The Royal Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme—known as BUSHkids—is a not-for-profit organisation which has been supporting the health and wellbeing of children and families in Queensland’s regional, rural and remote communities for over 85 years.
BUSHkids specialises in providing free preventative and early intervention allied healthcare, including speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology. BUSHkids specifically helps children who are at risk of poor health, educational and social outcomes to reach their full potential in life. Our free therapy services can help children improve their speech, behaviour, resilience, their capability to complete daily activities, and their ability to interact with their family and other children at kindy, school and at play.
BUSHkids adopts a holistic—whole—approach to supporting children, which includes providing support to the child’s family and the community they live in. Individual therapy is complemented by a range of developmental and educational programs that promote overall family wellbeing and strengthen community capacity, including providing supported playgroups and positive parenting, early educator, school readiness, literacy and language development programs.
We have been providing services in Warwick for over 30 years and our centre on Wood Street provides support to kids and families across the Southern Downs and Granite Belt. The centre has a full-time speech pathologist, family health support worker and occupational therapist and these staff are supported by therapists and specialists in other centres across Queensland, both face-to-face and through telehealth, the provision of health care services remotely by using the latest technology such as videoconferencing.
TeleHealth really came into its own at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when our therapists couldn’t meet with kids and families face-to-face. It has proved so successful we are currently expanding our TeleHealth capability. TeleHealth doesn’t replace the need for our therapists in our centres but complements and extends their work offering support and therapy that we can’t easily provide locally and making it easier for families in remote areas to receive the help they need without having to travel.
Now that the worst of COVID is hopefully behind us we are starting to run our family support programs again and we will be starting our support for the local kindies to help kids get ready for prep next year.
Top tip from BUSHkids – one of the best ways to get your child ready for prep is by reading books to them. Reading can develop language skills and early literacy awareness, which are essential components for learning to read. When reading books, talk about the pictures, talk about unfamiliar words, and keep book sharing fun!
For more information about BUSHkids and the services we provide go to our website, http://www.bushkids.org.au.
BACKGROUND Information – BUSHkids organisational snapshot
ORIGINS AND HISTORY
- The “Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme” was founded on 6 December 1935 by a diverse group of civic-spirited people in Brisbane (including the Lord Mayor and many high-profile community and business representatives) at the instigation of Queensland’s Governor, Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, who was dismayed by the hardships experienced by families and children across the state as a result of prolonged drought and the Great Depression.
- With the help of volunteers from a state-wide range of organisations – including the Queensland Country Women’s Association, Toc H and the Red Cross – the Scheme’s intention was to identify and assess Bush Children at risk of health, medical, nutritional and developmental issues and bring them to camps and Homes on the Coral Sea coast where they could be treated by clinical professionals – themselves volunteers – and hospital facilities not available in Outback Queensland.
- This approach successfully supported and treated more than 30,000 children in its first 50 years, with the establishment of a number of purpose-built coastal Homes – from Townsville to Redcliffe – and a massive, state-wide volunteer logistical network which safely transported the kids, in groups of up to 30 at a time, to and from the Homes for six-week-long stays for recuperation, nourishment and treatment before returning them to their families and Outback communities.
- Ground breaking internal research during the 1980s provided early warning of changing healthcare needs and so, in the following decade, the Scheme undertook the painful task of – literally – reinventing itself from the inside out, progressively closing the coastal Homes and establishing new services in the Outback Queensland communities themselves, ensuring that a continuum of care continued to be available – at no cost to families – without the disruption of temporary relocation.
- BUSHkids specialises in providing free preventive and early intervention Allied Health care, both directly and in collaboration with government and other non-government organisations, for children and families who through availability or affordability are unable to access services locally.
- BUSHkids targets children who are at risk of poor health, educational and social outcomes to help them reach their full potential in life. The free therapy services can help children improve their speech, behaviour, resilience, their capability to complete daily activities, and their ability to interact with their family and other children at home, kindy, school and at play.
- Services are provided through five regional service centres in Bundaberg, Dalby, Emerald, Mount Isa, and Warwick, each staffed by a multidisciplinary team comprising Speech–Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists and Family Health Support Workers.
- In addition, BUSHkids supports rural communities from four smaller satellite sites in Inglewood, Stanthorpe, Agnes Water/Miriam Vale and Kingaroy, which are staffed by Early Intervention Facilitators supported by the nearest service centre and the Brisbane office.
- Support and professional development to regional teams is provided both in person and via the organisation’s growing telehealth capability (that is, using telecommunication services such as video conferencing).
- During 2017, BUSHkids further expanded services to become a National Disability Insurance Agency ‘Partner in the Community’ to provide NDIS Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) (‘Early Start’) services to children aged 0-6 with a disability or developmental delay (children who are slower to develop physical, emotional, social or communication skills than other children of that age). The program is fully funded under the NDIS so, like all BUSHkids services, it is provided free of charge.
- BUSHkids established its first dedicated NDIS Early Start team in Bundaberg during August 2017, and has since become the ECEI provider for the Rockhampton Region in Queensland North, offering NDIS services through its existing service centre in Emerald, opening two new dedicated ECEI Early Start service centres in Rockhampton and Gladstone and providing outreach through the Biloela Community Resource.