Lima South near Benalla has a community hall, a fire station, several farms and not much else, but for Dr Hayden Jones working there would be a breath of fresh air.

In 2013 Hayden received a Gardiner Dairy Foundation Tertiary Scholarship that helped him pursue a career in medicine. Today he is working as an intern doctor with Peninsula Health on the Mornington Peninsula. As he battles through the metropolitan coronavirus lockdown, returning to his rural roots looks more appealing than ever.

“At my parents’ farm, social distancing is no different from normal,” Hayden said. “Every time I speak to my family back home, it seems like they are living in a different world. They can walk down the street and see people.”

Hayden has long-term plans to become a rural GP and has already enjoyed a taste of country practice in the South Gippsland dairy community at Wonthaggi.

“My plan is to train to become a GP, partly because of the flexibility and the ability to work in a rural area,” he said.

“I did a one-year placement in Wonthaggi and got to know and like that area and Gippsland in general. The coast beyond Geelong is also nice and I have family up north, so there are lots of options.”

During his time with Peninsula Health, he has been mostly based at Frankston Hospital. He worked for 10 weeks in the emergency department at Rosebud Hospital and later this year will spend 10 weeks at an aged care facility in Mornington. He plans to continue for the next few years at Frankston but will eventually fulfil his ambition of returning to the country.

“Longer-term I want to contribute back to where I grew up or another rural region like that. I got a lot of support from family and friends and then the Gardiner scholarship so it would be nice to give something back,” he said.

“I enjoy Melbourne and the experience of city living and I enjoy working at Frankston, but it would be nice to be in the country at the moment,” he added.

Hayden loves the land and lifestyle of rural regions, but he also points to regional disadvantage as one of his reasons for wanting to return.

“It’s the area where the need for health professionals is greatest. Healthcare is one aspect in which regional and rural areas are frequently disadvantaged, often due to a lack of quality staff with sufficient qualifications. The very fact that people living in rural areas tend to have shorter lifespans and higher levels of illness seems a terrible injustice to me, and I want to be able to help combat this in any way possible.”

The Gardiner Dairy Foundation Tertiary Scholarship is designed to invest in people to support vibrant dairy communities and Hayden said it played a vital role in his success.

“It really helps rural students planning to move to Melbourne to study,” Hayden said. “It meant I didn’t have to find a part-time job to support myself. I know some people who kept up part-time work while they studied but I feel I would have really struggled to do that.”

The scholarship allowed Hayden to live on campus for his first year of university, easing the stress of the transition. “Moving from the country to the city was all new to me but because of the scholarship I could live on campus and that was very helpful as it gave me easy access to tutors and resources,” he said.

The scholarship also allowed Hayden to invest in his future. “Any time I needed equipment or text books, I was able to invest more in my training because I had that scholarship.”

Hayden encourages other young people in Victorian dairying regions to apply for the Gardiner Tertiary Scholarships. “It’s really helpful and very generous and I’m very thankful for the support,” he said.


Applications for 2021 Gardiner Tertiary Scholarships open 15 September and will close2 December. For  more information please go to: