The Southern Country Health Service has a network of six public hospitals, including the recently completed Albany Health Campus. This state-of-the-art integrated health facility is the biggest country hospital development undertaken in Western Australia. Costing $170.4 million, it was funded by $161.6 million from the State Government (including $60.9 million from Royalties for Regions) and $8.764 million from the Federal Government.
The State Government managed rural hospitals, including Katanning and Mount Barker, have aged care beds co-located with the hospital. Under the State Government’s Southern Inland Health Initiative $35.43 million will be invested into the Katanning Hospital upgrade from 2011-2016 and a number of other initiatives should boost medical resources in Great Southern country towns. There are a number of private health professionals working in the region, including GPs.
There remains a range of unmet complex needs of at-risk children and their families in the region and this, coupled with a lack of allied health services for children aged 0-12 years, is a concern. Child health waiting lists can be in excess of 18 months, causing lengthy delays for diagnosis and treatment of health issues, such as behavioural disorders.
Health outcomes are strongly linked to education and employment pathways in youth. Across the region there is a range of complex needs of vulnerable children and their families that is being addressed, in part, through the Federal Government funded Communities for Children program that focuses on positive child and parent interaction in playgroups or other community activities.
There is an urgent need for improved access to health services for the outer regional, rural and remote communities of the Great Southern as well as a need to adequately consider the needs of our ageing population.
ARTS & CULTURE
Arts and culture are fundamental to the economy, health and identity of Great Southern communities. Albany and Denmark, in particular, are well known for the high level of creative activity and the number of creative people who live there. Arts and culture has a strong presence in the region, with organisations including Creative Albany, Denmark Arts Council and Southern Edge Arts receiving substantial funds to build strong arts and cultural links.
Many of these activities are reliant on Government funding, State and/or Federal and Local Government sponsorship and support. In particular Local Governments have a pivotal role in responding to the needs and interests of seniors, youth, Aboriginal people, and the disabled.
Great Southern communities benefit from a wide range of cultural activities. Visual art, music, performance and writing are actively pursued through community groups, by individuals, and through organisations that receive on-going funding for their activities.
The Albany Entertainment Centre is the premier entertainment venue in the Great Southern enabling the region to attract high profile quality performances.
Taste Great Southern, Perth International Art Festival (PIAF), wine festivals, Vintage Blues, music festival, farmer’s and craft markets, the Kodja Place Visitor Centre, wildflower shows, the Southern Art and Craft Trail and Hidden Treasures of the Great Southern are popular regional events and attractions for many tourists. There is opportunity for greater collaboration across the sector to enable a more coordinated regional approach to arts development and promotion. This could include an annual events program, co-ordination of touring performances across the region, employment of a Regional Arts Officer, pop-up galleries and/or touring exhibitions.
The proposed ANZAC Centenary scheduled for 2014 - 2019 and the Bicentennial of European settlement in Western Australia in 2026, are two important cultural events in Australia’s history. There will be a number of events organised in Albany to commemorate the departure of the first convoy. Similarly large crowds and a series of events are planned for Anzac Day 2015. it is proposed that the opening of the National ANZAC Centre will take place during the commemoration.
Further, there are pockets of culturally and linguistically diverse communities across the Great Southern arising out of migration often needing integration assistance, e.g. Katanning, Albany and Kojonup. Through their disability and social inclusion planning processes Local Government has an important role in assisting the assimilation of migrants into our communities. This is reflected in the recently adopted Community Strategic Plans.
SPORTS & RECREATION
Sport and recreation make an important contribution to society, improving the health, wellbeing and lifestyle of residents across communities through increased physical activity. Sport and recreation is an important vehicle that brings the community together and provides people with opportunities for positive interactions. It fosters good physical and mental health and can play an important role in creating the places and events for people to get together.
Participation is high in recreational activities throughout the Great Southern, with many inland communities, heavily reliant on sport for the enhancement of social activity. Local Governments and communities within the Great Southern region provide and maintain the majority of sport and recreation infrastructure, with facilities ranging from large multifunctional indoor recreation centres to local parks and a variety of recreational trails. Other recreation infrastructure includes public pools, fields for organised team sports, passive open space areas and skate parks as well as facilities to accommodate hiking, swimming, water skiing, sailing, hang gliding, horse riding, polocrosse and mountain biking. A list of sporting facilities and infrastructure in the Great Southern is listed in Appendix 3 of the RDA Great Southern Regional Plan 2013-2018.
The provision and management of sport and recreation facilities has traditionally been undertaken by Local Governments with planning assistance provided by the State Government.
Trails and outdoor recreation is a growing area attracting tourists into the region and capitalises on the unique natural mix of forests, mountains and aquatic assets in the Great Southern. Several major recreational infrastructure projects, such as Bibbulmun Track and the Munda Biddi Cycle Trail, provide a solid basis for recreational pursuits and extension of commercial operators providing tourism services in the region.
Sport and recreation organisations, Local Governments and DSR partner to provide on-going training, education and support towards the recruitment and retention of volunteers. Demystifying volunteer roles (in planning, funding processes and reducing the ‘red tape’ around compliance responsibilities) and the provision of comprehensive training to volunteers in the areas of governance, officiating and coaching is fundamental to maintaining strong vibrant clubs in the Great Southern.