Proposal to tackle rural road trauma

La Trobe University has proposed to establish an innovative new research hub at its Bendigo campus, in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on Australia’s rural roads.

The Rural Road Trauma Research Hub (RRTRH) would combine research expertise from across La Trobe’s Bendigo campus, including in rural health, psychology, pharmacy, engineering, planning, education and law.

Local supporters of the proposal include Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, City of Greater Bendigo CEO, Mr Craig Niemann, and Bendigo Health CEO, Mr Peter Faulkner.

As part of the innovative model, research would focus on reducing the disproportionate number of people who die and are seriously injured on Australia’s rural roads each year.

Although, in 2017, 60 per cent of all deaths on Victorian roads occurred in regional Victoria, only 24 per cent of the population lived outside the Melbourne metropolitan area.

Head of La Trobe’s Rural Health School, Professor Pamela Snow, said tackling road trauma in rural communities requires an innovative, multi-faceted, and place-based approach.

“Our Bendigo campus is ideally situated, both geographically and academically, to become a world-class hub for this type of research,” Professor Snow said.

“We are deeply embedded in rural and regional communities, and have the full suite of disciplinary expertise to cover all aspects of rural road trauma.”

Professor Snow said policy-makers need to understand that rural road users are different to their metropolitan counterparts.

“Many road safety interventions successfully adopted in cities have not been effective in rural areas,” she said.

“We think this is due, at least in part, to a lack of community-led design – something that La Trobe excels at.

“We need to be creative, innovative and tap into the key strengths of our rural communities to bring about change.”

Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters, said the impacts of road trauma have been strongly felt by rural communities for too long.

“Road safety and the ongoing cost of care as a result of road trauma is an issue that is often raised with me. Every fatality on our roads someone’s loved one,” Ms Chesters said.

“We know the nation’s road toll is again on the rise, and will establish a National Office of Road Safety, but I recognise the importance of a rural and regional based research to reduce the road toll.

“I welcome and support the proposed Rural Road Trauma Research Hub,” she said.

La Trobe is seeking investment from government to establish the RRTRH, and is open to collaboration with governments, agencies and community organisations across rural Australia.

Though based in regional Victoria, the hub’s research outcomes would have translational value for rural communities in every Australian state and territory.