National Rural Health Commissioner

Page last updated: 05 November 2019

Professor Paul WorleyThe National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner), Professor Paul Worley, 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.

The Commissioner’s role 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 works 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.

Priorities for the Commissioner include:
  • Assisting the Government to better target interventions in regional, rural and remote areas to support access to services and quality of services;
  • Consulting with stakeholders to give consideration to the needs of the entire rural health workforce;
  • 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 reports that include advice and recommendations. The Commissioner will also prepare and give to the Minister annual reports about his functions during the previous calendar year.

Current Work

Following the work in 2018 towards the development of the National Rural Generalist Pathway for Medicine, the Commissioner was asked for Advice for improving the quality, access and distribution of allied health services in regional, rural and remote Australia. The Commissioner’s focus for 2019 is contained in the current Statement of Expectations.

Statement of Expectations - 2019 (PDF 470 KB)
Statement of Expectations - 2019 (Word 17 KB)

The Commissioner travels across Australia to work with students, allied health peak bodies, associations and professional bodies, rural allied health service providers, clinicians, universities and schools, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative bodies and health services, consumers and consumer groups, and local, state, territory and Australian Government representatives to develop a comprehensive understanding of the current opportunities and challenges for the allied health sector.

The final Advice for improving the quality, access and distribution of allied health services is due to the Minister responsible for rural health, the Hon Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government no later than 30 December 2019.

The Commissioner is also working with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners towards recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine as a specialised field within General Practice.


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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