Calls to urgently address regional vet shortage

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has welcomed calls for the critical veterinary workforce shortage in regional and remote Australia to be urgently addressed.

The Regional Education Commissioner’s 2023 annual report has called for education fee relief to encourage early career veterinarians to work in rural areas, changes to funding models of training, which could assist with support for placements, and consideration of other subsidies or incentives to attract veterinarians to regional areas of need. These strategies, if implemented, could significantly alleviate the current workforce crisis and pave the way for a more balanced distribution of veterinary services across the country.

AVA President, Dr Diana Barker, welcomes this acknowledgment by the Hon Fiona Nash, Australia’s Regional Education Commissioner, of the veterinary workforce crisis. Dr Barker highlights that veterinarians are essential health workers who allow Australian communities to enjoy the benefits of good animal and human health, welfare and biosecurity.

“The strategies called out for consideration by Australia’s Regional Education Commissioner are all strategies that the AVA has been tirelessly advocating for to help address the rural and regional veterinary workforce crisis,” said Dr Barker.

“The AVA’s 2024/2025 prebudget submission called for the Commonwealth Government to support strategies that will build and retain the regional veterinary workforce.

“We implore the Commonwealth Government to expand their educational fee forgiveness scheme for doctors, nurses and teachers to veterinarians, as they too are providing an essential service,” she said.

Australian accreditation standards require veterinary students to undertake at least 52 weeks of placement during their five-to-six-year course, which exceeds the requirements of many other degrees. ‘Placement poverty’ affects veterinary students and prevents many students from undertaking placements rurally and regionally due to the costs incurred. If provided with opportunities to see practice rurally, there is evidence that students will return to work in rural and regional locations.  

The AVA also calls for the Commonwealth Government to extend rural and regional support for business infrastructure development, essential service business tax concessions, accommodation stimulus packages and for preferential access to community services to include the veterinary sector.

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