In a move not seen before, institutions from across Australia are banding together to find new ways to use research to help rural people. Facing an unrelenting drought and the impact this has had on mental health, employment and community survival, rural and regional Australians have welcomed the united support from the inaugural Spinifex Symposium.

Led by NSW Regional Health Partners, the University of New England and the Alice Springs-based Central Australia Academic Health Science Network (CA AHSN), the Spinifex Symposium will address topics including  access issues, and the need for health solutions to be “place-based” in regional Australia, not dictated from the major cities.

“This is more than a two-day conference,” University of New England Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer, Professor Brigid Heywood said.

“This is the birthing of a new health research ecosystem in regional Australia. Our goal is to form a new alliance which will respond to the current and future health needs of the people who live in remote regional communities, which are different to their metropolitan counterparts.”

“We need to start a new conversation,” NSW Regional Health Partners director, Professor Christine Jorm said.

“Many of these communities were doing it tough before the drought, and ultimately, without the right research, we may not be able to keep some of these parts of Australia liveable into the future.”

The conference will be held in Alice Springs from November 12-13 and will see representatives from the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the Australian Psychological Society, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australian Rural Health Education Network, Country Women’s Association of Australia and many others unite to identify ways to solve the long term problems created by drought and rural life.

“We all know that we need water in rural communities. But what many people don’t realise is that we need a lot more than that,” Central Australian Aboriginal Congress chief executive Donna Ah Chee said. 

“We need to know what the best ways are to support small communities and each other – and they will include listening and sharing and developing the research expertise of our people.”

Executive Director of the Central Australia Academic Health Science Network (CA AHSN) network, Chips Mackinolty, welcomed the Spinifex Symposium.

“It’s totally appropriate that this concerted effort and commitment to building sustained research investment, capacity and employment is being held at the heart of rural and remote Australia,” he said.

“The statistics tell it all: general health outcomes are much poorer in rural and remote areas, and this will be the beginning of a new deal for health research in Australia.”

MEDIA CONTACT: Tim Connell 0405 851 310