Future GPs encouraged to develop skills for living and working in rural Australia

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Fall 12-4-2010

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



Anticipation was running high for 104 first-year University of Notre Dame Australia medical students travelling to the WA Wheatbelt towns of Cunderdin, Narrogin, Kellerberrin and Merredin in March 2010 for the Wheatbelt Rural Health Placement Program.

This program is one of the School’s strategies aimed at achieving its mission of graduating doctors who are ‘knowledgeable, skilful, dutiful and ethical’, and on completion of their studies will consider careers in rural or remote general practice.

A requirement of the University’s medical curriculum is that all first-year students undertake a four-day rural health placement.

“The purpose of the placement is for students to experience first-hand living in a rural community,” explained Professor Donna Mak, the program’s academic coordinator. “We have found that exposing students undertaking the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery course to first-hand experience is an ideal way to encourage them to consider rural placements.”

During their placement students were required to investigate the characteristics of the town they were placed in. They investigated the town’s strengths and assets, the health problems experienced by residents, and the services that maintain and/or improve health.

On arrival students were billeted out to live with local families.

“Each of the towns’ residents were welcoming, friendly and keen to share their personal experiences of living in their communities,” explained Professor Mak.

After establishing a ‘home base’, students visited local schools, health clinics, GP rooms and other health care facilities and learned about the occupational safety and health aspects of farming during a vist to a working farm.

Student Chris Watson, who was based in Merredin, was impressed with their introduction to aspects of work and safety on a farm.

“Many of the students were taken aback by the sheer amount of work and labour that was necessary. Safety was another issue that opened many eyes to the realities of work on a farm. It was apparent that those on the Wheatbelt farms engage in a tough and often dangerous day’s work, but there was a great sense of admiration felt by all for the families that collectively run these farms.

“It became clear that it requires cooperation and trust from all members, and a great deal of support from the community. As the trip went on, it was evident to all students that this support was immense in Merredin.”

The placement would not be possible without the support of the Australian Government through the Department of Health and Ageing’s Rural Undergraduate Support and Coordination (RUSC) funding program.

Media contact: Professor Donna Mak, Head Population and Preventive Health, School of Medicine
(08) 9433 0234