Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
ABC News
ABC News

Nursing graduates to get up to $12,000 for HECS-HELP university debts if they work in country WA

WA Premier Mark McGowan was on hand at a media event to announce the grants for graduate nurses. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

The state government will pay $12,000 worth of the university fees of nursing and midwifery graduates who agree to work in regional Western Australia.

This week's state budget will include $4.2 million for up to 350 graduates to take part in the HECS-HELP initiative, with priority to be given to those agreeing to work in "hard-to-staff areas".

The graduates will receive up to $4,000 towards their HECS-HELP each year for three years, as long as they remain in regional WA employed in the public health system.

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson described it as a "significant contribution" towards helping graduates with debt.

Amber-Jade Sanderson says the financial assistance will help attract nurses to "highly remote" parts of WA. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

"It can be a barrier, particularly when people move to regional Western Australia and it's expensive to live," she said.

"They're areas that are highly remote, like Kununurra, Meekatharra, Wyndham, Carnarvon … those sorts of areas."

Last August, the Victorian government revealed it would fund nursing and midwifery degrees for up to 10,000 university students.

That $270 million commitment included a number of other scholarships for students who agreed to work in the Victorian public health service for two years.

It also came with an extensive advertising campaign to try to attract students and graduates from interstate, adverts that have been running in WA.

Minister confident WA can compete

WA's health minister was asked whether smaller grants for placements in regional WA towns could compete with what Victoria was offering students who agreed to take positions in Melbourne.

Ms Sanderson (second from left) and Mr McGowan (third from left) visited Edith Cowan University in Joondalup to announce the grants. (ABC News: Keane Bourke)

"Well, Western Australia has … you know, Western Australia is a fantastic place to live," Ms Sanderson said.

"Whilst there are cost-of-living pressures, they're far less than anywhere else in the country, certainly the housing prices are more affordable.

"We know that when people train in regional Western Australia, when they do their pracs – certainly in their early career – if they're not from regional Western Australia they very often fall in love with it and make it their home."

The state budget will be handed down on Thursday.

ANF urges WA to match Victoria's offer

In a statement, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) state secretary Janet Reah said the grants were "a good start" but more could be done.

Janet Reah says WA should follow Victoria's example for fully subsidised courses. (ABC News: Kenith Png)

"I support any help for new graduates who are entering both a very rewarding but also very challenging vocation as of late," she said.

"WA nurses and midwives still remain the second-lowest paid in Australia, leaving little incentive to work in WA when compared to other states like Victoria.

"HECS-HELP debts are a continuing struggle for university graduates who are entering an increasingly stressful working environment.

"The McGowan government would do well to follow Victoria's example for fully subsidised courses to address the widespread shortages faced across WA."

A three-year nursing degree in WA can cost upwards of $70,000 in total.

Regional healthcare workers 'not supported': Opposition

WA Opposition Regional Health spokesman Martin Aldridge agreed the grants were a welcome "start" but warned graduate nurses faced further challenges in the regions because issues like affordable housing were yet to be addressed.

Nationals MP Martin Aldridge says there are a range of obstacles preventing healthcare workers from moving to the regions. (ABC News: Kenith Png)

"Relocating hundreds of kilometres away from your support network in Perth, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing or rentals, and the increased cost-of-living in regional WA present real challenges for new graduates," Mr Aldridge said.

"Regional healthcare workers tell me that they do not feel well supported working in remote environments and are often asked to work excessive hours to maintain service delivery, which takes a toll on them personally and their families.

"These are the issues that young people will be weighing up when considering career opportunities in the regions or staying in the metropolitan area."

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.