The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has expressed disappointment with the snubbing of veterinarians in the recent Federal budget.
Head of Veterinary and Public Affairs at AVA, Cristy Secombe, said vets are struggling with a lack of sector-specific support.
“We were disappointed as there was very little mention of the veterinary sector in the budget, perhaps with the exception of one area mentioned in relation to the koala conservation and protection,” Secombe told The Veterinarian.
“The human health sector received around 150 million over four years to support medical students in rural and remote Australia.
“The veterinary profession was asking for a relatively small amount in the area of HECS fee forgiveness to encourage vets to work rurally, so we’re disappointed not to see the funding.”
Ahead of the budget, the AVA had called on the Federal Government to provide $13.6 million over five years to help graduate vets stay in rural areas.
Other key areas in the AVA’s Pre-Budget Submission included funding for veterinary care of animals in disasters, establishment of a disease control framework, development of an antimicrobial resistance surveillance system and an increase in mental health support for veterinary professionals.
Secombe said that while AVA welcomes any increases in mental health funding across broader society, she noted that too often vets fall through the cracks.
“The veterinary profession is not seen as part of the health sector, we don’t fit neatly into the agriculture sector either,” Secombe said.
“We’re sort of in between and sit out on our own a bit (and) because of that I think we get forgotten.”
Secombe said the AVA is working to make vets more visible to government and the general population, “so we can say ‘this is what we really need for our sector to thrive so we can best look after your animals.’”
“An important part of our role at the AVA is to point out that lack of visibility and to advocate on behalf of the whole profession,” she said.
In the run-up to the Federal election, the AVA has called on both major parties to invest $3 million over five years to support mental health among veterinary professionals.
The proposed investment in veterinary mental health support would include a public education campaign, whole-of-career mentoring for vets, dedicated veterinary counselling services and development of vet-specific wellbeing education material.
The AVA currently operates a telephone counselling service for members, their associates and family members.
Secombe said that while the service is heavily utilised and important to have in times of need, greater support is required in this area.
“What we are looking for is programs where we help people promote and protect their own mental health, so our reliance on services such as these becomes less, and our tool kits are better equipped to help us look after ourselves,” she said.
Secombe also emphasised the importance of graduate mentoring programs.
“Mentor-mentee relationships and support from your colleagues is really important for professionals’ health and wellbeing,” she said.
The AVA’s full election platform can be found at ava.com.au.