The veterinary workforce shortage – it’s a matter of public good

14 Jul 2023


The profession has been acutely aware of its inadequate capacity to deliver veterinary knowledge and services to meet community demand for quite some time. Given the work the AVA has been doing to raise awareness of this issue in the media, with our stakeholders and government and by encouraging others to talk about it, the wider community is starting to take notice – and they are worried, as they should be.

The NSW Government has set up a parliament inquiry to investigate this issue, which was announced following the AVA’s NSW Election Platform advocacy on key priorities pre and post the NSW election, including rural and regional workforce issues. This inquiry has generated significant media interest that has given the AVA the opportunity to talk about the enormity of the issue and the importance of addressing it. Since the beginning of July, this topic has gained significant traction with 73 media mentions in a range of media that are distributed around the country including The Australian, The Guardian, Herald Sun, ABC and the Weekly Times.

Other organisations with a stake in animal health have echoed our concerns. For example, we were very pleased to see the acknowledgement and support from the NSW Farmers Federation  through the their recent media release about the importance of veterinarians.

As the veterinary  profession knows when we are looking at individual animals that NSW Farmers Federation representative Mrs Shane Kilby talks about in the media release we are  also undertaking passive surveillance to maintain the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity system. This is a veterinary service that benefits the community as a whole rather than just an individual owner. This is known as a public good or public benefit

One of the underlying causes contributing to the veterinary workforce issue, is the inability of the profession to recoup the costs associated with delivering veterinary services that serve the public good.  

Another example of a public good that the profession provides is veterinary care to wildlife. Veterinary care of wildlife is a service the community expects to be provided to Australia’s indigenous animals. The majority of this is through the private veterinary sector, with evidence suggesting most practices see around 500 cases per year and over 90% of practices rarely receiving any reimbursement to cover the costs of providing these services. Veterinary care, particularly more complex care, is also provided through veterinary wildlife charities. Government support for these charities is an example of public funding to deliver public good. That’s why the AVA is very concerned to see that the NSW Government has recently revoked promised funding  to a charity that provides veterinary care to wildlife.

We continue to advocate strongly that part of the solution to create a thriving sustainable veterinary profession is to ensure the profession can recoup the costs of providing veterinary services that are of public good.