As 2023 comes to a close, I feel privileged to be leading such a vital and important organisation as the National Rural Health Alliance. It has been a very busy year for the Alliance as we work towards our mission of improving the health and wellbeing of rural, regional and remote communities.
I am proud of the advocacy work we have accomplished and the partnerships we have built throughout the year. I’m happy to say that our profile across the health system, as well as other portfolios and sectors e.g. education, infrastructure, industry and economic development, has grown significantly. Our engagement activities including our media presence, social media channels, and Partyline are also flourishing. Within the last year, Partyline received submissions from important stakeholders and peak national health organisations, as well as grassroots organisations across Australia who have contributed with great enthusiasm. In this edition we feature articles ranging from one by the National Rural Health Commissioner, Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart to an article by the Grampians Public Health Unit about the paws-itive effects on health of their working dog events. We’re honoured and humbled by the trust you place upon us; having faith that we will tell your stories to the rest of Australia. I’m truly grateful to all our contributors and advertisers who support us to produce such high-quality issues throughout the year.
The end of the year is a timely point to reflect on the positive impact your work has made on rural communities while looking to the future on what more we can do to support them. We know from new evidence released this year that each person in rural Australia is missing out on nearly $850 a year of healthcare access, which equates to a total annual rural health spending deficit of $6.5 billion. It has been the Alliance’s top priority this year to bring focus to this appalling evidence and engage with government, media and other stakeholders to ensure that rural communities receive the quality health care they deserve.
We also celebrated a significant milestone of 30 years of the Alliance. Parliamentary Friends of Rural and Regional Health was re-launched at Parliament House in November, marking our anniversary, which brought together organisations and people from across the country who are passionate about rural, regional and remote health. It was heartening to see the encouragement and the wealth of resources we have to drive forth our ambition of creating a healthy rural population.
The 9th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium, held in June this year, brought together nearly 250 participants to share their latest research on rural health and build connections. Rural health researchers and policy leaders engaged participants with insights into a diverse range of topics, such as planning from the grassroots, the economic contribution of rural Australia, health and climate change, healthcare access, funding of rural health research, the Voice to Parliament and much more.
We had more reason to celebrate this year as we welcomed our 50th member, in our 30th year! It may seem like a small number, but we value the quality and breadth of our membership rather than the quantity. Each national organisation has brought great value to the Alliance as they are either clinicians, service providers, researchers or educators along the consumer or clinician journey, and I’m pleased to lead such a vibrant organisation.
We have achieved mammoth tasks this year and take inspiration from our reflections to move on to the next year with greater strength and vigour. I am pleased with the breadth of our contributors who shared their inspirational stories and are already planning innovative activities for next year.
I wish you all the best in your work and hope to read many more inspiring stories in the upcoming year. I also wish you a merry Christmas and a happy, safe and healthy New Year.