Introduction by PHAA National Office
Are you a public health professional looking to take on a leadership role at an organisation committed to equity, prevention, and evidence? Or are you interested to learn about the policy and advocacy activities our Branch Presidents are involved in week-by-week?
Hear from three former or outgoing Branch Presidents from Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales as they reflect on their time as leaders at the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).
Dr Anna Nicholson, outgoing Victoria Branch President
This November, I’ll be stepping down from my role as Victorian Branch President. On reflection, it’s been a period of immense professional and personal growth.
As a regionally based early-mid career professional who is most comfortable behind the scenes, the role has certainly stretched me out of my comfort zone; I’ve met Members of Parliament (including Ministers), hosted a Parliamentary Breakfast and responded to media enquiries. I’ve also ejected Terry [PHAA CEO] from the room to be interviewed out of his earshot and gaze, and I’ve skirted around Twitter and the call to ‘build a brand’.
Not the hallmarks of a typical or ideal Branch President, perhaps. But signs of an organisation that supports career growth and development, including for leaders like me, who prefer to harness the strengths of those around me, and get things done quietly.
With the support of the Branch, I’ve connected with many wonderful people, from like-minded members, to mentors, and ministers, and I’ve had the opportunity to represent our Branches on the PHAA Board. Throughout this period, when public health has been under the spotlight like never before, established practitioners, the incredible PHAA staff, and other Branch/SIG committee members have shared their invaluable insights and advice.
I’ve had the privilege to support the committee to think about new ways of working towards our strategic priorities, especially when our resourcing is thin on the ground.
With initiatives introduced including advocacy cadetships, working groups to harness member expertise, a new partnership agreement with VicHealth, and resourcing a project officer to progress our election-related advocacy, we’ve now strengthened our members’ capacity and focused our time. Although there is always more that could be achieved, we have practiced the art of the possible.
A big thank you to the Vic Branch – I’m proud of what we have achieved together, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.
The PHAA has a wealth of opportunities for all members. I encourage other members to explore the connections and opportunities available within their local Branch. If nothing else, you will meet inspiring peers who share your drive to make a difference.
Dr Kim Jose, former Tasmania Branch President
I have spent four years in the role of Tasmanian Branch President, and it has been both a challenging and immensely rewarding time.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increased profile for public health and greater awareness of its specialist skillset, it has stretched our local and national public health workforce like never before.
As Branch President, I enjoyed bringing the small but passionate Tasmanian membership together on a regular basis to hear and learn from each other. I have also worked to establish the PHAA as a credible local organisation with its unique public health perspective on issues of importance to Tasmanians.
This has only been possible with the support of local members contributing to submissions, attending forums, and responding to media requests. PHAA’s structure enables local branches the autonomy to respond to local issues but it has been reassuring to know that the amazing National Office staff are always available when needed.
PHAA members are strong advocates for a diverse range of issues, bringing their knowledge and passion to all that they do. As a natural collaborator who likes to bring people together, it has been a privilege to be in this leadership role and I would encourage others to explore opportunities to be involved in local or national PHAA activities.
Dr Patrick Harris, former New South Wales Branch President
I was the New South Wales (NSW) Branch President for three years from 2019 to June 2022. I was also previously on the NSW committee as Vice President from 2017.
I had many memorable experiences during my time. I was most proud of being an expert witness at several parliamentary committees. One of these was particularly influential as I presented testimony with a head office representative to counter the government’s proposal to stop considering the effect of major infrastructure on climate change. The decision was thrown out and our testimony was even reported in the Guardian!
I also mentored a great group of young professionals, many of whom have advanced to roles on the NSW Branch committee, and are future Public Health leaders.
My most treasured experience was making firm friends and new colleagues with committee members and national office.
I do have a regret. COVID-19 got slap bang in the way of implementing our strategic directions set early on in my presidency. When society shuts down it is tough to make progress on advocacy work! However, fingers crossed that a similar pandemic will not impact future committees in similar ways.
The PHAA is a fantastic organisation, one of a kind in Australia. I highly recommend taking an active role on state committees.
The presidency roles are vital opportunities for real leadership to progress public health in Australia, create meaningful change and memorable professional and personal experiences.
Editor’s note: if you’re interested in filling the Victorian Branch President position from November 2022, contact PHAA National Office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Image from L-R: Courtesy of Dr Kim Jose, Dr Anna Nicholson, and Dr Patrick Harris