Tableland Veterinary Service joins call for veterinary student debt support

29 Nov 2023

Jason Chuck, General Manager of Tableland Veterinary Service in North Queensland, is calling on Senator for Queensland and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt to take urgent action to address the veterinary workforce shortage in rural Queensland.

Tableland Veterinary Service employs 29 vets across their seven permanent clinics, and supports numerous communities across Far North Queensland. Their service area is as large as the state of Victoria, stretching from Charters Towers in the south, through to the mining community of Weipa in Cape York, and west into the Gulf country.

Veterinary clinics across Australia are closing down due to workforce shortages, and employers are seeking Government action.

There are 941 veterinary businesses in Queensland which employ more than 3,800 vets.

“North Queensland is Australia’s front line in the fight against many of our highest risk exotic diseases, such as Lumpy Skin Disease, Foot and Mouth Disease, and Japanese Encephalitis,” says Mr Chuck. “The current veterinary skills crisis, particularly in rural Australia, is a massive risk to Australia’s biosecurity and sustainability of our critical primary industries.”

Tableland Veterinary Service runs regular services into remote parts of Queensland, where communities have lost or are not able to attract full time veterinary services.

“There is an urgent need for greater veterinary presence across this region, not only for the health and welfare of our livestock and companion animals, but also for critical disease surveillance,” according to Mr Chuck.

Australian Veterinary Association President, Dr Diana Barker, said more needed to be done by the Australian Government and called for a rural HELP Forgiveness Scheme to assist.

“Demand for veterinary services in our communities, and in our agriculture and export industries continues to grow, but if we don’t support the workforce we could see the entire profession collapse,” Dr Barker said.

“Rural and regional Queensland has a rich and vibrant agriculture sector that relies on veterinary services to ensure animals are healthy and disease-free.

“But that is at risk without urgent assistance from the Government.

“We have been told time and time again by the Government that vets are important – but we are yet to see any policies that reflect that position.”

Dr Barker said that in 2022, the gross value of livestock was approximately $35 billion, of which $15.3 billion was from the cattle industry. The HELP Forgiveness Scheme would cost just $4.8 million a year for four years, and wipe the HELP debt of 80 graduates each year.

“We have asked Education Minister Jason Clare to commit to a rural HELP Forgiveness Scheme but he has deferred any decisions on this until 2025,” Dr Barker said.

“That is too late – our regional communities need vets now.

“That’s why we are calling on Senator for Queensland and Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt to take action and ensure Queenslanders can continue to access the essential services provided by vets.”