Hi. My name’s Pip and I’m the Research Manager in the Research and Evaluation team at Royal Far West. The work we do includes coordinating the collection, analysis and reporting of information from RFW families, communities, external partners and internal staff including clinicians, and from across the world, to support our evaluation and research and improve our programs.
The evaluation of RFW programs is to determine their value to rural and remote families and communities, and to our partners, and where and how we can make improvements to ensure the programs are the best they can be.
We undertake research on anything and everything that can help our communities, including creating new knowledge and creative ways of thinking about what RFW is aiming to achieve with rural and remote families, communities and partners.
What led you to work at RFW?
I spent years working on global health projects in rural and remote communities in South Africa, Zambia and the Solomon Islands. I was very driven about equity in health – or ‘health for all’ in these countries. I came home briefly for some family time and a rest in 2016, and ended up signing on for a short project as a Research Coordinator on a University of Sydney Research Partnership project at RFW to improve global understanding of Telecare and its ability to improve the quality, efficiency, sustainability and equity of healthcare access for regional communities.
This involved interviewing many families, school partners, RFW staff and other stakeholders about telehealth and rural and remote health access for children. Everyone was inspiring, and I realised that there were some big battles to fight for ‘health for all’ in my own backyard, and some excellent people and communities to help me fight. So I stayed.
Describe your typical day?
I drink a very strong coffee and look at some data or research papers. Then our team meets with internal and external partners to plan research or evaluation projects – covering everything from clinical outcome measures we might be able to use via telehealth, to researching diet profiles and the potential link with child mental health, or we might interview a parent or carer about their experience of a RFW program and how they think it could be improved, or work with the CSIRO, clinicians, parents and carers to interpret data collected from wearable devices to help understand regulation in children to enable us to give them optimum support. Then I might look for the latest evidence for clinicians on an area that they are wanting to review or improve, or I might be asked to contribute to a government submission to advocate for rural and remote health access for kids. It’s pretty varied. I like it! It hasn’t changed much during COVID – except I miss seeing everyone in person and getting energised by their enthusiasm. But we are a telehealth organisation, so working remotely to provide services is our scene.
Have you noticed any changes during your time at RFW?
I’ve worked here for three years, and I’m still in awe of the impressive resilience, tenacity, creativity and energy of our families, schools and community partners to get things happening for their kids and communities, in the face of many barriers. Our clinicians and staff have always matched that vibe too.
I’ve noticed a change in the barriers these families face to access health care and support, which seems to have become far more daunting since the end of last year, with drought, bushfires and now COVID. It is very tough to see, however it’s clear that there hasn’t been any change in the fierce optimism, generosity and determination of our families and communities to improve access to services for their kids, or in Royal Far West’s drive to work with them to deliver these services – even with the barrier of COVID.
Advocating for kids
I admire the many families who willingly travel vast distances and try innovative methods to get their kids connected to the services they need to help them reach their full potential. I also must mention the many school Principals, Teachers, Learning and Support Co-ordinators and Teachers’ Aides who go out of their way to support these families to do this, and the local rural and remote clinicians who partner with RFW to support the kids. And the fierce PHN and LHD and FACS staff who push to get programs to their communities also need recognition for what they do. Everyone is working so hard to instigate and secure quality health services for kids in our rural and remote communities.
What’s your favourite thing at RFW?
The dynamism of the people. Everyone – clinicians, staff, families and communities – from Lightning Ridge to Hay and Bowraville, out to Bourke, and up to the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberly in WA and the team at Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre, on to Wide Bay in Queensland, out to Lord Howe Island in the middle of the Tasman Sea – with our partners at PHNs, LHDs (John Dean from Murrumbidgee LHD is a legend and should get an OBE), creative partners at Departments of Health, Education and Industry, are partnering to work together on amazingly edgy and innovative solutions to secure equitable service access for rural and remote kids in Australia. The power of these committed people is amazing – they are not afraid to push into areas and use innovation that other people are scared to try. ‘Health for all’. It’s very exciting! I love it.
Visit our Research and Advocacy page to find out more.
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