Published: 10 July 2018

Legislative Council Tuesday 19 June


The specialist rural worker on King Island, a position created to provide counselling and social welfare support on the island, who has provided full-time counselling, support and health promotion for 17 years, has been made redundant. 

The specialist rural worker provided support and care to residents of King Island in the areas of mental health, suicide prevention and post-suicide support, domestic violence, court and legal aid, child protection, staff debriefing, financial support with food vouchers and Christmas hampers, pharmacy costs and one-way emergency air fares off the island.  This worker maintained working relationships with other services both on and off island, including police, churches, school, community groups and Centrelink, Rural Alive and Well, Housing Tasmania, YFCC, Anglicare, child protection and mental health services.

The specialist rural worker averaged 200 contacts per year over the last three years.  I am informed there is no further funding from 30 June this year for this position.  My questions are -

(1)    What plans are there to provide these services to residents on King Island?

(2)    How will urgent requests for support be provided for?

(3)    How are police expected to manage crisis situations where they currently rely on the backup and support of the specialist rural worker?

(4)    How will families in emergency need of food be supported and provided with essential supplies?


Mr President, I thank the member for Murchison for her question.

(1)  The services are provided by Rural Health Tasmania, an organisation created by Primary Health Tasmania, and funded by the Commonwealth Government.  The Tasmanian Health Service provided staff, including the rural specialist worker, under a labour hire arrangement, from 1 January 2017, which will finish on 30 June 2018.  Rural Health Tasmania will employ staff directly from 1 July 2018.  Rural Health Tasmania has advised there will be no change in service provision.  The clinical coordinator, chronic disease registered nurse and a new mental health clinician physician will continue to provide the same level of service to the King Island community, with additional hours to address more complex mental health and counselling services.  The Government will continue to work in collaboration with Rural Health Tasmania for the benefit of King Island residents.

(2)  Urgent requests will continue to be managed by Rural Health Tasmania as the service provider.  In addition, the King Island District Hospital and Health Centre is a 24-hour facility which has a close working relationship with the medical service provider, Ochre Health, with Rural Health Tasmania and with other key health and service providers on the island to ensure the diversity of activities supported under previous arrangements will be managed appropriately. 

(3)  The service continues to be provided by Rural Health Tasmania through the mental health clinician who will work with Tasmania Police.  The Tasmanian Health Service will also continue to work collaboratively with key providers to support crisis situations.

(4)  Support for families requiring emergency relief was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services and provided by the Salvation Army at designated sites throughout Tasmania.  King Island provided some services, $1000 per year for two years, under an agreement that expired on 30 June 2017.  The Tasmanian Health Service and Rural Health Tasmania will continue to refer eligible families to the Salvation Army and other service providers to access this level of financial support.

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