New education pathways for regional allied health professionals

Riverland, Mildura, Port Pirie, and Mid North allied health services are one step closer to being able to rely on a local workforce, thanks to the development of new health courses at Flinders University in 2024.

The new educational pathways aim to train and retain occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech pathologists based in South Australian regions.

With regional communities losing school leavers and mature-aged residents to metropolitan cities for study and work opportunities, these new pathways (Bachelor of Allied Health Sciences (Occupational Therapy), (Physiotherapy) and (Speech Pathology) provide high value options tailored for locals looking to enter the healthcare industry on their doorstep.

The University is developing allied health degrees for 20 students in Renmark and Port Pirie, with placements in local hospitals and private health practises, and room for enrolment growth.

Riverland Occupational Therapist and Clinical Educator, Jessica Press, says these new pathways offer unique opportunities for country residents aiming to expand into a career in allied health.

“With the pathways based in the Riverland, students who would typically have to move to the city or otherwise choose a different career path, can now expand their professional repertoire from home.”

“The Riverland based degrees will aim to retain professionals in our region, investing in our local population to care for out local population. Flinders has designed an innovative program that will facilitate people from the Riverland, Murray Mallee and Mildura regions to learn and grow professionally at home. The program offers immense opportunities for the region to invest in and nurture the future of rural and remote allied health.”

These pathways will establish a workforce that can address community healthcare needs as allied health professionals and disability support are in short supply in regional and remote parts of South Australia and Victoria.

Professor Alison Kitson, Vice-President and Executive Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, says many young people and mature-aged residents want to stay in their community when studying, so the new pathway can improve their educational experience and equip them with community-relevant knowledge.

“It’s exciting for Flinders University to introduce allied health programs that can better support locals educational experience and enhance health outcomes for the community at the same time.”

“Allied health students will play a key role in the development of the region’s workforce and have a direct impact immediately through placements, while also improving their employability through real-world work experience in the hospitals and services they personally use, so it fosters a real community spirit.”

The new program will be dedicated to providing services improving the health outcomes of Indigenous communities in Port Pirie, the Mid-North, Mildura and the Riverland through the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“Indigenous students will bring important cultural knowledge, value and contribute to closing the gap in their communities, so the university encourages those seeking careers in healthcare to consider this program, which is designed to make a positive impact for Indigenous communities,” says Professor Kitson.

The celebration at the Riverland campus this week follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Flinders University and the Renmark Paringa Council in 2021 in pursuit of the delivery of innovative health courses.

Renmark Paringa Council Mayor Peter Hunter said, “The new in-region tertiary degree programs from Flinders University are exciting in that they will provide career pathways through to the tertiary education system from within the Riverland community.”

“This is a game changer for the Riverland which will continue to address the double-edge sword of losing students to the City for tertiary education, while desperately needing to attract professionals to the Riverland in industries like health.”

The programs are being developed as part of a co-design process with rural and remote community members in the Riverland (South Australia), Port Pirie and Mid-North South Australia and other rural and remote sites across Flinders’ footprint along the Australian Central Corridor to ensure graduates are work ready and have the skills to be able to meet the varying needs of rural communities.

The students from the three degrees will work closely together to develop team work, communication and collaboration skills, essential to rural and remote practice.




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