30 years of advocacy for rural health

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) was officially incorporated on August 11, 1993.

From its inception, the Alliance has stood as a vital voice championing the needs of rural, regional, and remote Australians, striving to address their healthcare access concerns. It serves as a conduit for conveying recommendations and solutions to government bodies and other stakeholders.

Central to the Alliance’s mission has always been the pursuit of fairness, ensuring that individuals in rural areas enjoy equitable health status and healthcare comparable to their urban counterparts.

While its official incorporation dates back 30 years, the Alliance’s origins trace back to a government report 1976 that illuminated healthcare challenges rural communities face.

1990 the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council established a Rural Health Task Force. The subsequent year saw the inaugural National Rural Health Conference in Toowoomba, Queensland.

Conference attendees, spanning rural communities, medical professionals, nurses, midwives, dentists, and allied health experts, collaboratively devised a National Rural Health Strategy. This blueprint aimed for ‘optimal health for all people in rural and remote Australia’. The event also solidified the need to sustain political pressure for change.

With the backing of health ministers, the Commonwealth health department supported the establishment of the National Rural Health Alliance as an umbrella organisation for the diverse stakeholders within the rural health sector.

Initially represented by 12 groups – now recognised as Foundation Members – the Alliance’s influence expanded as it engaged with numerous changes and initiatives in the rural health landscape. Despite these efforts, rural populations continue to experience a higher disease burden, even as they play a significant role in Australia’s economy.

Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen (pictured) shared, “With a membership comprising 47 national organisations and numerous Friends of the Alliance, we possess a unique capacity to address challenges faced by rural communities.”

The Alliance, now a dynamic and sought-after organisation, provides insights, solutions, and recommendations on rural health matters. Its distinct position empowers it to advocate for the 7 million individuals in rural Australia and the dedicated health professionals serving them.

Tegen thanked members, partners, the Board and Council, and the diligent staff for their contributions. The continued support of the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care was also acknowledged.

While the Alliance celebrates significant accomplishments, the journey towards achieving a collective vision of thriving and sustainable rural, regional, and remote communities across Australia remains ongoing.