A LACK of consistency is perhaps the most consistent thing about life at “Yeranbah”, 50 kilometres outside Lightning Ridge.
But a new partnership launched today aims to remove the variables for rural and remote families in need, like 10-year-old Victoria Butler and her mum Belinda.
A National Paediatric Telecare Centre is the end goal of a new joint venture launched today between the The Royal Far West Initiative and Charles Sturt University, with isolation and lack of access to services in the bush to be taken out of - or rather - brought into the picture.
- Small towns report gives 'F' grade to access to psychologists, dentists and preschool teachers
- "The way we respond to rural suicide is not working"
Launched at Government House in Sydney by NSW Governor David Hurley the partnership will begin as a 12-month research project that will build a business case for a nationwide expansion of the Telecare service that already helps 4000 children in rural and remote areas.
Telecare allows for remote assessment and therapy on speech, occupational therapy, and psychology - while helping isolated teachers and parents with capacity building.
One in five children in Australia are developmentally vulnerable when they start school and this number rows the further you are from a capital city
Most Telecare families are in NSW but the service has also been used in remote Western Australia
A successful business case will see Royal Far West and Charles Sturt Uni team up for another five years and potentially reach 15,000 kids.
“One in five children in Australia are developmentally vulnerable when they start school and this number rows the further you are from a capital city,” Royal Far West chief executive Lindsay Crane said.
“Our job is to reduce this unacceptable gap between city and country kids.”
“This aims to give us scale and evidence to build a national asset for country children that will tackle childhood vulnerability in Australia.”
Telecare a ‘godsend’ for Lightning Ridge Family
Farmer Belinda Butler says the isolation and trying weather often stand in the way of getting the job done out at Lightning Ridge.
Certainly, life so far away from Sydney proved tough when her eldest child Michael, now 13, showed signs of learning difficulties at an early age.
He was assessed and found in need of speech, occupational, and behavioural therapy - with his little sister Victoria later getting the same diagnosis.
Mrs Butler said connecting with Royal Far West was a godsend for her and husband Rhett, and, realistically the only way they were going to get help.
“The services we needed were just not available out where we live,” she said.
“So to be able to connect to Telecare… it has changed our lives.”
Mrs Butler reports both Michael and Victoria are coming ahead in leaps and bounds - with the former being elected school captain and the latter recently winning a speaking competition.
Belinda and Victoria were in Sydney this week for the launch and took the time to enjoy the beach.
Incidentally, today’s launch coincided with the publication of the Regional Australia Institute’s Pillars of Communities report which compiles 30 years of data to reveal the level of access to professionals working in 10 basic services, such as health and education, in towns with populations between 200 and 5000.
While there were signs of progress in some areas, a report card produced alongside Pillars of Communities gave an 'F' grade for access to psychologists, dentists and preschool teachers.
- With Sam Falzon and Alison King