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blog large image - Q & A with Jack Armstrong

Q & A with Jack Armstrong

RACQ and Excavation Equipment present the Great Western Road Trip, a fun four-day guided driving experience kicking off from Toowoomba from the 1st to the 4th of October. 

The following Q & A with Jack Armstrong touches on his experience with the Great Western Road Trip in the lead up to the 2021 trip and his perspective on rural health and mental health issues.

Is this your first year going on the Great Western Road Trip?

No, this will be my second year going on the Great Western Road Trip. After I completed it last year in a Jeep Wrangler, I knew I had to go again this year.

Why have you chosen to take the Nissan Navara on this road trip? 

I drive a Navara every day and have come to enjoy the capabilities. Going on a big road trip is a test to see how it fairs on long driving days and its’ capacity to hold all our camping equipment.

What did you enjoy most about the road trip last year?

Getting the opportunity to go and see places around Queensland that I haven’t seen before with the sole purpose of enjoying the trip and setting up camp every night with others in the convoy.

Do you go into this road trip with a different frame of mind compared to last year now that it’s your second time around?

Since last year I’ve come to understand the impacts that not having access to health services can have on families living on the land. This year I will be going on the trip with more knowledge about how those impacts can affect a whole family, business and the community where they come from. With such a tight-knit community it’s really important to listen when people share their stories, from my experience last year I heard touching stories of what others have been through and what their families had to endure.

What shape do you think Australian rural health is in? 

Could be better. We hear so much news around hospitals in cities and the facilities and capacities they have to treat people, which makes sense with the denser populations. However, there’s not much conversation around the facilities and access people living in rural areas have to the same services. Many people in rural or regional areas take that in their stride and accept that there is a compromise with their access to health services in order to live in certain areas.

Was there a key takeaway about rural health?

Yes, the biggest takeaway was hearing stories from people who had relied on rural health services for treatment. It was eye-opening to see just how different rural health care is compared to health care that you can receive in a city. The major difference would simply be the access to services that we can so easily receive in a city. Such as when someone is sick with what might be considered a cold or flu, they can’t drive 5 or 10 minutes from their house and see their local GP for a check-up or get a prescription. With the busy life on the land, many people plan long in advance to go to the Doctors or book an appointment to coordinate with a trip they are doing to town to get groceries or supplies. A quick trip down to a medical clinic can mean hours in the car or an overnight trip to the city.

There were other stories where families were separated because one of the parents had to stay at the farm and keep it running while the other went with their child to the city to get treatment. As you can imagine this would be devastating and very difficult for the family not to be able to be together while going to treatment or getting care. Unfortunately, this is the only option for many as they can’t hire someone to stay on the farm and leave it for days, weeks or months. Because at the end of the day, the farm is their livelihood. Another thing is the lifestyle change that people must make sometimes to get the care they need, in circumstances where the operator of the farm has gotten sick or injured and the only way to get adequate care or ongoing treatment is for them to sell their property and move closer to the city. It’s devastating to hear that someone must not only give up their job but also their way of life, to have access to health resources. Moving into the city from a regional town or community for the elderly to be able to have access to care, impacts many regional families as their loved ones need care that is only available in nursing homes or closer to medical facilities, due to there being no local facility or services. It’s very confronting to see how torn apart these families get and I hope to neither be in their position and that it wasn’t such a common thing for regional families to go through. To move away from all you’ve ever known is difficult and shouldn’t be their only option.

Young males are currently one of the most vulnerable groups in rural Australia to mental health issues. As a young male, why do you think this issue is so widespread in rural Australia? 

Probably the fact that stands out to me the most is that there is still a culture that you have to be a tough guy, especially if you live on the land. I went to an all-boys boarding school, so a lot of kids were from the land and there was definitely a mentality that you’ve got to be a tough guy to make the cut and call yourself a country kid. There was a lack of acceptance within young males that you can reach out and access a mental health support service or talk to a family member or friend. But now there has been a change in the stigma associated with mental health, we are going to see more and more people who aren’t afraid to contact someone for help. The services available to people are also changing and increasing, especially in Toowoomba, but now it’s the challenge of that getting channelled out to rural services.

How big an impact do you think isolation has on males? 

Huge, considering that many properties or businesses in rural areas are managed or run by males, whether they are a son who has grown up on a family property and is taking the reins or they are working in a small business where they do have others to work alongside. They may be a long way from friends, family and even neighbours. It would be very lonely sometimes if you’re out on a property and you have to drive a few hours to see a mate. We know that picking up a phone and asking for help is not something that we generally don’t want to do, then combine that with having one of your few conversations with someone to tell them bad news.

For More information about the Great Western Road Trip visit:

If this conversation has raised any issues for you with mental health please reach out and connect one of the following services:
Lifeline Australia | 13 11 14
Kids Helpline | 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia | 1300 78 99 78
Suicide Call Back Service | 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue | 1300 22 4636
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling | 1800 011 046
Qlife – anonymous and free LGBTI peer support | 1800 184 527 – (3PM-Midnight every day)
The National Indigenous Postvention Service – After Suicide Support 24/7 | 1800 805 801
Brother to brother 24-hour crisis line | 1800 435 799