Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Trip to the Australian outback

Earlier in the week I spent a couple of days in Longreach, which is in the outback of Queensland - three hours flight from Brisbane. I went there to run mentoring and computer skills workshops.

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Outback Australia
The first thing that struck me was just how huge Australia is, and how remote some communities are. Longreach is a warm and welcoming community, but as a city dweller I really don't know why anyone would want to live hours drive away from decent shops and restaurants. However, I was assured that people live in Longreach and surrounding areas because they love the sense of community that prevails as opposed to the less friendly city environments.

Lack of midwifery care
The other thing that stuck me was the lack of maternity and midwifery support people receive in these areas. They have the choice of birthing in the Longreach hospital or driving five hours to Rockhampton. Many make that drive because they do not want to birth in Longreach - something to do with Longreach having a rival rugby team! Yet, to do this, they are required to move there four weeks before the baby is due. There is little to no post natal support or follow up.

It really brought home to me how much work needs to be done to support pregnant women in rural and remote areas, yet at the same time how complex that is. It also really struck a cord with me, and got my midwifery receptors buzzing - how I would love the challenge of working in a rural setting like this...apart from the fact it has no decent shops, MacDonalds.......!

Still no kangaroos
I drove up and down the main highway a few times but still didn't get to see any live kangaroos. But I did see a number of road trains which are another of Australia's icons. They drive so fast and must make a hell of a mess of any kangaroo they drive over.

Hats off
The land is dry and harsh, and very unwelcoming and I take my hat off to the people who live out there. At least today they have modern resources to support their living. How the early settlers survived is a miracle.

At the same time I could see the appeal - maybe it touched the part of me that has descended from generations of West Country farmers in the UK. So maybe my next job is as midwife in rural and remote Australia? Who knows?!

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