Welcome to the Spring edition of the Bush Telegraph.

In this edition...

How COVID-19 keeps reminding us that Western Queensland is unique

 With state borders set to re-open shortly and with the Northern Territory battling an outbreak, the pressure is on to ensure COVID-19 vaccination rates in our patch continue to rise.
The WQPHN COVID-19 Response Team is making significant inroads around the priority areas where vaccination rates have been a concern.
“It never ceases to amaze me how diverse Western Queensland is, and I think COVID has really exposed just how important it is to acknowledge and cater for those differences,”   COVID‑19 Response Program Manager Kathleen O’Hara said.
“We have some local government areas that have achieved high vaccination rates with relative ease, and others that require vastly more time and effort to assist in achieving vaccine goals that will provide them with a level of safety in the inevitable event of an outbreak.”
“It just goes to show how important it is that we ensure primary care is place-based and tailored to local communities that can each have radically divergent needs,
” Kathleen said.
General Practices and vaccinating Pharmacists have been providing a steady administration of vaccines, with a recent pick up in numbers following the initial announcement of the border opening and the double-dose requirement for entry to entertainment and other venues. 
Of the 20 LGAs, all bar three regions have 64% of their residents with at least 1 dose, and just over half are fully vaccinated.
In Mount Isa, where there is the largest population of First Nations people in the region, a steady increase in vaccination numbers has brought the rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to 60%  partially vaccinated and almost 40% fully vaccinated.
“We’ve been working very closely with the North West HHS, Gidgee Healing and the National COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce to target priority communities including Normanton, Cloncurry, Mount Isa, Mornington Island and Doomadgee,” Kathleen said. 
“Additional vaccination services are being provided to these communities and WQPHN has being actively coordinating the rollout of visiting services into the region including door to door community engagement. “
“We’ve continued to use our Jibber Jabber campaign on Facebook in conjunction with some offline activations including a selfie photo backdrop, button badges and letterbox drops.”

Coupled with the tireless efforts to increase initial vaccination rates is the commencement of the Booster Shot program for Residential Aged Care Facilities in our patch. 
“It wasn’t that long ago that we were celebrating that our aged care residents in Western Queensland were fully vaccinated, and now the visiting vaccination services are embarking on a booster shot program for those who received their second dose 6 months ago or longer,” Kathleen said.
“COVID continues to keep us all on our toes as we ensure our partner agencies are well equipped and ready to meet the inevitable influx of the virus into our region.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people vaccination rates in the Western Queensland Region, Source: Qld Health
👉 58% of the eligible population are partially vaccinated (one dose)
👉 41% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated (both doses)

Growing a First Nations Workforce - from the ground up

Earlier this year a packed conference room in Roma was captivated by what could turn out to be a pivotal moment in the health of Western Queenslanders.

Our CEO Sandy Gillies called all the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers in the room to the stage at the South West Health Forum, in what turned out to be a vivid display of existing talent and more importantly, an indicator of what could lie ahead.

“Everyone who was there at that Forum remembers that moment, it was pretty moving and uplifting to see such a strong representation of First Nations peoples in our health workforce in the South West and beyond,” Sandy said.

“But we certainly can’t wrest on our laurels after a feel good moment in time, we’re now taking the next steps to build on the strength and size of our First Nations workforce through our long standing partnerships with stakeholders in our patch.”

The WQPHN, alongside our MOU partners, RFDS (QLD Chapter), CheckUp and Health Workforce Queensland, have joined forces with the Nukal Murra Alliance Member organisations to progress a Western Queensland Rural and Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce strategy for the region. 

The Nukal Murra Alliance Members represent the four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services across the West and are the primary employers of the First Nations people across the footprint.

“Teaming up with our partners is the key to ensuring this project doesn’t lose its momentum, every organisation we have joined with has their own set of skills and experience to contribute,” Sandy explains.

“They provide the vital linkages to communities and can ensure that what we build is achievable and realistic, and is geographically, culturally and financially appropriate for the region.”

The MOU partners have engaged Petraichor Partners to assist with development of both the strategy and implementation plan to ensure that we put our ideas into firm actions, resulting in growing our own local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce via consultation with key stakeholders.

“We all know that maintaining a sustainable health workforce in rural and remote Queensland hinges on how well you engage with the local community and develop the capacity of local people to undertake roles in health,” Sandy said.

“In the First Nations context, this is even more crucial as it not only provides a level of cultural sensitivity for the consumer and the service as a whole that’s being delivered, but it also provides opportunities for building careers in health that I hope will mean many more inspirational moments like the one we experienced at the Forum in March.”

Nukal Murra Alliance Evaluation and Strategic Plan

Nukal Murra Alliance:
Key members of the Nukal Murra Alliance met in October to discuss significant Strategic Health Reports for planning and review over the next 3-5 years for Indigenous Health in the Western Queensland Region. 

The goal of the Alliance is to work collaboratively with other funded agencies to support the re-direction of funds to Indigenous Health programs through the Nukal Murra Health Support Services.

Alliance ITC Program:
The Care Access Manager commissioned through CWAATSICH has commenced scheduling dates over the coming months for community and stakeholder visits, including care coordination services of clients across the WQ region. Local networks and clients will be informed of these dates in the coming weeks.

Nukal Murra Report Cards are supplied regularly to Alliance and Clinical Chapter members, which are a great measure to indicate the uptake of ITC services.

Western Queensland Visiting Credentialed Diabetes Educator Program (VCDEP)

Western Queensland Visiting Credentialed Diabetes Educator Program (VCDEP) funded by the Western Queensland PHN continues to provide diabetes healthcare professional education to general practices within Western Queensland.

WQ visiting Credentialed Diabetes Educator (CDE) Program has expanded

  • Group education recently facilitated in Mount Isa, Charleville and Roma

  • Commissioned a full time dedicated diabetes Aboriginal Health Worker based at Gidgee Healing

  • The Move It North Queensland (NQ) program has expanded to more towns, with virtual delivery methods and capacity building initiatives also being developed for hard to reach individuals and communities

  • Three year contract with My Health for Life Program recently secured

  • Introduction of the Patient Activation Measure (PAM)

Diabetes service delivery during COVID-19 has been maintained through utilising a range of telehealth and video conferencing options to meet patient needs. Increased telehealth has also enabled diabetes educators to attend to waitlists and increase flexibility of appointments, enabling patients who were previously not available to attend a face-to-face visit to be seen at a time convenient to them.

The patients that the VCDEP diabetes educators see are diverse, and contain a wealth of experiences and stories.

Clockwise from top:
1. Lesley Delandelles RN (now retired) from Jericho Clinic, Nicole McClure Diabetes Qld CDE and Clinical Lead. 2. DESMOND group in Mount Isa. 3. Polly visited Michael in his garden, who grows his own vegetables - great for healthy eating and diabetes prevention!

Diabetes CDEs making a difference in community...


A lady with type 2 diabetes recently saw a diabetes educator who spent 90 minutes with her explaining her condition, how her medications work and how high blood glucose levels can impact overall health. This lady was supported to start taking her medication and monitor her diabetes.

One month later the patient came back for a review with the diabetes educator and said, "I wish I was referred to you ten years ago!"

Her fasting blood glucose levels are now in target, she is seeing an exercise physiologist, a podiatrist and an optometrist.

Her mental health is fantastic and she now takes medication because she understands how it works and benefits her overall health, mind, body and soul.

The diabetes educator encouraged this lady to spread the word and help other people in her community who are finding self-managing diabetes challenging to get a referral to a diabetes educator.

WQPHN Contact:  
Leanne Mullan, Diabetes Program Manager

A WiSE Approach to Mental Health for our Young People

The pandemic has changed many things in our lives, caused many hardships, but also fast-tracked innovations that may have lagged had it not been for the urgency of dealing with COVID-19.

Telehealth services to rural and remote Western Queenslanders have been super-charged by the pandemic, giving access to health support where distance and resourcing may have prevented its reach before the virus took hold.

The WiSE (Wellbeing in Schools Early intervention) program is one such initiative that’s starting to gain traction thanks to the evolution of Telehealth services -  now a key part of the options for clinicians to access for the 5 to 18 year old cohort that the WiSE program is targeting. 

“General Practitioners in our patch have told us that they would really like to access some specialist services because they're at times unsure about the needs of the young person,” Primary Mental Health Care Commissioning Coordinator Mark Goddard said. 

“We've worked with headspace National and we've actually commissioned them to provide some telehealth psychiatric consults, so that gives general practice more capacity then to tap into those specialists networks.”

headspace Telepsychiatry Operations Coordinator Catherine Roberts says GPs can now access telepsychiatry services for patients aged 12 to 25, plus ongoing support beyond the primary consultation.

“GPs and clinicians are also able to access secondary consultations that aim to build the expertise of local health workforces and support them, by providing access to a psychiatrist for case management advice and clinical supervision,” Catherine said.

“This is a great way for clinicians to discuss their patients in general terms with a specialist that not only builds the clinician's skill-set when it comes to mental health, but also respects the privacy of patients who aren’t named or identified in these secondary consult sessions.”

Early intervention is a key element of the WiSE program and Mark explains that for your people especially, getting to their mental health issues in a timely way can mitigate many long-term impacts.

“The core purpose and core difference of the WiSE program is to be able to provide early intervention particularly around what we've called that kind of early psychosis,” he said.

“There's plenty of evidence around and research that shows that if we work with young people and get them involved in good primary healthcare early on and avoid the peaks and troughs of a mental illness, then we can certainly decrease that burden of disease over the years as they mature.” 

“It’s really about working with those young people through our Commissioned Service Providers to provide a service that helps parents, teachers and young people really identify where that person's needs are from a well-being perspective, and then our CSPs can work with those young people for up to six sessions and step them up to general practice if further services are required.”

For any General Practitioners interested in this service, please contact
Mark Goddard at or 0438 147 662

Click here for more information
Download Expression of Interest form
Clinical and Consumer Advisory Council come together in Brisbane

For the first time in 2 years members of the Clinical and Consumer Advisory Council came together in Brisbane in early November. While COVID-19 has allowed the Councils to meet via Videoconference, face-to face-meetings are still invaluable.

The meeting content was co-developed by the Councils, who have matured as a group to both contribute issues of importance to their regions, and contribute to the decision making process alongside the WQPHN.

Regional issues were a focus of both Council Chairs, with key items brought to the table including:
  • COVID-19 vaccination rollout status in regions, including hospital readiness and capability of remote localities in the event of an outbreak
  • Mental health and AOD concerns resulting from the effects of the pandemic
  • Independent living options for older rural and remote residents
  • Rural and remote incentive packages for nursing staff in the Central West
  • eConsultant program developments for eScripts
  • My Community Directory including new app development
  • WQ Health Care Home development workshop
  • Overview and review of the Department of Health 10 year health plan 
  • Review of the corresponding Council's Terms of Reference

The group raised the need for more representation of both Councils in the North West region, and local champions are encouraged to be part of the invaluable input the Councils provide to both the Board and the Western Queensland PHN.


Barcaldine and District Seniors' Games

The Barcaldine 60 & Better program, supported by the WQPHN recently hosted the Barcaldine and District Seniors’ Games in October, one of 23 similar programs across Queensland.

COVID-19 restrictions led to cancellations in previous years but was welcomed back in 2021.

60 & Better Programs are healthy ageing programs designed to encourage people to maintain their interests and participate in all aspects of life through active physical, social and mental interaction.

The event was well-attended by the local community, who enjoyed a morning of healthy activities and games , while having access to Wellness and Healthy Living Information.

The local Qld Police Service even joined in the fun!

Participants were provided with a questionnaire to stimulate positive thinking to encourage control of their own health and to seek strategies to enhance their well-being and health literacy.

This and similar programs are not restricted to those over 60 years of age. All people over 50 years are eligible to participate.

For more information contact Barcaldine Council's 60 & Better Coordinator - Jean Williams.

T: 07 4651 2354
F: 07 4651 2354


Tripartite Recallibration - Getting Boots on the Ground

In late September, with COVID-19 running rampant in southern states and Queensland perpetually on edge for the next breakout or lockdown, the business of primary health care rolled on in the North West.

The Tripartite Agreement - a partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service Gidgee Healing, the North West Hospital and Health Service and the WQPHN – was due for revision, and all parties to the Agreement made the commitment to meet face to face in Mount Isa.

In a way, this meeting was a signal to stakeholders that signatories to the Tripartite Agreement weren’t going to let the pandemic derail the important strategic aims of this unique collaboration, and an opportunity to make a pledge to get “boots on the ground” to where the health services are delivered.

“2020 was a real shock to the system and everyone had to change the way they worked and lived due to COVID,” WQPHN CEO Sandy Gillies said.

“To ensure we protected the health of our communities, especially our vulnerable populations across the North West, few of us were able to travel and reinforce those vital, face to face connections with health workers on the ground.”

“But we’ve all become better at managing our lives so that COVID is kept at bay, and so among our Tripartite partners we’ve agreed that getting in a car or on a plane, where restrictions permit, and travelling to these hard-to-reach areas is now something we must do.”

Michael Walsh from the NWHHS says gaining insights at a local level is vital.

“It's really critically important that we come together and actually look at each community because every community has its own specific issues, arrangements and service requirements that we have to respond to,” Michael said.

“What we've been able to do is look at the practical application of the strategies in the Agreement, and what it is we're going to do that will translate into things on the ground that will benefit people.”

“Things like responding to the current COVID crisis and ensuring that people receive vaccinations, ensuring that people get continuity of care across primary care and acute care in their community, and that they have access to the right specialists when they need them in the community.”

“All those practical things that when a person turns up to receive a service, it doesn't matter whether it's Gidgee Healing, or whether it's the North West HHS, they're getting the best service that they can, and that the clinicians are working in partnership,”
Michael said.

Gidgee Healing Chair Shaun Solomon says the value of the Tripartite Agreement is that it gives a true commitment to the First Nations’ voice across the Gulf communities, but also across the North West more broadly.

“The North West of Queensland is from Mornington Island right down to Julia Creek, Mount Isa and this area,” Shaun said.

“It’s a massive region with huge geographical challenges, for example just setting up an outreach clinic for a day is a 3 to 5 day proposition outside of your normal clinical work.”

“Distance and diversity is what we're trying to tackle, so we are committing to that in terms of achieving good access and outcomes for our First Nations communities – it’s something that the Tripartite Agreement has prioritised.” 

WQPHN Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Update

Conditional approval has now been received from Reconciliation Australia for the WQPHN Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Since 2006, Reconciliation Action Plans (RAPs) have enabled organisations to sustainably and strategically take meaningful action to advance reconciliation.
Based around the core pillars of relationships, respect and opportunities, RAPs provide tangible and substantive benefits for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, increasing economic equity and supporting First Nations self-determination. 

The four RAP types, Reflect, Innovate, Stretch and Elevate, allow organisations to continuously develop their reconciliation commitments.

As part of the process, WQPHN has chosen artwork by local Kalkadoon Artist, Brooke Sutton titled “Yapatjarra Muu” which means in the Kalkadoon language “Healing Country”.

“For thousands and thousands of years my Kalkadoon family and ancestors have kept our land alive and well by singing and cleansing the land and waterways, by firestick farming and ceremonial corrobboree’s and only ever taking what was needed to survive.

From the dreamtime to the present in Kalkadoon Country the song of Mother Nature has been heard, it is the thread that binds all things together. It can be heard as a whisper sung across the landscape, it can be heard blowing through the trees and it can be seen skipping invisibly across the billabongs and rivers forming little ripples.

Mother Nature is now not singing but crying for her beautiful lands and we all must hear her despair and sorrow and change our ways.

In order to survive “Healing Country” is now all of our business.”

Connection to place is an essential paradigm for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and is central to identity and culture. This relationship with land, customs and protocols, stories and tradition is unique to First Nations people.

Our reconciliation journey is to learn and understand the truth of the past, be informed how these realities have shaped the present, but most importantly acknowledge the vibrancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures across Western Queensland and harness this strength as we walk together to improve the health and wellbeing of our Western Queensland populations.

Commissioned Service Providers meeting in the Region

The WQPHN service providers commissioning team recently facilitated a Commissioned Service Provider (CSP) /GP meeting in Mount Isa.  The event attracted 40 participants which included representation from all General Practices in the region along with pharmacies, the NWHHS mental health team and the majority of CSPs. 

The event provided a forum for all participants to gain a further understanding of the programs available through the WQPHN, referral pathways and to identify areas of improvement to ensure improved outcomes for the community. 

One area of improvement that all agreed to develop further was around services ensuring timely feedback be provided to GPs when requesting further sessions and discharging patients. 

“It’s been great to be on the ground this week,” Service Providers Commissioning Executive Manager Leisa Fraser said.

“There have been a few new providers, so it’s been a great opportunity for them to learn from existing providers and also to work together and collaborate, especially in the mental health space and the stepped care approach.”

Positive feedback was received around the benefits of these forums in increasing communication between our CSPs.

Ageing Gracefully in the South West

Surat Medical Practice recently organised a well-attended community event in Surat - Ageing Gracefully – Fun and Healthy Lifestyle program.

The aim was to give the community an opportunity to sit down and answer any questions and to have a complete health check performed.

Anne-Maree Attwooll, Chronic Disease Practice Nurse, stated, “It is our aim to supply our ageing population with fun interactive ways to age gracefully. We have developed a package which includes healthy lifestyle, exercise, and nutrition booklets. We also have display boards and information at our aged community events.”

“Ageing is not always fun but when you are unwell it is even more difficult. We regularly monitor our ageing populations health and try to predict and prevent further complications to their life.”

With a simple to follow “tick to talk about with your Doctor” list, this makes it simple for people to remember issues that may need addressing with their local GP.

View or download the Ageing Gracefully booklet PDF here

headspace Youth Forum in Roma

Article from headspace Roma Centre Manager and Clinical Team Leader Julianne Everson.

On the 18th of August, the newly opened headspace Roma staff welcomed community members to join them at a public forum to discuss issues impacting the young people of the Maranoa region. 

headspace staff were joined by representatives from the SWHHS Healthy Communities Team, Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC), Roma State College (RSC) and the Youth Reference Group (YRG). 

With 40 community members in attendance, headspace staff Julianne, Kerry and Amanda introduced the headspace model of care, and the role of the Youth Access Clinicians and Youth Access Workers within headspace Roma.

Rohan Ballon (SWHHS) discussed the impact of food insecurity on local young people within the Maranoa Region, Dion Horn (PCYC) discussed the PCYC values and support for community, Guy Hendricks (RSC) introduced the Positive Behaviour Learning approach for the 940 students that attend Roma State College, and Brock Westbrook (YRG) rounded out the evening with an analogy to the adaptability of headspace to the needs of local young people. 

Questions from community members regarding the impact of food insecurity, supporting the younger LGBTQIA+ community, supporting young people involved with the judicial system, and future services provided from headspace Roma, generated conversations that have increased stakeholder partnerships locally. 

Since the forum was held, the Sexual Health Nurse from Roma Hospital has commenced monthly clinics at headspace Roma, SWHHS Healthy Communities staff along with partner organisations are undertaking training in Jamie’s Ministry of Food, and there are ongoing plans for key stakeholders to work together to provide supports across a variety of sectors for young people in the Roma and Maranoa Region.

WQPHN Staff meet in Longreach

When you work for an Organisation that covers almost 1 million square kms (937,118 km2 to be exact), it is easy to sometimes feel isolated.  Add a pandemic to the equation and the distance can sometimes seem insurmountable and working alongside team members is sorely missed.

For the first time in 2 years, staff members of the Western Queensland PHN came together in Longreach, the traditional lands of the Iningai People and the heart of Queensland to celebrate “Our people, Our partners & Our achievements” for 2021. 

Between the yoga, shopping, canvas painting, river cruise, and sip and social with local service providers, staff were able to join their workmates in person to reflect on the year that was and plan for the year ahead.

The conference was a great opportunity to mingle, collaborate and determine future directions for the organisation in a Western Queensland setting close to their hearts.

Summary of how 2021 panned out for the WQPHN team.

Health and Wellbeing Hub success in the Winton Outback Festival

Members of the WQPHN team joined our local health partners to form a "Health and Wellbeing Hub" in the heart of the Winton Outback Festival (19 - 23 September).

The event was a fantastic opportunity for people in the region and throughout Queensland to connect face-to-face after a number of COVID-19 lockdowns forced similar events to cancel.

Numerous people stopped to chat throughout the week, and appreciated the opportunity to talk with local service providers.

The goal of the Health Hub was to spread the word about the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine, and to promote other important initiatives like My Community Directory and local mental health support services, to keep people connected in these more difficult times.

“The event was a great opportunity to chat with people on the ground so they are well-connected in their community” Leisa Fraser, Executive Manager, Service Provider Commissioning said.

“We also talked to community groups to encourage them to put their events and local things happening in their community on My Community Directory.”

WQPHN would like to thank the the teams from Lives Lived Well, Outback Futures, RFDS, NWRH and Bowel Screening Australia for their support.

A special thanks goes to the Winton Dunny Derby for providing everyone a good laugh!

Annual Report - our Competition Winner and Progress on the Report

We have a winner! 

The WQPHN Annual Report cover photo competition was held again this year, and we were blown away with the quality of photos submitted.

It was a difficult decision with a record number of strong contenders sharing their patch of Western Queensland’s beauty in a time of much uncertainty.

Congratulations Krys Robinson for her photo of Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria, who is now enjoying her new DJI Osmo Pocket 2 Camcorder!
Krys wrote a beautiful summary on her winning entry.

“This is what happens to our local weir in the wet season after a good amount of rain. It’s a great place to visit. This young lady also enjoyed the amount of water rushing through. I managed to capture the quiet moment she had with mother nature.”

The 2020-21 Annual Report is in the final stages and will be ready to launch shortly – watch this space!
For updated COVID-19 related communications visit

Although funding has been provided by the Australian Government, the material contained herein does not necessarily represent the views or policies of, nor is endorsed by, the Australian Government.

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Western Queensland PHN · 11 Barkly Highway RFDS Base · Mount Isa, QLD 4825 · Australia