top of page

Foundation Founder & Director Recognised in King's Birthday Honours

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Photo of Dr Paul Collett OAM (left) and Ms Michele Smith OAM (right)
Dr Paul Collett OAM (left) and Ms Michele Smith OAM (right)

The Chair of the charity Healthy Communities Foundation Australia (formerly Rural and Remote Medical Services or RARMS) Richard Anicich AM congratulated Foundation Founder, Dr Paul Collett OAM, and current Director Michele Blair Smith OAM, on receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia on the King’s Birthday list today.


“Like many who labour in the rural, remote and Aboriginal health sector, the impactful and critical work of rural and remote people is too often out of view and unrecognised.  Yet the work of hundreds of clinicians, professionals and workers delivering health and other care to the most marginalised people in Australia deserves our daily gratitude” said Mr Anicich. 


“It is wonderful that Paul and Michele have received this recognition for their decades of work to bring health equity to rural, remote and Aboriginal communities in New South Wales and South Australia respectively.


“Paul’s passion for rural and remote health stemmed from his work as a GP in Walgett where he witnessed the devastating impact of poor access to health care on local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.


“He understood better than most that traditional commercial models of private practice no longer worked in rural and remote towns, and reliance on this model would lead inexorably to the loss of critical health and medical care in vulnerable communities.


“Alongside other pioneers of sustainable rural medical care including Mark Lynch and Dr Vlad Matic, he built Rural and Remote Medical Services or RARMS (now the Healthy Communities Foundation Australia) into the most successful charitable provider of on-the-ground health and medical care in Australia’s most disadvantaged communities.


“Over its more than 20 year history, RARMS supported 17 communities and more than 50,000 people to access basic medical care, while many other towns lost local health care access. Today, the Foundation ensures access to health care to a catchment of more than 500,000 people in vulnerable rural and remote communities.


“Michele Smith joined the Board of the Foundation in 2021. She brought with her the same passionate, level-headed, and informed commitment to addressing health inequity nationally that she has pursued throughout her career in South Australia.


“A resident of remote South Australia, she is an experienced nurse, hospital chief executive and Chair of a Local Health Network responsible for some of the most remote communities in Australia. Her on-the-ground skills and experience is helping to guide the next stage of the Foundation's development. 


“These two remote health leaders amply deserve the recognition that they received today.  They live in rural and remote communities; have worked with, and for, rural, remote and Aboriginal people for decades; and have endowed the Foundation with their immense practical understanding, common-sense and expert knowledge to help us to transform rural and remote health for the benefit of our communities.


“My fellow directors, and the management, staff and communities of the Foundation, warmly congratulate Paul and Michele for their highly deserved recognition.


“They have been, and will continue to be, an example to us all of sound, strategic and thoughtful leadership in successfully addressing rural, remote and Aboriginal health equity in Australia” said Mr Anicich.





Dr Paul Christopher COLLETT, NSW

For service to medical administration. 


Western New South Wales Primary Health Network

Board Member, since 2015. 

Founding Director, Western Health Alliance Limited, since 2015


Far West New South Wales Medicare Local

Chair, since 2011.

Director, since 2011. 


New South Wales Rural Doctors Network

Chief Medical Advisor, 1996-2020

Locum, 1996-2020


Rural and Remote Medical Service 

Medical Advisor, 2001-2020.

Locum, 2001-2020. 


New South Wales Rural Doctors Resource Network

Founding Chief Executive Officer, 1988-1996. 

Medical Director, 1988-1996. 


New South Wales Outback Division of General Practice

Director, 2003-2017

Medical Advisor, 2003-2017


Rural Health Education Foundation

Former Board Member





Ms Michele Blair SMITH, SA

For service to medical administration.


Community Health

• Chair, Governing Board, Eyre Far North Local Health Network, since 2018.

• Member, Statewide Clinical Support Services Committee, Central Adelaide Local Health Network Board, since 2019.

• Member, Voluntary Assisted Dying Taskforce and Review Board, Department of Premier and Cabinet, South Australia, since 2021.

• Prescribed Member, Department of Community Supervision and Intervention, since 2022.

• Non-Executive Director, Rural and Remote Medical Services Board, New South Wales, since 2020.

• Member, Country Health South Australia Clinical Governance Committee, 2008-2018.

• Chair, Clinical Governance Committee, The Healthy Communities Foundation Australia, 2023.


Hospital Administration and Nursing posts

• Chief Executive Officer, North Eastern Community Hospital, 2018-2022.

• Regional Director, Eyre and Far North Region, Country Health SA, 2007-2018.

• Chief Executive Officer, Mid-West Health and Aged Care Inc, 2004-2007.

• Executive Officer and Director of Nursing, Eastern Eyre Health and Aged Care Inc, 2000-2004.

• Clinical Nurse Consultant, Lameroo District Hospital, 1998-2000.

• Clinical Nurse, Operating Theatres, Onkaparinga Private Hospital, Woodside, 1992-1998.

• Registered Nurse, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, 1989-1992.


Australasian College of Health Service Managers

• Fellow, since 2008.

• Council Member, South Australian State Branch, 2018-2022.


Professional Organisations

• Member, Australian Institute Company Directors, since 2018.

• Registered Nurse, Division 1, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Australia (AHPRA), since 1986.



• Non-Executive Director, Unity Housing Company, since 2022.

• Non-Executive Director, Community Accommodation and Respite Agency (CARA) Inc., since 2022.

• Chair, Streaky Bay Area School Governing Council, 2006 and Member, 2005.


Please contact Mark Burdack, CEO, Healthy Communities Foundation Australia (formerly RARMS) on 0418974988.







bottom of page