SARRAH Welcomes Appointment of New National Rural Health Commissioner


Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) is the peak body advocating for allied health services and access in rural and remote Australia.

SARRAH welcomes the announcement of Associate Professor Ruth Stewart as Australia’s incoming National Rural Health Commissioner and look forward to building on the constructive relationship SARRAH enjoyed with her predecessor Professor Paul Worley.

We again want to acknowledge the commitment of the Government, and Minister for Regional Health, the Hon Mark Coulton MP, especially for legislating to continue the Commissioner role, and also for expanding the Office.  The foreshadowed appointment of Deputy Commissioners to strengthen the expertise and focus on nursing, allied health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, promises to promote a more complete and holistic approach to patient centred health care.  SARRAH was heartened to see strong bipartisan support for these crucial developments.

SARRAH is committed to working constructively with the Commissioner and her Office and look forward to meeting with her in the near future.

“We’re delighted that Associate Professor Stewart, a practitioner with decades of experience and commitment to the health of rural and remote communities, has been appointed,” said SARRAH President, Rob Curry.  “Being the Senior Medical Officer on Thursday Island, her experience as a rural GP in Victoria and years of work at the national level to build the rural health workforce makes Ruth an ideal choice.”

SARRAH also sees the Commissioner as playing a vital to achieve the goal of Health Minister, the Hon Greg Hunt, to make Australia’s health system the best in the world. 

“We all know Australia has a great health system, but we still have serious problems with access and equity. The international comparisons show we rate second, but we rate much lower for access and equity than in other areas”, said Rob. “To have the best health system, surely that means you can access the right care whether you live in the suburbs, a small town, on a farm or an Aboriginal community. That is not the case now, and we want to work with Governments and others to fix it.”

In June, the Professor Paul Worley presented a report to the Government on Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia, his final major report as the Rural Health Commissioner.   

“We’re looking forward to continuing to progress this work with the new Commissioner, said Cath Maloney, SARRAH CEO, “That report is the most extensive we’ve seen regarding the shortage of allied health services and workforce in Australia.  It’s a serious, long-running problem and Professor Worley’s report sets out a very practical and integrated plan for how to address the issues in a concrete way.  We can’t afford for this work to be left to go cold.  This is about taking action to improve the health of Australians with the highest levels of chronic disease, premature death, avoidable hospitalisations and suicide”, said Cath. 

SARRAH believes the priorities set for the Commissioner should be priorities for the whole Health portfolio and across government more broadly. “For example, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap is meeting today to set targets for improving the circumstances for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. No matter how good those targets are, we can only achieve them if every part of the system commits to supporting the goals. Health is at the centre of that, as is employment, education and more. The same coordination of effort and investment is needed to fix gaps in health services across rural and remote Australia”, said Cath. 

The previous Commissioner stated, in his report: “Allied Health professionals are essential to the physical, social and psychological wellbeing of people living in rural and remote Australia.  They are integral to the care of rural and remote communities, whose capacity to achieve optimal health outcomes is limited by inequitable access to appropriate health services.”   

“We are keen to work with Commissioner Stewart, with Ministers and anyone who is genuine about enabling people in rural and remote Australia to access the services they need”, said Cath.


Please direct interviews and media enquiries to: Catherine Maloney

Chief Executive Officer

Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health   0491 209 291


SARRAH is the peak body representing rural and remote allied health professionals (AHPs) working in public, private and/or community settings SARRAH advocates on behalf of rural and remote Australian communities.  SARRAH maintains that every Australian should have access to health services wherever they live, and the allied health services are fundamental to the well-being of all Australians. 

SARRAH represents 27 different allied health professions, including: Audiology; Medical Imaging; Paramedics; Chinese Medicine; Nuclear Medicine; Pharmacy; Chiropractic; Radiation Therapy; Physiotherapy; Dental and Oral Health; Health Promotion; Podiatry; Dentistry; Occupational Therapy; Prosthetics; Dietetics and Nutrition; Optometry; Psychology; Diabetes Education; Orthoptics; Speech Pathology; Exercise Physiology; Orthotics; Social Work; Genetic Counselling; Osteopathy; Sonography