National Rural Health Commissioner

Page last updated: 30 March 2021

Role of the National Rural Health Commissioner

The Commissioner Office was established as part of the Government’s broader agenda to reform rural health in Australia, and provides policy advice to the Minister responsible for rural health.

The National Rural Health Commissioner (the Commissioner), Professor Ruth Stewart, is an independent, statutory office holder, appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (the Act).

She replaces Emeritus Professor Paul Worley, who was the inaugural National Rural Health Commissioner and served in the role from November 2017.

The Commissioner Office works with regional, rural and remote communities, the health sector, universities, specialist training colleges and across all levels of government to improve rural health policies and ensure there remains a strong focus on the needs of rural communities. 

Since it was established in November 2017, the Office has become an important part of our Government’s approach to improving rural health outcomes.

Professor Stewart’s Office will include Deputy Commissioners who will support the Commissioner and provide expertise across a range of vital rural health disciplines such as nursing, allied health and Indigenous Health.

The Office will contribute to significant health reforms already under way, including in primary health care reforms, workforce and training.

The Office will drive innovation, with a clear focus on supporting on-the-ground improvements.

As part of the legislative requirements under the Act, the Commissioner Office will prepare and present to the Minister reports that include advice and recommendations. The Commissioner Office will also prepare and give to the Minister annual reports about its functions during the previous calendar year.

A Statement of Expectations from the Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government, outlines the commissioner’s roles and responsibilities in improving rural health outcomes to 30 June 2022.

Statement of Expectations (PDF 92 KB)

Current Work

One of the early priorities for the expanded Office will be to support the Government’s ongoing rural response to COVID-19 and to advise on the impact on the health workforce in regional, rural and remote communities.

The Commissioner will also continue to provide advice on the roll out of the National Rural Generalist Pathway as well as work with the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners towards recognition of Rural Generalist Medicine as a distinct field of practice.

The Commissioner and the Department have released a grant opportunity to develop local, integrated, multidisciplinary models of primary care through a co-design process with rural and remote communities. Search ‘PRIMM’ on GrantConnect for more information and register to receive updates.


The National Rural Health Commissioner is appointed under Part VA of the Health Insurance Act 1973.

What the Commissioner Office does not do

The Commissioner Office does not get involved in individual cases or advocate for individual people or groups. Instead the Commissioner Office will champion rural health, advocate for system wide improvement in achieving rural health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities of Australia.

The Commissioner Office is not a fund holding body.  It does not provide services, grants or funding for unsolicited projects or campaigns.

Publications developed under the previous Commissioner

The following list of publications were developed under the previous Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley:

Previous National Rural Health Commissioner Publications.

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