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On the road to Shepparton

By Elise Anderson (Regional Lead, Rural and Regional Program)

Recently I spent a day on Yorta Yorta country, up in the regional city of Shepparton.  As the crow flies it’s about 90 kilometers from where I live, but if you were to follow the winding path of the Goulburn River from its upper reaches, where it passes through my home town, along the narrower river valleys leading to Lake Nagambie, and then out into the plains further downstream to where it also flows through Shepparton, it would probably be several hundred.



Shepparton is a bustling place.  In the heart of the Goulburn Valley irrigation region, it’s famous for fruit, dairy and other forms of agriculture, is a major manufacturing and industrial centre, and sits at the nexus of several major road and rail freight routes. With a long history of immigration, it’s a community of incredible cultural diversity, and has one of the biggest indigenous populations in Victoria.  There’s a lot going on there.

With a population of over 50 000 people, it’s not surprising that there are quite a number of vet clinics in the city and surrounding suburbs.  It’s also the regional centre of the Rural and Regional Program’s pilot federal electorate, Nicholls, so it’s a place that has been high on my list of priorities to visit.

One of those Shepparton clinics is GV Vets, and when I dropped in there it was something of a blast from the past to catch up with vet, practice partner and old friend Dr. Brett Davis.  I’m justified in saying old friends these days, I think, given that we first met as baby faced pre-vet students at Melbourne Uni way back in a previous century, and were both at our 20 year vet reunion last year.



There are a lot of things to like about Davo’s clinic (I’ll never be able to call him Brett, I’m afraid, not even if we’re friends for another 25 years).   They’ve recently been through a major renovation and extension, and so I was excited to get a tour, and very impressed; the clinic is big, light, and shiny new, and also seemed to be bursting at the seams with busy, smiling staff - no mean feat when you consider that hiring veterinary staff is a challenge everywhere these days, especially in the regions.  I was also happy to hear that sustainability is already on the radar there, with solar panels on the roof, and a team who are keen to do more to reduce the footprint of the clinic.

GV Vets is a mixed practice, and despite being in the centre of a small city, like most businesses and residents in the regions can be heavily affected by weather and climate conditions.  Flooding of the Goulburn River in late 2022 cut the CBD of Shepparton and its eastern suburbs off from western parts of the city and the satellite town of Maroopna.  “The clinic wasn’t directly impacted,” Davo told me.  “But half our staff physically couldn’t get to work, and we couldn’t get to half our farm clients.”  


Flooding in Shepparton in 2022

The clinic is also very close to the Shepparton Showgrounds, which functioned as a major relief centre for residents.  At the height of the flooding, the clinic, always keen to support the local community, would send one of their vets around each day to provide urgent care for pets that had had to evacuate with their owners to escape the rising waters.

Over coffee in what is hands down the nicest (and biggest!) tea room I have ever been in in a vet clinic, Davo told me about a recent case of anthrax in the area, and his concerns that local vets, both government and private, aren’t necessarily well set up to deal with significant disease outbreaks, simply because there aren’t enough of them with good local knowledge.  It’s a worry that I definitely share, especially as climate change continues to alter local weather, exacerbate extremes and turbocharge natural disasters, leading to conditions that vastly increase stress on domestic and wild animal populations, and boost the subsequent risk of disease outbreaks.

Like many vet clinics, Vets for Climate Action was new to the team at GV vets, but now that they know more about who we are and what VfCA has to offer, I’m looking forward to visiting them again and working together as we all head towards a sustainable future.  

Visiting vet clinics to introduce them to VfCA and the Rural and Regional Program is one of my favourite parts of the work I do (and these days, is something that can easily be done remotely if you’re not in my travel radius).  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected] or via the contacts page if you’d like to find out more or have one of our team come to your clinic. 


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