What is happening to our rural people? 75



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There is a higher mortality rate in rural NSW than there is in Iraq.

This alarming statistic is just another reminder that our outback communities are being forgotten when it comes to health services, to the point where the life expectancy in the bush is much less than in our cities. They say that a tree change is wonderful and serene, but there is a much darker side.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that people living in remote western NSW will live a shorter life than if they lived in North Korea, or even Iraq. The life expectancy in war-torn Iraq is 68.5 and North Korea’s is 69, while our country NSW residents are only expected to live to 67.8 years.

Bourke Shire, 800km north-west of Sydney, is one of the worst affected, a fact the mayor Andrew Lewis is all too familiar with. He told SMH, “We always talk about the bush being a good lifestyle, but you die out here. It’s a “she’ll be right” attitude. Next thing you know, you’re dead”. So why is there a higher death rate in our rural NSW, as well as Western Australia and the Northern Territory? According to Scott McLachlan, the chief executive officer of the Western NSW Local Health District, it’s because of the amount of people who suffer from diabetes, obesity and whom smoke regularly.

On top of physical health issues, it’s no secret that our outback farmers and workers are suffering from depression. Beyond Blue says that isolation and difficulty accessing services are some of the challenges faced by men living in rural and remote communities. For those making a living from the land, there is some evidence to suggest that the farm environment is hazardous to mental health.

A higher amount of indigenous people means that the Bourke region and other towns in rural Australia automatically face more adversity. We have a long way to go when it comes to our rural health – there is a real lack of rural health services and those with undiagnosed health issues are not being checked until it’s too late. The Local Health District believes the scarce amount of GPs with obstetric and anaesthetic skills could give reason to the dying facilities in western NSW. Recruiting these professionals is extremely difficult so it poses another question – should there be an incentive for ill rural Australians to move to the city for treatment? Is that even feasible?


What are your thoughts on this? Is the higher mortality rate due to lack of health care? Or is it that these people need early intervention? Maybe it’s the depression? Tell us below.

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  1. The ‘she’ll be right’ attitude also plays a big part in the number of deaths or accidents that occur in the outback. Farm life is just plain dangerous. The old saying ‘a farmers work is never done’ is so very true and unfortunately corners are cut and blind eyes are turned just to make sure the job get done! OH&S standards don’t exist in the bush. Everyday when my hubby comes in of an evening I say a silent ‘thanks’.

    4 REPLY
    • OHS. Rules exist in rural S.A. and are as closely adhered to as in city. From what I have seen… Also environmental issues with land and water … The aluminium and phosphorous sprayed in the air falls to the ground. The earth needs detoxing too….not contaminated…. We should have listened to the aborigine elders and stayed In tune with the land and rivers…

    • Dianne I wasn’t referring to environmental issues or the use of chemicals i.e. Spraying. I don’t believe corners are ever cut in that respect, it’s the farm machinery i.e. quad bikes, tractors, augers, grain bins or whatever other bits of machinery are found on a farm that cause the danger to our men from the bush.

    • Phone reception either unreliable or nonexistent in many rural areas, so should an emergency occur harder to get help. Also sheer distance from hospitals, makes outcomes far worse in the event of a medical emergency than would be the case in the city.

    • You’re right there Marilyn. Our mobile service is patchy and we don’t even live in what I would call an isolated area. Luckily we’re only an hours drive from a large town with medical help so I certainly feel for those who live in the middle of nowhere.

  2. I have a friend who recently moved on to a 30 acre property, they are in their late 50’s and are townies, why they wanted to do that has me beat, they moved from the beach to the bush and if they don’t kill themselves with in the first year I will be amazed. Like most Townies they have not got a clue. Our farmers are the most skilled people we have on the land and even they make mistakes. Our farmers deserve our respect.

    4 REPLY
    • I’ve seen this happen before Leanna. A romantic view of “being on the land” seems to be part of the Australian psyche. Unfortunately the image of the farmer and the reality are very different things; not unlike the picture of the nurse “soothing the fevered brow” and the actuality of the professional using all their considerable skill.

    • It keeps you young Leanne! We have always lived in rural areas, but actually are far more active now we are retired. There are certainly days when we do too much, but them we just groan and spend the next few days relaxing!

    • try living on over 5000 acres doing sheep work in the dust in temperatures of over 40 degrees in the shade, my husband was a farmer for all his life and dropped dead in 10 minutes due to stress of droughts, no income and the likes, its a way of life … not necessarily a good one

  3. A complex problem,with multi layers. Not an easy fix, but certainly with alarming statistics like this, one would hope the government would see the need to urgently address this sad situation!

  4. Support for our farmer critical. Particularly as food is a resource we’ll run short of soon enough. So for selfish reason let’s look after our food producers

    1 REPLY
    • How strange, our water for the farmer has been taken away by the selfish tourists places along the Murray River. Therefore the farmer plants its crops and then finds out the water allocation will not cover the need for the crop to mature – no wonder its all going ‘suicide’ out on the farms. The farmer has no where to turn!!!

  5. So true !!Hard life !!Iwas one of those most of my life but …..How is it that everytime something comes up which could be a lifeline to these struggling good oeople who just need a bit of help to get a better return for the hahd work and sometimes dangerous jobs they have to do alone because they simply ca’nt afford to hire a bit of help——someone always has an objection to it !!??Like getting a price at the farm gate which would make a difference e’g’ Live cattle exports now carefullymonitored for humane reasons !!Come on give them a go !!!

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