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Does the Australian preoccupation with ‘the bush’ mean that 85% of Australians are overlooked? In our recent Federal Government budget, a number of new initiatives were announced, but all of them are focused on getting doctor for rural areas.

When will Australian health policy recognise the importance of providing good care to highly disadvantaged communities on the edges of the metropolitan areas. These communities have significant health care needs and poor health outcomes – similar to those of rural areas.

Take for example, the rates of diabetes in suburbs such as Blacktown, NSW (7.1%), Dandenong, VIC (7.0%),  Fairfield, NSW (7.6%) are just as high as many of the rural diabetes hotspots (with the exception of Northern Territory). These are areas in need of a more GP jobs, though they are not locations of choice for Australian-trained GPs looking for career opportunities. If the government is not willing to recognise the needs of these metropolitan communities, they are sacrificing community needs at the altar of political expediency?

The assumption appears to be that GP jobs are needed only in communities in the ‘bush’  while suburban practices have an oversupply. In spite of the increased numbers of Australian doctors, it is difficult to find GPs who are willing to work in outer metropolitan areas with significant medical support needs.  More importantly, many of these clinics operate on a bulk billing basis and therefore have significant problems attracting Australian GPs looking for work.

The Australian fascination with the ‘bush’ continues to carry a great deal of political sway, but some the sentiment is based on urban myths.

As highlighted in a recent edition of the The Diplomat,

There remains a strong sentiment clinging to the country’s national myths, which see “the bush” as the soul of Australia, despite the statistics that prove otherwise. As a young, modern state with an advanced economy (albeit with significant resource and agricultural sectors) Australia hasn’t existed in an era that lent itself to developing strong regional centers with vibrant industries of their own. The gains from proximity that fuel urbanization have been an increasing aspect of human organization since European colonization. That is why Australia has been, and continues to be, one of the most urbanized countries in the world, with almost 90 percent of its population living in cities.

This is backed up by other official population data which states that 80% of Australians live in urban areas and nearly 70% live in capital cities.