We drive collaboration, advocacy and support
to increase clinical education and training,
clinical placements and workforce initiatives
across the geographical area.

Meet the Council
Melissa Vernon.
GNARTN Chair Exec Director

Melissa Vernon is the Executive Director, Primary Health and Engagement for the WA Country read more..

Dr Len Notaras.
AM Bmed, LLB, BA (Hons), Dip Com, MHA AFCHSE MB

Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Department of Health read more..


Over the next 30 years, Greater Northern Australian will become an increasing important driver for the Australian economy by virtue of its significant natural resources, social and cultural diversity, its academic and intellectual capital and its footprint within the fast growing global region – the tropics.

Greater Northern Australia represents the vast top-half of Australia that is predominantly rural and remote, with only 4 major population centres with over 100,000 people. While there are differences across Northern WA, QLD and the Northern Territory, the challenges and obstacles in the provision of health care are similar in that the health workforce is not equitably distributed.

GNA is unique in its diversity. From the wet to dry tropics, through the arid regions of northern central Australia, the climate, population and industry is an integral part of Australia's economy and national identity. With just over a 1.2 million people working and residing in an area of approximately 3 million square kilometres, and only five Local Government Areas (LGAs) with populations above 100,000 people, the region's population is highly dispersed. The region also represents around 30% of the nation's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.¹

Given the markedly higher prevalence of chronic, acute and vaccine-preventable diseases in rural, remote² and Indigenous Australia, populations living in GNA also face a higher burden of chronic and infectious diseases compared with the rest of Australia.

Of particular note is³:

  • The mortality gap between metropolitan and non-metropolitan Australia which is higher in rural and remote areas
  • The higher death rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and among young adults in rural and remote areas, and in general
  • People living in rural and remote areas are more likely to report a range of chronic diseases, are 10% more likely to have a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime, more likely to have a substance abuse disorder, more likely to smoke, more likely to be classified as overweight, and more likely to have untreated dental problems.

When it comes to trying to address these problems, there is:

  • Variation in the availability of nurses and midwives who form 50% of the health workforce nationally
  • Mal-distribution of the workforce across medicine, dentistry and allied health
  • Lack of general practitioners in regional and rural Australia
  • Lack of generalists due to a growing trend toward specialisation and sub-specialisation
  • A proportionally and numerically small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce that in turn provides challenges for providing access to culturally safe health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Ageing of the rural and remote health workforce and earlier retirement in some professions than their counterparts in metropolitan areas – and the serious implications this creates for sustainable health service delivery and for the supervision and mentoring of trainees and new graduates

The region's proximity to Asia, one of the fastest growing population zones in the world, also represents significant opportunities for engagement to address shared challenges. The 'Asian Century' brings opportunities across economic, agricultural and geopolitical domains that are beginning to be fully realised in Australia.

At the same time, many infectious diseases that have largely been eliminated from developed countries remain highly prevalent in the nations to Australia's north, which are simultaneously facing a rapidly growing incidence of chronic and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

GNA's proximity to these nations, its own unique disease profile and its first-world facilities, resources and health and education system capacity, present unique opportunities for health system and health workforce development and innovation – relevant locally and across the broader region.

Growing a health workforce that responds to the needs of rural and remote Australia and that also contributes to building health workforce capacity of our northern neighbours represents a challenge, but one with significant potential to benefit underserved communities over the long term.

¹ Queensland Government, Office of Economic and Statistical Research, 'Regional Distribution', Census 2011: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population in Queensland.
² Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Area classification, the term 'rural and remote' encompasses Inner regional, Outer regional, Remote or Very remote geographical areas.
³ Health Workforce Australia, 2013, National Rural and Remote Health Workforce Innovation and Reform Strategy.
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Background to the Establishment of GNARTN.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) announced a number of health workforce reforms at its 29 November 2008 meeting, several of which focused on clinical education and training. These reforms are being progressed by the Commonwealth statutory authority, Health Workforce Australia (HWA).

The Australian Health Ministers' Conference (AHMC) meeting of 22 April 2010 provided endorsement for HWA to establish, as one of these bodies of work, Integrated Regional Clinical Training Networks (IRCTNs). The purpose of the IRCTNs is to promote access to clinical placements, facilitate reporting of clinical training activity, strengthen collaborations between stakeholders, and source new placement opportunities.

On 9 May 2011 HWA distributed draft funding agreements to jurisdictions to support the development of RTNs throughout Australia and in July 2011, Jurisdictional representatives at the HWA Jurisdictional Policy Committee endorsed the establishment of the Greater Northern Australia Regional Training Network (GNARTN). In August 2011, the Australian Health Ministers Conference (AHMC) then endorsed the establishment of the GNARTN with the understanding it will occur early 2012. The purpose of the GNARTN is to address the clinical education and training issues of the Northern Territory and the northern rural and remote areas of Western Australia and Queensland.

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Geographic Area: Rural/Remote Greater Northern Australia - Coast to Coast.

In principle the Greater Northern Australia (GNA) will broadly be defined as north of the Tropic of Capricorn, however pragmatically GNARTN will extend from Rockhampton Hospital and Health Service as the southern border in Queensland, include the entire Northern Territory, and including the township of Carnarvon as the southern border in Western Australia.

GNARTN Purpose.

The primary role of the GNARTN is to drive collaboration, advocacy and support to increase clinical education and training, clinical placements and workforce initiatives across the geographical area. The GNARTN will be proactive, action focussed and needs based. It will operate within the contractual boundaries and the directives provided by the jurisdictions Director Generals and Chief Executive Officer.

A key objective of the GNARTN will be to draw on existing clinical workforce initiatives, such as those provided by Health Workforce Australia, to enable better coordination, communication, collaboration and consistency across the GNA area.

GNARTN Functions.

The initial primary functions to be addressed by the Greater Northern Australia Regional Training Network include:

  • Addressing obstacles to inter-jurisdictional clinical placements
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clinical education and training, and workforce development, and
  • Development of the rural generalist workforce and general specialist workforce to facilitate enhanced clinical education and training and clinical placement options

Over time and as capacity/resources allow, GNARTN may explore the following functional domains:

  • Shared approaches to the implementation of HWA work programs;
  • Sponsorship of best-practice clinical education and training research and innovations;
  • Development of a common clinical placements planning approach;
  • Sharing of clinical placement capacity to facilitate cross-jurisdictional placements;

Future investments for consideration/exploration/investment may include:

  • Development of a common workforce planning methodology
  • Development of a Greater Northern Australia workforce strategy
  • Development of a Greater Northern Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce strategy
  • Development of a Greater Northern Australia recruitment strategy, and
  • Building health workforce across the GNARTN geographical area
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GNARTN receives funding from the Australian Government
© GNARTN 2017. Website by Etch


Scott Davis
P: (07) 4232 1747
M: 0410 477 166
E: director@gnartn.org.au

Lisa Crouch
P: (07) 4232 1468
M: 0427 488 799
E: projectmanager@gnartn.org.au