Recently the Labor government began its Commonwealth government COVID-19 Response Inquiry (the Inquiry) with the purpose of identifying lessons learned to improve Australia’s preparedness for future pandemics.

I welcome this Inquiry as I believe it’s a good thing to assess what did and didn’t work during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the pandemic began I was Regional Health Minister and I saw many amazing responses, such as the work the Royal Flying Doctor Service did in providing vaccinations across Western New South Wales. I was, however, disappointed that the states were not included in this Inquiry, as many of the issues affecting the Parkes electorate involved border closures, both on the South Australian and Queensland borders.

I’m hopeful that lessons will be learned from this Inquiry, however, I would have liked to see a more full assessment of the situation, as I don’t believe the full picture can be gathered without including the input of state governments.

World Pharmacists Day

Monday, September 25 is World Pharmacists Day, which is an opportunity to show support and appreciation for our local pharmacists. During the COVID-19 pandemic pharmacists were often instrumental in strengthening our healthcare systems, keeping their doors open during lockdowns and vaccinating more than ten million Australians in 18 months.

Australia’s pharmacists are heroes transforming local healthcare. They are driving change and want to do more to strengthen our state and territory health systems by working to their full scope of practice.

In particular, given the strain placed on community pharmacies recently by the Labor government’s changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) I encourage all residents to thank your local pharmacists. They have borne the brunt of the government’s changes to the PBS and now more than ever need our support.

Assistance for tertiary students and apprentices

With many young people in the electorate starting to think about their post-secondary school plans, I thought it was timely to highlight the financial assistance available to people who wish to explore tertiary study through university or an apprenticeship.

The costs associated with attending tertiary education in another town or city is often the biggest barrier for students from regional, rural and remote Australia. The former Coalition government recognised this and implemented a number of improvements to eligibility criteria to ensure more students from regional Australia could access tertiary education without having to face the financial barrier.

A range of assistance is available to students including Youth Allowance for students and Australian Apprentices, Austudy, ABSTUDY, the Student Start-up Loan, the Tertiary Assistance Payment and the Relocation Scholarship. Eligibility criteria for each of these payments varies, so it is important to contact Services Australia before starting a claim.

For more information about financial assistance for tertiary students visit or call the youth and students line on 132 490.

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