Rural Queenslanders are a rare breed. They are tough, resilient and incredibly resourceful. But in recent years a ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances have overtaken many now-battling primary producers. Unexpected cyclones and bushfires, some poorly conceived political decisions and years of relentless drought have built upon the regular challenges of isolation to bring many families to the brink: financially, socially and emotionally. So much of Queensland is still in drought, with some having been in this state for up to seven years. Over 79% of Queensland is drought-declared with the driest season on record in parts of the State. Financial impact, poor livestock markets and dry conditions mean that many are calling this the worst drought in history.
In 2011, the unique opportunity was created for a Brisbane psychologist, Selena Gomersall, to offer intensive counsel and support to a group of about 30 women from the Etheridge Shire in Far North Queensland (FNQ). An alarming picture emerged from these capable people facing overwhelming odds. Not surprisingly, there was significant evidence of moderate to severe mental health concerns impacting many individuals, families and whole communities.
Support and resources available to these families is not meeting the need. Male Queensland farmers are committing suicide at more than double the rate of the national average. The tyranny of distance creates a deficiency of physical and allied health support, emotional support and general practical resources. Often rural and remote service providers are limited by vast distances, short term employment contracts and referral restrictions and work in the midst of a culture that is naturally averse to help seeking – all of which can mean that meeting the needs of our Outback Family is not happening as effectively and comprehensively as it needs to
Outback Futures is a response to this huge need and service deficit identified in remote Queensland in terms of allied health and social/emotional issues. Outback Futures is ultimately about building self-efficacy in the bush, assisting rural Australians to find their collective voice by renewing hope, building resilience and strengthening communities. Outback Futures’ model of service delivery evolved organically in the bush under bush direction. It has developed into a nimble, replicable model that fits neatly into the gap between the ‘people who are reluctant to cross a shop front’ and established services. Outback Futures is committed to collaborating closely with local agencies on the ground and facilitating a cultural shift in remote communities around advocating for their own mental health and well-being and help-seeking behaviours.
Our Allied Health Clinics (involving a full range of allied and mental health services) and Mini-Clinics (involving a smaller number of practitioners) are increasingly being invited to strategically attach to existing Queensland events offering information and services on location over several days with ongoing interim phone and online sessions following the clinics.
Outback Futures is unique in a number of key ways:
- Responds to local invitation only
- Combines bush and city governance
- Provides a ‘One Stop Shop’ multidisciplinary approach
- Face to face clinics and ongoing remote support to create consistent service provision.
Fly-in-fly-out service means:
- – Safety and anonymity in small communities
- – Low staff turnover!
- – Senior experienced staff!
- – City based, resourced teams mobilised for remote communities
- – Comprehensive use of uniquely developed tele-health platforms and programs
RAPAD region roll out (partially funded by West Qld Primary Health Networks)
Outback Futures has been invited by the Remote Area Planning and Development Board to roll out service delivery over the next four years across their seven shires. Outback Futures offers a focussed engagement process with each community, then offers a couple of back to back, full multidisciplinary clinics and ongoing Stay With Me support with regular face to face clinics from then on.