Solutions focused

Regional students address homelessness as part of the La Trobe Rural Health School's innovation workshops

What happens when you bring students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds together to solve a local problem?

“Something pretty amazing,” said Dr Brad Hodge, coordinator of La Trobe’s Rural Innovation Sprint Program, now in its second year.

Dr Hodge recently led two intensive, week-long workshops, first in Albury-Wodonga then Mildura, involving 11 students and eight local community organisations working together to unearth new ideas to tackle homelessness.

“I was so impressed to see proposals, such as an app to support community contributions to the homelessness crisis in the border region, take shape and be handed over to non-for profits for consideration and action.”

“But the impact extends much further than this,” Dr Hodge said.

“These students form new local networks, which can lead to employment and future partnerships, and learn a very important skill for our rural workforce: how to work effectively in multidisciplinary teams.”

“We can’t understate the skills shortages in regional communities. This program is all about preparing students for regional careers, and developing the partnership building, problem solving, leadership and communication skills they need to make a difference beyond uni.”

“It’s also a practical way to bring La Trobe ideals around social justice and public good to life.”

Albury-Wodonga food and nutrition student Tegan Richards said the experience was eye opening.

“I learned that not every person who doesn't have a home is homeless, that it can be anyone, even someone that looks well off.”

“After the workshop, I was able to see through the muck that surrounds homelessness and have a deeper understanding of the struggles homeless people face,” Tegan said.

“I have also changed my degree to one in social work and look forward to making a tangible change in the future.”

Find out more about the Rural Innovation Sprints, including how to be part of the 2024 program, by contacting Dr Hodge on