Keynote Speakers

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Margaret Alston

Margaret Alston

Professor, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle

Rural women's health


Margaret Alston is the Professor of Social Work, School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle. Prior to that she was the Professor of Social Work and Head of Department at Monash University, where in 2008 she established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) research unit. Margaret has also spent 21 years at Charles Sturt University.

Margaret is a past-Chair of the Australian Heads of Schools of Social Work (ACHSSW) and was Foundation Fellow of the Australian College of Social Work in 2011. Over many years she has served on a number of high-level university committees. Most recently, Monash's Academic Board, Social Inclusion Board, Faculty Executive Committee, Faculty Board, and School Executive Committee. She was also Chair of Monash University's Disability Committee.

Margaret has made a significant contribution to social science curriculum development and has written and co-written textbooks, perhaps the best known being Research for Social Workers (with Wendy Bowles). This book is in third edition and has a wide readership in Australia, the US and the UK.

In 2010 Margaret was awarded an OAM for services to rural women and to social work.

Her main areas of research are gender, climate and environmental disasters, rural women and social work. 

Margaret is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council (ARC) project on social sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin area and on the ARC Invisible Farmer project with the Victorian Museum to develop awareness of rural women’s contribution to Australian society.


Drawing on research conducted in rural areas over a number of years, this presentation will focus on rural women’s health.  Margaret will outline the impacts of drought, water scarcity and a dominance of neoliberal policies on women’s lives, livelihoods and health.

Margaret will focus on two issues - experiences of violence and birthing, highlighting problematic health service infrastructure.

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Dr Jeff Ayton

Jeff Ayton

Chief Medical Officer, Australian Antarctic Division, Polar Medicine Unit

Delivering health services to Australia’s remotest communities—Australia’s Antarctic Program


Dr Jeff Ayton MBBS MPH&TM FACRRM FACTM FFEWM AFFTM DRANZCOG DA(UK) is the Chief Medical Officer of the Australian Antarctic Division, leading the Australian Antarctic Program comprehensive medical support and human biology and medicine research programs since 2002, supporting through telemedicine some of the most remote and isolated communities on Earth.

His clinical practice experience includes remote generalist medicine, Antarctic medicine, and general practice obstetrics and anaesthesia.

He has previously held office and leadership positions including Chief Officer of the Scientific Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP), Joint Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine.

He has experience in rural and remote procedural medical practice, telemedicine and afterhours triage and global medical assistance. He is a Past President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), current chair of the ACRRM Rural and Remote Digital Innovations Group and ACRRM representative on various generalist workforce, scope of practice , quality and standards and point of care testing committees.

He holds Adjunct Associate Professorships, at the College of Health and Medicine University of Tasmania, Hobart and at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville Australia.


Australia’s Antarctic Program supports small expedition and research communities in Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and subantarctic islands.

Healthcare delivery to these communities are challenged by total isolation over winter for up to 9 months, workforce and distance, and the extreme environment of the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on earth

A highly trained and supported generalist workforce is supported by innovative training, digital  health, point of care diagnostics and telehealth supported from Hobart Tasmania.

Can we apply these learnings to other remote Australian communities?

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Fran Baum

Fran Baum

Director, Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity; and Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor, Flinders University

Governing for health and equity: perspective for rural Australia


Fran Baum is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor of Public Health and Foundation, Director of the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. She was named in the Queen’s Birthday 2016 Honours List as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to higher education as an academic and public health researcher, as an advocate for improved access to community health care, and to professional organisations”. From 2009 to 2014 she held a prestigious Australia Research Council Federation Fellowship. She is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences and of the Australian Health Promotion Association. She is a past National President and Life Member of the Public Health Association of Australia. She is a member and past Chair of the Global Steering Council of the People’s Health Movement, a global network of health activists (www. She also served as a Commissioner on the World Health Organization’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health from 2005 to 2008.

Fran Baum is one of Australia's leading researchers on the social and economic determinants of health. She holds grants from the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australia Research Council, which are considering a wide range of aspects of health inequities and social determinants of health. These grants include an NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence on Policies for Health Equity of which she is one of the two co-Directors. Her book, The New Public Health (4th edn published January 2016 by Oxford University Press), is widely cited and used in many public health courses. Her new book, Governing for Health (Oxford University Press, New York, December, 2018), examines how a society can be organised to best promote health.


In Australia health inequities are increasing. This reflects a vicious circle of adverse trends including a deteriorating environment, an unfair economic order, social distress, weak and uninspired political leadership. Rural and remote Australia is particularly vulnerable to these trends as is reflected in the worse health status of people living in those areas, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

My keynote address will argue that these multiple problems will not be solved until our societies are governed for health and wellbeing rather than for profit.

This governance will be important  politically, bureaucratically and from civil society. Reducing inequities will require all sectors to develop policies that explicitly aim to reduce health inequities. Examples will be given from the fiscal, environmental and health sectors. In the fiscal sector the challenge is to ensure that taxation is fair and that locally rooted, community and worker responsive forms of business are encouraged. The practices of transnational corporations also have to be regulated in the interest of health and equity.  Environmentally, the human race is staring extinction in the face and drastic action has to be taken to restore the planet to a place that can continue to support healthy living.  The importance of community control in the health sectors will be discussed.

The paper will conclude with an examination of the importance of effective civil society action in bringing about healthy and equitable change.

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James Buchan

Adjunct Professor, World Health Organization Collaborating Centre, University of Technology, Sydney

A global view of the rural health workforce


Professor James Buchan is an Adjunct Professor of the WHO Collaborating Centre at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia, and Senior Visiting Fellow at the Health Foundation in the UK. He has more than thirty years’ experience working in government, management and as a policy advisor/consultant in health care human resources (HRH), having worked in more than 70 countries.

James specialised in developing strategic intelligence and policy advice at national level and internationally on the HRH implications of health sector reorganisation and health care reform; health workforce pay, incentives and reward strategy; workforce planning; employment relations; labour market analysis; and skill mix/extended roles.

James has extensive experience working with Ministries of Health and equivalent at national level and is an experienced invited speaker at national and international conferences on HR issues in the health sector. He acts as a consultant and adviser for many national and international bodies and organisations such as: World Bank, WHO, OECD and EU. Recent work has been in Australia, China, England, India, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Portugal, Scotland and Sri Lanka. He is currently working on a WHO project on retention of health workers in rural/remote areas, and as an adviser to the Scottish government's National Workforce Planning Group.


There is growing recognition that equitable access to quality health services requires an adequate and effective health workforce. In rural health this requires effective retention and geographic distribution of often scarce skilled workers, to achieve a sustainable workforce that can support quality healthcare.

This presentation will focus particularly on one key aspect of workforce sustainability in rural health: the retention of workers. It will take an international perspective in summarising what is known about effective policies on workforce retention in remote and rural areas.  This will draw from the speakers  own  recent and current work, as well as from key international findings.

Given that each health system and country have its own retention priorities and challenges, the presentation will not attempt to prescribe specific “off the shelf” solutions for Australia. It will synthesise key aspects of the evidence base in order to present a policy framework for health workforce  retention, using illustrative examples of key evidence and policy pointers.

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Harry Burns

Sir Harry Burns

Professor of Global Public Health, University of Strathclyde, Scotland

Early childhood trauma, social determinants of health, anticipatory care approach


Sir Harry Burns graduated in medicine from Glasgow University in 1974. He trained in surgery in Glasgow and was appointed as a Consultant Surgeon in the University Department of Surgery at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow in 1984. Working with patients in the east end of Glasgow gave him an insight into the complex inter-relationships between social and economic status and illness. He completed a Masters Degree in Public Health in 1990 and shortly afterwards was appointed Medical Director of The Royal Infirmary.

In 1994, Sir Harry became Director of Public Health for Greater Glasgow Health Board, a position he occupied until 2005. During his time with Greater Glasgow Health Board, he continued research into the problems of social determinants of health and in 2005, he became Chief Medical Officer for Scotland. In this role, his responsibilities included aspects of public health policy, health protection and, for a time, sport.

He was Knighted in 2011. In April 2014 he became Professor of Global Public Health at Strathclyde University, where he continues his interest in understanding how societies create wellness. In addition to his University work, Sir Harry is Chair of the Wheatley Foundation, the charitable trust of the Wheatley Group, which supports people in the Wheatley community who may be disadvantaged or vulnerable; he is a Board member of Diabetes UK and of Spirit of 2012, the London 2012 legacy charity, a Trustee of the STV Children’s Appeal Board, and a Governor of St Aloysius College.

In 2014, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, presented Sir Harry a lifetime achievement award from the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament for Public Service. In September 2016, the Scottish Government announced that he would chair an independent review of targets in Scotland's NHS. The report was published in November 2017.


Over the past 6 or 7 decades, we have seen widening inequality in life expectancy between affluent and economically deprived areas of Scotland. Close examination shows the major drivers of this inequality are not the expected causes of death but those which are clearly associated with social conditions such as drugds alcohol and suicide. We are now seeing similar patterns of ill health affecting other countries such as the United States where they have seen emergence of a pattern of mortality they describe as “deaths of despair.”

Evidence from studies in the US, New Zealand and England show that adversity in early life is a major determinant of this pattern premature mortality. The economic impact of adverse childhood experiences is profound. Investment in supporting families living in difficult circumstances is necessary as a matter of social justice but will also have significant economic benefits.

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Anne Cahill Lambert

Anne Cahill Lambert

Health Consumer Advocate

'Nothing for us or about us without us': better together with rural health consumers


Anne Cahill Lambert AM is a board member of the Benalla Health in north-east Victoria.

Anne’s key health consumer advocacy has been as a Council Member on the NHMRC; as a Council Member of the Australian Organ and Tissue Authority; as Chair of Gift of Life, and as someone who has lived through a seemingly terminal illness over a twelve-year period.

Anne has a Master of Public Administration, University of Canberra; Bachelor of Health Administration, University of New South Wales; and is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Service Management. She is also a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to health care administration, particularly through contributions to improve hospital services for women and children. She has been the recipient of the ACT Chief Minister’s Special Award for Outstanding Contribution for Organ Donation Awareness; a Life Member of the Australasian College of Health Service Management for conspicuous service to the College; the Inaugural winner of the Women’s Hospitals Australasia Medal of Distinction; and the Children’s Hospitals Australasia Medal of Distinction.

Local listeners in Canberra enjoy Anne’s regular slot on the ABC Radio Sports Panel talking cricket, AFL and AFLW.


Australia’s universal health system operates on the principles of fairness, equity and access, unless of course you are part of the 30% of the population living in rural, regional and remote Australia.  How can we rejig the system to ensure that our postcode doesn’t dictate a diminution of those principles?  Our patients/consumers and their families are essential to overcoming the hurdles that interfere with the principles of Australia’s universal health system.

Workforce issues continue to interrupt a high-quality health service for rural, regional and remote Australians.  Can our consumers and their families help in devising other ways of delivering healthcare that accommodates workforce shortages?  Are we using technology to the best of our ability?  What about the “movements” such as shared decision making and hello, my name is? 

This presentation will address the concept that consumers want to be responsible for their own health and well-being, if only they could be allowed to have such a leading role.  Inevitably their health outcomes will be better if they are able to work with others to devise appropriate systems and processes.

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Sandro Demaio

Sandro Demaio

Chief Executive Officer, EAT; Founder, Sandro Demaio Foundation; Ask the Doctor

Closing address


Sandro Demaio trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Australia. While practising as a doctor he completed a Master in Public Health, including fieldwork in Cambodia.

In 2010, he relocated to Denmark, where he completed a PhD with the University of Copenhagen, focusing on non-communicable diseases. His doctoral research was based in Mongolia, working with the Ministry of Health. He designed, led and reported a national epidemiological survey, sampling more than 3500 households.

Sandro held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School from 2013 to 2015, and was assistant professor and course director in global health at the Copenhagen School of Global Health, in Denmark. He also established and led the PLOS blog Global Health.

From November 2015 until April 2018, Sandro was Medical Officer for non-communicable conditions and nutrition with the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the global headquarters of the World Health Organization.

In April 2018, Sandro became Chief Executive Office of EAT: the science-based, global platform for food systems transformation.

In his pro bono work, Dr Demaio co-founded NCDFREE, a global social movement against non-communicable diseases, using social media, short film and leadership events—reaching more than 2.5 million people in its first 18 months. In 2015, he founded festival21, assembling and leading a team of knowledge leaders in staging a massive and unprecedented free celebration of community, food, culture and future in his hometown Melbourne.

Then in 2018, and funded through his media work with ABC TV and Pan MacMillan publishers, Sandro established an independent, not-for-profit foundation focused on improving the health and nutrition of Australians.

Sandro currently co-hosts the ABC television show Ask the Doctor, an innovative and exploratory factual medical series broadcasting weekly across Australia.

To date, he has published 30 scientific papers and more than 90 articles. He is also the author of the Doctor’s Diet, a cookbook based on science and inspired by a love of good food.

Sandro is fascinated by systems-innovation and leadership; impact in a post-democracy; and externality-driven disease.


Linking global to local and with a focus on the road ahead, Sandro will provide a closing call-to-action for rural health leaders.

Leaning on his experiences with the United Nations, Harvard University and his current work in global nutrition, he will challenge our framing of leadership, and our roles in catalyzing change.

Set around the dominant health threats to the planet and its population, Sandro will help set the stage for how and why our role as health leaders will be crucial going forward.

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Senator Richard Di Natale

Leader of the Australian Greens

Prioritising the needs of rural health into the future


Dr Richard Di Natale is the leader of the Australian Greens. He was elected to the federal parliament in 2010 and was the Greens’ first Victorian Senator.

Prior to entering parliament, Richard was a GP and public health specialist. He worked in Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory, on HIV prevention in India, and in the drug and alcohol sector.

Richard champions evidence-based solutions to the major problems facing our community today: climate change, growing economic inequality and the destruction of our environment.

Richard firmly believes that our democracy should be transparent and work for all of us, not just those who can buy a seat at the table. He is a leading voice in the campaign to clean up politics by ending corporate influence and donations to political parties.

Richard's achievements in parliament so far include securing almost $5 billion towards Medicare-funded dentistry, winning a campaign to divest $250 million worth of tobacco stocks from the Future Fund, and spearheading campaigns into many issues of public significance, including dying with dignity, medicinal cannabis, and drug law reform. His portfolios include health, multiculturalism and sport.

Richard, his wife Lucy, and their two young sons, live off the grid on a farm in the foothills of Victoria's Otway Ranges. The son of Italian migrants, Richard grew up in Melbourne.


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Richard Eccelston

Professor, Institute for the Study of Social Change

Education, employment participation and health outcomes—Tasmania as a case study


Richard Eccleston is professor of political science and the founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of Tasmania.

Since 2014 Richard has led a dedicated team which focuses on research and analysis that addresses the issues of concern in Tasmania and also other regional economies.

Richard specialises in comparative and international political economy and has undertaken extensive international research and has published six books in this field over the past 15 years.

He has written widely on the politics of tax reform and his most recent book, The Dynamics of Global Economic Governance, explores the question of international tax cooperation in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.

In 2014 Richard lived in Washington DC as a Fulbright Senior Scholar, where he studied the impact of the Financial Crisis and its aftermath on public services and inequality.

Richard is a passionate Tasmanian and has returned to the state to raise a family. He is a respected policy analyst and commentator and he is deeply committed to creating a more prosperous and inclusive Tasmania.

For more information on Richard the Institute visit


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Cassandra Goldie

Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Service

A decent social safety net and affordable housing: a plan for a healthier future


Cassandra Goldie has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) since July 2010. With public policy expertise in economic and social issues, civil society, social justice and human rights, Cassandra has represented the interests of people who are disadvantaged, and civil society generally, in major national and international processes as well as in grassroots communities.

Cassandra has previously held senior roles in both the NFP and public sectors, including as Director of Sex and Age Discrimination with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Director and Principal Solicitor with the Darwin Community Legal Service and Senior Executive with Legal Aid in Western Australia.

Cassandra has a PhD from the University of New South Wales, a Masters of Law from University College London and is an Adjunct Professor with the Faculty of Law, UNSW. In 2014, Cassandra was voted one of the Impact 25 Most Influential People in the Social Economy, and she was recognised by the AFR in 2015 on their Annual Overt Power List. In 2018, Cassandra was recognised as one of Australia’s top 50 Outstanding LGBTI Executives by Deloitte.


We know that the conditions in which we work and live (including the distribution of income, wealth, influence, and power) affect our health. In their landmark 2008 report on the social determinants of health, the World Health Organisation said that "social injustice is killing people on a grand scale”.

The WHO added that "(The) toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure responsible for the fact that a majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible." One study estimates that if action was taken on social determinants—and the health gaps between the most and least disadvantaged closed—500,000 Australians could be spared chronic illness, $2.3 billion in annual hospital costs could be saved, and Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme prescription numbers cut by 5.3 million (Brown et al. 2012).

In this speech, Dr Cassandra Goldie will look at some of the social determinants of health that are affecting people in Australia, including people in rural and remote communities, and some of the policy settings that can make a difference. Dr Goldie will speak about two social determinants in particular – income support and housing – and some of the effects of addressing these in rural and regional communities.

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Kalinda Griffiths

Scientia Fellow, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, University of NSW

Measuring health disparities in Australia: using data to drive solutions


Kalinda Griffiths is an Aboriginal woman born of Yawuru, Indonesian and Welsh heritage. Her interest in health stemmed from witnessing the preventable illness and disease experienced by her immediate and extended family. At 17, her career began in Indigenous health research with a laboratory traineeship. She gained experience predominantly on diabetes and related conditions in the Urban Indigenous Darwin study, the largest and most comprehensive dataset on diabetes-related conditions in urban Indigenous populations. It was during this work that she acquired a keen interest in driving solutions through the use of data. She then completed an undergraduate degree in biomedical science and a master’s degree in public health, before undertaking a year of specialised training in cancer epidemiology. She graduated from her PhD in cancer epidemiology at the University of Sydney in December 2017.

Kalinda is currently Scientia Fellow at the Centre for Big Data Research, UNSW and holds honorary fellowships at Menzies School of Health Research and University of Sydney. As an epidemiologist, her interest is in empirically addressing complex health disparities in populations through existing data. Her research currently addresses issues of quality and the utilisation of ‘big’ data pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Her areas of focus include Indigenous identification and the right for all people to be counted in the data, evidence-based approaches to Indigenous data governance as well as the measurement of health disparities, with a particular focus on cancer treatment and outcomes. She also holds a number of different roles, including Deputy Editor of the Health Promotion Journal of Australia. Kalinda’s work shows us issues and considerations required when using data to describe disparities, as well as the critical role that data plays in directing health equity solutions in Australia and around the globe.


Data is critical in identifying and monitoring disparities in health services and outcomes for all Australians. The vision for equitable rural and remote health requires us to recognise the intersecting lives and experiences of people living outside of major cities. There are however much needed discussions regarding the use of existing data to identify and address nuanced distributions of health within and across intersecting populations in order to drive system reform.

This talk aims to highlight some key concerns and future solutions when interrogating health and health systems through data and information.

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Catherine King

Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare


Catherine King has represented the Federal Electorate of Ballarat since she was first elected at the 2001 Federal Election.

While in government, Ms King served as Parliamentary Secretary in the portfolios of Health and Ageing and Infrastructure and Transport. As a Parliamentary Secretary in the health portfolio, Ms King held responsibility for nine health regulatory agencies, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Organ and Tissue Authority.

Now as a member of the Opposition Shadow Cabinet led by Bill Shorten, Ms King has held the role of Shadow Minister for Health and Medicare since 2013.

She holds a Degree in Social Work and a Masters in Public Policy from the Australian National University and a law degree from Deakin University.

Ms King worked in the social welfare sector in Ballarat and later in the public sector in Canberra as an assistant director for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and then as a director.

Prior to entering Parliament she was a senior manager at KPMG’s Health Consulting Practice.

Ms King is the first woman elected to represent the Federal seat of Ballarat, a town she calls home with her family.


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Kelvin Kong

Kelvin Kong

Conjoint Associate Professor, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle; Head and neck surgeon

Hearing loss and poor educational outcomes for rural children


Kelvin Kong qualified as the first Aboriginal Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), in 2007, specialising in OtoRhinoLaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.

Kelvin hails from the Worimi people of Port Stephens, NSW, Australia. He completed a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at the University of NSW in 1999. He embarked on his internship at St. Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst and pursued a surgical career, completing resident medical officer and registrar positions at various hospitals. Along the way, he has been privileged to serve in urban, rural and remote communities. He has also been humbled to partake in many committee and board roles with Royal Australasian College of Surgery (RACS), Australian Hearing (AH), NHMRC, Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA), National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) and many hospital initiatives.

He is now practising on Awabakal Country in Newcastle. He has a very diverse practice in ear, nose and throat surgery, initiating community clinics, primary health care, outreach and a private practice. His practice offers a full range of services in the discipline of ENT surgery.


Permission to publish this presentation has not been authorised.


Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi

Co-founders, Orange Sky

Better together—positively connecting communities


In October 2014, two best mates had a crazy idea to put two washing machines and two dryers in the back of a van, and wash and dry clothes for free.

Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, the 2016 Young Australians of the Year, founded Orange Sky – a world-first, free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness.

On a mission to improve hygiene standards, Nic and Lucas stumbled on something much bigger and more significant – the power of a conversation. Now facilitated by more than 1,800 volunteers, Orange Sky aims to positively connect the community.


Nic and Lucas met Harry and Jordan when they were still at school and when they were just launching Orange Sky – the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness.

Nic and Lucas will talk about the conversations they shared with Harry and Jordan and how these conversations shaped their lives.

They will also speak about the journey of Orange Sky including the organisation’s more recent movement into remote communities as well as the technology space.

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Bridget McKenzie

Minister responsible for rural health


Bridget McKenzie was born in rural Victoria in the small town of Alexandra. She was raised to be proud and passionate about regional Australia with the traditional rural influences of small business, sport and agriculture.

Bridget has completed a double degree in applied science (specialising in human movement) and teaching (specialising in mathematics). She later went on to conduct research in physical activity with young women in rural settings. During 2009–2010, Bridget was a lecturer for the Faculty of Education at the Monash University.

Bridget’s experiences as a secondary school teacher and university lecturer have fuelled her passion for education and Australia’s young people. She is committed to improving opportunities for young Australians, no matter where they live.

As an agent for change, Bridget is committed to increasing the profile of sport in Australia, promoting women’s sport and equality more broadly. She wants everyone, but particularly women and girls, to feel empowered through sport.

As a general sports enthusiast, Bridget is proud to promote healthy, active lifestyles. She continuously encourages her fellow Aussies to get out there and get active and participate no matter their ability or age. She believes that sport and physical activity are powerful mechanisms that connect communities.

As the Minister for Regional Services, and someone from a rural town, Bridget understands and recognises the vital importance of access to 21st century communications, health care services and education.

Bridget’s focus is on encouraging the health workforce to the regions so Australians in rural towns have access to a similar level of services as the rest of the country. This will have a positive effect on the overall health of regional Australia, including mental health.

Having lived in rural Victoria, Melbourne and overseas, Bridget is firm in her belief that strong regional economies and secure regional communities are critical to the future prosperity of Australia, and acknowledges the critical role local government plays in ensuring that their communities continue to grow.

Bridget was elected to the Senate of Victoria in 2010 and was re-elected in 2016. She was elected Deputy Leader of The Nationals and appointed Minister for Rural Health, Minister for Sport and Minister for Regional Communications in December 2017. In August 2018 Bridget was named Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation.

In her role as Senator for Victoria, Bridget has chaired a number of committees, including the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee as well as the Committee for Joint Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee, Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity Committee and the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee.

As the Deputy Leader of The National Party, Bridget is committed to ensuring that all Australians, regardless of where they live, have access to opportunities that will benefit them and their local communities.


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Jane Mills

Professor and Pro Vice Chancellor, College of Health, Massey University, New Zealand

Health is not just the absence of disease—how addressing the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals will lead to healthy people in a healthy world


Professor Jane Mills is the Pro-Vice Chancellor, College of Health at Massey University New Zealand.

Considered one of Australia’s foremost primary health care academics with extensive experience leading and managing teams in both government and tertiary sectors Jane's research portfolio focuses on rural and public health, health workforce, and health system strengthening.

With a career vision to improve the health  and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, Jane believes education and research are powerful vehicles for change that makes a positive difference.


As the largest group of health care workers, nurses are an integral part of the solution to improving patient safety and delivering effective and efficient health care. Nurses are the link between health care service providers, patients, carers, family members and the community. At every level, nurses have a significant role to play whether delivering care, accurately assessing needs, designing the clinical or policy response, or evaluating outcomes and effectiveness.

The Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, were adopted by the United Nations in 2014 to replace the Millennium Development Goals. They contain 17 goals, covering a broad range of sustainable development issues for the world, such as ending poverty, ending hunger, improving health and education, combating climate change, etc. The 191 UN Member States have agreed to achieve these new goals by 2030.

Health has a central place in SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all ages. But the work of nurses and other health care professionals also has a major impact on the delivery of other SDGs such as education and poverty—these are often referred to as the social determinants of health.

In her presentation, Jane will speak about the need to invest in the health workforce and health care services in order to get a better economic return with healthier, more productive populations.

She will address the importance of multidisciplinary teams and the need for all public service sectors to work together to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Lorimer Moseley

Lorimer Moseley

Professor of Clinical Neuroscience, University of South Australia

Pain, the brain, your protectometer and why our rural communities need you to understand


Professor Lorimer Moseley is a clinical and research physiotherapist, an NHMRC Principal Research Fellow and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Science. He leads the Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour and Local Pain Educator program.

Lorimer has a special interest in preventing and treating persistent pain and translating pain science discoveries into clinical and education practice. He has published five books and over 300 research articles and is ranked in the top 0.2% of scientists worldwide. He has received prizes from 12 countries, including the prestigious American Pain Society prize for public service, the NHMRC’s Marshall & Warren Prize for Innovation and the Clinical Science Prize from the world’s peak body on pain.


Contemporary concepts of pain emphasise the powerful role of brain processing and pain’s protective function. Alas, however, most care for people with persistent pain is based on outdated concepts that emphasise tissue damage, dysfunctional nerve pathways and poor coping skills.

Rural Australia is buckling under the load of persistent pain, which is a major risk factor for cancer, diabetes, depression and suicide. The evidence clearly points to understanding contemporary concepts of pain as the first and critical step to reversing this problem.

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Bo Remenyi

Paediatric cardiologist; NT 2018 Australian of the Year, Menzies School of Health Research

Rheumatic heart disease: successes and challenges


Dr Bo Remenyi is a paediatric cardiologist, PhD scholar and a former scientific advisor for the World Heart Federation on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. She is the 2018 Australian of the Year for the Northern Territory. Dr Remenyi received her medical degree from the University of Queensland and currently works as a paediatric cardiologist at the Royal Darwin Hospital and services many remote Indigenous communities. She also undertakes humanitarian work with Rotary in resource-poor countries in our region. Both as a clinician and as a researcher, Dr Remenyi’s interests lie in prevention and early detection of rheumatic heart disease.


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Peter Sainsbury

Peter Sainsbury

Past President, Public Health Association of Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance

Action before it is too late: climate change and the health of rural Australia


Peter Sainsbury was, until his retirement in 2016, Director of Population Health in South Western Sydney Local Health District. He holds adjunct professorial appointments at the Universities of Notre Dame, Sydney and New South Wales.

His professional interests include health equity and the social determinants of health, environmental sustainability and healthy built environments. Peter is a past president of the Public Health Association of Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance. Other interests include figurative war memorials, cooking and eating, the arts, cricket and Florence Nightingale.


It isn’t only polar bears and corals that are threatened by climate change. Climate change is also a health issue for humans—indeed, it is a social determinant of health and the problems it causes, and responses to it go hand in hand with another social determinant of health: social disadvantage. Climate change will have dramatic effects on Australia’s weather patterns and this will have enormous effects on the health and wellbeing of Australia’s rural communities.

I will discuss the ways in which climate change will affect the health of rural Australians, and suggest ways in which individuals and communities can contribute to essential and urgent efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare themselves to cope with the inevitable effects of climate change on them. I will also examine the threats posed by climate change to health services and what they must do to reduce their carbon footprint and be ready to handle extreme weather events.

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Luis Salvador Carulla

Luis Salvador-Carulla

Head, Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University

Using evidence to shape mental health care in rural areas


Luis Salvador-Carulla is the Head of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Research School of Population Health, Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra (Australia).

He has been advisor to the Government of Catalonia (Spain), the Spanish Ministry of Health, the European Commission (EC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). His research has been focused on developing decision-support systems in health and social policy, including tools for analysis of technical efficiency and benchmarking, indicators for health policy analysis and priority setting in mental health and in disability. He has coordinated the Integrated Atlas of Mental Health Project for mapping mental health services in over 30 local areas around the world. He received the Leon Eisenberg Award of the Harvard Medical School in 2012 for his contributions in the field of developmental disorders.


Current models of mental health care were based on prior knowledge of urban experts. They used performance indicators derived from urban data and were designed for city environments. “Healthcare ecosystems research for evidence-informed policy” is a new framework that underscores the use of contextual information and smart data-driven indicators for developing decision-support tools that could be used at local level.

In this context, separate models of urban and rural mental health care are needed both at global and at local level. Although the same premises should be applied in the two environments (universality, one-health, person-centeredness and care integration), the design of a rural care model should take into account a series of specific principles:

  1. Global/local approach: take into account the unique social, cultural, geographic and environmental characteristics of a local area as well as the common problems of care in rural areas around the world
  2. New technologies, with a particular focus on hybrid reality and ehealth
  3. Need to develop indicators specifically for rural and remote areas
  4. Need to design methods to better analyse and understand rural and remote mental health services
  5. Need to facilitate connection, social cohesion and positive health in rural communities.

In addition, value-based models should be complemented with data-driven models based on the actual service provision. A Bayesian-model of rural mental health is currently under development, using data of the Integrated Atlases of Mental Health Care, including information on service availability, capacity and diversity in selected rural areas in Europe, America and Australia.

Prof Luis Salvador-Carulla, Head,
ANU Centre for Mental Health Research

Ms Maryanne Furst, Research Fellow
ANU Centre for Mental Health Research

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Jill Sonke

Director, Center for Arts in Medicine, University of Florida

Do the arts help us live longer and age better? Considering the long-term public health impacts of arts and cultural engagement


Jill Sonke is Director of the Center for the Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida (UF) and Assistant Director of UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine. She serves on the faculty of the UF Center for Arts in Medicine, and is an affiliated faculty member in the School of Theatre and Dance, the Center for African Studies, the STEM Translational Communication Center, the One Health Center, and the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration. Jill is an Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow in the UF Warrington College of Business, serves on the editorial board for Arts & Health journal, and directs the national initiative, Creating Health Communities: Arts + Public Health in America. With 25 years of experience and leadership in arts in health, Jill is active in research, teaching, and international cultural exchange. Her current research focuses on the arts and health communication, the arts in public health, and the effects of music on cost and quality of care in emergency and trauma medicine. Jill is the recipient of numerous arts, public health and entrepreneurship awards and over 150 grants for her programs and research at the University of Florida.


New longitudinal epidemiologic big-data studies affirm the positive impacts of arts and cultural engagement on mental health, cognition, social engagement, immune function, aging and longevity. As these impacts become more widely recognized, social prescribing programs are expanding in the UK, Canada and Australia, and a major national initiative is driving cross sector collaboration between the public health, arts and community development sectors in the US. This talk will present key findings and developments that position the arts as a resource for meeting national public health goals for population level health and wellbeing.

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James Ward

James Ward

Associate Professor and Head, Aboriginal Health Infectious Diseases, Matthew Flinders Fellow, College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

It should be easy but it's complex, but we will get there: addressing sexually transmitted infections in remote Australia


Associate Professor James Ward has over 20 years of experience working within Aboriginal health and communities in Australia. He is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara and Nurrunga clans of central and southern Australia, and in 2014 was appointed at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute as the Head of Infectious Diseases Research Program—Aboriginal Health.

During the last five years James has progressed research in the areas of sexually transmissible infections (STIs), blood borne viruses (BBVs), vaccine preventable diseases and offender health. He is currently lead investigator for a Centre for Research Excellence in STIs and BBVs, a grant aiming to improve outcomes in Aboriginal communities caused by methamphetamine use and projects to develop and deliver coordinated sexual health education programs for Aboriginal communities in remote and very remote areas to increase opportunistic STI testing in young Indigenous people.


For well over two decades rates of sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses among Aboriginal people have been significantly higher than among non-Aboriginal people, with both individual and structural issues contributing to sustained prevalences. Fortunately most STIs diagnosed in Australia, irrespective of where one lives, are easily diagnosed and treated, including in remote Australia.

So it begs a question ‘Why is it we are not winning the battle?’

Well it’s much more complex than it is simple. First, most efforts are directed toward one area of STI control or spread too thinly (eg clinical or education or surveillance) rather than the ideal, comprehensive programs potent enough to match the problem. Second, we have had a major outbreak of syphilis and other infectious diseases, which has stretched resources for STI control in remote Australia. Third, ongoing efforts to ameliorate the social circumstances often commensurate with Aboriginal remote communities need to be sustained. And finally, our health care system often fails, despite well-articulated guidelines and health care infrastructure in most communities.

However, it is not all gloom and doom. New technology and developments such as point-of-care testing, molecular epidemiology surveillance and improved behavioural data—alongside new approaches in implementing public health interventions—can assist our efforts to bring STI  rates down. Drawing on two decades of being involved with STI control efforts, our future efforts relevant to reducing STI in remote Australia will be discussed.

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Paul Worley

Paul Worley

National Rural Health Commissioner

Sustainable rural health teams: our future or fantasy


Emeritus Professor Paul Worley is Australia’s first National Rural Health Commissioner (appointed November 2017).

Paul studied medicine at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1984. He was in solo rural practice at Lameroo, in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia, and then moved to a group rural practice at Clare, a wine-growing area in the mid-north of the state.

In 1992 Paul was elected President of the Rural Doctors Association of South Australia. In 1994 he took up appointment as Senior Lecturer in Rural Health at Flinders University of South Australia.

As well as maintaining an active clinical workload in both rural and urban practice, Paul has been responsible for coordinating the rapid expansion of Flinders University’s rural education programs in undergraduate and postgraduate rural practice.

He is a past Academic Director on the Board of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, and was the Commonwealth appointed Chair of the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program from 2005 to 2009 and the John Flynn Scholarship Scheme from 2004-2007.

His passion is to encourage medical schools to see that their obligation to the communities they serve is integral to their academic leadership responsibility.

In 2001, Paul was appointed Professor and Director for the Flinders University Rural Clinical School and Editor of Rural and Remote Health, the International Journal of Rural and Remote Health Research, Education, Practice and Policy. In 2007, he was appointed as Dean of the School of Medicine at Flinders University. Prior to taking up the position of Rural Health Commissioner he was the Executive Director Medical Services, Country Health SA Local Health Network.


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