Orange Rural Health Leadership Forum

Past Events

Orange Rural Health Leadership Forum

Planting the seed for the next generation of rural health leaders!


On Saturday 21st September, Orange played host to 120 health students and early-career health professionals from across Australia to consider the challenges and opportunities facing rural and remote health professionals.

Future Health Leaders held its inaugural Rural Leadership Forum, Plant the Seed, Harvest the Potential, at Charles Sturt University, Orange campus. Over the course of the weekend, there was an unmistakable buzzing in the air as the delegates gathered for an inspiring day of listening and actively engaging with some very memorable keynote speakers about the future of delivering vital health services to rural and remote communities across Australia.

Local Wiradjuri Elder, Jamie Newman, began the formal proceedings with an inspiring Welcome to Wiradjuri Country address, where he also talked about the importance of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Closing the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes. Jamie also highlighted the importance of health services forming harmonious relationships and taking the lead in interdisciplinary health care in order to address the health needs of the local communities in which they operate.

The inspirational and highly regarded Dr Tom Calma then kicked off the keynote speeches, providing delegates with some background on what gives him the “fire in his belly” to do what he does; his family. Tom humbly discussed the work he has completed with the organizations he is a been involved with and it was obvious that his family and their health outcomes were an inspiration to him to passionately continue this important work and help foster engagement within the communities to tackle big health issues in Aboriginal populations such as tobacco smoking, reconciliation and men’s health.

This was followed by an interactive address by John Harper who memorably shared stories about his lived experience of depression as a wheat and sheep farmer from Stockinbingal, near Temora in NSW. The down-to-earth nature of his talk provided insight into his journey of mental illness in the bush and how his experiences have made him realize the importance of opening up and talking with your mates. John spoke very humbly about the work he does travelling the countryside speaking at various events and men’s health expos. John backed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Rural Support Program, the Outback Division of GPs Brolga Program and the Rotary  Club of South Dubbo, launched a new CD recently, based on some of the motivational talks he has done recently.  His presentation included prompts as analogies for helping your mates through tough times and just having a yarn with them if you think they’re going through a rough patch.

After a well-deserved break, delegates then had an opportunity to ask some hard-hitting questions to a formidable panel of experienced and rural health advocates: Dr Sue Page (nationally recognized leader in rural health and Former Rural Doctor of the Year), Aunty Pat Doolan (local Wiradjuri Elder), Scott McLachlan (WNSW LHD CEO) and Dan Mahony (FHL Co-Chair and WA rural physio). A breadth of rural and remote health issues were discussed, including cultural appropriateness, shortages of rural and remote health professionals and attraction and retention of health professionals in rural and remote areas.

After a sensational lunch consisting of great regional produce, Dr Sue Page got the delegates thinking about the hard questions facing the future of rural and remote health. This included delegates listing the issues in working rurally as a health professional or student. Participants had many ideas and could identify a wide range of challenges. However, Sue moved quickly to naming up to three solutions for each challenge to really get us thinking about how we can solve these problems. Many walked away from this session with at least one way that they could promote change as a student or early career health professional and found this session really encouraging!

Delegates then broke up into small groups to attend 2 one hour interactive breakout workshops, aiming for delegates to ‘engage and exchange’ ideas and solutions to current and future health issues in the bush. These included leadership in the clinical environment in rural areas (conflict resolution, creating change in the workplace and self-care and wellbeing), rural health research, emotional intelligence, leadership scouting, and a consultation on the WNSW LHD strategic plan. Co-Chair Daniel Mahony also facilitated a workshop on setting the rural agenda for Future Health Leaders, which provided insight into the priorities of the delegates who attended the forum in terms of what FHL can do to advocate for a better future in rural health.

The day concluded with a relaxing stroll down to Charles Sturt Cellar Door for a spot of wine tasting and savouring a selection of local cheese and produce with a stunning backdrop of the country vineyards and surroundings CSU campus. Shortly after, delegates donned their brightest formal wear and were bussed out to a mystery location, the Old-Errowanbang Woolshed, about 40 minutes out of town to let their hair down in a rural gala ball to remember!


The National Future Health Leaders Rural Leadership Awards and photography competition winners were also announced.

The photography competition winner was Dana Forcey for her stunning sunset photo which captured the essence of the country life

The Rural Health Champion award for the person who has shown commitment to improving the health of individuals within their local community was presented to Emily Marshall a Speech Pathologist currently based in Orange, NSW.

The Rural Health Leadership award recognised an individual who has demonstrated leadership within the field of rural health in Australia. This was awarded to Jess Zachar a Charles Sturt University dental student.

The Rural Health Innovation Award was presented to Fair Game of Western Australia. This award recognised the development of an innovative project which improves the health in rural or remote settings.

A very big thank you to the major sponsors of this event- Health Education and Training Institute (Platinum Sponsor), Charles Sturt University (Host Sponsor) and Western NSW Local Health District (Gold Sponsor). Your generous contributions helped make this so inspiring for the next generation of rural and remote health leaders! Also a shout out to Health Workforce Australia (HWA), who supports Future Health Leaders. 

A very important final thanks must go to the tireless work of the dedicated Future Health Leaders Rural Forum committee: Shannon Nott, Alice Munro, Haeley Collins, Ged Hawthorn, Peter Simmons, Michael McGee, Angus Brown and Bernie Walsh.

Keep your eye out for our Future Health Leaders Rural Discussion Paper in the next few months – we want to keep engaging and hearing from you about how FHL can advocate for a brighter future for people living in the bush!