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A community’s response to ensure healthcare survives

Pictured: Members of Mallacoota Medical Clinic, CHIRF, Mallacoota Inlet Aged Care, local builders and Minister for Veterans Affairs and Member for Gippsland The Honourable Darren Chester MP.

Through the initiative of the community, in mid-January Mallacoota Medical Centre celebrated a milestone: the new building’s inspection by The Honourable Darren Chester MP. It marked the halfway point for the opening of the Centre.

The small beachside town of Mallacoota is situated close to the eastern point of the Victorian and New South Wales border, very much in the midst of wilderness. Despite the idyllic surrounds, the remote community has had difficulty filling their permanent General Practitioner (GP) positions. RWAV has assisted by providing the Mallacoota Medical Centre with locum GPs and subsidies throughout the years, however the pursuit of a permanent GP continues in order to provide the security and stability the community needs.

RWAV spoke to Robin Bryant, President and Secretary of Community Health Infrastructure & Resilience Fund (CHIRF) – a local volunteer charity borne out of the need to ensure medical services in Mallacoota survive – about the future plans for the medical Centre and what it means for the community.

It sounds like it has been a real community initiative securing the new medical centre. What has the Mallacoota community’s response been like?

The community’s response has been positive. They know that the current building is old – around 30 to 40 years old – and this has been a negative aspect when attracting new doctors. They also know we need to recruit GPs because we have an ageing community and we are two hours away from a hospital. The move to a new building will be a dramatic change.

How do you think the new Centre will enhance healthcare in Mallacoota?

The new facility will make the Centre an attractive place for GPs to work. Last year, through the Remote Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS), we were fortunate to secure a GP Registrar for the Centre. We had developed an arrangement with RVTS as a pilot scheme in which we were tasked to find a doctor that they would accept on the program. But it’s been an uphill battle finding doctors because of the remoteness of living in a rural town. The beauty and tranquility of Mallacoota, together with the new Centre; we believe these to be real incentives to offer doctors looking to relocate to a remote community. We also have a broad vision of the development of our medical services that is innovative and likely to attract people with a strong community focus.

What are the future plans for Mallacoota Medical Centre?

The first aim is to attract new GPs. Second, we’ve been working to make sure the equipment is up to date. Through community fund raising we have purchased an ultrasound machine, vaccine fridge and a generator and smaller equipment such as loupes and heart monitors. All the equipment is community owned. This has been our focus for the last two and a half years. The new Centre that will open in April is purpose built – we’re building our capacity to focus on supporting the doctors and encouraging allied health professionals to come in and work closely with them.

We want to build a medical service so people will have access to healthcare in the community. The Centre will be a doctor’s hub, where there will be a close relationship between the health professionals and the community. It’s new and exciting because it’s something we haven’t had before. We’re looking forward to the results.

As a member of the community, what has kept you on this journey to making sure these plans come to fruition? 

When I was asked by our sole GP to help, I could not refuse. The request has led to a three year 24/7 commitment which started out by defining the problem, assessing possible solutions and putting in place actions to address the issues. 

The first driver is community commitment;  there were implications for the community if we failed. The second is satisfaction in taking on what was a seemingly impossible task, learning about an industry rather new to me and finding ways of achieving the outcomes we needed. In that process I have worked with an outstanding GP, met many people and exercised my brain and wit. I have around me some outstanding people who bring their own skills and commitment to this community work. We have kept it small but it is a group that has willingly taken on a substantial workload and have revelled in it.

On this pathway we have built enduring friendships with people who mentor us such as Stan Stavros, Bertus Froneman from HiS Group, the designers and contractors for the new building and Southern Cross Developers, John Tyrrell who has brought out the best in our local tradesmen. We have around us a family and we are very proud of that association.

The reward of this is that we have built a new model of medical care delivery for a remote community against the odds.

The new Mallacoota Medical Centre is expected to open in April this year.

CHIRF has been instrumental in securing funding from the federal government toward the building of the Centre, and sourcing GPs through its Doctor Search program. It has also received funding from the Gippsland Primary Health Network GPHN) for the Teen Clinic Program and a Chronic Disease Program. The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) has provided substantial support to CHIRF for administration, mental health services and occupational health support.

RWAV has supported Mallacoota Medical Centre for the past nine years by providing a no fee recruitment service for GP locum cover, to assist during annual leave and busy holiday periods, as well as providing ongoing locum grants to cover travel and subsidise locum costs. RWAV has also provided a relocation grant of $15,000 for a new GP registrar.

Msc (Fin), FCCA, FGIA, CA

Shay brings over 20 years of financial
management experience in commercial and not-for-profit organizations. He has a
rich and varied experience in multiple finance and leadership roles in the
United Kingdom and Australia, including CFO, GM Finance & IT, Commercial
Manager Operations, Finance Manager and Accountant.

His extensive leadership experience is
augmented by an FGIA, FCCA, CA, a Masters in Finance and an undergraduate degree in
accounting and finance.

RN, GradDip(Health Promotion), PRINCE2, Mini MBA

Kate is a Registered Nurse highly experienced in health promotion and project management. Her people and program management skills enable her to be agile and adaptable while maintaining an outcomes focus on improving quality access to primary healthcare.

Kate’s extensive experience working with all levels of government, the community and stakeholders across the sector have provided her with insights into the challenges rural communities and health professionals face. Kate has led the design and delivery of many innovative and strategic health promotion and grants programs, supporting better access to health services, health information and activities across communities. Whilst at RWAV, Kate has led the transformation of the RWAV grants program, enhanced the administration of a number of programs and developed the RWAV allied health portfolio. She has also led the development of the RWAV research program of activities.

Having worked at RWAV since 2020, Kate will continue positively influencing the rural healthcare workforce and access to services.

Social Work (BA Hons), DipSW

With a background in social work and a proven record in recruitment, project management, and business development, Jo brings strategic leadership and a wealth of experience in driving positive outcomes within the health, human services, and State Government sectors.

Jo specialises in managing health professional recruitment and outreach programs, including the More Doctors for Rural Australia and 3GA programs. Her focus is on implementing innovative workforce strategies and clinical governance to bolster RWAV’s mission of enhancing healthcare accessibility in rural and regional Victoria.

Having previously excelled at RWAV, Jo spearheaded successful internal change initiatives while fostering strong relationships with external stakeholders. Her efforts consistently align with RWAV’s strategic direction, ensuring a cohesive approach to driving impactful change.

Beyond her professional expertise, Jo’s passion lies in uniting communities and championing positive transformations in rural healthcare in Victoria.

Martin is a governance professional and lawyer with experience in private practice and in-house legal roles. He has been a company secretary for public and private sector organisations across a range of industries including VicTrack, Regis Healthcare Limited and Dairy Australia Limited. He holds Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce degrees from the University of Melbourne, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Corporate Governance from the Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) and is a fellow of the GIA.

With a rich background of consulting and in-house people and culture roles with the corporate, government and community sectors, Andrea is responsible for leading the implementation of RWAV’s People and Culture strategy, policies, processes, functions and team.

Andrea has significant experience in leading teams across culture, capability, diversity, equity, leadership, organisational development and learning programs as well as core human resources partnering.

With a strong focus on building and maintaining psychologically safe organisations, Andrea’s team is dedicated to ensuring that RWAV is a place where people can work well and be well at work.


Rosemary has had a varied career as an academic teaching economics, public policy and industrial relations, and as a consultant, advocate, health union official and as a director.

She brings strong governance and strategic skills to the Board, as well as knowledge and depth of experience in health policy, economics and investment.

Rosemary was a Director of Aware Super for nine years, and Chair of the Investment Committee for three years. She was also a member of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee, the Governance Committee and the REM and HR Committee. Rosemary is currently a member of the Investment Committee of Cbus.

She was the Secretary of the Victorian Psychologists Association Inc for 20 years and knows first-hand the difficulties in attracting and retaining health professionals in rural and regional Victoria.

Dr Louise Manning is a rural GP Obstetrics trainee practising in Central Victoria where she delivers general practice, obstetric and sexual health services. Growing up in a small town she has lived experience of the difficulties accessing healthcare in rural and regional areas, and is dedicated to advocating for equitable health outcomes regardless of geography.

Louise is also a Board Director of the Rural Doctors’ Association of Victoria.

BAppSci GradDipBus MBus GAICD FIML

John Biviano is an experienced senior executive who has held many senior roles in government (Health Dept) and also in professional associations related to healthcare. Until recently, John was the CEO of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, where he oversaw the digitisation of a range of Member offerings, including aspects of training. 

BA (Politics/Philosophy) BEc GDipBus MBA GAICD FGIA

Roger is an accomplished CEO, Non-Executive Director and Chair with experience in the health, human services, law enforcement, education, transport, and environmental industries – across private, public sector and not-for-profit organisations

.He brings strong governance experience, commercial acumen, risk management and strategy skills combined with a passion for innovation and business development having also been Chair of numerous Finance, Audit, Risk, Investment and Community Advisory Committees.


Assoc Prof Phelps has practiced as a Gastroenterologist and Acute Physician in regional Victoria for more than 20 years.

He trained in safety and quality at Dr Brent James’ Institute at Intermountain Healthcare in the US and has held management and leadership roles in Victoria and Tasmania. More recently he completed a two-year project as Director of Clinical Governance for Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

Grant currently works as an independent consultant providing advice to hospitals and organisations on clinical leadership and safety and quality

LLB BSc MMgt (Strategic Foresight) GAICD

As a lawyer and business consultant Jane has worked with company boards and senior management across a range of areas including IP commercialisation, internet-based businesses, healthcare products/services, privacy and data/IT security. Jane is currently general counsel for .id Consulting – population demographers, economists and forecasters.

Jane served as a director of BreastScreen Victoria for 10 years, is a current director of Ballarat Health Services and chairs RWAV’s Governance Committee.

BMed MMedSci FRACGP FARGP FACRRM DipPractDerm DipMedHyp DipFP DipBusAdmin GAICD

Assoc Prof Rawlin is an experienced General Practitioner and medical educator. He is currently in clinical general practice in suburban Melbourne and previously practiced in rural Victoria for 10 years.

Assoc Prof Rawlin is Chair of the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaborative and a past Chair of the Mental Health Professionals Association and is a board member of the Mental Health Professionals Network. He is also the Medical Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Victoria.
He is a member of the RACGP Victoria Council.

Albert Giorgini is the Senior Advisor to CEO at RWAV.

As an experienced finance executive, with an extensive career in public transport and in the automotive and industrial gas sectors, Albert has honed his skills in driving financial performance improvements with a commercial and business transformation focus.

Through his strategic financial skills, Albert has demonstrated an exceptional capacity to lead and develop large teams in complex and changing environments to achieve the financial and regulatory requirements of the business. His extensive experience has given him a deep understanding of the industry and its challenges, equipping him with the expertise to drive impactful change.

Albert has highly developed communication and stakeholder management skills to support his strong planning, analytical and financial performance improvement acumen, always striving to create innovative solutions that drive growth and success.


Lauren commenced in the role of Manager People and Culture in August 2018 and is responsible for leading the implementation of RWAV’s People and Culture strategy, policies, processes, functions and team.

Lauren’s team is committed to implementing activities and initiatives to support the achievement of RWAV’s strategies and strengthen RWAV’s position as an ‘Employer of Choice’.

Lauren is an experienced Manager and HR professional, with a career spanning the professional services, automotive, defence, and not-for-profit sectors.

BHlthSci(Hons) MPH PostGradDipMgt GAICD AFCHSM

Lauren Cordwell commenced in the role of Chief Executive Officer in August 2023. She took on the role of Acting CEO in April 2023 and previously served as the General Manager since February 2020.
Lauren has leadership responsibilities for strategy, communications, data, stakeholder engagement and program delivery.

Lauren’s team is committed to supporting communities in rural and regional Victoria to have timely access to affordable and safe health care.

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