RMA23 speakers

Meet our inspiring and informative speakers joining us for RMA23. Watch this space as we look forward to announcing new speakers as they come onboard.

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Dr Nicole Higgins

RACGP President

Dr Nicole Higgins represents the depth and breadth of general practice. Growing up in rural Victoria and NSW and now living in North Queensland, Nicole is an active GP who is a business owner, director, supervisor, medical educator and working parent.

Having previously worked with Tropical Medical Training and RVTS in medical education and training, Nicole has been recognised for her entrepreneurship and innovation in her workplaces. Nicole is the recent ex-chair of GP Supervision Australia and has had directorships from the old days of the Divisions of General Practice through the PHNs. Nicole regularly talks on Women and Leadership and proudly mentors other GPs.

Nicole understands the challenges faced by GPs and their communities to ensure that their patients have access to quality and timely healthcare.

After 20 years in Mackay, Nicole describes herself as an accidental tourist that never left.

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Dr Anika Molesworth

Farmer, scientist and storyteller generating climate change awareness through her work in agriculture and food systems

Climate change is creating a global health emergency which is being felt throughout the world, including rural and remote communities in Australia. It’s a topic Rural Generalists are discussing in forums across the nation, and we know this presentation by farmer, scientist and storyteller Dr Anika Molesworth will be thought provoking. Join us to see how we can work together to create an exciting, sustainable and regenerative future, by courageously facing our big challenges. 

Meet Dr Anika Molesworth.

Dr Anika Molesworth is smashing the status-quo and inspiring change for a better future.

As a young, female farmer tackling the world’s biggest challenges, Anika is inspiring thousands through engaging and empowering conversations. Her infectious optimism is shifting mindsets and behaviours, leaving audiences motivated and empowered to act.

It was the decade-long Millennium drought on Anika's family's farm that spurred her interest in climate change, and led her to ask, "How are we going to feed a rapidly growing global population well, in a climate challenged world?" With a passion for rural communities and healthy ecosystems, she is committed to help create sustainable and vibrant farming landscapes now and for the future.

Anika is a thought-leader of agro-ecological systems resilience, and has a PhD in international agricultural development.

Anika's dedication to raising awareness of climate change, and most importantly, what action can be taken to reduce emissions and adapt to changing conditions, has gained her widespread notability. Anika’s career has taken her around the world to every continent (including Antarctica!), meeting with farmers, global leaders and royalty. She is a sought-after keynote speaker and educator, who brings heartfelt warmth, authenticity and optimism to complex global challenges.

She is the author of the book, Our Sunburnt Country, which won the Royal Societies of Australia and New Zealand Writer’s Award for Outstanding Writing on Social Change.

Anika is passionate about inclusivity and community empowerment. Anika founded Climate Wise Agriculture in 2014 as a knowledge sharing platform for climate change in global food systems. She also helped established Farmers for Climate Action, a national network of nearly 8,000 Australian farmers championing climate change solutions.

Anika wholeheartedly believes that we can create an exciting, sustainable and regenerative future, by courageously facing our big challenges and collaboratively working together.

After being named the 2015 Young Farmer of the Year, Anika went on to be awarded the 2017 Young Australian of the Year NSW Finalist, and 2017 NSW Young Achiever Award for Environment and Sustainability. In 2018 she was awarded the Green Globe Awards Young Sustainability Champion, the NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Award for Agricultural Innovation, and the 350.org Heroes of a Low-Carbon Economy Youth Champion. In 2019 she was recognised as a Future Shaper by InStyle and Audi, and a Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review. In 2020, she was awarded the Emily Hensley Award for self-discipline, integrity, compassion and contribution to the wider community. In 2022, she was recognised in the Top 100 Green Power Players, and was named Young Conservationist of the Year by Australian Geographic.

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Dr Malin Fors
Dr Malin Fors

Keynote speaker, Psychologist, Psychoanalyst

Geographical narcissism is not new. And, while they are not alone, Rural Generalists live with it every day. You might have heard it described as ‘urban splaining’ or urban bias. Dr Malin Fors is a psychologist and psychoanalyst residing in Hammerfest, Norway - the world's northernmost town. Her celebrated paper on "geographical narcissism" has been cited by readers in many countries and across disciplines. With experience working in outpatient clinics, private practice and teaching medical students provides valuable insight into how Rural Generalists can celebrate rural strengths and act with clinical courage. Read more on Dr Malin Fors below and join us for this informed and inspiring presentation. 

Meet Dr Malin Fors.  Dr. Fors is the author of A Grammar of Power in Psychotherapy (APA Press, 2018), recently translated into Swedish, for which she won the Johanna Tabin Award from the Society for Psychoanalysis and Psychoanalytic Psychology.

She has appeared in a Master Clinician DVD in the APA Psychotherapy Series and was an Erikson Scholar at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 2020. She received the Research Award from Finnmark Hospital Trust, Norway, in 2021, and was awarded the Psychotherapy Literature Stipend by the Stockholm Academy for Psychotherapy Education (SAPU) in 2022.

For 16 years, Dr. Fors has served at the local psychiatric outpatient clinic and in private practice in Hammerfest. She is Associate Professor at UiT, the Arctic University of Norway, where she teaches medical students about issues of power and cultural safety. Dr Fors has been a guest lecturer in psychology for numerous universities in Scandinavia and has run clinical workshops in several US conferences.
Geographical narcissism is a subtle, often unconscious, devaluation of rural knowledge, conventions, and subjectivity. Dr. Fors delineates how urban-identified populations may defensively disown the realities of our vulnerability to nature, distance, and weather, and tend to deny our social interdependence and non-anonymity.

In positing an urban “omphalos syndrome” and the geographical narcissism that goes with it, she countermaps rural medicine and celebrates rural strengths. These include acting with clinical courage and observing "potato ethics" - a metaphor that she has suggested for the strong ethical values underlying the reality that often, in rural healthcare, one's own services are the patient's only option. She explores some psychological effects of rural microtraumas and construes urbanity as a seldom-addressed privilege, showing how rurality can be incorporated into an intersectional argument about power and social justice.

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Rabia Siddique

Australian criminal and human rights lawyer, retired British Army officer, former terrorism and war crimes prosecutor, international humanitarian, hostage survivor

Rural Generalists are not exempt from the ‘me too’ movement. It can be an issue wherever you live or work, and addressing it starts with us. 

Join us to hear international humanitarian, hostage survivor and Australian criminal and human rights lawyer Rabia Siddique share her story, captured in her best-selling memoir “Equal Justice: My Journey as a Woman, a Soldier, and A Muslim”. She will share how the betrayal she experienced, and her road to recovery, led to profound changes in defence and public policy, and attitudes and support to female soldiers serving on the frontline, ethnic minorities and military personnel suffering with PTSD.  

Meet Rabia Siddique.

Rabia is an international humanitarian lawyer, retired British Army senior officer, former war crimes and terrorism prosecutor and hostage survivor.

She has undertaken humanitarian aid work in Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East, for which she was decorated by the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Having survived a hostage crisis in Iraq in 2005 Rabia sued the British Government for discrimination when both the military and government tried to cover up her involvement in the incident, which saw her leading hostage negotiations for the release of two British Special Forces illegally kidnapped and detained by Iraqi based terrorists. Rabia was held hostage for over eight hours and subjected to cruel and unusual treatment in front of her male colleagues. After their eventual rescue Rabia’s colleagues were recognised, psychologically supported and decorated for their efforts and bravery, however Rabia was gagged, ignored and ordered to never speak of the role she played on that fateful day where she almost lost her life.

As a result of her betrayal at the hands of her military superiors and the then Prime Minister of Great Britain Rabia was diagnosed with PTSD and after her recovery, she held both the British Army and Government to account for their systematic discrimination of women and ethnic minorities.  Her landmark case made international news and saw the floodgates open for many similar cases.  It heralded profound changes in defence and public policy, attitudes and the support offered to female soldiers serving on the frontline, ethnic minorities and military personnel suffering with PTSD.

Rabia’s best-selling memoir “Equal Justice: My Journey as a Woman, a Soldier and a Muslim” was published by Pan MacMillan in 2013 and work is currently underway to adapt this to a movie.

Rabia is now a multi award winning storyteller, inspirational speaker, leadership consultant, media commentator and human rights advocate. Peace and the sustainability of our planet is what drives her. But her biggest challenge and joy is being a mother to her teenage triplet boys!

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Dr Alan D. Thompson

AI consultant

In the heart of rural landscapes, a transformative wave is sweeping through healthcare—Artificial Intelligence. Join Dr Alan D. Thompson for an enlightening talk exploring the profound impact of AI on rural health. Discover how innovative technologies are bridging gaps, enhancing diagnostics, and revolutionising patient care in remote communities. Welcome to the future of rural healthcare - “Written by ChatGPT”. 

Meet Dr Alan D Thompson.

Dr Alan D. Thompson is a world expert in artificial intelligence (AI), specializing in the augmentation of human intelligence, and advancing the evolution of ‘integrated AI’.

Alan provides AI consulting and advisory to intergovernmental organizations including member states of the European Union, the Commonwealth, and the World Trade Organization. Alan’s applied AI research and visualizations are featured across major international media, including citations in the University of Oxford’s debate on AI Ethics in December 2021. His 2021-2022 experiments with Leta AI and Aurora AI have been viewed over 1.5 million times. Prior to his work in AI, Alan was a major contributor to human intelligence research and practice. As chairman for Mensa International’s gifted families committee, Alan served two consecutive terms sharing best practice among 54 countries, and his work on gifted education was referenced in the Department of Education’s High Potential policy. Alan’s best-selling book, Bright, was made available to families at Elon Musk’s gifted school. A copy of the book will be sent to the moon aboard the Peregrine lunar lander in 2022.

Alan continues to advise intergovernmental organizations, enterprise, and international media in the fields of artificial intelligence and human intelligence, consulting to the award-winning series Decoding Genius for GE, Making Child Prodigies for ABC (with the Australian Prime Minister), 60 Minutes for Network Ten/CBS, and Child Genius for Warner Bros.

Alan completed his Bachelor of Science (Computer Science, AI, and Psychology) at Edith Cowan University, 2004; studied Gifted Education at Flinders University, 2017; became a Fellow of the Institute of Coaching affiliated with Harvard Medical School, 2017; and received his doctorate from Emerson, 2021. Alan’s dissertation was adapted into a book featuring Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Connected: Intuition and Resonance in Smart People.

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Dr Raymond (RT) Lewandowski
Dr RT Lewandowski

RDAA President Elect

Dr Lewandowski is a Rural Generalist in Far North Queensland, and is an ACRRM Fellow with advanced skills in operative obstetrics and endoscopy. He currently works as a Senior Medical Officer providing endoscopy and gastrointestinal services in Cairns Base Hospital and obstetrics, endoscopy and emergency services in Innisfail Hospital.

He spent the previous 12 years providing general practice, emergency, obstetrics and endoscopy services in Kingaroy, after immigrating from the United States in 2008 where he worked as a rural doctor in Missouri.

Dr Lewandowski is President Elect of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) a past President of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ), and former Director of the Rural Doctors Foundation.

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Dr Daniel Halliday

ACRRM President

Dr Dan Halliday is a Senior Medical Officer - Rural Generalist based at Stanthorpe Hospital, Queensland, with special interest in obstetrics.

Dan has maintained ongoing advocacy and representative roles supporting rural doctors and their communities. Dan is a Past-President of Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) and has held other executive positions on the management committee of RDAQ and is a past Director of Queensland Rural Medical Education (QRME). He is a current Rural Generalist Member on the Statewide Rural and Remote Clinical Network for Queensland Health, and has been appointed onto the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service Clinical Council.

He is acutely aware of the decline in health provision in small communities. From his obstetrics perspective, he sees this decline starkly illustrated by the closure of many rural birthing units. He has also experienced the machinations of a large health system in both crisis and recovery.

Dan joined the College in 2006 and was the 100th registrar to train for Fellowship, which he gained in 2009. From then until now a Pre-vanguard Rural Generalist Trainee, now a Fellow, he has seen the gradual recognition that a national rural generalist program is the future for sustainable, equitable rural and remote health services. He believes that, with the development of the rural generalist pathway, we are now starting to generate genuine and widespread interest in rural medicine and begin the stabilisation of rural medical facilities across Australia.

Dan's deliberations and decision on the College Board will be informed by formal governance qualifications - Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors - which he gained in 2012.

Dan considers that he has been fortunate to be surrounded by passionate rural general practitioners and advocates in a range of forums. He is fully appreciative of the role that family plays in the support of colleagues practicing medicine, and readily acknowledges the support of his wife Cathy and their children Grace, William and Georgia.

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Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart

National Rural Health Commissioner

Dr Ruth Stewart was appointed as the second National Rural Health Commissioner for Australia in July 2020. She brings to this role nearly 30 years of work as a Rural Generalist doctor with the advanced skills of a GP obstetrician. Ruth and her husband, Anthony Brown now live and work in Roma (Maranoa), located in the South West region of Queensland. For 22 years Dr Stuart and Anthony were General Practitioners in private practice in Camperdown in south west Victoria. In 2008 Ruth was employed as the inaugural Director of Clinical Training Rural with the then new medical school of Deakin University. Her role was to establish the rural program. She created 18 Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship placements for third year medical students where they spent their core clinical year in rural practice. In 2012 Dr Stewart moved to north Queensland to become Associate Professor of Rural Medicine, Director Rural Clinical Training with James Cook University, where she oversaw the doubling of rural clinical placements for the medical school. During this time, she also worked clinically as a Senior Medical Officer at Mareeba Hospital. Ruth is a Past President of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and was on the College’s board from 2002-2020 in various roles. She was on the board of the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service for 6 years, the Cape York Hospital Board for two years and has been on the board of several Regional Training Organisations for General Practice Training. She has been on the board of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia for two years and the Tropical Australian Academic Health Centre board for three years.  Dr Stuart has held several representative and medico political roles including on the Distribution Advisory Group, and the Health Innovation Advisory Committee for the National Health and Medical Research Authority. Ruth received a PhD from Flinders University in 2014. Her thesis examined the lessons learnt from a Managed Clinical Network of rural maternity services in South West Victoria. She has an abiding interest in quality of rural maternity services and sustainable models of rural health care.

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Senator the Hon Anne Ruston

Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care

Senator the Hon Anne Ruston has been a Senator since September 2012. She is currently the Shadow Minister for Health and Aged Care, Shadow Minister for Sport and Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate. In July 2014, Anne was elected Senior Deputy Government Whip in the Senate and Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. She was also an active participant in the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee. Senator Ruston was appointed Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in September 2015. She was subsequently appointed as Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific in August 2018. Prior to the 2022 election, Senator Ruston was a Cabinet Minister, holding the positions of Minister for Families and Social Services, Minister for Women’s Safety and Manager of Government Business in the Senate for three years. Prior to becoming a Senator, Anne held several senior positions in government and the private sector, including as the inaugural chief executive of the National Wine Centre. She was also a primary producer and irrigator, owning and operating the largest commercial rose garden in Australia. Born and raised in Renmark, on the River Murray in South Australia, Anne continues to have a strong connection with the Riverland community. She is passionate about regional South Australia and is the only SA Senator who maintains a regional electorate office.

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Megan Belot
Dr Megan Belot

RDAA President

Megan is a Rural Generalist doctor from Victoria, and President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA). 

Megan currently works as a GP Anaesthetist and Visiting Medical Officer (VMO) at Echuca Hospital; as a GP Anaesthetist at Cohuna Hospital; and as a GP at the Northern District Community Health clinic at Kerang.

She also has had experience working as a doctor with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Broken Hill base), undertaking emergency medical retrievals and remote bush GP clinics; and has undertaken other hospital and GP placements in locations as diverse as Christmas Island and Katherine (NT).

Megan is also a past President of the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria (RDAV).

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Dr Norman Swan

Master of Ceremonies

Dr Norman Swan hosts RN’s Health Report and since the COVID-19 pandemic, has co-hosted Coronacast, a daily podcast on the coronavirus.  Norman is also a reporter and commentator on the ABC’s 7.30, Midday, News Breakfast and Four Corners and a guest host on RN Breakfast.

He is a past winner of the Gold Walkley. He created Invisible Enemies, on pandemics and civilisation for Channel 4 UK and broadcast in 27 countries. Norman has been awarded the medal of the Australian Academy of Science, an honorary MD from the University of Sydney, and in October 2022, a Fellowship of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. He is also the recipient of the Australian Skeptics Journalism Award 2020. On Australia Day 2023, Norman was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (AM). During COVID he wrote two books. So You Think You Know What's Good For You (Hatchette) is a best seller and was released in the UK. His latest book, So You Want To Live Younger Longer, has also been on the best seller list. Norman trained in Medicine and Paediatrics in Aberdeen, London and Sydney before joining the ABC.  

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