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Outstanding regional and rural leadership


A healthy northern future

A healthy northern future

A healthy northern future

A sustainable health workforce, along with an innovative and responsive health system, must underpin any plans to develop northern Australia, argues Dr Scott Davis, Director of the Greater Northern Australia Training Network (GNARTN).

Dr Davis said the recently released White Paper on Developing Northern Australia recognized the importance and potential of the region’s health and education sectors.

“Building and maintaining a sustainable health workforce for northern Australia is essential to any plans to further develop the region,” he said.

He argues that the north’s health challenges could in fact prove to be assets.

“Northern Australia does face a complex mix of health challenges, but it also has significant resources, including a growing body of educators and health professionals who understand tropical disease and are trained in developing models of care that works in resource-poor environments.

“We see potential for this region to become a hub of expertise in training health professionals for the tropics, and for countries in which delivering services into rural and remote communities remains a challenge.

“Regional and rural communities are often forced by necessity to be innovative, adaptable and resilient. By harnessing those attributes and our expertise in health workforce education, we can develop a potential export for the region.” 

Based at James Cook University in Cairns, Dr Davis works with six universities in northern Australia, as well as federal, state and territory health services, to ensure enough health professionals are being trained in the north to meet the region's future needs.

He said that, along with its member universities and health services, GNARTN was already being recognised for its successes in addressing health issues and driving innovation.

“One of the challenges in regional, rural and remote Australia is that experienced practitioners are retiring, and we’re losing too many of our talented young people to metropolitan centres.

“The good news is we have pioneering universities and innovative health services in northern Australia that are proving that if you train health professionals in the regions, they are more likely to pursue their careers here. 

“If we can keep building on that success story, by creating more jobs for health professionals in the north,and enabling people to train for those careers closer to home, then we’ll also reduce the brain drain from the north.”

Dr Davis recently completed stage one of the Australian Rural Leadership Program, spending a fortnight in the remote Kimberley region as one of 30 rural leaders from around Australia.

The program, now in its 22nd year, selects participants from diverse industries, sectors and communities, via a national competitive process.

“It’s a truly unique leadership development experience, offered in locations that inspire you to dig deep in terms of resilience, ideas and leadership, “ Dr Davis said.

This year’s diverse group includes a rice farmer, a crocodile industry entrepreneur, and an aged care worker.

“We’re learning a lot from each other, as well as establishing valuable relationships. It was an amazing learning experience and a lot of hard work,” Dr Davis said.

The remaining five modules will take the group to Indonesia, Canberra, and three other Australian locations.

Participants are eligible to undertake a graduate Certificate in Australia Rural Leadership with JCU.

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