The Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) proudly celebrated its 10th anniversary at events held in Canberra, Darwin and Alice Springs in late October. Guests included politicians, stakeholders and health professionals who have undertaken placements in the Territory.
The programme’s decade of making a difference in remote Indigenous communities was marked at Parliament House in Canberra where the guest of honour was the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, Minister for Indigenous Health and Minister for Aged Care. Guests of honour at the Darwin and Alice Springs events were Dr Hugh Heggie, Chief Health Officer and Executive Director for the Department of Health’s Division of Public Health and Clinical Excellence and Tanya Brunt, National Manager – RAHC, respectively.
RAHC is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the Indigenous Australians’ Health Programme: Stronger Futures Northern Territory. The stated aim of the program is to “address persistent challenges to accessing primary healthcare services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait people in the Northern Territory”. The first placements under the programme were in December 2008 when two registered nurses went to Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory on a 10-day placement. Since then, more than 5,600 placements have been undertaken by 1,100 health professionals representing nearly 500 years of service. Each year the actual number of placements has exceeded the contracted maximum under the funding agreement.
Tanya Brunt, National Manager – RAHC, said, “Over the past decade we have built strong and productive partnerships with our stakeholders and a significant pool of talented and highly motivated health professionals who answered the call to be part of the effort. Together we have worked hard to close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes. RAHC has achieved a very high repeat rate of 80% of urban-based health professionals returning to undertake additional placements. Recent research we have undertaken has shown that a significant number of RAHC health professionals have taken the step of joining the permanent workforce in Indigenous communities across Australia following their RAHC experience.
“At RAHC we endeavour to ensure successful placements and hence we provide the essential support and training to all our health professionals’ before and during their placements. We offer a suite of free eLearning modules that meet criteria for Continuing Professional Development, a cultural and clinical orientation program and on-going support for new-to-remote health professionals to make a smooth transition.”
Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, said RAHC was combating critical health workforce shortages and delivering life-changing care and support.
“Aside from the satisfaction of giving much-need treatment and care, the overwhelming message from health professionals involved has been the about value of enduring friendships and the privilege of sharing in First Nations cultures,” Minister Wyatt said.
I look forward to the Remote Area Health Corps continuing to play a significant role in helping to close the gap in health equality for remote First Nations people,” he added.
The RAHC program is currently funded until 30 June 2019.