Bush Summit

Graphic: Bush Summit

RFDS highlights opportunities to safeguard rural health at Bush Summit

Date published

23 Oct 2023

The key issues affecting the lives of rural Australians – spanning topics as diverse as health care, energy policy, land and water management, and climate action – received detailed attention from the nation’s political leaders at the recent Bush Summit in Tamworth.  

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese delivered the keynote address at the event in August at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre, and was followed on the stage through the day by NSW Premier Chris Minns, Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, and Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.


A key theme emerging from many speakers was the high likelihood that Australia will soon be facing the threat of below-average rainfall and higher temperatures given the expected shift to an El Nino weather pattern.  

Many speakers reflected on the impact the previous drought followed by widespread flooding had on the incomes and livelihoods of people in rural and regional Australia, as well as on demand for timely and accessible healthcare services, among many other impacts.  

Tracey Hayes, chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, addressed the audience as part of a panel discussion focused on ‘liveability’ in the Bush.

She commented on the focus of the RFDS being about providing a service, and the “very strong value alignment with the communities that we operate in and serve”.  

She said the guiding ethos of the RFDS was “a sense of community and purpose – and of course, it’s about the people”.


The day before the Summit opened, the RFDS published a detailed ‘Best for the Bush’ In Focus report, which found that people living in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia were 1.4 times as likely to die from heart, stroke and vascular disease, and 1.4 times as likely to be hospitalised, compared to people in cities.  

There is strong evidence that acute heart, stroke and vascular disease events are largely preventable, especially with early diagnosis and treatment.  

Ongoing primary health care typically provided by GPs and nurses is recognised as an effective approach to identify, prevent, and manage heart, stroke and vascular disease risk.

Ms Hayes told the summit that the ongoing rural workforce shortage and difficulty in recruiting doctors and nurses was continuing to increase demands on the RFDS and create new opportunities for the service.  

“It’s increasing the requirement for us to provide levels of care where potentially there could be doctors or nurses based in communities and delivering on-the-ground support,” she said.  

“We’re working very collaboratively with governments to assist in situations around that – it’s really a matter of getting to places where we need to, and in a timely fashion.”