14th National Rural Health Conference - why we were there

Belinda Douglas and Justine Ebzery attended the 14th National Rural Health Conference in Cairns earlier this year. Here, Belinda talks about the experience and why she will be going back in 2019.

We saw lots of surprised faces when we told people we were architects.

I don’t think architects are well represented at conferences outside the design and construction industry and I think it’s really important to challenge that thinking.

The National Rural Health Conference occurs every two years and attracts people from a wide range of disciplines in healthcare including clinicians, administrators, community workers and all people working to improve rural health outcomes.

It was important for us to be there as it lines up perfectly with our commitment to rural architecture and particularly to delivering exceptional regional health facilities.

I myself grew up in Chinchilla and started my architectural career working on regional projects with Fulton Trotter Architects. So the Rural Health Conference ticked all the boxes for me!

At Fulton Trotter Architects we appreciate that living outside the city should not come at the expense of good architecture. And that’s about creating buildings that work well and meet the particular needs of each community. A community hospital in Roma, for example, is going to look and function very differently to one in Cairns due to the climate, infrastructure and unique needs of the people living in those communities.

As architects, I believe we need to take time to talk with people living in a community before we put pen to paper and start designing a health facility for them. To deliver good architecture that provides solutions, we need to have conversations that go a bit deeper. And the people I spoke with at the conference really understood this.

Keynote speakers flagged trends and future challenges for rural healthcare providers including hospital-based aged care delivery, access to specialists and the re-introduction of local, de-centralised maternity services.

There was also a focus on multi-purpose facilities and how telehealth is changing the way people access healthcare. These factors are very relevant to designers of healthcare spaces from the point of view of infrastructure and services.

It was a privilege to be at the 14th National Rural Health Conference and to meet so many passionate individuals who are striving to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of people living in rural Australia. I will definitely be there in 2019!

- Belinda Douglas

Image: Belinda Douglas, Associate – Fulton Trotter Architects | Photographer: Rix Ryan Photography