Now that the weather here in the NT is finally cooling off, the ACEM President role is certainly beginning to heat up. My first few months in the role have been fantastic and I am enjoying working more closely with the awesome ACEM staff on a range of projects that can support and improve emergency medicine and public health systems – and meeting lots of new people.
It has been fantastic to get out into our emergency medicine communities and meet many of you. It really helps me get a better understanding of regional, national and binational issues, strengthen connections with local decision-makers and connect with ACEM members to identify new opportunities for our advocacy.

In Wollongong, I attended the NSW Evidence Review, then visited the Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, and Wollongong EDs. In Wagga Wagga, I met with the DEM, FACEMs and hospital executives to discuss workforce concerns. These visits highlighted the joys of working regionally, as well as the challenges and innovative solutions regional EDs are tackling.
In Brisbane, I stopped into the emergency departments in Prince Charles Hospital, the brand-new Caboolture Hospital and Redcliffe Hospital. Over in Aotearoa, I visited Wellington Hospital, Taranaki Base Hospital and caught up with ACEM staff in ACEM’s Wellington office – and that was all before early April.
I have also been meeting with our colleagues across the health system. Immediate Past President Dr Clare Skinner often speaks of the need to work together and last month in Canberra, I met with health leaders across Australia to discuss health system reform.
AMA President Dr Steve Robson, RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins, RACS President Associate Professor Kerin Fielding and I each live rurally, so are examples of how it is possible to have a thriving career – and life – outside of the cities.
Promoting the amazing possibilities in regional, rural and remote (RRR) healthcare is a key focus of my presidency. About one-third of Australia's population lives rurally and we need to be working together to improve access to quality healthcare to people living outside of the cities.
I am looking forward to the inaugural Regional, Rural and Remote Emergency Medicine Conference 2024, held in Darwin in July. Dr Sarah Goddard and Dr Richard Fleet – two fantastic doctors and humans – are the keynote speakers, alongside other topic experts giving presentations on issues relating to RRR. We will have robust discussions and learn – and have a wonderful time being together (which, in my mind, is the best part!).
Later in the year, we’ll have another opportunity to connect in-person in Adelaide at the 2024 ASM in November and in spirit for Wellness Week in May, in collaboration with CENA and CENNZ.
I have also been working with ACEM staff to progress our advocacy on priority issues. After hearing from you what issues matter most, CAPP has signed off on a new College-wide advocacy strategy. This strategy aims to guide and streamline activities to make sure we use our resources carefully, where it matters the most, and get the best bang for our buck. We will be talking more to you all about this strategy and what it can help us achieve.

In Tasmania, after targeted and quick advocacy work from the Tasmanian faculty and ACEM staff, we were pleased to see Labour pledged to meet ACEM Tasmania’s election ask to provide $2m to fund 50 Tasmanian doctors with emergency care training and support, through our EMC or ETP. While Labor did not win enough seats to attempt to form government, we will be encouraging the new Tasmanian government to meet this pledge and it heartening to see that ACEM’s advocacy work has an impact.
In Canberra, I met with Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride and other key members of parliament to discuss the $13 million per annum in the 2024 – 2025 Federal Budget that we urgently need to keep the Emergency Medicine Education and Training (EMET) program running. EMET provides in-situ education, training and supervision to doctors, nurses and paramedics working in EDs and emergency care services in RRR areas, filling a vital need in the emergency care workforce.
Wherever in our two countries we work, we’re all seeing increasing violence in emergency departments. A new College report Alcohol-Related Harm in Australasian Emergency Departments revealed that over two-thirds of ED staff surveyed believe that alcohol-related violence in the ED has worsened in the last five years.
All staff, patients and carers need to be safe to deliver, receive and support healthcare in emergency departments. After positive feedback from Aotearoa, we’re advocating for federally funded, carefully trained and embedded 24/7 security staff in all emergency departments in Australia too. Every ED must have 24/7 security staff who are supported and empowered in the emergency department environment, culturally aware, can build healthy relationships with staff, patients, carers and whānau, and are skilled in de-escalation techniques. This isn’t a fix-all, and we must keep advocating for long-term solutions to the system-wide issues that can exaggerate violence and aggression in the emergency department, but right now we just need to keep everyone safer.

In College news, some of our training programs have recently undergone a name change due to the TEQSA Act. If you have any questions on how this may affect you, please email [email protected]
or [email protected]
I am pleased to let you know that the ACEM board is working with the Spotlight Group on the recruitment of a new CEO to lead the implementation of ACEM’s strategic plan and oversee operations. It is a unique time for medical colleges, and we want a CEO with high EQ to empower creative people through a lens of inclusivity, humanity and organisational accountability, and work effectively with stakeholders.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten something, but I will aim to update you every season. Please reach out if you have something vital to discuss before then. I am here – as are ACEM staff and committees, networks, and other elected officeholders – to work with and support you. Please get involved where you can. Like the ED, our College is a team effort!
Until winter, thank you for everything that you do. Please take care of yourselves and each other. Every person that works in an ED is generous and dedicates their lives to helping people – but we are all human and we can only do so much. I think it’s vital to seek joy, restoration and connection where and when we can.

Dr Stephen Gourley
ACEM President