The new deputy national rural health commissioner has said addressing the issues facing country medical care is like asking how to "eat an elephant".
Speaking in Wagga yesterday, Faye McMillan said solving the "known challenge" of healthcare problems in the bush would require a "one bite at a time" approach.
Dr McMillan, a Wiradjuri woman and Australia's first Indigenous pharmacist, has been appointed to one of two newly created deputy commissioner roles.
Her tenure will see her work with commissioner Ruth Stewart and consult with rural, regional and remote residents and allied health professionals, to advise the federal government on ways to improve access to services and address workforce shortages.
"The scope of the role is to work with the commission to make sure there are authentic voices and experiences being heard and [to ask] what can we learn from what we've already experienced and how do we move forward," she said.
"How can we meet the health needs of our communities to make sure that they are feeling as valued as any other member of society. we are willing to work and do the hard yards to make sure that voice is authentic?
"I [hope] to genuinely be a deep listener to what are concerns that are going on so I can authentically report those back through the commission and then to the ministers."
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Dr McMillan, who lives in Coolamon and worked until recently at Charles Sturt University, is an associate professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health at the University of NSW, and a founding member and former chair of Indigenous Allied Health Australia and the 2019 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year.
She said the needs of communities living in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, which covers 125,243 square kilometres and is home to more than 240,000 people, were difficult to generalise.
"As we know, one size doesn't meet the needs of all of our citizens," she said.
"How the MLHD and the work of other partners rise to those different challenges will certainly be one of the challenges that this role with the commission will face."
Dr McMillan said she would also consider the challenges faced by Indigenous people when accessing allied and primary healthcare in her work with the commission.
"We really do need to be listening to: 'What are the issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and how are we addressing them effectively?' Sometimes they are really hard conversations," she said.
Dr McMillan is appointed deputy commissioner until 30 June 2022.