In early September the Alliance welcomed its 41 member organisations to Canberra for our annual ‘CouncilFest’ meeting.
The 28th Annual General Meeting saw Tanya Lehmann re-elected as Chair of the Alliance for another year. The newly elected Board member, Viney Joshi, a rural generalist GP from Carnarvon WA joins Stephen Gourley (Deputy Chair), Julianne Bryce (Treasurer), Nicole O’Reilly (Secretary), Dan Mahony, Peter O’Meara and Lynne Strathie, to make a strong and diverse Board with a complementary skill set. I would like to thank Lindy Swain from Broome WA, who retired from the Board this year, for her support during my first few months as CEO and for her contribution to the organisation as a whole.
During CouncilFest the 41 member bodies agreed on a set of key priorities that were taken to Parliament House to discuss with around 40 interested parliamentarians.
The key priorities were:
- additional investment in education and training pathways for health professionals in rural Australia, from vocational through to postgraduate education;
- flexible funding and business support for health precincts/networks in rural areas—that encompass health care, education, aged care, disability and other social services to overcome market failure and provide holistic, integrated health precincts or networks (seeking $15.4 million from Federal Government to evaluate several exemplars across rural and remote Australia); and
- connectivity in rural areas is also incredibly important to health and wellbeing. The Alliance called on the Government to invest in digital health infrastructure and do more to provide universal access to high-speed internet in rural and remote areas.
Through these meetings the Alliance was able to ensure that the voice of the people of rural and remote Australia is heard on current policy issues affecting their wellbeing, as well as promoting key priorities for improving health services.
Other highlights of CouncilFest included:
- learning some Wiradjuri language with Elaine Lomas;
- a fascinating glimpse of space medicine from Dr Emma Tucker, medical doctor and astrophysicist at the annual dinner sponsored by HESTA;
- 28th Annual General Meeting and election of new Board;
- creating wellbeing nests: an exploration of arts therapy engaging all Council Members led by arts and health therapist Jemima Beaumont, Sacred Space Arts Therapy; and
- planning to improve internal communications among the Alliance’s growing membership.
During CouncilFest ABC’s 4 Corners program aired Health Hazard which highlighted some systemic failures in regional health services. We know there is a large gap in health funding and the outcomes for rural and remote people. This story illustrates that there are deeper issues underlying these tragic stories, including the chronic under investment in rural health over many years and the increased cost and complexity of delivering health care in Australia’s geographically distributed landscape.
The provision of timely and high quality health care is complex and requires significant long-term attention and political will by all levels of government. The Alliance stands ready to advise government on ways to strengthen the system.