Australian Veterinary Association welcomes HELP indexing changes, but more is needed

15 May 2024

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) welcomes the Federal Government’s changes to HELP debt indexing but calls on the Government to go further in supporting regional veterinary students and graduates.

“While it is positive that the Government is listening on the issue of student debt and support, more specific support is needed to ensure rural and regional Australia has the veterinary services it needs,” said Dr Diana Barker, President of the Australian Veterinary Association.

“Veterinary clinics across regional Australia are closing their doors or cutting back on clients because they can’t find enough staff,” said Dr Barker.

AVA Workforce Survey Data being released later this month echoes this with almost 40% of job vacancies for veterinarians taking 12 months or longer to be filled.

“Veterinarians did the hard yards during COVID. We were recognised as essential and the whole veterinary sector worked hard to keep clinic doors open so animals could get the care they needed. But we need some help now if veterinary services are going to be sustainable in the regions,” Dr Barker said.

The AVA is advocating for:

  • Education debt forgiveness scheme (estimated cost $4.8m per annum) - to support graduate veterinarians working in rural and regional areas, and 
  • University placement support (estimated cost $13.5m per annum) - for veterinary science students to be afforded the same placement support that teaching, nursing and social work students will receive.

“These are not expensive measures. But a small investment today can help to solve a serious long-term shortage of vets in rural and regional areas. We know that if students can be assisted to see practice rurally, there is evidence that they will return to work in rural and regional locations,” said Dr Barker.