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Black Saturday shapes GP’s healthcare focus

The devastating Black Saturday bushfires on 7 February 2009 killed 173 people, destroyed habitats and communities. In the immediate aftermath of the fires, RWAV registered 324 locum General Practitioners (GPs) to volunteer in affected areas. RWAV spoke with Dr Katrina White, one of the GP locums who provided emergency medic​al care after the fires, and learned how the experience has shaped the healthcare services she now delivers.

After the bushfires, RWAV coordinated a team of volunteer GPs. The GPs would meet at a hub and travel to provide emergency GP locum to all affected areas.

Some of the many communities impacted by the bushfires included Kinglake, Whittlesea, Kinglake West, Marysville and Flowerdale.

When Canadian-trained GP Dr Katrina White learned about the bushfires she was ​working an emergency medicine shift in Orange, New South Wales. She recalls calling around to see how she could help those impacted, but ultimately feeling disappointed because of the ​interstate licensing restrictions in place.

“I contacted RWAV to offer my assistance and was told they could push my request through the system,” recalls Dr White.  “Two hours later, I was ​packing my 4WD and dropping off plants with friends because I didn’t know how long I’d be gone.” 

Dr White drove the 14 hours from New South Wales to provide emergency locum relief in ​Kinglake, Victoria. She had previously provided medical support in bushfire-affected communities in ​rural Canada.

RWAV provided ongoing support after the emergency work was done to ensure the communities had access to healthcare in temporary structures then to the permanent structures that they have today. This is how RWAV’s GP locum program got its start.

​During this time Dr White spent a week working ​as a volunteer doctor a​long side nurses in Flowerdale, which ​tragically lost 10 of its residents and 80 per cent of its homes.   

“I worked with ​Deb, a great nurse ​from Seymour ​and local paramedic volunteers; we set up a temporary medical clinic out of the ​local community hall in Flowerdale,” said Dr White. “We conducted ​home visits to local residents, treating various medical issues and providing tetanus immunisations ​for those in need who remained in the community. ​I w​as fortunate to ​be offered accommodation at a local bed and breakfast ​in Strath Creek that enabled me to stay working in the community.” 

“​Soon after I volunteered for the Kinglake Bushfires I relocated to Victoria and settled on the Mornington Peninsula where I joined a practice and expanded my skills training in skin cancer medicine, which is a big part of the work I do today. For many years after Black Saturday, I continued to travel to Kinglake to work on a regular basis, helping the community recover and rebuild after the bushfires. Through RWAV, I enjoyed taking on further GP locum work that has taken me to Apollo Bay up to 10 times per year providing hospital emergency services, ​running skin ​cancer clinic​s, women’s health consultations and anything else the community ​has need​ed. I also ​travel to ​Leongatha in the Wilson’s Prom area ​to work a 24 ​emergency medicine shift ​in their hospital once a month. ​I have had great experiences doing GP locum work for RWAV, it just needs to be a balance of what I like and wh​at fits my family.”   

Today, Dr Katrina White, works as GP ​on the Mornington Peninsula and provides ongoing locum work to surrounding communities through RWAV. The Kinglake medical clinic burned down in the fires and there was no GP in town. RWAV coordinated GPs to attend the community in a temporary structure until a new clinic was built. Dr White ​was part of this team for seven years that helped support the region which today, has a large operating medical facility that services the community.

If you are interested in a GP locum placement or learning more about the program, visit our GP Locum placement listings or call us at 03 9349 7800.

Funding from the Australian Government Department of Health supported the GP Locum program in the aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires.

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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