Raising the BARR – Week ending 31/5/2024

Raising the Barr


One of my roles as an MP is to participate in Committee work. I am on a number of Committees and I am the Chair of several, but in recent times one Committee has really opened my eyes to the downward trend in public service.

I am a proud member of the Select Committee on Rural, Regional and Remote Health (SCRRRH). Our work, in a nutshell, is to travel around the state and fact-check whether or not things are getting better, in the delivery of health care, in areas away from our major cities. What I have seen and heard thus far is … well, its concerning.

In 2022 an Inquiry into health delivery in our rural, regional and remote areas clearly identified that things weren’t good. In response both the then Government and the then Opposition committed to making things better. Everyone was on board.

So while the Government changed in 2023, from one side of politics to the other, what was certain was the plan to improve healthcare in our regions.

In recent months the SCRRRH has travelled to Grafton, Armidale, Broken Hill, Wilcannia and Orange. Our planned trip to Tenterfield was cancelled due to fire – but we did meet with them via internet.

One of the really concerning findings from the first Inquiry, and the same one that we all see in the media almost every day, is the terrible staff shortage in health. The shortages are hardest felt in our regions where the size of the properly qualified and trained people available is so much smaller than in our cities. In simple terms, if we don’t have the workers available, then it doesn’t matter what else we do in health.

About 85% of our population live within one hour of the coast. But about 95% of our land mass in NSW is more than 1 hour away from the coast. So if you think finding a nurse or a physiotherapist is hard in Cessnock, Singleton or Maitland, try finding one in Bourke, Narrabri or Hay.

While I acknowledge all of these basic challenges, there is one core truth that has troubled me greatly as our SCRRRH talks to more and more people – the citizens of NSW seem to have stopped choosing many of the public service roles that have been so fundamental to our success.

Yes, the SCRRRH is looking into levels of health staff, but we also know that we have staff shortages in other major public service employment categories across the state, like teachers and police.

The very fabric of our society relies on our public servants and public services. I can tell you from experience that there is a very special, non-monetary pleasure that comes from being a public servant. More often than not the work that a public servant does is seen by them personally as more than “just a job”. But there is the reality that massive gaps in wages and income, throughout a career, can deeply affect decisions made by people when choosing a career pathway in their late teens.

So please, be sure to let a public servant near you know how much you appreciate their work. And even better, consider joining the team.