Charles Sturt hosts Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage

4 APRIL 2024

Charles Sturt hosts Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage

Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga hosted the fourth and final hearing of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage in NSW on Thursday 4 April.

  • Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga hosted a public hearing for the Parliamentary Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage in NSW on Thursday 4 April
  • Dr Geoff Dutton was one of a few Charles Sturt representatives who made a submission to the Inquiry
  • Charles Sturt is helping train successful and capable veterinarians to plug the workforce shortage

Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga hosted the fourth and final hearing of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage in NSW on Thursday 4 April.

Two Charles Sturt Professors spoke at the public hearing, including Professor in Veterinary Pathobiology Shane Raidal and Professor in Equine Medicine Sharanne Raidal, both in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences.

A statewide shortage of veterinarians prompted the inquiry to examine why people are leaving the profession, particularly regionally, with the Upper House committee for Regional NSW launching the investigation into concerns of burnout, pay and other work-related pressures.

Since launching in June 2023, the Inquiry has received more than 200 submissions from vets across the state, including Associate Head of School (Veterinary Sciences) and Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Anatomy in the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences Dr Geoff Dutton.

Dr Dutton told the Inquiry in September last year the rural veterinary landscape was in crisis, inviting the committee to come to Wagga Wagga and see firsthand how Charles Sturt is assisting in alleviating some of those pressures.

“Each year, Charles Sturt helps teach and train as many as 65 new vet students, with even more interest in the degree than we can take on,” Dr Dutton said.

“We also know about 75 per cent of our graduates work in rural, regional and remote locations, with more than 85 per cent of our veterinary science students staying in these areas beyond graduation.

“This regional experience is essential to the degree, and by showcasing the opportunities for meaningful employment to students, it goes a long way to supporting a healthier workforce.”

Despite this support, issues around cost-of-living and the cost of studies remain. Dr Dutton said this is where the government could step in and offer assistance through scholarships or HECS support.

“Many veterinary students will be working one or two non-related jobs whilst studying for their degree, and newly-graduated veterinarians are commencing the career that they worked extremely hard for on the back foot,” he said.

“The fact that the veterinary degree is up to twice as long as most non-veterinary degrees is additionally problematic, so we need to financially encourage students to stick out their vet course through scholarships or other means of funding.”

These concerns were aired to the Committee, who toured the campus ahead of the formal hearing, where students and staff had the opportunity to speak openly about the issues and offer a firsthand look at some of the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

Given the interest in veterinary studies and graduate success is high through Charles Sturt, Dr Dutton said the issue then fell to staff retention beyond university.

“Vets face huge pressures around their mental health, being undervalued by clients who think they know better and facing daily battles around offering care which is needed, versus that care which may not be affordable to the client,” he said.

“A lot needs to change before we can reverse, or start to fix, more than 20 years of damage to the industry.”

The Inquiry’s Committee Chair the Hon. Mark Banasiak toured the veterinary teaching, research and clinical facilities at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga as part of the regional visit.

“It’s extremely important to go to the source and understand where and how prospective vets are being trained, what’s involved from a cost perspective, and also getting an understanding of the rigorous nature of these courses,” Mr Banasiak said.

“We’ve heard through the Inquiry that the workforce is even worse in regional and rural areas, so it is important to visit as many of these areas as possible, which was a direct request by Charles Sturt we refused to ignore.”

Mr Banasiak said he and fellow committee members were thrilled to see the leading veterinary resources on offer at Charles Sturt, which helped offer more regional employment opportunities to graduates.

“We also acknowledge that having some means of HECS support for students is of high importance to those sharing their concerns through the Inquiry, as well as considering external factors contributing to making regional and rural living challenging,” he said.

“We need to be looking at improving schools for these vets’ children, other employment opportunities for their partners, adequate healthcare systems and particularly mental health support for such a challenging industry.”

Committee members joined Charles Sturt representatives on tours of the University’s Teaching Cattle Yards, Veterinary Clinical Centre, Biomedical Sciences building and Pre-Clinical Centre, before attending the public hearing in the University’s Convention Centre from 2pm.

ENDS


Media Note:

For more information or to arrange an interview with Dr Geoff Dutton, contact Jessica McLaughlin at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0430 510 538 or via news@csu.edu.au


PHOTO: Members of the Committee for the Inquiry into Veterinary Workforce Shortage in NSW toured Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga alongside University representatives.

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Wagga Wagga Animal and Veterinary science Charles Sturt University