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Connecting Rural Professions

Rural engagement

Chief Investigators: Associate Professor Philip Roberts and Natalie Downes

Project Timeline: Ongoing collaboration with academics in the rural professions. 


The attraction and retention of professionals in rural contexts is an ongoing challenge in Australia, and many international contexts. While the rural professions share similar workforce challenges, research into addressing these has been disaggregated, siloed and not cross referenced.   The cross-disciplinary focus of this research into the rural professions bridges these divides and generate new insights into common challenges and shares solutions for the sustainability of rural communities. The scale achievable through collaboration across professions enables transformative research from a whole of community perspective, and cross new methodological and theoretical boundaries.

This research includes a significant focus on rural school staffing in Australia and internationally, including international comparative studies and a particular focus on rural China.

Under this theme our research team is collaborating with researchers at the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Tasmania.  This project is linking staffing (attraction and retention) research in Health and Education, with the aim of developing a framework for joint research.

Research Approach:

The interlinked ‘mini’ projects in this space are working with large-scale secondary data analysis, comparative reviews of literature across the professions and developing multi-profession longitudinal study designs. 

Related Publications:

  • Roberts, P. & Downes, N. (2019). The Rural Difference Trope: Leader Perceptions on Rural, Regional and Remote Schooling Difference. Leading & Managing, Vol. 25 (2), pp. 51-65.
  • Downes, N & Roberts, P. (2018). Revisiting the schoolhouse: A literature review on staffing rural, remote and isolated schools in Australia 2004-2016. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 28 (1). pp.31-54.
  • Roberts, P. (2007) ‘Shaping Future Staffing Systems to Support Students in Rural, Remote and Isolated Communities’ Australian College of Educators Online Refereed Article 46
  • Roberts, P. (2005) Staffing an Empty Schoolhouse: Attracting and retaining teachers in rural, remote and isolated communities. Sydney, NSW. New South Wales Teachers Federation. ISBN 1875699368