As the new year gets into full swing for Healthy North Coast, it is fitting to look at the role our board plays in shaping our future, and to celebrate the breadth of talent and diversity they bring.

With our recent appointment of two truly remarkable board members, Graeme Innes and Kerry Stubbs, I have been reflecting on the words of KPMG Australia’s Chair, Alison Kitchen, in her introduction to Building Gender Diversity on ASX 300 Boards, published last June.

Alison wrote: “… When you’re operating in an environment where there’s a huge number of unknowns – having a lot of different experience around the table is a very good thing. And that diversity of experience can help boards navigate the enormous challenges we are facing.

“…having different voices, different perspectives, different life experience and different business experience at the table – all asking open questions, being curious and sharing experiences, is the key to surviving and thriving. The advantage a diverse board offers is the ability for companies to be agile, flexible, and to think, quickly and differently.” 

2021 heralds an exciting new chapter for Healthy North Coast as we continue to serve the Mid and North Coast regions with an ambitious and locally focused PHN program, and the guidance of an experienced and diverse Healthy North Coast Board of Directors.

As we rise to meet the unprecedented challenges of the coming decade in health care, we will continue to focus on connecting with, and serving the needs of general practice, allied health, and our communities, through our four strategic pillars. This is a mission about which we are incredibly passionate and proud.

It is a real honour to introduce Graeme and Kerry – both local residents – as new board members.  

Graeme is a lawyer and company director with more than 40 years of board, finance and business management experience.

He was Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner for three years and served for almost a decade as a former Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, developing significant networks with both federal and state governments, including in the areas of health and with First Nations People.

Graeme has been a registered mediator for many years, and has negotiated at all levels of society, from community mediation to the development of a UN treaty. 

He has a strong diversity and inclusion mindset and leads this area of change as a non-executive director of Life Without Barriers, one of Australia's largest service providers in the areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with disability, asylum seekers and children in out-of-home care.

Kerry is Deputy Chancellor of Western Sydney University and has worked as an academic at both Sydney University and the University of Technology. 

She has extensive human resources, research and teaching expertise in the areas of anti-discrimination, equal employment opportunity and social justice, as well as significant expertise in the human capital field, including previous roles as CEO of Northcott and Executive Director of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney.

She is a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the Australian Digital Health Agency; Advisory Council to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee on Disability Pandemic Planning; and the NSW Government Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council. 

A former NSW Telstra Businesswoman of the Year in the Community and Government sector, Kerry is particularly interested in using design thinking to foster innovation and better co-design of services and systems for the people who use them, and in particular disadvantaged and minority communities. 

Our choice of two new members with exemplary legal, social justice, advocacy, and high-level government and administration experience, reflects our commitment to creating a diverse board with wide-ranging skills. 

Graeme and Kerry join our other highly valued board members, who together provide Healthy North Coast with an extensive range of knowledge, skills and expertise in local health care provision, clinical expertise, Aboriginal health, academia, community development, business and corporate management, accounting and finance, law and local government, and advocacy and social justice.

Having such a stable and diverse board to steer Healthy North Coast has resulted in clear direction and strategy, solid accountability and controls, and transparency. Our diverse board will continue to help us better serve and represent the needs of our community as we navigate the move to regional commissioning and new partnership structures with other organisations inside and outside of the healthcare system.

As with all Primary Health Networks, our contract with the Commonwealth Government dictates that we must have a diverse, skills-based board as well as clinical councils, to help us function and navigate the landscape that we are in. Our current board members include a specialist anaesthetist, a dentist, two GPs, and a senior public administration executive.

The board, including our new members, will help Healthy North Coast continue its drive to take a leading role in the ongoing health reform and improvement that is clearly needed in our region and nation.

We will strive not just to ‘meet’ but to ‘exceed’ all the goals of delivering the PHN program in our regional footprint from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads and the New England Tableland.

Other Healthy North Coast board members:

  • Dr Adrian Gilliland is a GP and co-owner of Coffs Medical Centre, a large, long-established general practice. 
  • Warren Grimshaw AM has extensive senior experience in public administration and the health sector. Warren is Chair of the Mid North Coast Local Health District Board, a position he has held since 2011. 
  • Dr Caroline Hong has a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, Graduate Diploma of Health Administration, and a Master of Health Administration. She is a Board Trustee of the St Vincent’s Clinic Foundation and has been in that role supporting healthcare and medical research since 2012. 
  • Dr John Moran AM is Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Wollongong; Assistant Professor at Bond University; and Sub Dean of Medicine at the University Centre for Rural Health (Sydney University). He has been a GP in Murwillumbah for more than 35 years as both senior partner and managing partner of King Street Medical Centre. 
  • Dr Joanna Sutherland is a specialist anaesthetist in Coffs Harbour, with a Master of Health Policy, and a Master of Clinical Sciences (Research). She is actively involved in teaching and training medical students (as a conjoint academic with UNSW Rural Clinical School), and training and supporting specialist and GP anaesthetists.