The Tasmanian Allied Health Supply Rural and Remote Workforce Project – Improving access to allied health services for people with disability and developmental delay in rural and remote Tasmania

Ms Keren Shanley1

1National Disability Services, Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Allied health practitioners (AHP) are key providers of supports to people with developmental delay and disability, delivering therapies that support them to reach their full potential as active participants in the community. There is an existing shortage of AHPs available to provide these therapy supports in rural and remote areas of Tasmania. This, in conjunction with the expected increased demand for disability services, poses a significant risk to the successful roll out of the NDIS, potentially impacting the quality of life for people with disability in these areas.

National Disability Services (NDS) has been funded by DHHS, with NDIS sector development funding, to develop and implement strategies to address this shortage and to increase the capability of the allied health workforce to better meet the needs of people with disabilities residing in rural and remote areas of the state. The project commenced in August 2017 and will continue to the end of June 2018. The following project aims have been established:

  • Engage with communities to understand their needs and identify place-based supports for clinicians and people with disability and developmental delay
  • Develop strategies to improve retention rates for existing AHPs and attract additional disability support professionals/support workers in rural and remote areas
  • Explore the development and implementation of Allied Health Assistant (AHA) traineeships

Initial findings from NDS community engagement and allied health workforce research will be presented. Discussion will be held around possible strategies to address identified workforce shortages and skill gaps such as:

  • Use of tele-practice models of service delivery
  • Use of allied health assistants in a hub-and-spoke model

We will be drawing upon research carried out by Dr Kim Bulkeley, Scholarly Teaching Fellow, Occupational Therapy at Sydney University, on what is working in other rural and remote areas of Australia.


Keren Shanley started at National Disability Services in August 2017 as project coordinator, having recently moved to Hobart from Melbourne. She is a physiotherapist by profession, with over 10 years of experience working in the community and disability sector including several years in remote Northern Territory, and more recently in Victoria providing early intervention services to young people with disability. Keren graduated from Bachelor of Physiotherapy at LaTrobe University with first class honours in 2006, and completed a Masters of Public Health through Monash University in 2016. Keren is passionate about ensuring equity and social justice in health service delivery.

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