Summer 2005

By Raelene Hall.

Twenty seven health professional students spent a week in the Murchison in July to experience aspects of remote practices. The students from a range of health disciplines including Health Promotion, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Pharmacy, and Social Work, stayed at Nallan Station, and visited Cue, Mt Magnet and Meekatharra.
‘Country Week’ is organised by the Combined Universities Centre for Rural Health (CUCRH) and has been running for four years. The principle aim is to give students a set of skills, knowledge and priorities important to successful rural practice.

Students are divided into groups, with each group studying a key population group including pastoralists and miners, the elderly and Aboriginal people. The students visit health facilities in the towns and talk to local health professionals. At the end of the week students make a presentation to the community and University.

I was invited to represent the community and pastoral industry when the students came to Meekatharra. Penny Johns of Killara Station kindly hosted afternoon tea for the student group studying health issues within the Pastoral industry. Over a relaxing cuppa the students conducted an informal interview with Penny and me. Issues we raised included childcare and safety of children, family health, particularly men, depression, isolation and the effect of declining services in local towns.

I later spoke to Ruth Jolly, a final year Occupational Health student who had participated in the pastoral study group, on her thoughts about ‘Country Week’. Ruth was, at the time of our link up, completing her final prac session at Narrogin. As a city girl keen to work in a rural area, Ruth said Country Week had been a great experience, helping her realise how much she had to learn about health issues in rural/remote areas.
‘Some people think working in rural/remote areas is a second rate job and is too hard,’ Ruth said.
‘Country Week helps dispel those myths.’

Another benefit, in Ruth’s opinion, is it allows students to analyse the potential resources in a community and how these can be best used in the health arena. It is also an opportunity for students to get a grasp of the different issues, both psychological and social, that can impact on health of rural and remote residents.
“The highlight of the week for me,’ said Ruth, ‘was being so warmly welcomed into Penny’s home and both Penny and Raelene being so honest about health issues faced by those in the pastoral industry. It was an honour and our group were very grateful for the opportunity.’
Tania Wiley, Student Support Officer, at CUCRH, said, ‘Country Week has been a positive experience for all students and our visit to the Murchison was so successful we are very keen to return in 2006.’
‘It’s a valuable experience, which I believe all students, regardless of where they intend to practice, would benefit from,’ said Ruth Jolly, ‘I certainly did.’