Why be a Director on the CHF Board?

What a good question!

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia Ltd (CHF) is the national voice for health consumers.

In 1988 when CHF was first established with government funding The Hon Neal Blewett, Minister for Community Services and Health, in a speech to CHF said –

“Without informed, knowledgeable and articulate health consumers, health policy will always be unbalanced whatever the goodwill and idealism of governments and health providers. Mature consumer organisations are an essential part of the health equation”. As an independent non-government organisation, CHF helps shape Australia’s health system by representing and involving consumers in health policy and program development. CHF and its members reach a wide network and mix of Australian health consumers across an extensive range of health interests and health system experiences.

Over the decades, and still ongoing, CHF is recognised as the Peak national consumer health organisation in Australia. This is recognised by the Federal Government through funding we receive through the Health Peak and Advisory Bodies funding program, administered through the Department of Health and Aged Care.

To further emphasise this, a members feedback survey which CHF undertook in March 2022 included –strong assessment from our members which showed that

85.7% of respondents agreed that CHF is a leading consumer health organisation

81.4% of respondents agreed that CHF is a thought-leader in healthcare

Under our modern Constitution, our Board is constituted as a skill-based Board of up to 9 members which means that Directors are elected by the voting membership, or appointed through the CHF Board, on the basis of relevant skills which can contribute to the operations and high-level strategic decision making to ensure the on-going viability and credibility of the organisation. Accordingly, we have Directors who are skilled in a broad range of areas including;

  • consumer participation and engagement
  •  health policy
  • health service management
  • health safety and quality
  • Medicines policy,
  • Health Technology Assessment
  • Medicare
  • Private Health Insurance
  • Finance
  • Law
  • general management, and,
  • governance.

Following a term of 3 years, a Director can stand for a 2nd term election, or be considered for re-appointment for a 2nd term, but can only serve for 2 consecutive terms of 3 years in total

A small secretariat of approx. 10 people, serve the Board and organisation in various full and part-time roles. The secretariat team is led by the CEO and all staff are on contracts usually attached to project funding, noting we try and ensure we have ongoing skills and expertise across Policy, Media, Communications and Membership activities embedded in the operational resources.

The Board constantly reviews its’ effectiveness e.g.; we have an appointed Director who has come out of the CHF Youth Network, and the Board has also started a succession planning process now as we are all not getting younger!!

We have 2 Board Committees – Governance, and Finance, Audit and Risk Management. Ad-hoc committees are appointed from time to time to undertake specific short-term projects. The Board elects the Chair, Deputy Chair and Chairs of the Committees at the first Board meeting after each AGM. Directors are appointed to each Committee and Directors are encouraged to be a member of at least 1 committee. The Chair is ex-officio of each Committee.

The Board and Committees meet up to 4 times a year and since COVID these have been a combination of face-to-face and virtual meetings. When circumstances permit the Board meets in at least 1 other capital city away from Canberra each year and holds a Members Forum, lunch and catch-up for Members and Stakeholders resident in that city. This provides members, stakeholders and Directors the opportunity to meet and exchange views and raise key priority issues for CHF’s consideration.

The Board, through the Governance Committee, regularly reviews its effectiveness and whether its composition has the correct blend of skills and experience to meet the needs of the organisation.

Results of the most recent Stakeholder and Member survey identified potential improvements could be made with Board members having additional expertise, and that a greater diversity of age, gender and cultural background was desirable. These results are used to plan for the next Election and beyond and will include a planned Board refresh identifying potential new Board appointed Directors to fill the identified gaps over time.

As a CHF Director, you will have the opportunity to be a part of a strategic, focussed and collegiate Board. This will include being involved in discussions on strategic priorities based on evidence collected from our various mechanisms and involvement in Thought Leadership Roundtables and Webinars. From time to time there may be opportunities to meet with the Minister and other health-related Ministers, the Secretary and senior officials of the Department of Health and with members, stakeholders and strategic partners.

As the credible and recognised health consumer peak body CHF in 2021-2022 achieved a huge amount on behalf of our members. You can read our full 2021-22 Report Card here: Report Card

After 35 years of continuous operation, consumer participation is well recognised by many politicians, policy-makers and service planners and while considerable gains have been made in many areas for the benefit of health consumers, there is still a need for effective consumer participation as it is still not universally accepted and there is still some tokenism.

The challenge for CHF in the coming years is to maintain and enhance the recent gains made for consumers by articulating and contributing to effective consumer and community participation in health care policy and planning, service planning and delivery and research and evaluation.

To continue this important work, we need a strong Board to set the strategic agenda and continue to build effective partnerships across sectors.

Our vision is for consumer voices to be strongly embedded in health and support systems that meet the needs of all Australians.

All Financial Voting Member Organisations of CHF are entitled to nominate people to stand for election to the CHF Board and to vote for Board members.

The call for nominations to the CHF Board will be opened in September 2022, and any subsequent election will be run prior to the CHF Annual General Meeting. A notice will be sent to all CHF members for their information and promotion.

We look forward to seeing you at the CHF 2022 Annual General Meeting which will be held on 21 November 2022. Further details on the agenda, timing and log-in details for the AGM will be provided well in advance of the meeting.  The AGM will be preceded by a Members Policy Forum.

Authors: Tony Lawson, with contribution from Jo Watson


About the author

Tony Lawson

Tony Lawson is Chair of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia. He has been involved at the highest levels in consumer health for over a decade and continues to strive to provide decisive and strategic leadership to CHF representing the interests of Australian healthcare consumers.

Jo Watson

Jo Watson is Deputy Chair of the CHF Board. She was Executive Director for the National Association of People living with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) until 2014 and has been a community advocate actively engaged in the areas of health policy, especially access to medicines, and optimal public health interventions.