A wide gap remains between access to healthcare in rural and regional communities as compared to in metropolitan cities, with the deepest channel existing in the treatment of childhood developmental issues.
That is according to the findings the 'Stories of the Invisible Children report, a joint Charles Sturt University and Royal Far West study.
Recommendations from the year-and-a-half of investigation around the Riverina were delivered to Canberra on February 13.
"We knew that children in remote Australia are five times more likely to suffer developmental problems compared to those in the city," said chief researcher Dr Tamara Cumming.
The report details the difference between city and country healthcare in stark terms. Of those children diagnosed with developmental issues, one-in-three will not be able to access care.
"One family said in one week they travelled 700km for treatment of their child's very complex issues," said Royal Far West business director Jacqui Emery.
"Even if they have access to support, they face frustratingly long waiting lists and irregularity in their appointments. They may have to wait up to six weeks between visits to a specialist."
A common precursor to mental health problems, developmental issues can be hard to diagnose.
"In some areas, the vulnerability isn't known for a long time, and if it is, there may not be a specialist there to help, there may only be specialists who deal with adults, for example," said Dr Cumming.
Additionally, there is a small window of opportunity to rectify some of these issues.
"There's a lot of evidence to suggest that nought to six years is the best time to [catch these issues]," said Ms Emery.
"Often it begins as something simple, like struggling to tie your shoelaces, or catch a ball, or interact with peers. After 12, these things become much more difficult to rectify."
Distance is the biggest challenge faced by families in rural and remote areas.
"Without exaggeration, some families we spoke with are driving hundreds of kilometres to get to their child's appointment," Dr Cumming said.
"Two hours in the car can be a stressful situation for children with developmental problems, so by the time they arrive they're not in a good place to be seeing the specialist.
"But their parents are still paying enormous amounts for that appointment, and then they have to get back in the car and travel back another two hours."
To address the distance difficulty, the report advocates for the development of remote-based technology.