First impressions from NRHA's new CEO

Monday, 31 October 2016
David Butt

I am delighted to have taken up the role of CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance.

The Alliance provides vital national leadership in working for a better deal for people living in rural and remote areas in a system which is fundamentally not fair. It’s an honour to be chosen as the Alliance’s second CEO. I also want to acknowledge the great work done by Kim Webber as interim CEO between Gordon Gregory’s departure and my arrival.

On me, I have been CEO of different organisations for 17 years and an Executive of others for many more. Most recently I was CEO and a Commissioner of the National Mental Health Commission for almost three years, including leading the development of Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities – the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services which is leading to substantial reform of the mental health and suicide prevention systems, and with particular benefits for rural and remote communities. This followed:

  • Deputy Secretary, Australian Department of Health, head of Regional and Rural Health Australia, and the country’s first Chief Allied Health Officer
  • CEO of the Australian General Practice Network
  • National CEO of the Calvary group across six states and territories
  • CEO of ACT Health and Community Care
  • Various executive positions in Queensland Health

On the future of the Alliance, naturally it will be different to what it was in the past. I will be working with the Board, members and other stakeholders on the Alliance’s priorities for the future. I think it is important to have a small number of clear priorities and to then pursue them relentlessly over time.

It’s also important that as far as is possible there should be alignment across the sector and that we all talk with one voice. As long as we keep individuals and communities at the heart of what we are doing, that should be achievable.

That is also one of the reasons that I want to get out and speak with stakeholders, to understand their views and their issues, and to seek alignment on the big issues so that we can present those issues powerfully and knowledgably. In my first week I attended the SARRAH National Conference in Port Lincoln, gave a presentation and also participated as a member of the closing panel discussion (see below).

We need to be very clear about our distinctive value proposition and indeed to define the value that better rural and remote health and wellbeing can bring to local communities and the nation.