Playing the Strategic Game: Time for some quick wins.

Associate Professor Carol McKinstry

La Trobe University’s Rural Health School Occupational Therapy Education Program


In rural health, allied health has long struggled for its place in the sun.  Medical and nursing workforces dominant positions of power and influence while allied health have had limited career pathways, recruitment and retention issues.  The aim of this presentation is to demonstrate why allied health professionals need to be more strategic and how they can achieve this.  The presentation will draw on workforce data, and examine allied health representation on rural and regional health service boards and primary health networks as well as drawing on first-hand experience as a Board Chair of a rural health service.  Current opportunities existing in rural health will be explored such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the emphasis on primary health and the recognition that metropolitan models of care do not meet rural community needs.  The upcoming Royal Commissions into aged care and mental health may also present exciting possibilities for allied health if we can maximise our influence by collaborating together.  The allied health workforce has much potential but has often been overlooked.  Now is the time to realise our potential.


Following a career as an occupational therapist and as a senior management in clinical risk and quality improvement, Carol crossed over to academic while completing her PhD in 2005. Carol currently leads the La Trobe University’s Rural Health School Occupational Therapy Education Program based at the Bendigo Campus.  Carol teaches evidence-based practice and research subjects as well as coordinating project-based and service-learning placement subjects.  She is also Director of Learning and Teaching for the Rural Health School and Regional Academic Coordinator for the College of Science, Health and Engineering.  Her research is primarily focused on developing an allied health workforce to meet the challenges of the future, particularly for communities in rural and regional communities.  Increasing research capacity and use of evidence by allied health professionals is another focus of current research projects. Carol is currently Vice President of Occupational Therapy Australia, Chair of the Rochester and Elmore District Health Service and Bendigo Football Netball League boards, and board member of charities BEAM and CircusAid.