Rural Northwest Health

Executive Manager: People & Culture, Dr Kaye Knight, shares how a placement at Rural Northwest Health provide students with a better understanding of the health needs of rural communities.

Rural Northwest Health

Rural Northwest Health (RNH) is a small rural health service situated in the Wimmera Mallee region of Victoria. The region is known for its grain crops and the SILO Art Trail. We have 3 campuses based at Warracknabeal (main campus), Beulah and Hopetoun. Warracknabeal has a population of 2,500 people and is a 4-hour drive from Melbourne and ½ hour drive north of Horsham. RNH has been providing health services to the region for 128 years. We currently provide Acute Medical Care, Urgent Care, Residential Aged Care and Primary Care Services. The Primary Care services includes: Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy, Exercise Physiology, Speech Pathology, Health Promotion, Podiatry, Social Work, Continence and Diabetes services. With 290 employees, we are a major employer within our community. Our team is very important to us and we are a very welcoming place. Everyone says ‘Hello’!

I have known about the WIL program at Swinburne for many years and I have relatives who have studied at Swinburne and undertaken WIL. RNH believes in growing new people to work in rural health and we take lots of health students on clinical placement. This program offers a non-clinical experience and is a way to enable emerging professionals to better understand rurality and the health needs of rural communities.

In 2019 we took on our first WIL student after working with Swinburne for two years to find the right type of role for the program. So far it has been a great experience mainly because our WIL student is a ‘right fit’ for the role and for the rural setting.

Our WIL student has brought a fresh perspective and is using her knowledge and skills to help us to implement health promotion strategies in the community and wellness strategies for our team members. She has become an integral part of our team.


Our WIL student has been able to action things in a timely manner and get things off the ground. She is working directly with the community assisting with and leading health promotion activities. Her work with the People & Culture department is informing our wellbeing plan and, ensuring that we are doing lots of things that bring fun and enjoyment to the workplace.

The main challenge is the distance from major centres/cities, so the night life is a bit quieter and there isn’t a lot of shopping. We have very limited public transport, so students need a car. On the positive side, students can save a lot of money because the shopping and night life is limited! The rent is subsidised and a lot cheaper than in Melbourne. Students need to either have an adventurous spirit and/or a rural background. This is true country living and it gets hot in summer.

Sport is a major activity and a way to get to know the community. We have netball, tennis, cricket, table tennis, hockey, AFL, roller derby. We have plenty of recreational activities including water skiing, kayaking, bushwalking and rock climbing.

The accommodation is communal, so students build friendships with other young professionals living and working at RNH. There are a range of community groups that students can get involved with. The team is very supportive and we try to look after each other. Because the team is small, students get a breadth of experience and
take on responsibilities not normally available in a large health service.

It’s important students get to experience the unique work opportunities that will build amazing capabilities in the future. Rural employers will love the fact the students have had an experience of living and working rurally and students will have the opportunity to grow personally and professionally.