2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 3

Advocacy in brief banner

The Policy and Advocacy team, which covers Australian federal policy and advocacy matters, was established at RACS in 2018 with one staff member, the current manager, Chesney O’Donnell. Between 2018 and 2020, many policy and advocacy initiatives were undertaken, which soon became the building blocks for our efforts from 2021 to 2024. During this time, the team grew and retracted in size as additional blocks were put into place, leading to where we are now. 


Advocacy team roles

Areas of expertise

The dominant policy issues over the past couple of years have been direct surgical policy standards (35 per cent), private healthcare insurance (18 per cent), environmental sustainability in surgical practice (16 per cent), direct policy advocacy (14 per cent), national health and compliance (8 per cent), ethics and equity (6 per cent) and medico-legal (3 per cent). Beyond these core focus areas, the Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) has also been active in addressing a diverse range of surgical issues, from budget allocations to telehealth guidelines. HPAC also contributed to landmark initiatives including the National Safety and Quality Cosmetic Surgery Standards and the Australia-first National Health and Climate Strategy. 


Governance and reporting

Since 2019 the Policy and Advocacy team has provided oversight and supported the following groups with respect to submission writing, government relations, stakeholder relations, and secretariat work:

  • Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (chaired by Professor Mark Frydenberg)
  • Rural Surgery Section Committee (chaired by Dr Bridget Clancy)
  • Rural Health Equity Steering Committee (chaired by Associate Professor Kerin Fielding)
  • Annual Scientific Congress (ASC) – 2024 (convened by Dr Philip ‘Phil’ Morreau, Aotearoa New Zealand and Professor Mark Frydenberg, Australia for the Quality and Safety in Surgical Practice Section allocated to HPAC two days)
  • Environmental Sustainability in Surgical Practice Working Party (led by Professor David Fletcher)
  • Sustainability in Healthcare Working Party (led by Professor Mark Frydenberg)
  • Anti-Racism Working Party (led by Professor Mark Frydenberg).

Stakeholder relations


Since 2018, RACS Health Policy and Advocacy Committee (HPAC) and the dedicated policy and advocacy team have advocated for the interests of surgeons and their patients across a wide range of issues. Primarily focused on the Australian Federal level, HPAC keeps members informed through its Advocacy in Brief newsletter. 


In 2023, our efforts yielded significant outcomes: more than 100 meetings (including a visit to Canberra to meet with relevant ministers and the secretary of the Department of Health and Aged Care), 30 submissions and position papers, and 30 letters to stakeholders.

Key policy initiatives

There are several areas of engagement by the team, the committees and working groups as it relates to Australia specifically. The sum content of these engagements ranges from submission writing to departmental and ministerial meetings and even a Royal Commission hearing. We are also in regular contact with the nine binational or Australian-only surgical specialty societies and associations and collaborate on or endorse their policy and advocacy positions. Please refer to the links from the RACS website below for access to documents related to the above engagement.

Current areas of focus

This year promises to be one of challenges and opportunities in the field of surgical practice in Australia. Navigating this dynamic landscape requires a keen eye on key trends and the proactive adaptation of policies and practices.

Key factors impacting surgical health in 2024 are expected to include funding, workforce distribution, practice scope, and technological advancements. We are addressing critical issues like low-value care, rural maldistribution and the post-COVID-19 landscape, while proposing strategies for a sustainable and equitable future.