Health Workforce Queensland Celebrates 25 Years of Connecting Workforce to Communities: A Remarkable Journey Unfolds

27 July 2023

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This year marks a momentous occasion for Health Workforce Queensland, as the organisation proudly celebrates its 25th Anniversary. This special occasion was marked with a gathering last Thursday evening, as the organisation's current and former board members, staff, stakeholders and friends came together to commemorate this significant milestone.

The evening started with a heartwarming Welcome to Country by Aunty Kathy who performed on behalf of Turrbal Law-woman and Elder, Songwoman Maroochy. This acknowledgement of the traditional custodians of the land paid tribute to the profound connection between health and culture, highlighting the significance of intertwining Indigenous wisdom with modern healthcare practices.

The event was filled with reminiscences of old times, shared achievements, and reflections on the remarkable journey that has brought the organisation to where it stands today.

With deep gratitude and appreciation, HWQ extended its heartfelt thanks to all those who have been a part of this journey. From the steadfast colleagues, devoted workforce, and supportive practices to the collaborative efforts of other agencies and organisations, each contribution has played an instrumental role in advancing the cause of remote and rural health care in Queensland.

As the curtain rises on the next chapter of Health Workforce Queensland's journey, the organisation stands resolute in its commitment to improve the well-being of remote and rural communities. The resounding message from the event was clear: over the next 25 years we aim to continue to build an event healthier and more connected Queensland for generations to come.

History – where we started

The Rural Workforce Agency was established in 1998 to “promote the recruitment and retention of general practitioners in rural and remote Queensland.” Since then Health Workforce Queensland has grown to become an integral pillar of support for rural health professionals, health care providers and the rural communities they serve.

  • 1998 – Queensland’s Rural Workforce Agency formed and Queensland Rural Divisions Coordinating Unit (QRDCU) commenced trading as Queensland Rural Medical Support Agency (QRMSA). 

  • Establishment funding provided by Australian Government under the Rural and Remote General Practice Program (RRGPP). 

  • 2001 – Queensland’s first Minimum Data Set Report on the rural medical workforce was published and continues today. 

  • 2004 – The Agency changed its name to Health Workforce Queensland. 

  • 2012 – Health Workforce Queensland expanded its recruitment services and retention services to include nursing and allied health professionals. 

  • 2017 – A new era began with three new programs: Rural Health Workforce Support Program, John Flynn Placement Program and Health Workforce Scholarship Program. 

  • 2018 – Health Workforce Queensland celebrates 20 years of operation as a Rural Workforce Agency. The Agency undertook and published its inaugural Health Workforce Needs Assessment. 

  • 2023 - Health Workforce Queensland celebrates 25 years of operation as a Rural Workforce Agency, and now has three successful GROW Rural workforce solution programs operating around the state.

Main achievements over the last 25 years

Over the past 25 years, the number of general practitioners in our communities has increased from 753 to over 2,747 in 2023. During this time, we recruited over 1,000 GPs and several hundred AHPs and many Aboriginal Health Workers. For those living in Queensland’s remote and rural communities, this is an achievement as they have been able to access primary health care services closer to home.

Acknowledgement of key partnerships / stakeholder relationships

We have worked collaboratively with a number of stakeholders to develop and implement creative and practical solutions together by contributing resources and support for key health workforce and service development projects. It is important to acknowledge the HWQ founding members that remain in operation - CheckUP, Central Queensland Rural Division of General Practice (CQRDGP), Queensland Aboriginal Islander Health Alliance (QAIHA), Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) and RHealth.

We continue to work collaboratively with QAIHC and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS) sector to improve the supply and support of health workforce to ACCHSs. HWQ continues to work collaboratively with CheckUP and Rural Flying Doctors Service (RFDS), and each of the Primary Health Care Networks (PHNs) - Western Queensland PHN (WQPHN), North Queensland PHN (NQPHN), Country2Coast and Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN (DDWMPHN), to design and deliver improved access to primary healthcare workforce and service delivery arrangements.

The support of many stakeholders and collaboration with partners has made significant differences to remote and rural community’s access to primary health care services.

Where to from here?

It is clear that significant reform is required in Australia's primary health care policy and funding settings. There is a greater need to carefully focus our attention on improved targeted service delivery that meet the needs of communities. This approach will require significant changes in how we plan, prioritise and work together across Federal and State policy and funding dimensions to ensure that communities are well served.

Pictured: Main image - Chris Mitchell, Meredith Sullivan, Aunty Kathy and Jo Symons.​