The doors of the Cairns Conference Centre were thrown open today to welcome the first of 1,100 delegates participating in the 14th National Rural Health Conference, being held over the next four days.
Celebrating 'A World of Rural Health', industry leaders, professionals in the sector, students, carers, and those generally interested in assisting improve the health and wellbeing of people living in remote and rural areas, from throughout Australia, will actively engage in helping set future directions.
The most important event of its kind in the country for rural health, following a range of pre-Conference sessions that included Olympian, Raelene Boyle discussing breast cancer treatment and care, the Opening Session was live-streamed on YouTube for the first time.
The proceedings were officially commenced with a traditional smoking ceremony and welcome to country by Gudju Gudju, from the Gimuy Walu Bara clan and Yidinji nation.
Uniquely, an artefact from the Papua region, a hand-carved crocodile – considered a symbol of resilience and evolution – was presented.
“We're encouraging people to write a few words on a card on what their hopes for rural health are, and to place them in the vessel.
“Along with embers from the Smoking Ceremony and the eucalyptus leaves given to us by the Traditional Owners, they will be burned as a symbol of our combined commitment to better health and wellbeing in rural and remote communities.”
Later in proceedings, Chief Political correspondent for SBS and Conference MC, Catherine McGrath, hosted a panel discussing the hopes and expectations of the event. Presenters included the CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Martin Laverty, and Chief Executive for the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Clare Douglas.
Further contributions were made by Warren Snowdon, Member for Lingiari, on the Parliamentary Friends of Rural and Remote Health; Senior Australian of the Year for 2017, Sr Anne Gardiner, on 'connecting cultures'; and an introduction to the innovative Sharing Shed, the platform which allows delegates to submit recommendations for further improvements in rural and remote health, by the Facilitator, Tanya Lehmann.