IAHA welcomes first National Rural Health Commissioner

IAHA congratulates Emeritus Professor Paul Worley on his appointment as Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner.

Federal Assistant Health Minister, Dr David Gillespie MP, announced Professor Worley’s appointment at the Rural Medicines Australia Conference in Melbourne on Saturday 21 October.

IAHA was heartened to hear Professor Worley acknowledge early in his acceptance address the thousands of years of health education and practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ culture of healing, community and family and his recognition and respect for this.  The Commissioners’ insights are especially welcome as around 40 per cent of Indigenous Australians live in outer regional, rural and remote Australia, compared with around 10 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians. 

Minister Gillespie pointed to Professor Worley’s distinguished career in rural health, both as a practitioner and an academic. He has practised as a GP in several locations, mostly in South Australia.  He was a long-standing Dean of Medicine at Flinders University in South Australia and has held senior leadership roles with the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.  He is recognised globally for his work in establishing models of rural medical education.

IAHA notes Professor Worley’s first priority will be to develop National Rural Generalist Pathways, to provide training, recognition and appropriate remuneration for the complex demands on doctors working outside major cities. 

However, IAHA is looking forward to Professor Worley consulting more widely with a range of health professionals and stakeholders to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice in considering the needs of the other (approximately 90 per cent) including allied and other health professionals, who work to improve the health of people living in rural and remote Australia.

“We know that allied health is essential to providing holistic person-centred care. We also know that there is maldistribution of the allied health workforce with significant gaps in rural and remote Australia, some due to workforce planning and models that don’t always support allied health, which disadvantages individuals and families in need from accessing these vital services” says Donna Murray, IAHA CEO. 

“IAHA looks forward to working with the Commissioner to support Indigenous community-driven workforce development initiatives that foster a sustainable, culturally safe and responsive rural and remote health workforce.” 

“As the Commissioner points out, developing the health workforce brings both health and economic benefits to communities.  So increasing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied and other health workforce is not only essential to improve health, it creates real  jobs and makes economic sense for local communities”  says Ms. Murray. 

 

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