The WA Centre for Rural Health conducts research on issues that are important for rural health service delivery, with a particular focus on Aboriginal health, population health, workforce development and health professional education.

Current Research Projects

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Advancing rural mental health: Collaborative training program to address workforce shortage

Recruiting and retaining a qualified and competent mental health workforce is an ongoing challenge in rural areas, particularly for a new mental health inpatient service in Geraldton, Western Australia. To address this workforce risk, the Midwest Mental Health service and WA Centre for Rural Health collaborated to develop an orientation and education program for the WA Country Health Service staff who will work in the new mental health unit.

The program is the first of its kind in rural WA and reflects the collaboration of rural mental health experts in developing an innovative training program that addresses the local rural mental health workforce shortage. There is potential to replicate this program across WA regional and rural mental health sites.

Please contact Chantal Crinquand-Bachere, Monica Moran and Lindi Pelkowitz for further information.

Clinical Yarning education project

Clinical Yarning is a framework to assist clinicians to improve the effectiveness of their communication in Aboriginal health care. Clinical Yarning workshops build upon in-place cultural learning and provide clinicians and students with skills that translate cultural learning into healthcare practice. Clinical Yarning is complemented by an eLearning program which can be viewed here -

Please contact the researchers for further information: Dr Ivan Lin, Dr Deborah Balmer, and Trevor Pickett.

Development of a National DTA rural and remote dementia training framework

WA Centre for Rural Health researchers in partnership with Dementia Training Australia (DTA), are working to improve opportunities for training of health staff in rural and remote areas around dementia management and care.

This research responds to the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety which highlighted that care for older people in rural and remote areas needs to be improved.

Through a scoping review, multiple Roundtables in rural Australia, and a survey of providers working in aged care in rural and remote Australia, healthcare providers will help shape the nature of training about dementia so that it best meets their needs. This will inform the development of a National DTA Rural and Remote Training Framework.

Please contact the researchers for further information: Dr Sandra Thompson, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Dr John Woods.

Experiences of students and clients in rural student teaching clinics

This research aims to understand the value of student led rural allied health clinics to the community, as well as the learning impact for the students. Rural student allied health clinics are offered at the WA Centre of Rural Health as a part of a clinical placement experience designed to provide students with authentic learning. As a service-learning clinic, it also aims to offer supervised student allied health services to the community at no cost, aiming to attract those who may not otherwise have access to allied health services. At WACRH, student clinics currently in the disciplines of speech pathology, exercise physiology, physiotherapy, chiropractic and audiology. Placements in these disciplines vary in length (2 to 20 weeks) but all operate under the WACRH student clinic governance protocols. The purpose of this research is to explore the perspectives of; students who participate in student led allied health service-learning clinics at the WA Centre for Rural Health to learn about the value of the educational experience clients who attend the student led service-learning clinics.

The results will provide information on the value of student allied health clinics and provide direction for future student clinical placement programs in rural areas.

Please contact Kathryn Fitzgerald or Aimee Tingey for more information.

Exploring alternative cardiac rehabilitation

Telehealth is a safe and effective way to improve access to health services, including cardiac rehabilitation, in remote areas. Using a novel hub-and-spoke model, health professionals delivering the program would be based in regional centres (hub) and be responsible for multiple smaller townships (spokes). Group telehealth sessions will be delivered at a local facility more suited for participants addressing issues such as internet access and connectivity, social isolation, and local transportation. The aim of this study is to co-design and evaluate a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program using group telehealth sessions to improve physical and psychological wellbeing.

Please contact the researcher Dr Nikky Gordon for further information.

Improving Aboriginal cancer outcomes

The WA Centre for Rural Health has been involved in local and national research to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people with cancer for over a decade. This series of collaborative research projects explore various aspects of cancer care, including understanding Aboriginal people’s beliefs about cancer and their experiences accessing cancer care, identifying strategies to support Aboriginal people on their cancer journey and deliver culturally safe cancer care, and developing strategies to improve the cultural safety of the cancer workforce. One such strategy is the Whisper No More learning package for health students and clinicians, which contains stories from Aboriginal people about their experience of cancer. 

Please contact the researchers for further information: Dr Sandra Thompson and Emma Taylor.

Midwest Aboriginal Men’s Empowerment (MAME)

This project aims to build primary prevention capability, through developing skills and knowledge amongst Aboriginal men to engage in community-wide conversations about the primary drivers of family domestic violence (FDV) in the Midwest. The project was first identified by the Geraldton Aboriginal Men’s Group (GAMG) due to the lack of FDV information, support and understanding for and by First Nation’s male and boys in Geraldton and Mullewa.

Please contact the researchers for further information: Levi Thorne and Dr Charmaine Green.

Leading Thriving Workplaces

Funded by the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation & Safety (DMIRS) Mentally Healthy Workplaces Grant Program, the ‘Leading Thriving Workplaces’ initiative has the WA Centre for Rural Health working closely with two organisations in the Midwest to promote positive workplace practices. Staff at our partner agencies, Ngala and WA Country Health Service will build their knowledge and skills as leaders and champions for psychologically safe workplaces drawing on the evidence based Thrive at Work framework and Dare to Lead™. The project will help inform how health and human services can build workplace cultures that attract, support and keep staff in the regions.

Please contact the researchers for further information: Dr Julie Loveny and Chen Yen Loo.

Long speech pathology placements

Speech pathology students complete their clinical practical placements through the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH). We offers a range of clinical placements lengths including 8 weeks, semester long (approximately 20 weeks) and yearlong placements. This research project explores the experiences of students who have completed semester and yearlong placements with WACRH through in depth interviews. Results are expected to be available in 2024.  

Please contact the researchers for further information: Kathryn Fitzgerald and Belinda Goodale.

Student placement survey project

Rural workforce recruitment is a critical health issue in Australia, with ongoing investment into solutions that might help address workforce deficits in rural areas. Rural placement programs effectively promote positive attitudes and open up possibilities for rural careers among university students of all health disciplines.

For many years, WACRH has systematically collected data on allied health and nursing students taking rural placements, including a questionnaire provided to students at the commencement and end of their placement.

The aim of the research project is to use this information to investigate how students’ perspectives on rural health careers are influenced by their experiences during rural placements, by other various aspects of the placements (e.g., placement type and length), and by characteristics of the students themselves.

Please contact the researchers for further information: Dr Sandra Thompson, Dr John Woods, Kathryn Fitzgerald, Rohan Rasiah, Dr Charmaine Green, Lenny Papertalk

Published Research

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Researchers at the WA Centre for Rural Health regularly publish papers. These papers can viewed on the UWA Profiles and Research Repository.

View WACRH Research Outputs

Research Training

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We welcome research higher-degree students and honours students with an interest in rurally-based health and social research. We have a team of experienced research academics available to provide supervision and support. We encourage place-based research and engagement with local communities as research partners. 

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Our purpose is to provide innovative rural health education and research to improve health in rural communities