The challenges faced by families in rural and remote areas
Many of the challenges of raising a family in rural and remote areas can be attributed to the long distances between other people and services.
- Basic services, infrastructure and healthcare are farther away and not readily accessible.
- Feelings of social isolation can be exacerbated by distance from family and friends
- Rural and remote areas are more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events and natural disasters – especially where farming or agriculture is the main source of income.
- Job opportunities may be more scarce in rural and remote – and even many regional – areas.
- Rural and remote properties contain inherently more natural hazards, including wildlife, machinery and bodies of water.
Expand and maintain your social network
Proactively tackling and mitigating the above challenges will help ensure that your children have the best possible opportunity for a happy and healthy childhood. One of the best places to start is with your social network.
- Seek out occasions to meet other locals; visit festivals, farmers’ markets and community events to expand your social network and learn about the area.
- Play groups and play dates can be great opportunities to nurture your relationships with other families; consider carpooling to school or to your children’s sports events.
- Search for volunteering and common interest groups in your local area. You may be able to find these by visiting your local council or shire’s website, or through social media. Failing that, you can always start your own.
- Schedule regular video calls with family and friends, but try not to rely too much on passively browsing social media for news and updates – social media’s cultivated images can increase anxiety and ‘fear of missing out’. Prioritise genuine interactions.
Healthcare and financial support
Depending on your circumstances, you could be eligible for government support payments. This support may cover specialist healthcare needs for your child and the costs associated for travel and accommodation required to visit healthcare providers. Some medical specialists may be able to offer consultations over the phone or through a telecall service, like Skype or Facetime – be sure to ask.
Consider visiting the Department of Human Services website or contacting Centrelink to discuss the payments that may be available to you. Financial support can help alleviate some of the strain that can come with supporting a family while living in a rural or remote area.
By their nature, rural and remote properties contain a wider range of inherent hazards than homes in urban and regional areas. Typically, the outdoor lifestyles many families lead in rural and remote areas means there is a greater exposure to these hazards.
Undertake work around the property to reduce any risk to your family’s – and especially your children’s – safety. Start your children’s education early about any dangers on the property, and implement rules and barriers where necessary. Prepare response plans to various types of accident, injury or wildlife encounter that may occur.
Such plans should include what first aid, if any, can be applied; which emergency services to contact; and routes from the property to medical services. Consider undertaking CPR and First Aid training with an accredited provider and updating this training regularly.
Mental health and domestic violence
Individuals living in rural and remote areas are more vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes than those living in urban centres. This can be compounded by not only the financial pressures and challenges faced by anyone raising a family, but also by the vulnerability of farming and agriculture to weather events and climate change.
Be proactive in looking after yourself and encouraging members of your family to do the same. Don’t be afraid to talk about your problems; it’s often easier to determine a solution and a way forward in discussion with others.
While it can be confronting to address issues of domestic violence, a safe and secure home plays a major role in your child’s healthy development. Seek help early and discuss your feelings and issues with a professional – a GP is often an accessible place to start, but you can begin the conversation with anyone you trust.
- In an emergency, call 000.
- If you’re feeling uneasy or unsafe at home, call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
- If you’re feeling persistently down and isolated, consider calling beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, and if you have any thoughts of self-harm, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
- If you want to discuss any non-emergency health symptoms over the phone, call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak with a nurse.
- For free financial counselling, call Financial Counselling Australia on 1800 007 007.