Sammi, 23, WA

“I wish the government understood the challenges and barriers faced by people living in rural and remote Australia.

Most people living in the metropolitan centres cannot comprehend the distance and remoteness of our rural areas, particularly in a state as large as Western Australia. My town is a half day drive to the nearest regional centre and can be a two day journey to Perth. This distance and isolation impacts on almost every facet of every day life. In particular, I wish the government would take the time out from their (mostly) metropolitan offices to come out and truly understand the strain of resources and the lack of access to basic services in small rural towns.

As a registered nurse working in the Pilbara, every day I witness the struggles that people face – and it’s not simply reduced access to specialised resources but to access basic essential health services including having a dentist, an optometrist, a physiotherapist. For any sort of treatment, patients may have to leave town for weeks and be away from their families, support systems, and their land. People have to leave their country alone, sometimes boarding a plane for the first time and speaking little English. Pregnant women have to leave town weeks before their baby is due, to ensure a safe environment for delivery. This having to find accommodation and being away from family for weeks during quite a stressful time. In the event that a woman stays, it can mean having to slowdown or stop a very natural and health labour to ensure the mother does not have her baby in a town with no midwife or obstetrician. Patients with mental health issues often are waiting days for not only transport to a mental health facility but sometimes waiting days just for their care to be accepted by a psychiatrist. Not only is the person in critical need not getting essential care, but it also exhausts limited local services. In towns such as this one, doctors are locum, and nurses often pass through for a few weeks to a few months. This severely impairs the ability for the local health services to provide quality continuity of care, and promote wellbeing.

Repeatedly, essential funding gets withdrawn or redistributed and I wish the government tried harder to remember us living in rural and remote Australia.”