The National Rural Health Students' Network (NRHSN) represents 29 Rural Health Clubs (RHC) with over 9000 members located at universities throughout Australia. The NRHSN is a multidisciplinary Network.

Keynote Speakers

Master of Ceremonies

Ernie Dingo

Ernie Dingo was born at Bullaroo Station, out of Mullewa, on 31 July 1956.  The second of nine children, Ernie was given the name Oondamooroo, meaning shield in the Wadjarri language of the Yamatji people.  Raised by his mother and grandmother, the family name Dingo was the result of his maternal grandfather's activities as a dogger and tracker.

In 1970 Ernie came to Geraldton where he boarded at John Frewer Hostel for three years whilst attending Geraldton Senior High School.  At high school Ernie excelled in long distance running and all sports.  He showed particular aptitude for basketball and he later played for the original Wildcats in Perth.  At age 16 Ernie left Geraldton and moved to Perth to become an apprentice signwriter.  Please click here to read more about Ernie Dingo

Keynote Speakers

Malarndirri McCarthy
Malarndirri McCarthy is a Yanyuwa woman from Borroloola in the Northern Territory.  She was born in Katherine and grew up in Borroloola and Alice Springs, before going to Sydney to further her education at St Scholastica's in Glebe.  In 1989 Malarndirri joined the ABC under the Aboriginal Journalist Cadet program and worked in news and current affairs for 16 years in Sydney, Canberra, Darwin and Alice Springs.  Malarndirri worked on the award winning documentaries - 'Stolen Children' and 'A Dying Shame'.  Please click here to read more about Malarndirri McCarthy
Professor John Wakerman

Professor John Wakerman is the Inaugural Director of the Centre for Remote Health, a joint centre of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University, in Alice Springs.  He is a Public Health Medicine specialist and general practitioner, with a long background in remote primary health care services as a medical practitioner, senior manager, researcher and active advocate for rural and remote health issues. Please click here to read more about Professor John Wakerman

Sabina Knight

Sabina Knight has a lifetime career of remote area nursing and as an advocate for remote and rural health.  Remote Area Nurse and Senior Lecturer Remote Health Practice, recent CRANA research fellow, Sabina developed the nursing stream of RHP and is now the course coordinator for the Remote Health Practice and Remote Health Management Programs.  Please click here to read more about Sabina Knight

Dr Janie Dade Smith

Dr Janie Dade Smith is a highly experienced health educationalist and project manager. She has worked extensively in national curriculum development, program accreditation, educational resource development, policy development, and Indigenous health and research.  She works across the health disciplines - medicine, nursing, allied health and in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health worker education.  Please click here to read more about Dr Janie Dade Smith

Ruth Ballweg

Ruth Ballweg MPA, PA-C, grew up in a small town in rural Oregon where her father started one of the first volunteer air ambulance services in the US.   She “grew up” at an airport……which turned out to be good training for working in medicine.

 Ruth has been a physician assistant for over 30 years and has been the Director of the Physician Assistant Program at the University of Washington in Seattle since 1985.   Ruth was an Emergency Medical Technician, a medical social worker and a childbirth educator becoming a Physician Assistant.   As a PA she’s worked in family medicine, emergency medicine and public health. 
Andrew Phillips

Andrew Phillips is policy advisor with the National Rural Health Alliance. He was previously with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in Canberra for eight years, where he worked exclusively in the area of rural health. He is the principle author of the AIHW Rural, Regional and Remote Health series: Information framework and indicators, A study on mortality (1st and 2nd editions), A guide to remoteness classifications, Mortality trends, and Indicators of health (2005 and 2008 editions).

Andrew's background is in public health and epidemiology, having worked as epidemiologist in western NSW for many years, later as environmental epidemiologist in Hobart and briefly for Divisions of General Practice. Andrew's own rural work experience includes high school teaching, fencing, silo building, commercial fishing and logging amongst others. He has qualifications in environmental management, epidemiology and education.

Amanda Francis 

Amanda Francis is a Registered Nurse with the Northern Territory Department of Health and Families at Alice Springs Hospital. Amanda is taking part in a New Graduate Program and was previously an active member of SHARP, and the internal officer for Rural High School Visits. Amanda now takes on the role of CARAH Club Administrator and aspires to take part in the Remote Area Nurse New Graduate program in 2011, taking on nursing in the Territory’s Top End.

Dr Alyssa Vass

Dr Alyssa Vass has worked as a health educator with ARDS for two years, developing significant expertise in health education with Indigenous people. She also has extensive experience in clinical medicine and public health in many cross-cultural settings, including Kenya and India, and has worked with Indigenous patients in hospitals across rural Australia. She has a Master of International and Community Development, with a focus on Indigenous development.  She is currently is studying a Grad Dip in Yolngu Languages and Culture, learning Djambarrpuyngu, one of the languages of NE Arnhem Land.


Dr Imelda Burgman

Imelda graduated from the University of Sydney in 1982. She has worked as a paediatric OT in many parts of Australia and in the USA. In Australia she has moved between urban, rural and remote settings, for example, going from Melbourne to Far North Queensland, and then from Brisbane to Wagga Wagga to The Kimberleys. In the USA she worked on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, and then moved to New York to work in the Bronx. Imelda has always enjoyed being nomadic, and the adventures and learning opportunities that have come from this way of life.

Currently, she is a lecturer at the University of Newcastle, and has published journal articles and invited book chapters about OT and children with disabilities.

Peter Carver

Peter has been working in the area of workforce and service policy and planning in health and human services for over seven years. He took on the role of Director, Service and Workforce Planning in the Department of Human Services in Victoria in 2001.

At a national level Peter was Victoria’s representative on the AHMAC Health Workforce Principal Committee, chaired a number of national workforce sub-committees, chaired the national Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council, as the Community Services Minster’s Advisory Committee nominee. Peter also represents the Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council on a number of external health workforce related bodies such as the Education Policy Board of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
Stephanie Bell

Stephanie Bell, a Kullilla/ Wakka Wakka woman and stolen generation heritage of grandmother from Brunette Downs NT, is the Director of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress where she has worked for over 25 years.  Ms Bell is a founding Board member of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT, Chair of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Consortium and an Executive member of the National Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation.  She is a founding board member of the Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health. She has published and is regularly sought out to speak on Aboriginal rights, comprehensive primary health care and community control of health services.

Previous positions held include Chairperson NT Aboriginal Health Forum, Ministerial appointment to the NT Health Advisory Council and Chairperson Central Australian Remote Health Development Service.

Panel Speakers

Scott Wagner

A Dietitian for over 20 years, Scott has been the President of Services for Australian Rural & Remote Allied Health (SARRAH) since January 2008. SARRAH is a ‘grass roots’ organisation nationally recognised as a peak body representing rural and remote allied health professionals. SARRAH advocates, represents and responds on behalf of its members in key forums and groups determining health policy and programs nationally. SARRAH also administers millions of dollars of scholarship programs for Allied Health professionals and students for study and clinical placements.

Carole Taylor

Although beginning a career in dressmaking, Carole changed her direction, went back to education and ultimately worked for a local Federal Member of Parliament and progressed through the world of the political ranks and was offered a consultancy with the then Minister for Consumer Affairs, teh Hon Peter Staples.

Please click here to read more about Carole Taylor.








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