Less isolated, more connected

Rural Health’s Kate Cross (centre) is visited by project assistant Emma Powell (left) and project coordinator Nancy Thomas, who have fun with the Face Time video calling app. Picture: Jelena Potpara.

Service. Love it or hate it, technology is making life easier.

And now, with thanks to a recently launched initiative, Circular Head residents can access free technology to connect with service providers, by appointment or in emergency situations.

Smithton’s Rural Health and Burnie’s Youth Family and Community Connections are behind the ‘Linking Rural Communities with E-tools Project’, which will see two tablet computers stationed in each region, ready for use.

The iPads are equipped with Face Time software applications, enabling video calling between Circular Head and Burnie.

At present, services and schools can borrow the devices from Rural Health’s lending library, and individuals may access them onsite.

Rural Health youth and community development team leader Kate Cross said the potential use of the technology in counselling, therapies and health promotion is “exciting and perhaps only limited by our imagination, resources, knowledge and access”.

The project’s co-ordinator Nancy Thomas said while speaking to someone in the same room could not be replaced, the iPads “allow users to speak face-to-face with a service provider at times when meeting in person just isn’t possible”.

“And considering that a great deal of our communication is non verbal – it allows a fuller experience than just using the telephone,” Ms Thomas added.

Ms Cross said the iPads will be used in conjunction with the valuable local service providers, and drive-in and drive-out providers, however it will also offer an added benefit to the community by reducing the barriers created by lack of transport and any confidentiality concerns.

From term two, students can take advantage of the iPads at the after-school Seven Up Youth Centre, with interactive apps for mental health, drug and alcohol education and self-help among those of interest.

As well as Smithton, the 18-month pilot was launched in Zeehan, Rosebery and Burnie.

The program is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing – Substance Misuse and Service Delivery Grant Fund 2012-2015.

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