Outback Futures need ‘huge’

Demand for psychological, counselling in western Queensland region growing

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The Outback Futures team: Lara Moes, occupational therapist; Louise Middleton, programs manager; Pam Seymore, literacy specialist; Wendy Ferguson, counsellor; Selena Gomersall, psychologist/CEO; Shelley Ringelstein, learning support specialist; Kathy Jones, counsellor; and Laura Healy, psychology intern. Photo supplied.

The Outback Futures team: Lara Moes, occupational therapist; Louise Middleton, programs manager; Pam Seymore, literacy specialist; Wendy Ferguson, counsellor; Selena Gomersall, psychologist/CEO; Shelley Ringelstein, learning support specialist; Kathy Jones, counsellor; and Laura Healy, psychology intern. Photo supplied.

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The demand for the services of Outback Futures, the not-for-profit group committed to providing consistent and professional allied health services for rural and remote Queenslanders, is huge and growing.

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The demand for the services of Outback Futures, the not-for-profit group committed to providing consistent and professional allied health services for rural and remote Queenslanders, is huge and growing.

That’s according to CEO Selena Gomersall, who, along with her team of eight other clinicians has just finished a visit to Blackall and Tambo.

It’s part of a plan to spread the services of the FIFO allied health team that began in 2013 as drought tightened its grip, after proving its worth in Barcaldine and Longreach shires over the last year or so.

Selena said in three days last week there were 79 individual appointments, three workshops with 31 young girls attending, and four school staff  trained in specific social skills programs, with a number of children having their first session.

Outback Futures literacy support specialist, Pam Seymore with Blackall State School Prep to Year 2 teacher, Anjii Bennett.

Outback Futures literacy support specialist, Pam Seymore with Blackall State School Prep to Year 2 teacher, Anjii Bennett.

“Our ratio of children to adults is about 60:40.

“We spend a significant amount of time in schools – it’s a safe entry for a community and once we’ve formed relations there, referrals expand.

“Our primary impact has been making seeking mental health help a safe thing to do.

“We see those who wouldn’t cross a shopfront, but who then go and make an appointment with the RFDS or similar.

We’re always fully booked and add more appointments once we’re in town - Selena Gomersall, psychologist and Outback Futures CEO

The clinicians undertake everything from resilience clinics and groups for girls on social media, to psychological counselling, resourcing support for staff in multi-age classrooms, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and Triple P parenting.

To fully meet the needs of children needing support, Selena said they were equipping local schools and chaplains with the skills to carry on in Outback Futures’ absence.

Apart from councils, they have been linking with a variety of support agencies, such as Anglicare and Education Queensland.

The plan is to roll the service out over all seven Remote Area Planning and Development Board shires over the next four years to meet ongoing needs for resilience.

The group has also made a submission to the federal inquiry into rural and remote mental health, shedding light on short term referral and contract conditions that are making it difficult for operators.

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