Since its establishment in 1991, the National Rural Health Alliance has remained true to its founding principles of inclusivity and broad representation. That is one factor contributing to its longstanding effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate to improve the health of people who live in the bush.
The existence of Friends of the Alliance as a voice for health consumers and other grassroots organisations, is one example of the democratic principle of participative governance. These are the kind of principles and processes that I believe should underpin and shape the work of Friends of the Alliance. They are among the reasons I first became involved with the Alliance, and why I am now pleased to be accepting the opportunity, and the challenge and the responsibility of chairing its Friends Advisory Committee.
Having grown up on sheep and cattle stations in the Riverina and the Flinders Ranges, and having family and close associates in rural and remote areas throughout Australia, I retain a strong interest in the bush. As a part-time farmer I have, at various times, bred fat lambs, red deer, Angus beef cattle and had an almond, hazelnut and chestnut orchard.
I have lived and worked in rural South Australia, rural Victoria and rural Tasmania, and have had work responsibilities in every State and Territory. This gives me extensive practical knowledge of the realities of life in Australia's rural and remote communities. I also worked in Canada and the USA for three years before moving to Tasmania fifteen years ago.
As I adapt to retirement, and identify new ways to contribute to rural and community life, one of the many things I am particularly enjoying is renewing earlier acquaintances, getting to know new organisations, places and people, and going bush to revisit old stamping grounds and discover new ones.
In the coming months some of the issues likely to be high on the agenda for Friends and its Advisory Committee will include: contributing to the Strategic Planning process for the Alliance; consulting with the soon to be appointed National Rural Health Commissioner; and contributing to planning for the 2019 National Rural Health Conference in Tasmania.
If you have not already done so, why not become a Member of Friends of the Alliance (visit http://ruralhealth.org.au/friends) and add your voice, your issue and your perspective to its deliberations and actions toward better rural health?
I look forward to hearing your ideas, perceptions, aspirations, concerns and priorities for how Friends of the Alliance should represent the interests of its members.