The appointment of eminent rural health advocate, medical practitioner and researcher Associate Professor Ruth Stewart as Australia’s next National Rural Health Commissioner further demonstrates the Nationals in Government’s commitment to improving health care in the bush.

The Federal Nationals in Government recently extended and expanded the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner to have a broader focus. Additionally, the commissioner will be supported by two deputy commissioners to specifically look after allied health, nursing and Indigenous health.

The Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner has become an essential component of the government’s approach to improving rural health outcomes since its establishment back in 2017. One of the early priorities for the expanded office will be to support the government’s ongoing rural response to COVID-19 and to examine the impact on health workforce planning in regional, rural and remote communities.

Nationals Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said Associate Professor Stewart had a distinguished career in rural health, both as a practitioner and an academic; most recently working as an Associate Professor of Rural Medicine, Director of Rural Clinical Training and Support at James Cook University.

“Under Associate Professor Stewart’s leadership, the office will take a broader approach to rural health, and will help deliver the government’s key reforms and targeted rural health priorities to support practical change for communities,” Mr Coulton said.

“The Nationals in Government have shown we are willing to tackle head-on the challenges of health services in rural and regional Australia, and this appointment further demonstrates that commitment to make the regions a better place to live and do business.”

Associate Professor Stewart lives and works on Thursday Island where she has been a Senior Medical Officer with obstetric credentialing.

Associate Professor Stewart will lead an expanded National Rural Health Commissioner Office, which will now include non-statutory deputy commissioners who will support the commissioner and provide expertise across a range of vital rural health disciplines such as nursing, allied health and Indigenous health.