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Some of the most insightful and memorable quotes from 2023 – you read them here

As we reflect back on 2023 in order to consider the challenges ahead, we thank all who have contributed to Croakey articles and activities over the past year. Your words have power and meaning, as highlighted in the selection of quotes below.

Each quote links to the source article, so you can also read more deeply.


January

The biggest advantage new variants have on us is our behaviour. The real Kraken is no longer the virus – it’s our monstrous level of indifference to the pandemic’s ongoing, and inequitable, carnage.
André Picard, a senior health journalist in Canada 

For the global health community, this is the time to utilise our potential power and build bridges for peace. We can do what the politicians failed to do across centuries: we can connect people, communities and nations.
Dr Wahid Majrooh, Former Minister of Health of Afghanistan

February

Very few people around the world could claim to have done more to tackle climate change than Professor Will Steffen. He was a first class scientist and a world class communicator. Around the world and in Australia, many are mourning the loss of a valued and loved colleague.
Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy

We must use all the workforce skills we’ve got. We must reward good practice and continuity of care. We must encourage preventively oriented practice, including outreach calls by practice staff. We must keep access to high-quality care affordable to all.
Professor Stephen Duckett, after release of the Strengthening Medicare Taskforce report.

Near-term thinking is making the problems we face today more intractable, divisive and dangerous. My message to politicians and decision makers: Don’t focus solely on what may happen to you today – and dither. Look at what will happen to all of us tomorrow – and act.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.
NZ Climate Minister James Shaw, quoting Winston Churchill

To salvage the future of the planet, and humanity, we must challenge existing systems of colonialism, capitalism, and extractivism that fuels climate change.
Gumbaynggirr nyami Amba-Rose Atkinson

March

Approving coal and gas projects now is like signing a death certificate for the planet.
Professor Fiona Stanley

Music should make you feel something or else it’s not doing its job.
Yirrmal

Gambling interests have political access that is not available to groups attempting to reduce the harms caused by gambling or to people with lived experience of the devastation that gambling can cause.
Carol Bennett, Alliance for Gambling Reform

The Robodebt debacle was the very opposite of healthy public policy – it was extraordinarily unhealthy public policy.
Professor Fran Baum

It is only by ignoring the costs of war – human, economic, environmental and other – that preparations for the next one can be announced with such triumphalism and pride.
Dr Sue Wareham, Medical Association for Prevention of War

The choices and actions implemented in this decade will have impacts now and for thousands of years.
IPCC report

Whether it is lobbying your political representatives, joining protest movements, civil disobedience or whatever action you can think of. Time is running out and change has always come from activism forcing the hand of governments.
Professor Fran Baum

Prioritising equity and inclusion in all aspects of university life requires university leaders to take steps to dismantle systemic barriers that prevent marginalised communities from fully participating in university life.
Tessa-May Zirnsak and Dr Ben Habib

In Australia we have robust rules for engaging with tobacco companies, but we lack a coherent approach to engaging with industry in other areas such as gambling and food policy – and our policy outcomes are weaker as a result.
Dr Alexandra Jones

April

Our father was driven by a vision for the future of this nation, his people’s place in the nation and the rightful place for Aboriginal people everywhere.
Binmila Yunupiŋu, daughter of Yunupiŋu

Winning slowly is losing for climate action.
Adjunct Professor Tarun Weeramanthri, President of the Public Health Association of Australia

We need to see the home and urban environment as part of health infrastructure. Currently, the design of our houses and cities is determined more by developers than human health.
Dr Richard Di Natale

A strengthened and expanded community health sector would have the potential to address many of the health challenges expected in the future.
Jennifer Doggett, a Croakey editor

Scholars, theorists, policy makers, and practitioners worldwide need to recognise Indigenous human rights and Indigenous knowledge systems, and to decolonise psychology to implement Indigenous social and emotional well-being within policy and health systems.
Professor Pat Dudgeon, Dr Abigail Bray and Professor Roz Walker

May

The Indigenous workforce (health workers especially) experienced numerous pressures when responding to the challenges associated with COVID-19. This involved responding to the cultural and social needs of Indigenous communities; countering misinformation, hesitancy, and mistrust; and navigating workplaces that are not always culturally safe.
These pressures often resulted in fatigue and burnout. Stakeholders expressed that immediate action through the remuneration of overtime, implementation of flexible work arrangements, and recognising the cultural needs of both the workforce and patients were needed.
Professor Bronwyn Fredericks and colleagues

As the Pharmacy Guild goes into full hysteria mode, it’s worth remembering that 34 years ago the independent tribunal found the dispensing fee was too high. Since then it has been increased under every Community Pharmacy Agreement.
Charles Maskell-Knight

We have spoken about how Blak women can step into politics, the need to guarantee our women’s place in leadership positions, how to tell our own stories from a position of strength, what types of economies really work for us, how care is at the heart of well and functioning societies, how languages and our women’s Law keep our identity strong and our relationships to one another and the land interwoven.
Wiyi Yani U Thangani Summit communiqué

We need a new economic narrative that transforms financing for health from an expenditure to an investment, grounded in fundamental truths: that wellbeing and the economy are interdependent; that health is not only a key economic sector but also a cross-cutting lens through which to view many different sectors; that health is critical to the resilience and stability of economies worldwide; and that states can move from reactively fixing market failures to proactively and collaboratively shaping markets that prioritise human and planetary health.
Professor Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London.

June

In a world where people understandably experience climate distress and anxiety, the ability to protest peacefully and effectively is not merely a political right, it is part of the essential toolkit for mental health and wellbeing.
Roland Sapsford, Climate and Health Alliance

Embedding First Nations leadership and cultural knowledge within this Strategy will strengthen climate adaptation and emissions mitigation not only for First Nations communities but for all Australians.
Consultation paper for a National Health and Climate Strategy

The proliferation of hate and lies in the digital space is causing grave global harm. This clear and present global threat demands clear and coordinated global action.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Around 40,000 Australian children will go to bed tonight knowing that their mum, dad or carer is spending the night in prison. This number of children could fill a stadium and yet we as a society treat them like they barely exist.
Julie Hourigan, CEO of SHINE for Kids

Evidence that some people are turning away from important news subjects, like the war in Ukraine, national politics, and even climate change is extremely challenging for the news industry and for those who believe the news media have a critical role in informing the public as part of a healthy democracy.
Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023

To achieve the necessary greenhouse gas emissions reductions, both in Australia and globally, we must reduce military activity…Only a peaceful planet can be healthy and sustainable.
Dr Sue Wareham, President of the Medical Association for Prevention of War

The set of intertwined, existential crises all societies face – climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse, environmental destruction paired with increasing inequality, patriarchal oppression, social insecurity, and alienation – calls for a deep reset of the very meaning of ‘development’ and progress, everywhere.
Just Transition: A climate, energy and development vision for Africa

July

So by adding this layer to our Parliament, it’s actually going to make your Parliament stronger, it’s going to make the country stronger, it’s going to help us get the right direction.
Professor Kelvin Kong, NAIDOC 2023 Person of the Year, on The Voice to Parliament

The Robodebt story is a reminder of the importance of the health sector supporting and developing networks with wider civil society and those who champion more accountable governments and policy making. It is also an example of why the health sector must advocate loud and strong for better protections for whistle-blowers.
Dr Melissa Sweet

We should probably stop talking about a ‘cost of living’ crisis. When it is really an income and wealth distribution crisis.
Simon Rosenberg

To survive and thrive, deep systemic and societal change is required; our transition to a greener future should be equitable and ethical.