, and part of an Australia-wide network of University Departments of Rural Health. Its focus is on workforce development to improve the health of the local population, who live in one of the most remote areas of Australia.

Central Australia offers a number of placement options for students to gain experience in remote and very remote practice, via exposure to the demographic and geographic features that affect health and service delivery. Students come from nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy courses at Flinders University, Charles Darwin University’s nursing program and a range of other universities.

Annie facilitates placements with a focus on multidisciplinary practice at locations including Alice Springs Hospital, Western Desert Dialysis, Tennant Creek Hospital, remote community clinics, aged care services and privately operated allied health services. CRH provides academic support to students and supervisors, as well as accommodation and transport.

At CRH, Annie also lectures in primary healthcare, allied health, disabilities and dementia. She is one of the presenters in the ‘Introduction to Central Australian Aboriginal cultures and context’ course—which all students on placement are offered as an introduction to Arrente culture, concepts of culturally safe work practice and how the social determinants of health shape people’s lives in Central Australia. The Arrente people are the traditional owners of Alice Springs.

Annie is also involved in further research on assessment and case management in remote areas, how to support families and communities through dementia in remote areas, outcomes of student placements in rural and remote areas, and decision making among students and new graduates about rural and remote practice.

A recent Commonwealth Government announcement by the Australian Rural Health Education Network to boost funding and expand multidisciplinary training places for rural health is exciting news for Annie.

The aim is to double the number of all student placement weeks in Central Australia and the Top End of the Northern Territory, which presents some challenges in areas with low levels of service provision. Annie acknowledges that finding more physiotherapy student placements will require some creative thinking, something that rural health services are accustomed to.



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   Working in Central Australia
  Annie Farthing, APAM, has lived and worked in Central Australia since 1992, giving her special insights into the day-to-day of a remote area health professional.