Mr COULTON (Parkes—Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Trade and Investment Minister) (15:08): I thank the member for Indi for her question and I recognise her knowledge, history and understanding of rural and regional health issues before she came to this place. The Australian government is committed to improving the outcomes for rural Australians and to building a sustainable workforce distributed right across the country. But the truth of the matter is that, at the moment, the workforce is not evenly distributed. We have doctors located in capital cities and we need to move them to more regional areas.
So the government is continuing to implement a transformative $550 million rural health strategy which will give doctors more opportunities to train and practise in rural and remote Australia but, more importantly, also give nurses and allied health professionals a greater role in delivering the multidisciplinary-team-based model for primary health care. We must be using all of the assets, resources and people that we have. So this is the most comprehensive workforce reform package delivered in more than three decades. It is supported by the Rural Doctors’ Association, ACRRM, RACGP and AMA. The strategy is on track to deliver 3,000 GPs over the coming years. It might be interesting to the member for Indi that, in the first 12 months, already 300 more GPs and 400 nurses have been attracted to regional Australia through this program. So this strategy directly supports a continuum of doctors to learn, train and ultimately practise in rural and regional Australia, transforming medical training in the regions.
One of the ways that we’re bringing more medical doctors into the region is the Murray Darling Medical Schools Network. It’s been established to provide end-to-end rural training across locations in New South Wales and Victoria, including in the member’s electorate at Wodonga through La Trobe University. That’s in conjunction with other infrastructure spending like the $14½ million that went into Albury Wodonga Health’s hospital campus, $12 million of which was to support funding for a mental health rehabilitation unit at the Wodonga site.
The member would also be interested to know that it’s important that we’re funding a generalist pathway to give doctors that are going to go and practise in rural and remote areas a broader range of skills, so we’ve allocated $62.2 million to develop a national rural generalist pathway. That’s being implemented at the moment to help retain doctors with a broader range of experience in regional areas. I welcome any further contact with the member if she has individual issues.