The 13th National Rural Health Conference opened yesterday with the clear message that there is a world of possibilities for better rural and remote health in Australia. More than 1100 delegates listened to local and national dignitaries reminding them of the vital work rural health professionals and carers do for those Australians who live outside of the cities. Passion, dedication and pride were common themes returned to, as each speaker made special mention of the energy that rural and remote health workers bring to their work.
Nadine and Tony Lee from Larrakia Nation spoke of the importance of mutual respect between cultures and gave a heartfelt Welcome to Country to Conference delegates. They also spoke of the importance of the special connection to land for the health and wellbeing of their people.
Senator Fiona Nash, Federal Assistant Minister for Health, gave an overview of recent health measures introduced by the Commonwealth Government and how these will assist health service delivery for people living in rural and remote communities. She highlighted how changes to the GP Rural Incentive Program, in which doctors are provided financial incentives to practise outside the cities, will see more payments offered to attract GPs to 450 rural and remote towns in areas of high health need.
International artist and NT Australian of the year 2014, Shellie Morris, captivated delegates with her story of hope and how talking and listening to each other makes us strong. She appealed to delegates to “do what you do because that will change the face of Australia” and reiterated what vital and critical work health professional and mangers do for rural and remote health. She gave a short performance that enthralled delegates and had them clapping and singing along.
John Elferink MLA, NT Minister for Health, gave a thought provoking opening address that connected health with a person’s sense of purpose and identity. He presented delegates with the argument that a healthy life is a complete and purposeful life, and that this should be an underlying principle when examining how to address health problems. He urged delegates, as health providers, to help provide a sense of purpose to the people with whom they work.
The first keynote address of the Conference was given by Carol Reeve from the Centre for Remote Health. Dr Reeve’s compelling presentation dealt with concept of ‘Fair Care’ for people in rural and remote Australia. The disparity between life expectancy and health outcomes of those who live in cities compared to those in the country, is so stark that she argued a person’s “postcode has a greater impact on their health than their genetic code”. Dr Reeve’s message of fair care and making sure that “those that need health care the most, get the care they need” was a fitting way to reinforce the fact that, with the right focus and resources, there is a world of possibilities for better health and wellbeing in rural and remote Australia.
Today sees the Conference explore ‘The People of Remote and Rural Health’ through two dedicated plenary sessions and two concurrent streams featuring dozens of presentations grouped by common themes. For information on what is happening at the conference, including the program and streamed presentations, visit http://www.ruralhealth.org.au/13nrhc/.
Damien Hickman – Communications 0414 380 892
Tim Kelly – Chairperson: 0438 011 383