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Special Interest Matter - John Kirwan, CEO of RFDS Tas

Tuesday 21 June 2022

[11.26 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Today I want to speak about a towering figure in the Tasmanian health sector, and someone I am honoured to call a friend, John Kirwan.

John is the outgoing CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Tasmania and has spent the last seven years growing and building the RFDS's outreach capabilities and service delivery in rural and regional Tasmania.

Ms Rattray - He has done an excellent job.

Ms ARMITAGE - Absolutely. John's ample experience in the health sector and his bold vision for the provision of accessible health care, saw the Tasmanian RFDS go from a three-person operation to an organisation which provides primary and preventive healthcare services right across the state, with a staff contingent of 40 people behind him.

Under John's stewardship, the activities of RFDS Tasmania have grown to include the launch of two mobile health hubs, a dental truck, with a second being built at Mader in Penguin, the Cardihab Service being named as Australia's most trusted charity, partnering with Diabetes Tasmania and being involved with ongoing fundraising activities such as the Tasmanian Truck Owners & Operators Association Truck Run.

Everybody deserves access to reliable, safe and quality health care, no matter where they are born or where they live. In the past seven years, John has helped build the capabilities of RFDS to deliver these services to some of Tasmania's most remote and isolated communities.

Prior to joining the RFDS, John was arguably one of the best-performing managers in Tasmania's public health sector, having been CEO of Tasmanian Health Organisation - North for a number of years, overseeing the Launceston General Hospital during a very difficult period for the state's health system at the time.

For those of us in the north, it was a very sad time when John left the hospital, because he always stood up for our hospital and our community. He took the time to get to know people. He knew the names of staff and left no-one in any doubt as to their importance.

When he left, Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) secretary, Tim Jacobson said that John's departure was a huge loss for the north of the state. Professor Bernie Einoder said that he would be surprised if they could find anyone as good to replace him.

Being universally respected and praised in the way that John has been is a rare and valuable quality.

John came to Tasmania from the Northern Territory in 2008, having worked in private consulting in the areas of strategic human services; industrial relations; organisational design, development and evaluation; and change management in contemporary human capital initiatives. Prior to that, John worked in Perth, Western Australia, for the Department of Health, providing support and policy advice to the minister for Health and Commissioner of Health, where he developed the skills and experience in the sector that he would eventually bring with him to Tasmania.

John also gives his time and expertise to a number of boards and has served on the Launceston Chamber of Commerce board, the Mental Health Council of Tasmania and Masonic Care Tasmania.

I cannot overstate how highly people think of John, not just as a manager and a leader, but as a person and friend who takes an interest in others and builds strong relationships with people.

I attended John's farewell function last week, which was an absolutely delightful event, bringing together many health professionals and industry associates whose praise of John's time at both the Launceston General Hospital and the RFDS and him personally was unanimously positive.

John has contributed so much to the Tasmanian health sector and still has a lot to give. I wish John the very best on the next step of his journey as I know we have not seen the last of him yet. I send my warmest wishes to John, his wonderful and supportive wife, Stella, and to John's family and close friends. I pay my thanks to John for his work at the RFDS and in Tasmania's health system, and look forward to seeing what is to come.

Members - Hear, hear.


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