Ask anyone why they call the south-west home and they invariably list the area's natural beauty, jobs, uncluttered, relaxed cities and towns, cost of living, access to education, recreation, sport and health services.
We are lucky to live where we do but across the past week we've highlighted a series of concerning issues facing the region's health industry.
Nurses,mental health professionals, aged care workers, disability support staff and doctors are in high demand but short supply. South-west residents can still access services but their saviours are often overworked, underpaid and stressed.
It wasn't that long ago back in the early to mid 1990s that rural and regional areas across the country were facing chronic doctor shortages. That crisis seemingly crept up on us and only through innovative solutions, including overseas recruits and more university places, did it ease.
Deakin University, led by Professor Brendan Crotty with support from its then Warrnambool campus head Rob Wallis, fought a long battle to become Victoria's third medical school. The fight was worth it. A medical school was established at the Warrnambool campus and students received on-the-job training at Warrnambool Base Hospital, others across the region and GP clinics. The thinking was simple, students trained in regional areas were more likely to work outside the big cities.
This week we highlighted how Terang, which has battled to secure GPs, now has four graduates from the Deakin program, including one from the inaugural 2011 Warrnambool class.
Initiatives like this aren't quick fixes but investments yielding results. We still need more doctors but how do we solve the looming crisis in aged care, disability support, mental health and nursing professions?
We need state and federal governments to recognise the problem, drive innovative solutions like direct entry training before it's too late. We also need improved working conditions and greater promotion of health careers, although the last point shouldn't be too difficult because what could be more rewarding than helping others?