Friends of the Alliance is the network of people and organisations that supports the objectives of the National Rural Health Alliance. The Friends Advisory Committee is comprised of two representatives from each State and Territory, elected by Friends from each jurisdiction, plus two representatives from the Alliance Council.
Here we meet some of the members of the Friends Advisory Committee.
Felicity Croker, Queensland representative, is a Senior Lecturer in the College of Medicine and Dentistry at James Cook University. She is passionate about working across disciplinary boundaries to develop competent clinicians for regional, rural and remote contexts. Informed by over 30 years of clinical practice, teaching and research in regional, remote and disadvantaged communities within Australia and the Asia Pacific, Felicity is strongly committed to educating a socially accountable health workforce who can contribute effectively to both regional and low resource communities. Working collaboratively with clinicians, community organisations and senior dental students, Felicity is leading projects that focus on building capacity in rural practice.
"I manage to get around the clinical sites in the region and I also belong to various Queensland consumer groups but there is always a need for broader consultation and I would encourage anyone interested in rural consumer health issues to join Friends and be part of the conversation."
Robyn Williams, a previous Chair of Friends and a Northern Territory representative, is coordinator of the Bachelor of Health Science at Charles Darwin University.
“As a health professional and educator and a passionate rural and remote health advocate, I think it is vital that the ‘consumer voice’ is heard and acted upon in respectful and positive ways. None of us would be in our jobs and living where we live if it wasn’t for the ‘consumers’. They are the part of the fabric of rural and remote life and have every right to more opportunity and improved health outcomes.”
Debbie Elliot, Queensland representative, is a consumer advocate from Moura, Queensland.
“I had little or no involvement in influencing how health care was delivered in my community and felt I had little to contribute. I felt there were many people better equipped to have input than me. However, a crisis arose where grassroots health consumers needed to band together for a common cause and voice what our community needed. Since then, I passionately protect our services and lobby for extra services. I encourage anyone who has an interest in knowing more about rural health services and opportunities to consider joining Friends and sharing your voice because people living and working in rural communities are the richest source of information regarding their own needs.”
Helen Murray, New South Wales representative is a consumer/carer. She on the Rural and Remote Codeine Communications Clinical Advisory Group, co-ordinated by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, which is shaping activities and developing resources that will support practitioners now that codeine medications are not available over the counter:
“In this early stage I have raised the issue of ensuring practitioners are given information about resources they can pass on to consumers to answer their concerns. It could include, for example, a notice in the waiting room about codeine with the HealthDirect 24 hour Helpline number.“
Helen outlined that two people in her local community told her they simply can’t afford $80 to see a GP for a prescription for occasional pain and are openly annoyed about extra cost and inconvenience. Helen believes that good practitioners have an awareness about consumer costs, and that this should be encouraged.
Find out more about the Friends and how to join at http://ruralhealth.org.au/friends