This year, the National Rural Health Alliance (the Alliance) celebrates its 30th anniversary, having become an incorporated association on 11 August 1993.
The Alliance began, and has remained, as an important voice for rural, regional and remote Australians, to address their concerns in accessing health care and to bring recommendations and solutions to government and others.
The Alliance’s work has always been focused on fairness – the principle that people should have equal health status and access to health and related services equivalent to their city counterparts.
In June 1990, the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council established a Rural Health Task Force, and in the following year, the first National Rural Health Conference was held in Toowoomba, Queensland.
Participants at the conference – representing rural communities, doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists and allied health professionals – produced and adopted a National Rural Health Strategy. This strategy aimed for ‘optimal health for all people in rural and remote Australia’. During and after the Toowoomba conference, participants agreed on the need to keep up the political pressure.
Soon after the endorsement of the Strategy by health ministers, the Commonwealth health department supported the establishment of the National Rural Health Alliance as an umbrella group for the diverse stakeholders in the rural health sector.
The Alliance has continued to grow in influence and witnessed a wealth of changes and initiatives in the rural health sector. However, people in rural areas still face a greater burden of disease, despite their ongoing and significant contribution to Australia’s economy.
“With the Alliance membership now comprising 47 national organisations, as well as hundreds of Friends of the Alliance, we are in a unique position to turn around the challenges faced by rural communities,” says Alliance Chief Executive Susi Tegen.
“We have come a long way and made great progress. However, we have a longer journey ahead to achieve our collective vision of healthy and sustainable rural, regional and remote communities across Australia,” Ms Tegen says.