National Rural Health Commissioner

Page last updated: 29 June 2020

Report: Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia

Interim Report: Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia coverThis Report is prepared for the Hon Mark Coulton, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government (the Minister) and contributes to priority one of the 2020 Statement of Expectations received by the National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner), December 2019. It continues the work of the Commissioner carried out in 2019 at the Minister’s request to provide advice on distribution, quality and access of rural allied health services. The Commissioner has developed a set of recommendations aimed at improving the quality of services, and equitable access to and distribution of the regional, rural and remote allied health workforce.

In developing this Report and the recommendations, the broad quality principles of the Commissioner’s 2018 National Rural Generalist Pathway for medicine have been continued. These principles are guided by learnings from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s understandings of health and wellbeing. These principles recognise the importance of community control and connection to country, as well as respect and consideration for the wisdom of Elders and local decision-making.

This Report is the culmination of a detailed review of 20 years of published rural allied health literature along with findings from a broad-scale consultation with the rural allied health sector at a national, jurisdictional and local level. It represents the contributions of a diverse range of consumers, students, allied health, medical and nursing professionals, researchers, teachers and health service leaders in rural and remote communities around Australia. It also acknowledges the strengths of rural and remote communities and the need to leverage local education and employment opportunities to create an environment where all rural and remote people have better health, more jobs, and the opportunity to flourish and create their own futures.

The recommendations are intended to provide practical strategies for the Commonwealth to make both immediate and long term impacts in rural communities. They are designed to promote innovative use of existing resources and infrastructure to address current gaps in allied health workforce distribution and service provision in rural and remote communities by investing in nationally cohesive strategies which maintain flexibility for local application. By combining training and service provision into a single system, matched to community need and supported through sub-regional integrated networks, rural and remote communities will have access to a sustainable workforce providing appropriate allied health services. These collaborative and integrated allied health services will lead to improved health, economies of scale, and greater wellbeing. These conditions, in turn, will yield enhanced social and economic development and participation for all rural and remote communities.

Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia (PDF 1230 KB)
Improvement of Access, Quality and Distribution of Allied Health Services in Regional, Rural and Remote Australia (Word 1024 KB)

Role of the National Rural Health Commissioner

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.

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 2019, and in recognition of the importance of allied health services in rural Australia, the Commissioner has been asked to further refine his allied health reform advice to Government. The Commissioner’s advice will outline priorities for implementation, potential barriers and other practical implementation considerations. The Commissioner’s focus for 2020 is contained in the current Statement of Expectations.

Statement of Expectations - 2020 (PDF 618 KB)
Statement of Expectations - 2020 (Word 104 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 Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, no later than 30 June 2020.

The Commissioner is also continuing to champion the National Rural Generalist Pathway as well as work 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 distinct field of 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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