Healthy Communities Scholarship winner Natalie Young with Gwydir Cotton Growers Association committee member Liam Winter and chair Mick Humphries.
Two health students will receive a $10,000 boost to their university studies over the next two years as the winners of the Dr William Hunter and Healthy Communities scholarships.
Hosted by the Barwon Health Alliance and Gwydir Cotton Growers Association (CGA) the two long-running scholarships have supported health students from the Moree, Warialda, Bingara and Collarenebri communities for more than 20 years.
“I’m still a little bit shocked actually!” Healthy Communities winner Natalie Young said.
“It’s a bit tough with the cost of living at the moment, so it’s a really big help,” added Dr Hunter scholarship winner Will O’Donoghue.
The pair both said they are looking forward to undertaking local clinical placements during the award presentation last Friday.
Retired GP and namesake of the Barwon Health scholarship, Dr William Hunter, said that the scholarships are more important now than they have ever been; encouraging health students to bring their skills back to the area as country communities face a shortage of medical professionals.
Studying a Bachelor of Social Work through Charles Sturt University while living and working in Moree, Natalie’s passion for rural health has grown over the years.
“There’s a massive need for health services, and that’s the reason why I actually got into social work,” she said. Natalie spent 15 years in mental health administration and another 12 working in local communities.
“I would like to do general social work. I’d like to be able to work with clients around oncology and mental health,” she said.
Returning to the country has been a goal for Will from the onset of his medicine degree at the University of Queensland. Will grew up in the little community of Gurley between Narrabri and Moree.
“I’d definitely like to come back to the country,” he said. Although he is unsure of what form this may take, currently the rural generalist pathway looks most appealing.
Will believes the need for local health workers is growing.
“I can see how much worse it’s getting and how quickly, even in my lifetime. It’s getting harder and harder to see someone,” he said.
The scholarships funds will go towards living and study costs for Will and Natalie as they take on clinical placements in the region.
Applications for the 2024 scholarships will open later this year.