Mallacoota doing it for themselves

Community stories: 20 November 2018

Mallacoota, in south-east Victoria is an isolated, remote and ageing community with poor transport links. While its official population is around 600, that swells to closer to 7,000 during Summer, which puts a lot of pressure on local infrastructure, including medical services.

It had got to the stage where the one remaining GP was ready to leave town – but before she did, she called a community meeting. She shared the challenges that she was facing, and the community was determined not to see her leave.

So they bought the clinic – and then set about finding doctors to come and live in their lovely part of the world.

But it didn’t all happen quite that easily.

One of the driving forces was Robin Bryant, who shared the community’s story at a Rural and Regional Funder Group meeting in Melbourne in September.

“CHIRF was launched following a community meeting called by Mallacoota’s then sole GP in April 2016, Dr Sara Renwick-Lau who outlined the challenges faced by a small medical practice in a very remote community. Following that meeting two key activities were activated; the first, a Doctor Search committee was formed with the goal of increasing the number of doctors in the community; and secondly, a fund-raising committee was formed and tasked with improving the equipment and facilities in the medical centre,” Robin explained.

A long-held aim of this resilient community was to build its own aged care facility – and Mallacoota Inlet Aged Care (MIAC) had been fundraising for it for some time. But they agreed that a good GP clinic was more important, so they put the funds raised toward helping to purchase the clinic,

The community created another body to own the facility – the Mallacoota Community Health Infrastructure and Resilience Fund (CHIRF).

“We joined forces with MIAC in a number of co-funding activities specifically for improving the equipment and facilities in the medical centre. With their funds we were able to purchase the medical centre as well as some medical equipment including a generator.

“As with the medical clinic and all our purchases, they remain a community asset and is used by the medical practice to improve medical outcomes in the community.

“Over the last couple of years we have partnered with philanthropy to help us address our community needs and provide a sustainable health service.

“We have just received a $136,864 grant through FRRR to support the development and implementation of additional health services through the clinic including a mental health program, better Allied Health coordination, and maintaining the Dr Search workforce recruitment program.”

We can’t wait to see what this community does next! That aged care facility looks almost a certainty with such a committed group of people determined to make it happen.