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Sharing some collective hopes for 2024, and a “better, cleaner, kinder” world

In the second article in a Croakey series on hope, Alison Barrett asked a range of contributors about their hopes for 2024 (read the first article here, on what gave cause for hope in 2023).


Alison Barrett writes:

In one of his first speeches for 2024, the World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said:

The coming year will be a test for humanity; a test of whether we give in to division, suspicion and narrow nationalism or whether we are able to rise above our differences and seek the common good.

Despite the many challenges we face, I remain an optimist and WHO remains committed to doing everything we can to promote, provide and protect the health of the world’s people this year and every year.”

Meanwhile, Croakey supporters and contributors share wide-ranging perspectives below about their hopes for 2024.


Education matters

Dr Megan Williams, Yulang Indigenous Evaluation, Contributing Editor and Director, Croakey Health Media

What are your hopes for 2024?

More realisations of public health education Faculties and Schools at universities realising that with cultural safety in legislation relevant to health professionals, they have a responsibility to get curriculum right, lest they be named in court cases and complaints against healthcare workers.

Workers can so easily name where they got their training and what it’s quality is, or isn’t.

Peak bodies and health professional member organisations have a responsibility too – and are implicated. I’m usually more carrot, less stick but cultural safety in legislation offers a balance – a choice to do well now, or take risks later. There’s plenty of detail in Universities Australia’s strategies to guide action. Urgently!


Cultural wellbeing

Fiona Cornforth, Head of the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research at the Australian National University

What are your hopes for 2024?

A successful launch event for the National Centre of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing Research in March to celebrate the journey so far and ahead, with our deadly network of staff, partners and supporters.

Proudly launching the first of its kind Yukaaywa Purrary study looking at strong cultural wellbeing and neurological development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Together with SNAICC, the Voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, the community-led study will hear directly from thousands of young people about what cultural and neurodevelopmental factors contribute to strong wellbeing for our young people.


Better, cleaner, kinder

Dr Simon Judkins, senior emergency medicine specialist and Croakey Health Media member

What are your hopes for 2024?

Wow…in summary, I hope that humans prove that we are smart, that we care, and good people prevail; greed, capitalism and corporate profits are finally accepted as the root of human suffering and governments make moves to address tax-evasion, mega-profits and environmental destruction.

I hope there is an epiphany regarding Trump, and he is tossed out of US politics forever, ending up in prison. I hope to see Julian Assange released. I hope for a huge investment in public housing, education, health prevention and the environment.

I’ll throw in taxation. I hope we get rid of the stage three tax cuts, tax big corporations (read Exxon, Shell and the like). While I’m at it, change the tax laws for religions/churches who are stealing from the poor to make the owners rich.

I just hope that at the end of ’24, the world is a better, cleaner, kinder place than it is now.

Professionally, I would hope to see a serious focus on public health prevention measures – we spend so much on intervention and so little on prevention of disease.

Solutions to the funding and support for GPs and community care is up on the wish list, improvements in access to mental health supports (again, largely in rural areas) and, if I was to be selfish, a budget for my hospital which actually aligns with the work we do, so we don’t have to keep fretting about what services need to be cut.

And I hope my cholesterol level stays down and I can drop the statin…


Scope of practice

Scott Willis, Palawa man, National President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association

What are your hopes for 2024?

Australians deserve to have access to funded physiotherapy at the top of physiotherapists’ scope of practice. In 2024, on the 40th anniversary year of Medicare, we think it is time that they did. In strengthening Medicare, we need to fund what matters.

My hope is that Professor Cormack’s Scope of Practice Review and the Strengthening Medicare review deliver on their promise. Driving ambitious government requires action beyond the planning phase. Too often we have seen reviews and reports die a lonely death on a Minister’s shelf or a Departmental filing cabinet (or online equivalent).

Measures are needed to improve access to essential care, reduce out-of-pocket costs and, most importantly, reduce costly and inefficient treatments. The Scope of Practice review is the first step towards deeper structural reform.

One of the key issues to making this successful is for disciplines to define their scope so that patients and funders (government and private health insurers) clearly understand the skills and training of every profession. We have seen welcome and positive signs with nursing, but now (I hope) the government will understand and recognise the scope and abilities of physiotherapists, psychologists, and other highly trained and skilled health professionals.

I also hope that Urgent Care Clinics (UCCs) will better utilise physiotherapy services. If the intention of UCCs is to reduce unnecessary presentations at Emergency Departments (category 4-5, non-urgent, non-life-threatening), then physiotherapists must be engaged alongside doctors and nurses.

The APA estimates that about 15-20 percent of ED presentations are for musculoskeletal injuries that an AHPRA regulated physiotherapist is formally trained to diagnose and treat.

My hope for 2024 is that the government looks at successful models, looks at the existing evidence, looks at best practice and puts patients first by making the reforms needed.


Young peoples’ voices

Erin Fitzpatrick, Research Assistant and PhD candidate at Victoria University

What are your hopes for 2024?

My hopes for 2024 are, on the surface, simple. I hope for survival (of myself, those around me, and the world at large), for continued growth, and for the year to pace itself at a reasonable rate, thank you very much.

Many of my personal and professional hopes for 2024 are inextricably intertwined with my PhD work. Looking back, I can see how far I’ve come, but looking forward can be intimidating.

The road is so long. I’m lucky that I have a supportive circle around me. My supervisors are supportive guides through the maelstrom which is navigating, and participating in, the academy, while my friends and family have my back, come what may. With these supports it’s my hope for 2024 that I’m able to learn as much as possible, grow as a researcher AND a human, and do some good in the world.

Professionally, I hope I’m able to keep working with the aforementioned young people. Their insights are so valuable and their enthusiasm is this far unwithered. I hope to help create a situation in which it is safe for them to participate in the academy, where they can hear and be heard, and where they feel valued; valued not just for what they can bring to the table, but for who they are as people.

These young people are going through a time of transition and that can be so tough, but they are looking ahead with hope and so I will, too.


Meaningful drug policy debate

Dr Robert Stirling, CEO, Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies

What are your hopes for 2024?

The NSW Government’s election commitment to hold a Drug Summit in NSW is planned for 2024. While we don’t want the Summit to rehash what people with lived experience, families, frontline workers and academics told the Special Commission in 2019, we hope that the NSW Government will consider some of the recommendations that the previous government rejected.

We were once internationally recognised for drug policy, and we hope that we can hold that title again.

Nothing should be off the table. The Summit should be an opportunity for a serious debate that considers the evidence and lived experience on everything from decriminalisation and drug checking to policing and funding models that recognise drug use as a health issue.


Community leadership

Mark Burdack, CEO of The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia

What are your hopes for 2024?

I hope that we can continue to navigate and deliver the essential shift to community-leadership of health, and from building new hospitals to strengthening integrated, people-centred health and social care.

That we can shift to making long-term, bundled, investments in evidence-based solutions that already exist in rural, remote and Aboriginal communities.

That we can shift from forcing rural and Aboriginal people to compete against each other for resources in thin markets, to a model designed to strengthening all communities through sustainable, integrated, multidisciplinary, community-led solutions.

I hope that Nurse Practitioners are funded nationally in 2024 under Medicare to their full scope of practice and that they get the respect they deserve; that we have the wisdom to establish Medicare Items for Allied Health Assistants to address the horrible state of access in disadvantaged towns and create a pathway to health careers for rural and Aboriginal people; that Care Coordinators are recognised under Medicare as a critical health service provider as part of a team in MMM5-7 regions.

Additionally, I hope that we recognise that International Medical Graduates are not a short term solution to the rural healthcare crisis in Australia, and that we begin to develop a comprehensive multilateral strategy to mutually strengthen universal healthcare in Australia and our neighbouring countries through joint and integrated healthcare initiatives so we all benefit from what we can offer to each other.

Before I go with warm wishes to everyone for a healthy and prosperous 2024, I want to thank the Deputy Rural Health Commissioner’s Office who meets with a diverse group of us from rural and Aboriginal communities every month to listen and discuss ideas (Professor Faye McMillan and Simone Champion).

I hope that this opening of the door gathers pace in 2024 and that we continue to learn that rural, remote and Aboriginal people are the solution – not the problem.


Mental health reform reset

Simon Katterl, mental health and human rights advocate

What are your hopes for 2024?

My hope for 2024 is a reset on Victoria’s mental health reforms. Speaking to anyone in the sector, we know that the cultural and transformational promises made during the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System have faltered.

I am hoping that the Victorian Government takes proactive steps to meet its legal obligations under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Act 20222 (Vic). This will include appointments to the Chief Psychiatrist – that is now vacant – that are grounded in human rights and support for lived experience leadership, as well as real pressure on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission to improve i