Welcome back to the Western Alliance Symposium

After three long years and several false starts it was wonderful to connect with over 100 research translation leaders, partners and consumers in person at last month’s Western Alliance Symposium. 

The theme of Reconnecting Through Rural and Regional Research was evident throughout the program, from the inspiring Welcome to Country delivered by Gunditjmara Kirrae Whurrong man Lee Morgan, and opening remarks by our Executive Director Prof Warren Payne, to the stimulating keynote speeches by:

  • Ms Olivia Payne, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO). Watch Olivia’s presentation here.
  • A/Prof Neil Orford, Barwon Health. Watch Neil’s presentation here
  • Prof Suzanne Robinson, Deakin Health Economics. Watch Suzanne’s presentation here.
  • A/Prof Gabrielle O’Kane, formerly of the National Rural Health Alliance. Watch Gabrielle’s presentation here.



Artist Ms Clare Bowditch kept us all engaged and entertained at our networking dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel. Friendships were formed and networks strengthened during the breaks and dinner which created further opportunities for collaboration across our region. We were delighted to also host a group of consumers representing the Dunkeld Senior Citizens Centre who contributed to the event with their insight and experience.

But the real stars of the show were, of course, the current and emerging researchers from our member health services and other organisations across our region.

The STaRR Emerging Researcher showcase was a fitting start to the Symposium, with six of our best and brightest health practitioner researchers proving a snapshot of their STaRR research projects.

Mrs Alicia Boyd, St John of God Warrnambool, Ms Cara Hill, Barwon Health, Ms Hayley Keane, South West Healthcare, Miss Laura Morrison, Barwon Health, Mr Jake Romein, East Grampians Health Services and Ms Alesha Sayner, Grampians Health delivered outstanding presentations that truly demonstrates the value in investing in the research development of emerging health practitioners.


We were then joined by Prof Anna Peeters and Dr Kate Huggins, leaders of DELIVER, our $9m MRFF Rapid Applied Research Translation grant, who provided an excellent overview of the project and its key imperatives before bringing us Dr Olivia Metcalf who provided valuable insights on co-designing digital tools and Dr Cindy Needham who gave us a real-time taste of the group model building that will feature so prominently in DELIVER.

Symposium day two was a feast of rural and regional research and translation, with quality presentations delivered concurrently in the streams of health services research, clinical research, and population health and community research. Session Chairs Ms Ashleigh Clarke of Grampians Health, Prof Fergal Grace of Federation University, as well as Western Alliance team members Dr Michael Field, Dr Olivia King, Dr Louise Greenstock and Dr Ella Ottrey, kept the schedule moving while enabling fruitful engagement and discussion after each presentation. A feature of each presentation was the direct relevance and translation potential to make real change to clinical practice and health outcomes.

We departed the beautiful town of Dunkeld with a strong sense of pride at what our community is achieving and will continue to achieve, and motivation to continue to grow and develop into the future. Bring on Symposium 2023!