The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has called on the Federal Government to wipe the HECS debt of veterinary graduates living and working in rural and remote areas.

The call comes after the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) also called on the Government to offer HECS relief, loan offsets, and discounted course fees for veterinary students and graduates who live in these regions as part of its recommendations to the Jobs and Skills Summit.

Dr Bronwyn Orr, President of the AVA, said the tightening jobs market in rural and regional areas is causing great stress on the profession, and support is urgently needed for a sustainable veterinary presence in the regions.

“In order to boost the attraction of working in the regions, we are calling on the Albanese Government to wipe the HECS debt for all graduates willing to live and work in the regions and use their skills to support agriculture.”

Dr Orr said that vets play a critical role in ensuring that commercial farms and their livestock remain healthy.

“But not enough veterinary graduates are moving to the regions to fill these important roles, putting increasing pressure on the agricultural industry – a central pillar to Australia’s economy.”

A 2021 study conducted by the AVA showed that 31 per cent of practices advertising for vets were taking 12 months or longer to fill vacancies.

Fiona Simson, President of the NFF, said the much-anticipated Jobs and Skills Summit provides an opportunity to address one of the root issues stunting Australia’s farm sector: chronic labour shortages.

“Even before the pandemic, farmers were reducing planting or shifting to less labour-intensive produce. Recent weather has thrown curveballs at food production. Couple that with issues like the workforce crisis, and the results are devastating.

“Governments can’t control the weather, but they can ease the workforce crisis.”

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