Centre for Remote Health

Roundtable - Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge CentreCentre for Remote Health (CRH) Director, Professor Tim Carey and Mental Health Academic, Tanja Hirvonen recently attended a Roundtable in Darwin, one of a series being held across Australia, to raise awareness and receive feedback about the Australian Indigenous Alcohol and Other Drugs Knowledge Centre. This online resource launched by HealthInfoNet in 2014 includes talking books, video clips, and yarning places where people can discuss alcohol and other drug service related issues across the country.

The meeting was a valuable opportunity to learn about the resource, meet with service providers within the Darwin region and to get a sense of their training needs. As a result CRH has begun discussions with two organisations about developing staff training to enhance their service provision; another opportunity to achieve the missions of Centre for Remote Health and Flinders University.

The meeting was hosted by Professor Neil Drew, Director of the Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet, which provides an innovative online resource about many aspects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.


Remote area nurse Karen Collas at Dajarra airstrip, 150km south of Mount Isa, QldThe Alice Springs Centre for Remote Health’s Master of Remote and Indigenous Health helps nurses and other health workers become even more qualified to work and thrive in the bush.  Story by Ken Eastwood. Published in Outback Magazine June/July 2017

Health workers in remote areas and Indigenous communities face a range of complex issues. They may be the only medical help around, have limited resources and may be dealing with multifaceted problems.

Since 2011, the Centre for Remote Health at Alice Springs has offered a Master of Remote and Indigenous Health to help prepare nurses and other allied health workers to deal with such complexities.

“Mostly, the great bulk of our students are nurses – either ones who are already working remotely and want to up their skills, but we also have people coming in who want to go and work remotely or practise remotely,” says Professor Tim Carey, director of the centre. “By educating and upskilling health professionals, we think they’re better equipped to stay out in remote communities longer.”

The centre, jointly run by Charles Darwin University and Flinders University, was formed in 1998 and offers graduate certificates and graduate diplomas in remote health practice. “We have students from all over the country and they go all over the country,” Tim says. “For some it’s just about getting their learning at a higher level.”

The Masters degree requires the completion of 12 subjects, and is usually done part-time over about five years. Most of the courses can be done online and some have a two-day or five-day workshop, during which students come to Alice Springs and stay in subsidised student housing. “Primary care is a big part of what we look at, and Indigenous health is a very sharp focus,” Tim says. “Chronic disease is also high on the agenda.” The course also covers public health issues, social determinants of health and advanced nursing skills.

Former graduate of the course, and now one of the lecturers who teaches subjects in remote nursing, chronic disease and management, Karen Collas, has worked in remote communities from the Top End to Queensland, New South Wales, Christmas Island and Central Australia. “The course gives the nurses that foundation knowledge to work out bush. They don’t know what they don’t know,” Karen says. “Most Australians don’t have a lot of experience with remote areas or Indigenous people. There’s a shortage of remote area nurses and yet it’s so important that any remote communities have highly trained and skilled nurses because they’re not going to get a doctor out there fulltime … I hope in the future there will be nurse practitioners in all remote areas.”

Karen says that one of the challenges she has faced in her remote nursing career is developing critical thinking to assess priorities. “Working out, when you’ve got a person in front of you, what are the really important issues and what are the side issues,” she says.

Tim says that the Masters degree involves a large research component. “One of the students at the moment is looking at the extent to which health service managers get involved in quality improvement processes,” he says. They are determining whether remote health care managers are so caught up just delivering health services that they don’t take time to assess their effectiveness. “One of the really big problems out in remote areas and communities is that lots of programs spring up, but they’re rarely evaluated,” he says.

Karen says that the Masters degree would suit “any nurse interested in the challenging and rewarding career of remote nursing. It’s a real privilege to be involved in people’s lives who live in remote areas”.

Paul Stephenson, Chair CRANAplus Board, Heather Keighley, Acting Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, award recipient Stuart Mosby and Tanja Hirvonen Mental Health Academic, Centre for Remote HealthThe Northern Territory Government, Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards recognise outstanding nurses and midwives who go above and beyond to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of Territorians.

Congratulations to Stuart Mosby, who was awarded the 2017 Excellence in Remote Health Nursing/Midwifery, sponsored by the Centre for Remote Health and CRANAplus, for his outstanding contribution as a Remote Area Nurse. Stuart has a Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) from Charles Darwin University, a Master of Remote and Indigenous Health from Flinders University and is well respected by his peers and colleagues.

The award was presented by Tanja Hirvonen at the Gala dinner held on Saturday 13 May at the Darwin Convention Centre. The evening was a wonderful opportunity to shine the light on all nurses and midwives working in services across the Northern Territory and thank them for making a difference in each patient’s life and health journey.


Maree Meredith, Lecturer - Indigenous HealthThe Centre for Remote Health is delighted to welcome Maree Meredith to the position of Lecturer - Indigenous Health.

Maree’s qualifications include a Master in Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development (Specialisation Indigenous Policy) and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons).

She is a PhD candidate with the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health & Wellbeing and her thesis investigates the health promotion benefits of art centres in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.

Maree has previously worked in International Development and health and has extensive experience in Central Australian remote communities working with a range of organisations, including the Central Land Council and the Ananguku Arts and Culture Aboriginal Organisation.

Michelle Mascorella with Remote Area Nurse HelenIn April 2017, as part of her third year Community Health placement, Michelle Mascorella was fortunate to spend two weeks in Nyirripi, a beautiful community 450km Northwest of Alice Springs.

Michelle describes her experience as being 'beyond her wildest dreams', filled with remote area nursing including late night call-outs as well as football grand finals, nearby bush fires, caring for joeys and gymnasium openings.

"Remote area nursing is diverse and deeply contextualised, caring for babies to adults, chronic to acute illnesses. Out there, affectionately known as the ‘middle of somewhere’ is a mix of ‘everything’ - taking and then spinning blood, dispensing and administering medication, removing splinters and complex wounds. As the ‘carrier pigeon’ of information between your client and the doctor, accurate assessment, concise documentation and clear communication skills are a must.

"For me this has been life-changing; there is a richness in this area of nursing, the relationships built with the people and their families is unlike anything I have, or expected to experience. My nursing skills were broadened and strengthened yet the experience gave so much more. Hence, without a moments doubt, I would recommend a remote placement to all nursing students!"

Find out more about student placements in Central Australia

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Tanja Hirvonen, Professors Tim Carey & Pat Dudgeon, Dr Sabine HammondIn May, internationally recognised psychologist, Professor Pat Dudgeon, from the Bardi people of Western Australia, with local psychologist, Tanja Hirvonen, provided a seminar and workshop on suicide prevention and social and emotional wellbeing, at the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs.

Health professionals and community members attended the evening seminar, What Works in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention? 

The following half-day workshop, Social and Emotional Wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: Indigenous Leadership and How This is Key to Optimal Outcomes, was well attended. It explored social and emotional wellbeing concepts, addressing concerns that may arise when we do not consider this model, and highlighting the need to work alongside local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples towards improving wellbeing.

Many participants agreed or strongly agreed that the learnings expanded their knowledge with comments received including ‘very useful’, ‘current research’, ‘I gained a lot of insight that will help my programs’.

Professor Tim Carey, Director of the Centre for Remote Health, Dr Sabine Hammond, Australian Psychological Society and Tanja Hirvonen, Mental Health Academic supported Pat's visit to the heart of Australia. These visits provide great opportunities for health practitioners in remote Australia to work together to improve health outcomes for all peoples.

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In April, Professor Tim Carey, Director, Centre for Remote Health, attended a round table meeting organised my Melissa Sweet from Croakey. Melissa’s recently completed PhD, supervised by Professor Pat Dudgeon was an investigation of the medical incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

In particular, Melissa’s research focussed on the sites of Fantome Island near Palm Island in QLD which had both a Lock Hospital and a Leprosarium, and the Lock Hospitals on Bernier and Dorre Islands via Carnarvon in WA.

At the meeting, Joe Eggmolesse told his story of being sent to the Leprosarium on Fantome Island when he was 7 years old. He was living with his family in Nambour until then. He stayed at the hospital until he was 17 or 18 years old.

Another woman told the story of her mother and her aunty who were taken away when they were children and held on Fantome Island. Their mother (this woman’s grandmother) could get a permit once a year to leave the station where she was working near Hughenden to travel to the island to wave to her daughters.

Professor Carey was invited to the roundtable due to his role in developing and delivering an apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians from the Australian Psychological Society. The roundtable was an amazing meeting and a privilege to be in the company of people such as Professor Pat Dudgeon, Richard Weston (the Healing Foundation), Janine Mohammed Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), Donna Murray (IAHA), and Karl Briscoe (NATSIHWA), along with elders and community members from Carnarvon and Fantome Island.

A number of recommendations were discussed at the end of the roundtable meeting and the most effective ways of progressing these recommendations.
Professor Tim Carey, Director, Centre for Remote HealthIn March, Centre for Remote Health Director, Professor Tim Carey was Guest Speaker at the National Empowerment Project (NEP) workshop. Established in 2012, the NEP is a nationally funded project to improve the cultural, social, and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The workshop was conducted in 11 different sites around Australia and used a participatory action research model to monitor and improve the project work as it was being conducted as well as community empowerment activities.

Some of the sites will continue their work with funding from the Primary Health Networks in the jurisdictions within which they are located and other sites are investigating other funding potentials.

An important feature of the project was a focus on principles rather than practices and a recognition that the programs would necessarily be different in different communities even though the important principles would be applied consistently.

Despite the success of the participatory action research approach, Professor Carey was invited to address the people involved in the project to discuss other research and evaluation options so that they could think creatively and flexibly about different ways of assessing the effectiveness of their strategies.

The NEP has been an important initiative in enhancing the cultural, social, and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and it’s exciting for Flinders NT to be contributing to this pioneering work.
In March, for the first time, a national committee of psychologists chose to meet outside its Melbourne base, with Alice Springs being the chosen location. 
The Centre for Remote Health was pleased to host the National Committee of the Clinical College of the Australian Psychological Society, providing a first visit to Alice Springs for many of the 20-member committee.

The productive two-day meeting included discussions on many topics facing the profession of psychology with a particular emphasis on the issues relevant to clinical psychology. A suggestion of establishing a placement pipeline for Masters and Doctoral Clinical Psychology students was enthusiastically endorsed.

On Sunday, the Centre for Remote Health’s Kath Martin, presented a session on cultural considerations in delivering effective health care. Committee members found this session particularly helpful, and included ideas that would be incorporated into their clinical practice for more effective communication with their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients.

A visit to nearby Jessie, Emily and Simpsons Gaps, significant cultural sites for Arrernte people and part of the beautiful Central Australian landscape, was also included.
Professor Tim Carey, Director Centre for Remote HealthClinical Psychologist and Director of the Centre for Remote Health, Professor Tim Carey will spend 4 month’s studying in the United States after being awarded the 2017-18 Fulbright Northern Territory Senior Scholarship.

The Fulbright Scholarship was motivated by Professor Carey’s discovery of the lack of routine evaluation that occurs by health professionals and other service providers in remote communities. “By embedding regular and ongoing monitoring and evaluation there will be the opportunity to ensure that programs in remote communities are driven by community identified priorities and are producing tangible and important benefits for the residents of those communities.”

Professor Carey will spend time learning from his colleagues at the Center for Behavioral Health Innovation (BHI), at Antioch University in New Hampshire and, together with his own expertise will develop a framework of training and mentoring that will be provided to remote communities in Australia.

The Fulbright Program was established by Senator J William Fulbright and is the United States’ flagship foreign exchange program aimed at promoting mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchange.

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