‘Within 30 minutes of being back in my hometown of Melbourne, someone honked their horn and cut me off,’ says Tess McGuigan, Darwin-based Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) Operations Manager. ‘Then there’s the traffic, desperately searching for a park and pushing my way through the crowded shops to buy presents. Give me the Territory any day.’

That’s where she’ll be this Christmas, and she wants you to join her.

‘We’re looking for Remote Area Nurses and General Practitioners to fill in, for three weeks or more, whilst clinic staff take a well-deserved break,’ she says.

RAHC is an Indigenous-focused health workforce programme emphasising partnerships and place-based solutions. It supports health services in remote and very remote Aboriginal communities, predominately in the Northern Territory (NT). The programme collaborates across teams and with partners to find holistic and culturally responsive healthcare solutions that address workforce shortages and community needs.

RAHC provides health professionals to more than 90 communities across the Northern Territory, from the Top End to Central Australia. And the holiday period – Christmas or Easter - is when that need is greatest. ‘The willingness of people to work over this time is critical. Should a clinic have to shut its doors due to lack of staff, the residents of the community may have to travel hours for health services.’

Whilst others took it easy on New Year’s Day, Remote Area Nurse Greg Morley was driving from Uluru to the scene of a car rollover on the Lasseter Highway with his offsider. ‘We administered first aid to the two seriously injured people and organised their evacuation to Alice Springs.’

On-call over the holiday period, his Christmas had been a quiet one. And thanks to today’s technology, he was still able to spend some time– facetime that is, using his mobile and laptop - with his friends and family in Sydney and Melbourne.

‘Way back, there wasn’t even a phone, only high-frequency radio. Technology has also fundamentally changed our clinical work, with 24/7 access to the Medical Retrieval and Consultation Centre (MRaCC) in Alice Springs.’

Greg sees working in community over holiday periods as a gift to the permanent health staff.

‘They do the hard yards all year, so it’s wonderful to have them spend treasured time with family over Christmas and Easter,’ he says. 

Meanwhile, Greg and his team ensure health care continues to be delivered in areas far from Alice Springs and Darwin. ‘The clinic is everything in the country,’ Greg says, ‘It’s the emergency department, the hospital, and the pharmacy.’  The service provides both acute and chronic healthcare.  

His job encompasses everything one might see in a general practice through to the high end of an emergency department, for which Greg has 24-hour doctor telephone access to Alice Springs. 

‘One weekend I treated a woman with a head injury who had walked into a low-hanging branch, and provided life support to someone who’d suffered an intra-cerebral haemorrhage before he was flown to Alice Springs.’ 

Working in Ntari (Hermannsburg) and Yuendumu in Central Australia, Greg finds his time there a rich and fulfilling personal experience as well as a homecoming. After seven years in remote communities, he re-located to Canberra where he spent many years as nurse manager at a large teaching hospital. 

But the Territory was calling him back. ‘I missed the people, the easy-going lifestyle, and the wide-open spaces.’ 

Greg’s epiphany came at the end of 2019. ‘I was driving to work and had stopped at the traffic lights when a thought came into my head. “If you don’t do this now, you’re never going to do it.” So, I walked into work that day and resigned.’

RAHC provides travel to the placement location, ongoing support, and cross-cultural education. ‘We’re looking for those who are adaptable and are open to learning; learning from other staff, the community and the clinic,’ says Tess, who doesn’t miss the hustle and bustle of southern cities. Neither does Greg, who enjoyed his placements so much that he’s extended them. And extended them.

And there are no more red lights for him. These days he can drive for hours - ‘just me, the road and the feeling of freedom’ – surrounded by breath-taking scenery.

Why go remote? ‘I’ve been here for almost three years now and I’ve enjoyed every day. The people are delightful and very grateful for what you do’, says Greg. ‘They’re more than happy to teach you their language, share their art and their world with you.’ He’s accompanied the locals on trips to find honey ants and witchetty grubs.

So what are you waiting for? Enjoy a rewarding new experience while getting paid and helping someone out. It’s a win-win situation. With 2022 anticipated to be the busiest holiday season in RAHC’s history, if you are interested in going on a short placement with RAHC, get in touch with our team

And, according to Greg, it’s now or never!