As pleas for HECS forgiveness for graduate vets continues to be ignored by the government, there is now some relief in sight.
Australia's largest rural vet network is now taking matters into its own hands. Apiam Animal Health has decided to offer its own HECS "forgiveness" program.
A recent survey of veterinary students by the Australian Veterinary Association has found 100 percent of graduates would move to rural areas, if the government agreed to wipe out their crippling HECS debt.
Dr Bronwyn Orr, president of the Australian Veterinary Association said the shortage of vets has been a problem for years and vet graduates are very keen on a program to wipe HECS debt in exchange for working in towns in need.
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"Similar programs work for doctors and nurses so I just don't understand why the same opportunity isn't extended to vets," Dr Orr said.
Vet graduates are struggling to cope with HECS fees of up to $80,000. With the government not making any moves to help, Apiam Animal Health has announced its own plan.
Dr Chris Richards, Apiam Animal Health managing director said their program will initially be offered to 10 vets in its first year, with each vet being supported with grants of $65,000 paid over a four year bonding period.
"This is an exciting step that will ensure a future pipeline and retention of some of Australia's most talented vets into rural and regional areas of the country to meet the demand of a rapidly growing market," Dr Richards said.
"While the government seems satisfied to delay a decision on HECS forgiveness for vets that potentially puts at risk the health, welfare and biosecurity of regional livestock and pets, we are not willing to let the issue get worse."
In response to comments in a previous article by The Land, vets were disgusted to learn that Education Minister Jason Clare has shelved the issue until 2025.
Dr Richards said there are many vets who are several years into their careers still burdened by huge student debts in excess of $100,000.
"We are offering the same support to these valuable team members to ensure that they remain in regional Australia and continue to apply their skills in under serviced regions," Dr Richards said.
The Apiam program will be open to existing Apiam employees as well as new graduates.
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