In an achievement for the local region; Echuca locals recently had the opportunity to deliver the opening address to delegates of the LaTrobe University Rural Health School in Bendigo at their tenth anniversary conference; and now one of the biggest rural health schools in Australia.
Some 150 Delegates travelled from their respective campus locations in Albury, Shepperton, Mildura, Sydney and Melbourne. The Conference and was opened by Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor of LaTrobe University who spoke of the development of the school over the last 10 years, and their future aim of being a world recognised leader in rural health research.
In a jointly delivered presentation by Nina O’Brien (Committee for Echuca Moama-C4EM) and Dr. Cath Lees (Echuca Regional Health), the pair articulated the importance of working with diverse community partners from within small communities to build research in response to local issues and demographic challenges on terms articulated by, and located with the local community.
On the cusp of a new three-year LaTrobe PhD Project conceived by C4EM known as ‘Ageing well in Echuca Moama’; both speakers explained how the partnership is unfolding and the importance of embedding health aspirations within a broader framework in whole of community well-being, infrastructure, education, economic and civic participation.
The ‘call to action’ conveyed to the audience of influential researchers included an encouragement to undertake research that makes a practical difference in people’s lives. “Regional communities are experiencing unprecedented change, and locally led research can help regional communities shape a really positive future.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, by 2036, 35% of people in Echuca Moama will be aged over 60 years compared to 23% in Victoria. Additionally; 2/3rds of the population growth will be people aged over 60.
Of particular note are the statistics in the Murray River Council region where 46% of people will be aged over 60 by 2036; growth of 11%. Comparably in Campaspe Shire Council region; 31% of people will be aged over 60 by 2036, with a larger cohort of people but smaller percentage growth of 2.4%.
CEO of C4EM Nina O’Brien commented “While this represents an increase of 4,220 people aged over 60, it is important we see this as opportunity not an encumbrance for the local community. The ageing well project will develop a contemporary, locally driven view of how older people wish to live and help articulate the support and infrastructure they require to age well.”
An important role of the committee (C4EM) is to take a long-term view of the region’s demographic changes, broker conversations across the community and build solutions to the social and economic development challenges that the region is likely to encounter.
The study reflects an important strategic direction of Echuca Regional Health that includes a commitment to increased community engagement and building of partnerships with the local community so they can genuinely play a role in their own future wellness.
CEO Nick Bush remarked “Building community partnerships that actively respond to local demographic changes provide an important opportunity for ERH to work alongside local people to improve the health of the community and respond to the wider determinates of health.”
The study will result in a solid evidence base of data, insights, innovations and recommendations for community-based action such as advocacy for better infrastructure, feasibility study development for identified projects, representations to government for improved services, economic participation initiatives, social connection initiatives, review of housing needs, facilitated collaboration between service providers to realise local solutions, or even simple community initiatives to ensure people over 60 age well.
The place-based research project has been in development for some months in response to the changing demographic profile of the Echuca Moama region, and is due to start early in the new year.
Image: L to R: Cath Lees (Director of Education, Training & Research at ERH) and Nina O’Brien (CEO of C4EM) conveying their message to researchers at La Trobe University.
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Echuca Moama
Ph: 0409 804 415