Regionalisation and general practitioner and nurse workforce development in regional northern Australia_Insights from 30 years of census migration data.pdf (6.02 MB)

Regionalisation and general practitioner and nurse workforce development in regional northern Australia: Insights from 30 years of census migration data

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-10-17, 23:24 authored by Dean Carson, Matthew McGrail, Ashlyn SahayAshlyn Sahay
The purpose of this research is to investigate the extent to which Australia's northern cities have become increasingly important mediators of migration of nurses and general practitioners (GPs) to the regional north since the 1980s. Over that period, national and provincial policy has focused on ‘regionalisation’ of health workforce development, including creating education and training infrastructure outside of metropolitan areas. This paper hypothesises that the effectiveness of regionalisation in northern Australia should be reflected in an increased net flow of GPs and nurses from northern cities (which are the hubs of education and training) to the regional north. Data from the seven Australian Census between 1986 and 2016 are used to model changing patterns of migration. Overall, there was limited evidence of substantial change in migration patterns, although for GPs there was a reduction in migration from the key metropolitan source markets (Brisbane and Adelaide) matching an increase in supply from northern cities. Northern cities have consistently been the source of about one quarter of new nurse and GP migrants to the regional north, but the regional north has become a much less favoured destination for professionals leaving northern cities as cities' populations have grown much faster than regional populations. Net flows have remained small and for nurses have favoured the cities while for GPs favoured the regional north. The paper concludes that, while there is limited evidence of increased ‘spillover’ of labour from the cities to the regional north, there is also no evidence of the cities increasingly ‘spongeing’ regional labour. Cities and regional migration systems may be increasingly disconnected as labour demands diverge, but new connections are being created with the rest of non-metropolitan Australia. The research is the first to analyse health professional migration over such a long period, and contributes to the debates about the roles of cities in sparsely populated areas in the development of their rural and remote hinterlands.




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Elsevier BV

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CC BY 4.0



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The University of Queensland

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  • Yes


Journal of Rural Studies

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