- Children growing up in rural areas can enjoy more outdoor play, a close-knit community, fresh air, less traffic, contact with nature, sports and many more benefits.
- Living in the bush may also mean you may have less access to help and support.
- There are dedicated services available for rural families with children, and knowing how to access them when you need to is important.
- These services can provide information and support in areas of education, health, mental wellbeing, social services and child safety.
Support networks for rural parents
Raising a family in the country provides many opportunities. Children can enjoy more outdoor play, a close-knit community, fresh air, less traffic, contact with nature, sports and many more activities.
However, when you’re living in the bush you may have less access to help and support, and may sometimes feel lonely or isolated. It helps to know where you can seek support and information.
Joining a playgroup is a good way for parents and their kids to meet other families. To find out if there is one in your area, go to Playgroup Australia and click on the link for your state.
Your local council or library may offer activities for children. You might also meet other families at playgrounds, school or sporting events and local parks.
Options for your child’s care and education vary, depending on where you live. Government regulations for childcare and education ensure all Australian children have access to quality education. Distance education is an option for children who live in small rural communities or remote areas.
Children with special needs
If you have a child under 12 years of age with special needs such as developmental delay, behavioural disorders and high learning needs, you can access assessment and treatment services. Ask for this support at your local clinic or health service.
Find out more on early childhood intervention.
People living in regional, rural and remote areas may find it harder to access some health services.
While some larger areas may have a tertiary or base hospital, smaller towns might have a district hospital or a multipurpose health service or medical centre.
You can use the Service Finder to find a health service in your area.
The healthdirect Symptom Checker can guide you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).
CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.
You can also call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).
If you have a question regarding your pregnancy or a child under the age of 5 years, you can call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 or use the video call service to speak with a maternal child health nurse. Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a free service and is available from 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week (including public holidays).
Learn more about health services in rural Australia.
Financial support for remote families
If you need to travel to see a medical specialist, reimbursement is available. Find the Patient Assisted Travel Scheme in your state by visiting your state government health department website.
Other financial support for rural families may be available.
Family and domestic violence
A safe and nurturing living environment is important for child health and development. Family violence is a serious issue that is often hidden in communities. It can take courage to come forward and ask for help.
Visit 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for more information. If you or someone else is unsafe right now, call triple zero (000) and ask for help.
Mental health problems exist throughout the Australia. In rural areas, people may feel more isolated with their mental health issues and be unsure of where to look for support. You can access help and support for yourself or your family:
- Call Head to Health on 1800 595 212 for advice and to get connected to local mental Health services.
- Talk to your local doctor
- Visit Mental Health Australia.
- Call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 for telephone and online counselling across Australia.
- calling triple zero (000) in an emergency.
For access to crisis support and suicide prevention services call Lifeline on 13 11 14, available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.
You can also get help from:
- headspace, a phone and online counselling available for people aged 12 to 25 years — call 1800 650 890.
- Kids Helpline for kids and young people aged 5 to 25 years — call 1800 55 1800.
Adventurous play is a wonderful part of childhood. Children can benefit from playing outdoors, learning while they’re having fun. But it’s also important to help them stay safe. Kidsafe Australia has information available on topics such as:
Visit Kidsafe and select your state on the map to access local guidelines.
Some hazards are more specific to country living. As parents, it pays to be aware of potential hazards in country areas and how to manage them.
Child safety on farms and rural properties
Drowning is the main cause of death of children on farms, making up around 4 in 10 child farm deaths. Young children need close supervision near any body of water. Most drowning deaths occur in dams, but children can also drown in creeks, water tanks, troughs, dips and irrigation channels. Young children should be kept away from these water hazards by physical barriers, or be closely supervised by an adult.
Early swimming lessons and helping children to get used to being in the water is helpful. It’s a great idea for parents to learn first aid and resuscitation. The Royal Lifesaving Society has a factsheet on safe swimming in rivers and creeks.
Other causes of injury on farms include vehicles (especially quad bikes), other machinery and horses.
It is recommended that farming families select a safe play area, with secure fencing and gates between small children and any hazards. Outside this area, young children should be in the care of a responsible adult. Dangerous chemicals should be locked away.
To read more about keeping your child safe when living on or visiting a farm, visit the Farmsafe Australia website.
Safety in the bush
Families can reduce the risk of injury or illness while bushwalking by following basic safety guidelines. See the National Parks and Wildlife Service for more information.
Australian wildlife can pose risks, but most animals are usually not dangerous if they are left alone. Visit the Australian Museum website to find more information.
Learn more about bites and stings.
Sun safety in rural areas
Skin cancer rates in Australia are among the highest in the world. Having too much sun as a child can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
Parents can reduce their children’s risk by applying sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, and providing shade. Learn more about sun and heat protection for babies and children.
What should I do if my child is injured?
If your child is severely injured or unwell, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
If you live in a remote community without a nearby hospital, the Royal Flying Doctor Service may be able to assist you.
You can learn first aid through:
Resources and support
Phone healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) or use the healthdirect Symptom Checker.
The National Rural Health Alliance provides a help sheet of rural mental health services.
Many parents choose to keep a list of important phone numbers easily accessible, to use in case of emergency.
FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: September 2023