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Small Australian towns still don’t have access to service delivery professionals

The Regional Australia Institute has published the report Pillars of communities: Service delivery professionals in small Australian towns 1981 – 2011, a three decade review into the availability of access to health, education and social service professionals in towns with populations under 5,000. Most remote and very remote small towns are in Queensland and South Australia, and Victoria has no very remote small towns. The report asserts the number of professionals in inner regional small towns grew by 85%, but there was growth of only 7% in small towns in remote and very remote areas, and that most towns were more likely to have a nurse or a primary school teacher than any other type of service delivery professional, including police officers and health specialists. The accompanying report card graded access to psychologists, dentists, and preschool teachers as an ‘F’. The report contends that overall, the gap in service delivery personnel between major cities and small towns remains significant and in some cases is widening. The report includes recommendations for policymakers to narrow the gap in access, specifically supporting community-led initiatives, flexibility in professionals’ roles of professionals, virtual service delivery to complement in-person delivery, and increasing incentives to target areas known to be difficult to staff.

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