SARRAH National Conference

Monday, 31 October 2016

David Butt, NRHA’s new CEO has hit the ground running in his first week at the Alliance, presenting at the National Conference held by SARRAH (Services for Rural and Remote Allied Health) in Port Lincoln on 27-29 October. Around 200 people from across Australia attended the Conference, aptly titled “It takes a village,” which involved multiple presentations on innovations occurring in rural and remote Australia.

In his presentation David talked about the need to collectively push for greater fairness and equity for people living in rural and remote areas. He also discussed opportunities for better workforce distribution, including the potential for the use of incentives which enable the attraction, training and retention of the workforce. The new system architecture being introduced, including the devolution of planning and program responsibilities to Primary Health Networks, and the trialling of Health Care Homes, also represents new opportunities for the rural and remote sector, and stakeholders should be striving to work with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to promote the fairness agenda.

Indeed the funding of PHNs for bundled-up mental health programs done on a weighted population basis, taking into account rurality, indigenous population, socio-economic status, and population health, has resulted in quite a considerable loading towards rural and remote PHNs as compared with metropolitan areas and this is a model which should be explored more broadly.

David discussed the need for a person-centred, holistic approach focussed on the needs of individuals, their families and communities rather than on the needs of service providers. David also highlighted the need to not only provide better access but also to ensure cultural safety, particularly for Australia’s first peoples, thus requiring appropriate training and development of the workforce.

At the Annual General Meeting held during the Conference, Tanya Lehmann, the president of SARRAH (and Deputy Chair of the Alliance), stepped down after four years in the role. Prominent physiotherapist Rob Curry was elected as the new president.