INCREASED state government funding to provide two full-time outreach support workers on the ground in the drought-stricken central west has been welcomed by the region’s Rural Wellness Group.
Health Minister Cameron Dick announced in Barcaldine last Saturday that an additional $150,000 would be made available on top of $44,000 already on the ground, to enhance the region’s drought support networks.
He said the increased money came as the result of representations made to him by Rural Wellness Group spokeswoman Jane Williams, when he visited the region in July.
“Her words had a great impression on me,” he said. “This is the start; hopefully there will be more.”
The money will allow an extra person to work on the ground with businesses, service providers, in schools and homes. “They will know how best to use it without bringing bureaucracy into it,” Mr Dick said.
Jane, also a member of the Central West Hospital and Health Service board, welcomed the announcement, saying the minister was listening to local voices.
“This will allow us to plan and deliver longer-term strategies, which is something we’ve been calling for in the central west. We are going to need help, even after it rains.”
Financial counsellor Rachel Bock was also at the funding announcement and told the minister that many rural people had been trying to cope on their own until now.
“They are starting to look more at the Farm Household Allowance,” she said.
“The uptake is increasing. I often feel the need for counselling assistance when I’m on properties talking to people about this. I can do the financial things but I need that person with me.”
Mr Dick said the extra person would be a “full-on resource” to network and find out people’s needs. “There will be a counselling component and clinical skills,” he said. “We need someone who fits in and has a bush background.
“The secret will be getting the right person.”
The funding will be provided to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
RFDS CEO Nino Di Marco said it was a crucial partnership in a time when there was significant hardship as a result of the drought.