Australia facing significant shortage of veterinarians in rural and regional areas

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) welcomes the release of the NSW Parliamentary Committee report from its Inquiry into the veterinary workforce shortage in NSW.

This comprehensive report, released today, details 17 findings and 34 recommendations to address critical workforce sustainability issues, including mental health programs, provision of regional veterinary services, veterinary student support, legislative review, and compensation for the unpaid work veterinarians undertake for the community. All of these were emphasised in the AVA’s 2023 submission.

Australia faces a significant shortage of veterinarians, particularly in rural and regional areas, posing risks to animal welfare and public health. According to AVA’s 2023 Workforce Survey, filling veterinary job vacancies in NSW takes over 12 months in 50% of cases. The figure rises to 55% in regional NSW.

Dr. Sally Colgan, AVA President, underscored the importance of the Inquiry’s findings for the veterinary profession: “Every animal in Australia should have access to veterinary care. Currently, this isn’t fully realised, compromising animal health, undermining biosecurity, and risking human health.”

Dr. Colgan emphasised the multifaceted challenges and potential solutions: “The veterinary profession’s challenges require strategic thinking and targeted interventions. With collective effort, we can create a future where both animals and the veterinary sector who care for them, thrive.”

The report includes 4 recommendations related to mental health support, which Dr. Colgan views as a significant recognition of the need for support for the profession: “Industry led initiatives like AVA’s THRIVE, focused on veterinary wellness, are crucial for supporting veterinarians and veterinary staff in their careers.”

“We will thoroughly analyse the report in the coming days and are hopeful that its outcomes will lead to effective and actionable strategies not only in NSW but also guide other jurisdictions nationwide,” Dr. Colgan said.

The AVA’s submission to the 2023 Inquiry proposed 16 recommendations, ranging from immediate interventions to long-term strategies, serving as a blueprint for industry-wide reform. “The AVA has long advocated for recognition of the veterinary workforce shortage crisis and support and investment for the critical role of veterinarians in biosecurity, food security and animal welfare,” Dr. Colgan remarked. “We thank the parliamentary committee for its detailed review of this crucial issue and look forward to working with the NSW Government on the progression of the recommendations.”