Tuesday 1 Oct 2018


The remote towns of Mallacoota, Gypsy Point, Genoa and Cann River, Far East Gippsland, Victoria are celebrating receiving $136,864 to support the development and implementation of additional health services through Mallacootas local G.P. medical clinic led by Dr Sara Renwick-Lau.

As part of its Enhancing Country Health Outcomes (ECHO) grant program, the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) https://www.frrr.org.au/ awarded Mallacoota Community Health, Infrastructure and Resilience Fund Inc. (CHIRF) a major grant.

This will be deployed to

·         improving mental health services including a pilot teen clinic,

·         continue its nationally acclaimed Dr Search initiative

·         professionalising its administration .

CHIRF was established by local volunteers two years ago to find ways to ensure medical services in Mallacoota survive.

Its a shot in the arm for the health care for the very remote Mallacoota and neighbouring, Cann River, Genoa and Gypsy Point, CHIRFs Secretary, Robin Bryant said.

We are more than grateful for the grant. To have a major forward thinking philanthropic charity recognise our work and see an innovative way forward to assist a remote community grow, and support our drive for a local project manager, is a significant article of faith.

Thanks to community initiative and now FRRR funding, rather than struggling to maintain essential health services, we can work towards filling many of our Districts primary health care gaps Mallacootas long term General Practitioner Dr Sara Renwick-Lau said. 

The CHIRF charity had been engaging with various State and Federal agencies including the Gippsland Primary Health Network (GPHN) on chronic gaps in primary health care in and around the Mallacoota district. CHIRFs iconic Dr Search actively travelled Australia searching for Doctors.

GPHN helped CHIRF attract a third GP with a small though significant grant.

CHIRF is now in the latter stages of bidding for GPHN grants to support a nurse-driven after-hours service and an innovative mental health initiative.

Mental health services are one of the major shortcomings in remote and rural towns. If successful, GPHN grants will complement the FRRR grant to support remote access for psychology services.


Through our existing suppliers, we aim to provide an innovative approach to key primary health needs in the Mallacoota district, Bryant said.

Apart from lobbying, applying for grants and travelling to Conferences we have built bridges with distant communities in Bega and Albury. Whilst securing doctors, we have been working to address mental health issues, and ultimately after-hours care, he added.

In addition to the hard-working local volunteers, SBM Stavros Accountants and Business Advisers and the Remote Vocational Training Scheme(RVTS) in Albury with Bega Valley Medical Clinic assisted with support on systems, training, mentoring and helping to progress the set-up of our very first Teen Clinic, Bryant said.

The project aims to strengthen local General Practice services and enable local solutions to critical chronic disease and health service delivery gaps by increasing the capacity of the Mallacoota community and nearby towns to sustain their health services.

A key part of the grant is to employ a CHIRF Support Manager. This will make seeking solutions to these problems more efficient and more successful, and remove significant pressure from volunteers and the Medical Clinic.

CHIRF is now seeking expressions of interest from people in the region for this Administrative Support Role. (See www.chirf.org.au)

The grants will be managed by CHIRF and provided through Mallacootas Medical Centre.

Further Inquiries:

Robin Bryant

Ph: 0417 271 852



Dr Sara Renwick-Lau: Mallacoota Medical Centre 03 5158 0777




This project funding will build on community achievements, to support a further two years of goal oriented work. This will be achieved through the employment of a Manager to sustain the work of current community volunteers.

The provision of a regularly available, known psychologist for a face to face service as part of the grant ensures some 120 patients per year who were accessing the previous psychology service would again be provided with access (Mallacoota Medical Centre ATAPs data 2016). The previous service was cancelled in 2016 in favour of Telehealth.

The Teen Clinic model pioneered by the Bega Valley Medical Practice will offer adolescents in the district Mallacoota access to general and mental health care. The service will be extended to Cann River as funds become available.

The project will fund administrative support for the development of a co-ordinated local mental health service model, as well as provide seed-funding for direct service provision. These will enable a psychologist to travel to Mallacoota monthly to provide mental health care.

This collaborative model will ensure that funded programs such as the PHN ATAPs will be utilised to provide a seamless telehealth and face to face psychology service co-ordinated locally, at minimal to no patient cost.

After-hours medical care in Mallacoota, currently is some two hours drive away along a remote highway. Funding a nurse-led after-hours service, supported by local GPs will ensure safe, sustainable and cost-effective access for all Mallacoota residents and visitors to 24/7 medical care.


Formed in May 2016 as a deductible gifts recipient (DGR) CHIRF is small Health Promotion Charity to ensure medical and allied services are available to the Mallacoota community well into the future. The Charity supports a sister charity Mallacoota Inlet Aged Care (MIAC) committed to establishing residential aged care facilities for the community.

CHIRF and Mallacoota Inlet Aged Care (MIAC) recognising that 500 of our 1063 residents are over 60 expect to make considerable progress also towards establishing a Residential Aged Care Facility in Mallacoota this year.

The CHIRF model has been adopted by Yarram, a Victorian community with similar issues.

All CHIRF Responsible Members have recent police checks with one member a practising Psychologist.

Partners in the ground-breaking project include:

·         Mallacoota Inlet Aged Care committee (MIAC) – local committee of community members, owners of the current medical centre site. In partnership with CHIRF to build a new Medical centre (est. completion 2019)

·         Mallacoota Dr. Search – local committee of community members, funded by CHIRF

·         Gippsland Primary Health Network (GPHN)

·         Victorian Counselling and Psychology Service (VCPS) – Psychology service provider currently funded to provide Telehealth services to Mallacoota

·         Bega Valley Medical Practice (BVMP) Teen Clinic program – regional teen health program funded by NSW Primary Health Network.

CHIRF’S new Support Manager will start from October 2018. Medical services will start as soon as practicable after the employment commences and key clinical governance parameters of the projects are in place and all funding and employment placements are in place. The FRRR grant allows us to commence some pilot work.

Subject to funding, nurse training for teen general and mental health is scheduled for November 2018. to be completed by June 2019. The Teen Clinic, with the direct support of the GP’s and the visiting Psychologist, will be available prior to this time.