Australian children’s charity Royal Far West has been announced today as a global finalist for a $10 million Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award to scale up developmental and mental health services for Australia’s country kids.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Macquarie, $50m will be awarded to five non-profit organisations ($10m each) over five years to fund projects globally that will have a lasting community benefit. The global award seeks to initiate or build on bold ideas that address a social need and will have enduring outcomes.

The six-month decision process has whittled down 1000 applicants to just 12 finalists with Royal Far West being one of five local not for profits still in the running.

Royal Far West’s Macquarie Grant submission re-imagines health and learning outcomes for children in rural and remote Australia by proposing a scalable and sustainable developmental health service driven by video conferencing technology (“Telecare”) and strong community engagement, to overcome distance and chronic workforce shortages and strengthen the developmental health of country kids.

Children living in remote and very remote regions – a large proportion of the Australian landscape – are far more likely to be at risk and vulnerable than kids in the city. These locations typically have the least access to specialised child health services. As many as 300,000 country children lack the vital developmental and mental health support they need.

One of Australia’s most enduring and respected charities, Royal Far West is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people living in rural and remote communities.

“We cannot alter the physical distance between country families and the help they need. But we can remove the isolation and the despair, and the feeling of being “invisible” to the health system, by delivering specialist mental health, disability and speech services directly into remote schools, homes and communities. We are honoured to partner with Macquariein this important initiative”, says Royal Far West CEO, Lindsay Cane.

As a paediatric specialist in health, education and disability services, Royal Far West helps rural children, families, local health professionals and teachers to understand and respond to developmental challenges, mental health and intellectual disability, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, trauma and other complex health challenges.

There is irrefutable evidence that timely intervention for children with developmental challenges can make a significant improvement to their life acheivements. Conversely, disadvantaged and vulnerable children who cant access the help they need, can carry that disadvantage and vulnerability well into their adult life.

The Macquarie Foundation Award would enable Royal Far West to scale up its proven paediatric Telecare and Community Engagement services through investments in information systems and infrastructure, workforce, service delivery, and research.

Royal Far West’s Business Director Jacqui Emery says, “The funding will help us overcome the significant barriers of remoteness and affordability by establishing a national program of Telecare for Country Kids, to deliver technology-assisted health, education and social care services to Australia’s country children who need specialist help to thrive. The future of our country children and regional Australia’s long term health and prosperity will be more certain with the outcomes that this funding could deliver.”