Introducing the new Friends Advisory Committee

01 July 2019

Friends of the Alliance has elected a new Advisory Committee to lead it through the next two years.  The new Committee will represent all States and Territories in Australia and provide valuable grassroots input and support to the work of the National Rural Health Alliance.  Friends of the Alliance is united by a passion for improving the health and wellbeing of the 7 million people in rural, regional and remote Australia.

The Friends network gives individuals and organisations the opportunity to report into the NRHA and comment on issues and developments relating to good health and wellbeing across rural and remote Australia.  

Members of Friends also receive a complimentary subscription to the Australian Journal of Rural Heath, discounted NRHA Conference registration, as well as representation of their views to the Alliance Council through the Friends Chairperson.  The Alliance’s online magazine, Partyline, actively seeks contributions from Friends for publication.

"It is very encouraging to see the Friends network elect a new Advisory Committee with a mix of new faces with broad experience, as well as continuity from the outgoing Committee,” Tanya Lehmann, Chair of the Alliance, said.

Re-elected committee members Rachel Yates from the ACT, and Gwenda Freeman from Victoria, bring continuity. In the ACT, Rachel will be joined by Arnagretta Hunter, a Canberra-based cardiologist with rural roots over several generations, and Gwenda will be joined in Victoria by Hannah Dolling from Shepparton.  Hannah is keen to discuss how equity in healthcare, sustainability, accessibility and community-based programs can help address health disparities in remote and regional Australia.

A key strength of Friends of the Alliance since its inception has been strong representation of rural health consumers. This will be led in the new Advisory Committee by Linda Beaver (NSW) and Carol Hughes (QLD), among others.

Linda brings knowledge and experience in health consumer engagement and support aligned with healthcare service needs, and is committed to ensuring health services focus on the person. Community consultation is integral to her work and drives her focus in this field.

Carol Hughes brings extensive experience as an advocate for positive health experiences for consumers. Her focus is to advocate for improved access to rural and remote health services and programs.

In NSW, Carol will be joined by Megan Callinan from Marathon Health, who brings broad experience across the health and community sectors and in training and employment, and by long-time Friend of the Alliance, David Lindsay, from James Cook University in Cairns.

The Northern Territory will be represented by Heather Keighley and Alan Graham from the NT PHN.  The other NT position is vacant and will be filled in due course.

South Australian representatives are Melissa Kruger from the Department of Rural Health, University of South Australia, and Natalie Szabo from the Royal Flying Doctor Service Central Operations.  Melissa plans to encourage continued information sharing among members, to ensure collective knowledge and mutual learning from each other and from predecessors, while Natalie will draw on multidisciplinary practitioner expertise to contribute to the debate at a national level.

Vandana Bhagat from the Centre for Rural Health, University of Tasmania, and Judi Walker from the University of Tasmania, will represent Tasmania. Vandana is currently pursuing a PhD in Medical Studies and believes that bringing equity in health care needs people to dream, work and achieve together.

Judi Walker, another very experienced and long-time Friend of the Alliance, has worked in the rural health sector for many years and is currently the Principal Co-Investigator of the Hazelwood Health Study at Monash University, studying the long-term health impacts of the 2014 Hazelwood open cut brown coal mine fire in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria.

Western Australia will be represented by Jane Leung from St John of God Social Outreach, and Lesley Pearson from WA Primary Health Alliance.  Jane has lived and worked as a nurse, midwife, manager and educator in most states of Australia, including regional and remote areas of Queensland and Western Australia.  Lesley has over 40 years’ experience in clinical practice and managerial roles in rural and remote communities in Western Australia, and is committed to improving access to health services in rural communities through collaborative practices.

"The Alliance Board values the input from Friends of the Alliance and I am delighted to congratulate the 16 who have been elected.  I am confident the breadth of experience and knowledge on this Committee will provide much valued advice and support to the Alliance,” Tanya Lehmann said.

“I would also like to sincerely thank the outgoing Committee who have contributed so much to the work of the Alliance over the past two years.  Led by the Friends’ Chair, Chris Moorhouse, the Committee saw growth in the Friends membership and was instrumental in the first draft of a cultural safety paper.”

The full list of members of the newly-elected Friends Advisory Committee can be seen at:  

One of the first tasks for the new Advisory Committee will be to elect a Chairperson, who will become a member of the Alliance Council.

To join or re-join Friends of the Alliance for 2019-20, visit

Media Enquiries: 

Leanne Coleman
Manager, Programs and Events
02 6285 4660 / 0407 991 854

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