Rural Health Pro – Connecting the rural health workforce

Laura Hardaker1

Workforce Engagement Manager, Rural Doctors Network (RDN)

Rural Health Pro is a network of healthcare professionals and organisations passionate about keeping rural communities healthy. Powered by NSW Rural Doctors Network – a Rural Workforce Agency for more than 30 years – Rural Health Pro partners with more than 150 organisations to deliver information, career opportunities, training resources, mentor programs, funding opportunities and events to a network connecting through a personalised digital experience.

Connect today!


Dr Laura Hardaker is a qualified occupational therapist with a PhD in mental health. She worked clinically for over thirteen years and now works for the Rural Doctors Network as their workforce engagement manager. Laura is passionate about the health and wellbeing of all individuals across Australia and her work at RDN has focused on supporting the health workforce by promoting access, quality and sustainable health services. Through the advancement of Rural Health Pro, Laura continues to work on connecting health professionals across Australia.

Drought – Helping hands in times of need

Mr Evan Morris1

1Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECCPHN), Gunnedah, Australia



Approximately 75% of the Hunter New England region is experiencing drought with over 60% of people in the New England North West region experiencing intense drought. Identifying and supporting people and clinicians in drought-affected communities is a key priority for the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECCPHN). Clinicians in this area are very familiar with HealthPathways. Evidence from two evaluations and google analytics data have confirmed that the majority of general practice clinicians use HealthPathways on a regular basis to access relevant, up-to-date assessment, management and referral information.

What is happening?

In 2018 the HNECCPHN established a Drought Working Party to collaboratively engage with health professionals, organisations and community members to determine what was needed to support drought-affected individuals and communities. The Hunter New England (HNE) Community HealthPathways team liaised with this working party to develop a clinical pathway for clinicians to identify and care for patients presenting with mental health issues arising from disasters or adverse weather events. A Drought Support Services referral page was also developed which describes all the services and resources that patients and families can access for information and support to prepare for and manage drought conditions, including such things as animal welfare, financial support, administration, mental health and social well-being, and personal support and assistance. This referral page can also be publically accessed via our Patient Information portal.


The HNE HealthPathways team has collaboratively contributed to the development and maintenance of healthier rural and remote communities by producing resources to support primary health clinicians in the care of patients adversely affected by drought. These resources can be easily adapted and applied to assist clinicians, people and communities in other rural and remote regions.


Evan Morris has been employed as a Community HealthPathways Project Officer for the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network (HNECCPHN) for the past 5 years. He has worked in a rural setting for over 15 years and has extensive experience in project management, clinical reporting, service directory development and testing, and system integration. Email address:

Bridging the Gap between NDIS and Indigenous Participants in Rural and Remote Locations

Ms Danni Hocking1

1Northern Australia Primary Health Ltd (naphl), Townsville, Australia


We use a case study to demonstrate the diversity of program delivery required for clients who are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being discharged from hospital to access equipment and services to support them to live independently  whilst waiting for approval to access funded programs.

Whilst newly introduced schemes such as the NDIS and My Aged Care funding are long term solutions to support people to remain independent within their homes and communities the hurdles required navigate eligibility can be complex and very long.  What happens to those people who fall within the gaps but need support but ineligibility due to their age, health condition being unstable or inability to f:f assessments needed to establish acceptance.

We will explore many gaps in service provision in rural and remote Australia particularly for Indigenous communities who don’t live in regional towns.  Cultural mistrust, access to relevant service providers, GP’s completing eligibility assessments, submission of forms, providing evidence that may not exist are just some of the challenges.  By working closely with a range of service providers at the beginning of the hospitalization process through the discharge journey, knowing what services are available we will demonstrate how to bring services together and offer a range of supports for clients who may potentially slip through the gap.

In this case study we examine a client who enters the hospital system and exists following life changing surgery, transforming their existence completely, impacting not only their physical & mental health but also their social/community integration. We explore  programs and services available to remote communities in FNQ ; how to identify the gaps in each so that services can be identified, solutions created which involve health providers, government and community so that and the client can return to their home safely and feel adequately supported.


Danni Hocking, B App Sc OT/ Grad Dip Wellness; CPRM;

Danni has extensive experience in the management of people risk issues including the development of award winning corporate safety & wellness programs. As a Director of outreach Allied Health Services she has had experience in delivering innovative and cost effective programs to Indigenous, Refugee and Mainstream clients in rural and remote regions across North and Far Nth Qld.  Danni has spoken on International and National health and wellness forums and has developed award winning programs designed to improve health outcomes for large workforces.

An educational commitment respecting cultural pluralism – leanings from the North African chapter

Ms Louise Woods1

1Shell Health/Aspen Medical LNG Curtis Island


Tasked by a British company for an international commitment on location in a tribal community in the Eastern province of Libya denotes findings that relate to experiences in 2011 such as:

  1. The political and geographically isolated region challenged conventional clinical expectations honed our sharpened teaching methods in turbulent times.
  2. Meeting the challenge to up-skill local non-certified nursing staff by utilizing a structured, daily schedule of basic lectures
  3. Initial priorities were identified as paediatric, adult, midwifery, emergency departments and renal specialties
  4. The Advanced Life Support training practical and theory tests completed, and learners certified by UK standards.
  5. Due to language barriers and cultural differences, lectures necessitated interpreters on site. Four keen college students translated script whilst requiring medical terminology as we progressed.

Recounting events in this vivid time-capsule depicts similarities to any community in remote surroundings:

  • the wanting embrace of keen learners, courageously overcoming adversity.
  • experienced clinicians with the capacity to educate, independent of location and language barriers.
  • not dissimilar to Australia’s remote and unique communities, they too experienced challenges to obtain healthy outcomes for their elderly, children, the injured or those with poor mobility and those burdened with chronic illness.
  • unrestricted, culturally safe, high quality professional leadership to guide and support their adjustments with morally sound, professional guidance.

As such, I believe that all experienced clinicians are educators by default, positioned favorably to engender opportunities that keen learners could benefit from.

It was in North Africa where I learned never to underestimate the incredible educational influence that highly motivated and skilled clinicians possess.


A nursing qualification started a journey from South Africa which gained momentum as I furthered my career, launching a trajectory of explorations across 10 countries. Leanings gained by my broad global exposure embedded the desire to share what I have learned

  • Master of Pub Health JCU, Cert IV Training&Educ
  • US-RN Licensed as Prof Nurse – NYSB
  •  Reg Nurse,  Midwife (S-Africa), Cert Occ Health-Stellenbosch University (S-Africa)
  • Cert Aviation Nursing, Institute for Aviation Medicine (S-Africa)
  • PG Dipl Remote&Offshore Medicine – Edinburgh Uni (UK)
  • NEBOSH Int Gen Certificate Health&Safety (UK)
  • PG Dipl Health Informatics – Otago University (NZ)
  • Certificate- Rehab&Return to Work Coordinator

Learning to provide a responsive and respectful mental health service to remote communities in Central Australia

Mr Peter Ashley1

1Royal Flying Doctor Service, Alice Springs, Australia


This presentation discusses specific issues in providing a diverse, relationship based, and collective approach to the delivery of mental health services to remote Aboriginal communities in Central Australia. The mental health service specific to the Royal Flying Doctor Service based in Alice Springs incorporates a Western diagnostic medical model of mental health that works by invitation from communities and in conjunction with communities to further assist in developing a diverse approach in the understanding and contextualization of mental health issues within Aboriginal communities visited by The Royal Flying Doctor Service that are remote and where health service delivery is limited. The inclusion of Community Elders, Aboriginal Health Workers, and community services is seen as integral to the development of a diverse mental health care approach that works to demystify mental health and develop stronger community delivery and seen to be most effective when there is the development of strong relationships of all groups and individuals from the community wanting to further identify, understand, and contextualise mental health issues experienced by a community. The development of a mental health team that is diverse in experience and knowledge of Aboriginal Mental health and willing to explore avenues of treatment that are authentic and respectful to Aboriginal communities and practice is essential. It is with this approach there has been a development of inclusive working relationships that has motivated the acceptance for a diverse understanding of contributing factors to mental health issues and pathways of responding with an intent to further develop an empowered voice of Aboriginal communities and individuals.


Peter Ashley is a Psychologist who has worked in Mental Health, Sexual Health, and Drug and Alcohol services. He has worked in rural and remote areas of Northern Australia and also in an urbanised setting where there has been significant cultural diversity and complexity in providing a health service appropriate to the individual and communities.

Peter is currently the Senior Mental Health clinician and Team Leader for the Royal Flying Doctor Service Mental Health Team based in Alice Springs which travel and live within communities to  provide a mental service that is authentic and adaptive to expressed community needs.

Social Networks: Working Together the Other Way Around

Ms Amanda Akers1, Ms Cathy Faulkner1

1Cranplus Bush Support Services


Community-led actions creating social support to enhance social networks, or the other way around? This paper looks at ‘the other way around’. Starting with social connections, a Senior Aboriginal Health Worker, teamed up with a non-indigenous Clinical Psychologist to use their social networks, firstly with each other, and then with the broader communities, to create social support, resulting in community-led actions to enhance them. This qualitative reflection of the delivery of a series of CRANAPlus Bush Support Services workshops is a positive example of Working Together to close the gap in the area of mental health and also for the retention of Aboriginal Health Workers, whose numbers are not meeting the previous ratio to meet the increasing population. Qualities of the social connections are revealed and outcomes of this small team’s workshop delivery, enhancing social networks, resulting in community-led action, are presented, as are suggestions for improving the social and emotional well-being and retention of Aboriginal Health Workers.


Amanda Akers is a Clinical Psychologist who has worked in rural and outreach settings in Northern NSW in both public and private sectors. Amanda’s interest area is drug and alcohol issues, she also works with people suffering from trauma, anxiety, depression and other psychological problems. Amanda runs a private practice in Helensvale, QLD. Amanda also works with CRANAPlus Bush Support Services on a casual basis. She provides after-hours telephone counselling and supervision for remote area health workers. Amanda’s work with Bush Support Services includes running workshops on self-care, reflective practice, bullying, and presenting conference papers on rural and remote issues.


Cathy Faulkner is an Anaiwan woman who has worked for the health service for 21 years. In her current position she works with Aboriginal mothers and babies providing outreach services from Armidale to Walcha, Uralla, and Guyra. Cathy works with 2 midwives and a gynaecologist, assisting clients at high risk, with complex needs. Cathy is a Senior Aboriginal Health Worker who has the respect of her community as a result of her work, as well as running local activities. Cathy is a mother of 6 children and a grandmother of 14 grandchildren. She plays hockey and touch football and enjoys outdoor community involvement.

caring@home resources: Supporting home-based end-of-life care in communities

Dr Karen Cooper1, Prof Liz Reymond1, Mrs Sue Healy2, Mrs Louise Goodwin1

1Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative, Eight Mile Plains, Australia,

2Metro South Palliative Care Service, Eight Mile Plains, Australia


For the over seven million people who live outside of major cities in Australia, access to appropriate end-of-life and palliative care can be challenging. And while most Australian palliative care patients say they prefer to be cared for at home, and to die at home if possible, most do not achieve that wish.

Many people, in the terminal stage, are admitted to in-patient facilities because their symptoms cannot be adequately controlled at home. Often, towards the end of life, breakthrough symptoms need to be managed using subcutaneous medicines. Medicine for breakthrough symptoms needs to be given quickly and in rural and remote areas healthcare professionals may not be able to do that given resourcing and distances.

Carers, when appropriately educated, are competent, can safely manage breakthrough symptoms using subcutaneous medicines and that in bereavement they reflect that they are pleased they assumed the role of quasi-professional carer.

caring@home, an Australian Government-funded project, has produced free resources for organisations, healthcare professionals and carers to support carers to help manage breakthrough palliative symptoms safely using subcutaneous medicines.

caring@home resources, applicable to all jurisdictions in Australia, include:

For organisations

  • Guidelines for the handling of palliative care medicines in community services developed by NPS MedicineWise
  • A template example policy and procedure for organisations to tailor and guide the operational implementation of the resources

Healthcare professionals

  • The palliMEDS app for prescribers
  • Online education modules for nurses concerning training of carers


  • A comprehensive caring@home package for carers that contains step-by-step guides, a diary, training videos, a practice demonstration kit and a colour-coded labelling system.

caring@home resources are evidence-based and enable service providers in rural and remote areas to implement best-practice care that is person-centred and enables quality end-of-life outcomes for individuals at home and their carers.


Prof Liz Reymond MBBS(Hons), PhD, FRACGP, FAChPM

Prof Reymond is Deputy Director, Metro South Palliative Care Service and Director, Brisbane South Palliative Care Collaborative. Her research interests include palliative care symptom management, advance care planning (ACP), and service delivery and development. Liz is currently directing the Queensland-wide Office of ACP, the Improving End-of-Life Care for Residential Aged Care Facility Residents Initiative (in collaboration with Brisbane South PHN), and the national caring@home project to improve the quality of palliative care service delivery across Australia to support people to be cared for and to die at home, if that is their choice.