National Rural Health Conference 2024

Conference 2024: Meet the Speakers

Conference MC: Jehan Casinader

Our conference MC, Jehan Casinader, is an award-winning journalist, keynote speaker and mental health advocate.

He was named “Broadcast Reporter of the Year” at the Voyager Media Awards in 2020, and “Reporter of the Year” at the New Zealand Television Awards in 2018.

In the aftermath of natural disasters, terror attacks, sporting triumphs and everything in between, Jehan has helped hundreds of Kiwis to share their vulnerable and deeply personal stories with the rest of the country.

A survivor of depression and suicidality, he is the author of This Is Not How It Ends: How rewriting your story can save your life (HarperCollins).

Alongside his journalism work, Jehan speaks to a wide range of organisations about the transformative power of storytelling – in the areas of wellbeing, leadership and diversity. He’s passionate about health and wellbeing in rural communities.

Jehan will share his own journey with us in a special keynote during the conference.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Cath Cosgrove

Keynote: Unleashing the power of Attract-Connect-Stay to build a strong rural health workforce
Friday 5 April at 4.30pm

Cath is one of Australia’s leading experts in rural health workforce. Her research on how the rural health workforce can be fundamentally strengthened has informed the practice and approaches of peak rural health agencies, government departments, rural health services, and rural communities.

Her innovative ‘Whole-of-Person Retention Improvement Framework’ and ‘Attract Connect Stay’ solution, particularly the Community Connector Program, have gained international recognition for generating new understandings of, and solutions for rural health workforce. Cath currently operates a management consultancy business that offers training and support to rural health and social care services.

Her business helps services and communities to establish and implement the Attract Connect Stay solution, which improves their ability to attract and retain healthcare professionals in rural areas.

Cath is deeply passionate about addressing rural access inequities and resource challenges and dedicated to supporting rural communities in becoming thriving and sustainable places to live and work.

Keynote Speaker: John Macaskill-Smith

Keynote: A technological future for rural health
Saturday 6 April at 9.15am

John is CEO of Spark Health – focused on supporting and spring boarding clinical digital innovation across the sector: Connecting people and systems.

John has a broad background and many success stories leading change and transformation in the health sector. John has experience across the spectrum – Government, MoH/HFA NGO: leading one of New Zealand’s largest PHO over 5 DHBs with a massive rural/regional high need population; Clinical start-ups – Tend and Equine Health, and internationally in the UK, US and the Middle East. He has been responsible for major innovations introducing business, technology and clinical changes that have spread to national and international adoption.

John is also involved in governance roles across New Zealand and in a number of international settings across health, animal health, IT and education.

Keynote Speaker: Riana Manuel

Keynote: Health leadership from a Te Ao Māori perspective
Friday 5 April at 11.00am

National Director of Hauora Māori Services

Ngāti Pukenga, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Kahungunu

Riana is the first to lead Te Aka Whai Ora as it works to transform health outcomes for Māori.

She has extensive experience leading kaupapa Māori organisations, and before joining Te Aka Whai Ora, was Chief Executive of Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki and Hauraki Primary Health Organisation.

Riana is a registered nurse practitioner and a dedicated advocate for advancing hauora Māori.

“This reform highlights partnership and has an equity focus… after 30 years in the health sector, those are extremely important to me. Ultimately if we get it right for Māori and Pasifika whānau, we’ll get it right for everybody.”

Keynote Speaker: Dr Ratu Mataira

Keynote: Solving global climate change from the Ngauranga Gorge
Saturday 6 April at 4.30pm

Physicist Dr Ratu Mataira is on a mission to harness the power of the sun; right here in Te Whanganui-a-tara Wellington.

Ratu Mataira completed his PhD in Applied Superconductivity, specialising in No-Insulation HTS Coils and Superconducting Power Supply Technologies. By the end of his PhD he had set the bar as the most prodigious student to graduate Robinson Research Institute, the world leader in such technologies.

The 31-year-old leads OpenStar Technologies, a Wellington based start-up building a ‘levitated dipole’ fusion reactor prototype. Fusion is the process that happens inside the sun and other stars, when hydrogen atoms “fuse” to make helium, releasing tremendous amounts of energy.

Ratu Mataira’s OpenStar startup has secured more than $10 million in seed investment to work on creating a fusion reactor, which, if successful, would provide New Zealand with a zero-carbon-emission, dependable baseload power source. OpenStar hopes to have its first prototype ready for testing by the end of the year.

Ratu will talk to us about the work they are doing in the Ngauranga Gorge and what we might learn from their team in terms of the power of scalable technologies in solving the problems we have in rural health.

Event Spotlight: Conference and Awards Dinner

The National Rural Health Conference Awards Dinner was held Friday, 5th April, at Tākina Wellington Convention and Exhibition Centre. It was a memorable evening that brought networking, recognition, and celebration for those in attendance.

The event provided a perfect opportunity for attendees to connect with their fellow community advocates, practitioners, and supporters who share a passion for nurturing the health and well-being of rural communities. A nice meal was followed by a chorus of dancing with the live band, and many attendees made new friendships that extended beyond their professional capacity.

The awards ceremony was a highlight of the evening, and the prestigious Peter Snow Memorial Award was presented alongside three new awards, all of which recognised individuals’ contributions to our rural communities in some capacity. 

Rhoena Davis has been recognised as the recipient for 2023, while Kyle Eggleton has been awarded the honour for 2024. Despite there being no Conference in 2023 following the disruption of COVID, the decision was made to honour the work of nominees during that time.

Kyle Eggleton was announced as the recipient of the 2024 Peter Snow Memorial Award, with his contributions reflecting a persistent commitment to improving healthcare access and outcomes for rural communities, embodying the spirit of service and leadership in the healthcare sector.

Sue Donalson received the Emerging Rural Educator Award for her work as leader of Te Hōtaka Mātauranga Whatu Ngaio o te Tai o Poutini, an innovative Interprofessional Education Programme in Greymouth developing graduates for rural healthcare challenges and interprofessional teamwork. 

Deborah Rhodes’s groundbreaking research on health and safety in the dairy industry saw her presented with the Emerging Rural Researcher Award. Her innovative PhD work addresses rural health challenges for policy improvements and community resilience. Congratulations to both winners!

Lastly, Julia Cronin of Manatū Hauora was awarded the inaugural Te Waka Kotahitanga Award. Julia’s leadership, vision, and commitment helped steer and set the direction for rural health when working with the sector in writing the first-ever Rural Health Strategy, rising out of the Pae Ora Act. Rural health can only make progress if those of us delivering rural health are working in close alignment, paddling in the same direction, and Julia and her impact epitomises kotahitanga.

The event brought together like-hearted rural health visionaries, healthcare providers, and community advocates under one roof. These opportunities for connection and celebration were cherished, especially as they came only once a year. It was a time for like-minded individuals to connect and celebrate our community at its core.