$90m+ cash splash for training in bush and NT

4 minute read

More medical student places are on the way along with a $2.8m grant to explore setting up a medical school in the Top End.

An extra 160 medical students each year will begin end-to-end rural medical training at six new medical school programs in rural communities, while the federal government is funding the setup of a new medical school in the Northern Territory. 

The $90 million investment in rural schools will build medical classrooms, equipment and facilities, as well as provide up to 80 new medical Commonwealth Supported Places that will be matched by universities, which must redirect an equivalent number of their existing placements to the six new rural programs. 
Development of the new facilities and programs will begin from 2024, and will accommodate: 

  • 30 medical students in Ararat and Warrnambool, Victoria – Deakin University 
  • 20 medical students in Broome, Western Australia – University of Notre Dame 
  • 20 medical students in Rockhampton, Queensland – University of Queensland 
  • 30 medical students in Nowra, New South Wales – University of Wollongong 
  • 20 medical students in regional Tasmania – University of Tasmania 
  • 40 medical students in regional South Australia – Flinders University  

The rural programs will also bring much-needed economic and social benefits for their communities, with an influx of staff and students living and working locally.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the move was expected to have long-term benefits for rural and remote communities. 

“We know that doctors that train in rural and regional Australia are more likely to stay and set up shop in rural and regional Australia,” he said. 
Universities with existing medical schools were selected through a competitive grants process and will receive capital, establishment and recurrent costs to support the new facilities and programs. 
Assistant Rural and Regional Health Minister Emma McBride said the new rural medical programs and additional Commonwealth Supported Places would make a difference in communities right across the country. 
“The Government is tapping into the talent already there in regional Australia,” she said. 

“Through this investment we will unearth more local doctors, eager to train and work in their own communities and provide vital healthcare into the future.”  

The announcement came on the same day as Mr Butler revealed the government was investing $2.8 million in preliminary exploratory work on the establishment of a new medical school in the Northern Territory.  

Northern Territory Senator and federal Assistant Indigenous Health Minister Malarndirri McCarthy described the opportunity as a potential gamechanger. 

“Giving more people the chance to study medicine in the Northern Territory will be a gamechanger in getting great doctors into the communities they are most needed in,” she said. 
“Locally trained doctors understand the challenges and needs of their community and play such a critical role ensuring more people can live longer, healthier and happier lives.” 

The NT has persistent challenges attracting and retaining a medical workforce, with many doctors travelling from other parts of Australia or internationally, rather than living long-term in the Territory. There is substantial evidence that shows doctors who train in rural and regional Australia are more likely to stay and practise in rural and regional Australia after they graduate. 
Mr Butler said the government would provide Charles Darwin University with the funding to seek the accreditation required to establish an end-to-end medical school, so doctors can access the training they need to stay and work in the community. 
“We know that doctors that train in rural and regional Australia are more likely to stay and set up shop in rural and regional Australia,” he said. 
“The Albanese Government will use all possible levers to encourage doctors and other health workers to be where patients need them to be – outside of cities and in areas of need. 

“We want students from the NT and beyond to have more opportunities to study medicine and get the ongoing training they need to put down roots in the community.” 

The move was welcomed by Northern Territory Chief Minister, Natasha Fyles. 

“The federal government understands how important it is for the Northern Territory to grow our own medical workforce,” she said.  

“This funding will assist in the accreditation needed to establish a new medical school. My government will continue to support Charles Darwin University to make sure we get our fair share of investment.” 

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