issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Remote communities79which for urban dwellers can be accessedrelatively closely without much travel. Manyof these contacts are at a great distance, but thepoint here is that there are many types ofrelationships that must broached, and in manycases they are infrequent so little can be doneto sustain relationships if that is what you areexpecting (from living in a kin-basedcommunity). Dealing with all these strangersand their ways of interacting on rare trips mustalso make travel uninviting. The high mobility,therefore, is more about travelling to areas inthe locale where there are family members, orto urban areas to visit families (Biddle &Hunter, 2005).Similar points arise from Figure 1 whensending family to large urban centres foremployment or education. Maintainingrelationships in those cases is not just aboutmaintaining the family connections andexchanges at a distance, but also having to dealwith a large number of stranger relationshipsby necessity. In the case of secondary andtertiary education this often means some yearsaway from the community and family.Health is also complicated in this regardbecause although most small settlements havesome form of local health services, albeitusually with few facilities, these often employmany outside people who are not local, do nothave family in the community, do not staylong, and are working under conditions of poorresourcing. Even with excellent, dedicated andcaring professionals, working in thesesituations is difficult at best and at the worst isnot sustainable. Moreover, for chronic orserious health matters, moving to a nearbytown or major urban hospital is often required,for either short visits or permanently(Wakerman et al., 2005). For example, mostsmall settlements do not have dialysismachines and so those needing such equipmenton a regular basis have to move to an urbancentre or big town since the small health unitscannot acquire or maintain one. This causesmuch distress for families (Devitt &McMasters, 1998a, 1998b).Service Providers in Remote CommunitiesRemote Australia also has a large band ofservice providers who are occasionally locallyraised but much more likely to move from citiesto remote Australia on employment contracts(Haslam McKenzie, 2007). Those who arebrought in typically have family ties elsewhere,so a person from Sydney might take a positionin Alice Springs for a short time. This shows aninteresting contrast to Aboriginal and TorresStrait Islander people who often must leavetheir home for employment or education withsome resistance, and it shows the strongemployment advantage of ‘westerners’ in suchsituations: that the family ties are often not sostrong that they need to be in constant contact.In many western families members can be outof contact for some years with only intermittentinteraction (by phone, for example, or justvisiting once a year at Christmas) and stillmaintain the family relationship. This propertyis as useful today for mobile employment as itwas for colonists to settle in remote regions.Some government officials go to remotecommunities for very short terms, often only aday or two (see Figure 1), and then return toclose family and friends, but the maingovernment offices that have control overdesert settlements are typically in remote urbancentres rather than in the bush. In some cases, anearby town has branch offices of governmentbut these are often small and do not include allservices or the responsibility to act orimplement changes. The main medical andeducation centres are likewise in remote urbancentres and health inequities reflect theassociated problems (e.g., Underhill, Goldstein& Grogan 2006). Most remote settlements havesome health facilities relatively nearby andperhaps schooling up to primary level, but thefact is that for most people in remotecommunities, serious or chronic medicalproblems and obtaining an education requiresmoving out of the settlement.Most service providers and governmentofficials who go to remote communities havebeen raised within western relationshipsThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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