Rural and Remote Medical Services (RARMS) doctors (Dr Julian pictured left) and staff were honoured with songs and a smoking ceremony by the local Gamilaraay Elders and students from the Collarenebri Central School for the site of the new RARMS Medical Centre in Collarenebri.
The new centre will be known as Maarubaa Galariinbaraay-gu or Collarenebri Healing Place in the local Yuwaalaraay language.
Local school children have been practising for weeks in preparation for the grand opening of the new Medical Centre, but floods delayed the refurbishment work.
"RARMS has a very strong focus on working with young people and the community to support health literacy and lay the foundations for a healthy future. We didn't want to lose the enthusiasm the kids had for participating in the opening of their own healing centre" said Mr Burdack, CEO of RARMS.
"In discussions with Elders and the school, we decided to bring forward the ceremony so the kids didn't feel disappointed.
"We really want that sense of ownership and for young people to feel comfortable to just drop by if something is concerning them and start a discussion about healthy living" said Mr Burdack.
The idea of a new centre arose from discussions with the local community, the Elders and Shire Council following a reduction in access to hospital services in the town.
"Collarenebri is one of the most disadvantaged communities in Australia with high levels of preventable illness, high levels of avoidable hospitalisation and high rates of avoidable deaths. More than 40 percent of the community is Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people" said Mr Burdack.
"RARMS has been supplying on-site primary health care for 20 years in rural and remote towns that everyone told us could not attract permanent doctors. It has been recognised in a wide range of reports as the most successful and sustainable model of rural and remote health care in Australia.
"One of the big problems in rural and remote communities however is that our rural health services are largely run by hospitals which are set up to treat people when they get very sick. So we don't get the full benefits that a primary health care approach brings to rural and remote communities.
"As a primary health care provider, we work with local communities to keep people healthy and out of hospital.
"Our hope for Maarubaa Galariinbaraay-gu is not just to establish a new 'medical centre' but to start a new way to think about proactive health care focussed on keeping people well in rural and remote communities.
"Our government health budgets are at breaking point and this is impacting on funding for rural and remote health services. This is not the fault of rural people, but they are the one's that will bear the consequences.
"We cannot just continue to pour more and more money into the most expensive part of our health care system and hope things get better. We need a new approach.
"We know that early intervention and prevention through primary health care reduces illness and saves lives which is why we are the leading provider of sustainable health care in rural and remote communities" said Mr Burdack.
The new Centre will provide clinical space for our permanent GP, nurses and for visiting allied health professionals. It will also include a fully fitted-out one bedroom unit to house rural and Aboriginal medical students on placement, and visiting health professionals.
Mark Burdack is the CEO of RARMS. He was formerly the Executive Director of the Murray Darling Medical School and has worked across rural and remote communities to implement successful strategies to grow local health and medical workforce and build infrastructure to support increased training in rural and remote communities.
For more information contact Mark Burdack on 0418974988.