OBJECTIVE: Retaining allied health professionals in rural areas is a recognised problem. Generally the literature has concentrated on three elements: practitioner needs, community needs and organisational needs. There has been little attempt to focus other types of social relations in which health practitioner retention and recruitment takes place. The aim of this paper is to question the present dominant hierarchical approach taken in relation to the retention of allied health professionals in rural localities. METHODS: The data derives from a survey in Southwest Victoria, Australia. The sample was purposive rather than representative as it was intended to be exploratory in nature rather than definitive. RESULTS: The data indicates that there is a greater tendency for allied health professionals in private practice to be retained in rural areas than those in the public sector. CONCLUSION: The paper concludes by raising some questions about the pertinence of present models for regional health initiatives since they are locked into a bureaucratic model where relationships are hierarchical and asymmetrically controlled.