Stronger local health services are set to flow from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Flinders University and Renmark Paringa Council which will explore opportunities for the delivery of allied health courses enabling in-demand occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech pathologists to train and remain in the Riverland region.
With South Australians in regional, rural, and remote areas experiencing a lack of access to allied health professionals and disability services, the MoU aims to tackle these shortages by seeking out opportunities for local education programs and workforce development.
The MoU, which enables broader collaboration between Flinders University and Renmark Paringa Council was signed by Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling and Renmark Paringa Council Acting CEO, Tim Pfeiffer.
Flinders University has identified a range of in-demand allied health services which could be supported through targeted education programs. By developing a local workforce, it would be possible to fill shortages in the Riverland in speech pathology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietetics, social work, and developmental education professionals.
But the agreement isn’t limited to allied health with the University and Council also exploring further study opportunities in the Riverland.
Professor Chris Brebner, Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching Innovation) at Flinders University’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, says the MoU is deepening the University’s existing programs and connections in the Riverland.
“The MoU sets out a path for future collaboration – developing an even closer relationship with the Council, with the aim of richer education and workforce opportunities.”
“The University looks forward to working with the Council in attracting, educating and helping retain people within the region, while developing higher education opportunities which meet local health needs,” Professor Brebner says.
Renmark Paringa Council’s Mayor Neil Martinson said “the desire of Flinders University to expand their education offerings fits well within our Corporate Plan 2021-2024, which defines the following actions:
- advocate for improved regional health services with State and Federal agencies
- collaborate with education providers and industry (including agriculture) to seek to attract and develop higher education opportunities associated with required skills across the region
“This is a significant solution to a major issue we have in the region, which is attracting and retaining talent.”
Mayor Martinson said “we have the data to prove that we lose many of our youth to metro areas so that they can pursue study and work opportunities. To provide an opportunity for those wishing to study allied health courses provides choice for our youth and in turn retention of youth and talent.”
The University is exploring the potential for students to undertake allied health degrees at the Renmark campus from 2023 supported by placements across local hospitals and health practices.
Flinders’ potential expansion of its education offerings in the Riverland also bodes well for existing and future allied health practices in the Riverland that are seeking student placements and employees in the coming years.