National Rural Health Commissioner

The National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner) is an independent, statutory office holder, appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act), which was passed by both Houses of Parliament on 21 June 2017 and came into effect by Proclamation of the Governor General on 1 August 2017.

Page last updated: 15 September 2017

The Commissioner was established as part of the Government’s broader agenda to reform rural health in Australia, and will provide policy advice to the Minister responsible for rural health.

Role of the Commissioner

The Commissioner will work with regional, rural and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and champion the cause of rural practice.

The rural health workforce and communities located in rural and remote areas will benefit from the introduction of the Commissioner who will place rural and remote issues at the forefront of government decision making.

The priorities of work being undertaken by the Commissioner include:

  • Working with rural, regional and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies;
  • Assisting the Government to better target interventions in regional, rural and remote areas to support access to services and quality of services;
  • Developing and defining new National Rural Generalist Pathways;
  • Working with the health sector and training providers to define what it is to be a Rural Generalist. This includes developing options for increased access to training and appropriate remuneration for Rural Generalists, recognising their extra skills and workload;
  • Consulting with stakeholders to give consideration to the needs of the entire rural health workforce, including but not limited to nursing, dental health, pharmacy, Indigenous health, mental health, midwifery, occupational therapy, physical therapy and allied health;
  • If requested by the Minister, consulting with state and territory governments to identify, assess and develop policy options to address current or emerging regional, rural and remote health reform opportunities on a national level, and to ensure effective information exchange across jurisdictions;
  • Liaising with national peak professional organisations, consumer organisations, rural health stakeholders and other advisory committees in developing solutions that reflect community needs;
  • Providing national leadership for regional, rural and remote health, and work with the Government to progress nationally agreed goals in the sector, including flexible models of service delivery and workforce development, best practice approaches, and future national policy responses.

As part of the legislative requirements under the Act, the Commissioner will prepare and present to the Minister draft and final reports about his functions that includes advice and recommendations. The Commissioner will also prepare and give to the Minister annual reports about his functions during the previous calendar year.

The Assistant Minister for Health, the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP, outlined his Statement of Expectations for the functions of the Commissioner.

Legislation

The National Rural Health Commissioner is appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

What the Commissioner does not do

The Commissioner does not get involved in individual cases or advocate for individual people or groups. Instead the Commissioner will champion rural health, advocate for system wide improvement in achieving rural health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities of Australia.

The office of the National Rural Health Commissioner is not a fund holding body. The Commissioner does not provide services, grants or funding for unsolicited projects or campaigns.

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