Life honour for former PHAA Chair, David Templeman

David Templeman stands in front of a board containing info graphics for some of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Jeremy Lasek – PHAA

The awarding of a life membership within any organisation should never be taken lightly. It is the highest honour that can be bestowed on an individual for continuous, meritorious, loyal, and outstanding service.

That David Templeman has received this, after just a decade’s association with the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA), is a testament to the remarkable contributions he has made, both as a board member and its chair from 2016 to 2020.

Like many of us, David came to the world of public health via a circuitous route. He’s always had an interest in community and preventative health, but it was in his biggest career role as Director-General of Emergency Management Australia (2000-2006) that the dots joined. In particular, he witnessed first-hand the growing human impact on the planet through global warming.

It was David who advised and accompanied former prime ministers to natural disaster zones, including floods in Sydney (summer 2000-01), the NSW Black Christmas fires (December 2001/January 2002), and the Canberra Firestorm (January 2003). There were also trips following severe storms that struck the NSW north coast and Hunter regions between 2001 and 2005, as well as Cyclones Ingrid and Yasi that wrought havoc on much of northern Australia.

“My argument had always been about prevention, preparing, response, and recovery for any event in the context of an all-hazards approach, no matter what the cause,” David explained.

“And that approach to the world of disaster management aligns in so many ways with the many challenges facing public health.”

In his PHAA Life Membership acceptance speech, David typically looked to share the honour with others.

“Let me say up front, this is more about you, that is the PHAA membership, our board and staff, the majority of whom are all volunteers. It’s about what you all bring and contribute to enhancing and strengthening public and preventive health reform nationally and internationally,” David said.

“I was fortunate to follow in the footsteps of strong and reputable leaders in public health, Mike Daube, Helen Kelleher, and Heather Yeatman to name a few, and furthermore, pass the President’s baton to another outstanding public health treasure, Tarun Weeramanthri.

“Also, to be supported by and work with two fantastic CEOs of PHAA, namely Michael Moore and Terry Slevin was a real gift.”

David sees his award as something of an invitation for life to stay connected with, and supportive of, the important work of the PHAA.

“Being a Life Member requires one to be at the ready and able to keep the momentum going for PHAA, hopefully in seeing our funding base grow through more investment in prevention,” David said.

‘I look to decision makers’ lights coming on with their improved understanding of the enormous costs associated with social, cultural, economic, and physical impacts on health all leading to so many downstream consequences, when simple preventive investment strategies would realise significant savings. We live in hope!

“The maths are very simple when one looks at the paucity of funding in health prevention, around 1.5 per cent of $200 Billion in total health expenditure. An increase of say 1 to 1.5 per cent would make a world of difference to so many plus reduce the overall burden on our already stretched hospital system.

“Maintaining PHAA’s rage on climate health priorities and the needs of our First Australians, are two matters I’m deeply passionate about. We know the impact major natural disasters and their cause, directly related to fossil fuel usage. The 450 deaths from smoke and 4,000 hospitalisations in the 2019-2020 summer is totally unacceptable.

“Our First Australians deserve greater respect and understanding. They, to their credit, have offered all of us the gift of reconciliation through the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, and yet our leadership struggles to even consider, let alone understand, the wonderful sentiments of peace and forgiveness through Makarrata. This leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and despair, moreover when this will have continuing and devastating health consequences for our First Nations People.

“I remain well connected with several areas of critical public health mutual interest, namely climate action, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), family/community welfare and drug and alcohol service delivery. Hence, any assistance PHAA requires from me, I’m up for the task.

“Thank you again for all you do and, in closing, may I say a huge thanks to my wonderful family, Vikki, Tori, and Charlie who really do get public health, and have helped me to assist PHAA in its endeavours,” David added.


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