Introduction by Croakey: Kate Moore, who was CEO of the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) from 1992 to 1999, has passed away after a short illness. She leaves a profound legacy on the status of health consumer influence, as a driving force, custodian, and advocate for CHF during its formative years, and a mentor to many people who came after her.
In this piece originally published by the CHF, former CHF Chair Janne Graham put together a tribute drawing on the experiences of those who were privileged to know Kate and work with her.
Consumers Health Forum writes:
Prior to 1989, during a period when several peak community organisations were negotiating with the Federal Government to establish a separate body to representing health service users, Kate was working as an adviser to Dr Neal Blewett, Minister for Health.
In 2011 Kate reflected that CHF “was funded because Dr Blewett saw it as a constituency for Medicare and as a way of challenging what those very powerful interest groups were saying, and putting the patient at the centre of health policy.”*
When Kate was appointed as CHF’s Executive Director, she brought into the still fledgling organisation a wealth of experience in the community (not-for-profit) sector and a deep understanding of the working of the federal bureaucracy, of parliamentary processes and federal/state relations.
Janne Graham, Chair from 1991 to 1995, recalls Kate’s amazing capacity to set aside the noise and guide her, and the Board, to focus on the key issues. On one occasion Janne was preparing for an ABC TV interview thinking about all the list of issues CHF wanted government to address. Kate pulled her up and stressed that the objective at this interview was to let the new Health Minister know who we were. So, Janne spoke about what CHF was achieving and the legitimacy of the consumer voice in policy. A few days later at a meeting when she went up to that Minister to introduce herself, he said “Oh I know who you are, CHF, I saw you on television.”
Kate was able to negotiate stable core funding for CHF and attract contracts to work with government on key policy areas. One of the first was around General Practice reforms which enabled consumers to articulate their expectations of their GPs and for CHF to be represented in the restructuring processes. Government funding for the resulting Divisions of General Practice required those groups to consult with consumers. This, at a time when GPs mainly thought of their clients as passive, accepting patients.
During her tenure as Executive Director, CHF became strongly established and recognised by government and health professional bodies as a group to be considered, or indeed, reckoned with. Positions on the Board were highly contested, demonstrating how highly it was valued by the consumer sector itself.
Helen Hopkins joined CHF as a project officer working on pharmaceutical policy near the end of Kate’s time there. The value and legitimacy of health consumer organisations and their representatives was under challenge. Short term consultants running focus groups of well-meaning “punters” were the flavour of the day. Kate was always ready with advice on which consumer organisations would be strong in a particular area and help to demonstrate the added value that people living with chronic health conditions could contribute to health policy development.
Kate’s immediate successor, Matthew Blackmore, continued the philosophy of playing the long game in politics, staying strong and ready to draw on the strengths and memories of the consumer movement as soon as opportunity arose. Kate was always right behind us through the lean times, never intruding, but always ready with encouragement and suggestions for potential allies and supporters.
Some years later, after Helen was appointed as Executive Director in the changing world of online health records, generic medications in Australia and Dr Google, Kate stepped up again as much more than a mentor, always prepared for a walk around the Lake to clear the head. She really understood how collaboration between doctors, nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals, government bureaucrats and consumer networks were so necessary for new programs and policies that people could work with. And how even the best designed programs needed the people on the ground in the community to be informed and involved through their own support networks, if programs were to grow and flourish rather than founder and sink. She also made a significant contribution in this respect to improving safe prescribing, dispensing and use of medicines.
National positions she held included:
- Member of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 1992-1994
- Consumer Representative for the Credentials and Clinical Privileges Committee of Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care 1998-2001
- Consumer Director on the National Prescribing Service 2006-2013
- Consumer Representative on National Health Information Management Advisory Council.
After leaving CHF, Kate made a significant contribution to her local health consumer group, Health Care Consumers Assoc (HCCA) as an active member of its Executive Committee and beyond.
Local positions she held included:
- Member and later Chair (2005-2011) of the ACT Health Council
- Consumer Representative on ACT Executive Council (2010-2015) with responsibilities to make recommendations on the strategic directions and priorities and oversight finance, performance and human resources.
- Chair of Community Advisory Committee of the Capital Health Network 2016-2020.
Kate also worked as a consultant on significant Commonwealth health projects, such as the evaluation of the Research and Development Grants program of the 3rd Community Pharmacy Agreement, in which her knowledge and skills enabled the work to be both an objective assessment of the achievements and limitations of the program and a collegial engagement of stakeholders in identifying the program’s potential.
Professor Rosemary Calder AM, a founding Board member of CHF, worked with Kate on some of these commissioned projects. She recalls that Kate was “both a feisty, challenging interlocutor and critical thinker and an engaging tactician who would enable others to see opportunities and solutions as their own thinking”. Working with Kate, Rosemary says, meant a project was always undertaken with deep attention to opportunities to improve on the expectations for the work.
Darlene Cox, Executive Director of Health Care Consumers Association (HCCA) is another of those whom Kate guided over many years. Darlene describes Kate as a strong advocate for consumers and she regularly drew on Kate’s knowledge of the health system, especially her understanding of health financing and government decisions making processes. Darlene attributes her advocacy style to Kate’s influence.
Fiona Tito Wheatland, a long-time consumer advocate worked with Kate on health policy and patient safety issues over almost three decades. She reflected on Kate’s energy and commitment. Fiona says “Kate had a great sense of humour and fun. We shared a love of jigsaw puzzles, which was a bit of a metaphor for what we both dealt with in health. She was also compassionate and taught me a lot about the power of patience and diplomacy when you want to change the world”.
Kate brought a significant intellectual ability as well as insight to her consumer advocacy. She had left school in England at the equivalent to the Intermediate Certificate to become a typist. Between her work in parliament and CHF, Kate gained special access to ANU post- graduate program and completed a Masters in Public Policy. After she “retired” she conducted a series of interviews with women leaders in the health consumer sector and used these to contribute to a Chapter to “Diversity in Leadership”*
In the health consumer sector, the chapter argued that participation and leadership came mostly from those with lived experience of issues which they needed addressed. Paid and voluntary involvement was predominantly of women though that began to change, possibly because of the HIV/AIDs consumer activity and increasing awareness of prostate cancer. Leadership was generally collegiate.
Janne Graham, who remained a life-long friend, writes that we have generally come to consider consumer leadership, and particularly women’s leadership as being with a constituency rather than from the front. However, despite her many high-profile appointments, perhaps we can remember Kate’s leadership as being primarily from behind, developing and guiding others in their leadership and active roles.
She is much missed by family, friends and colleagues.
Vale Kate Moore, 20 July 1944 – 9 August 2023
*Oral History, Australian Museum of Democracy 2011, https://oralhistories.moadoph.gov.au/kate-moore(link is external)
** Diversity in Leadership ed Joy Damousi, Kim Rubenstein, Mary Tomsic. Chapter 17 Consuming interests: Women’s leadership in Australia’s consumer movement (pp313-329)
Consumers Health Forum wishes to thank everyone who contributed to this article and to Kate Moore’s family who provided the photo.
Support Croakey’s health journalism by becoming a regular donor via Patreon.