Steve Ryan, HWQld Chair shares his thoughts on what drives him
What are you most proud of during your time working with the Board?
I was fortunate enough to be on the interim (inaugural) HWQld Board in 2019 along with the current CEO Dr Robyn Littlewood and then appointed to the first board the following year. To have seen how far the organisation has advanced in that short period of time has been nothing short of astounding. I’m proud that the Board has been able to assist Robyn and her executive leadership team to achieve the extremely high standards they have reached along with the development of strong partnerships in the health and wellbeing field across Queensland.
What led you to a career in in public health/health promotion?
During my working life as a teacher in three secondary schools across different geographical regions I could see the difference that strong community partnerships within those schools could make. As President of the Qld Teachers’ Union, I was associated with and worked with many government organisations. When I retired from the full-time workforce, I decided that my experience on many boards including as a trustee of QSuper was something I could give back to community organisations. The opportunity arose to become a board member of HWQld and that previous experience, albeit it in different fields to health, has been invaluable in navigating through the health promotion sector.
What’s the one big change you’d like to see within our health system/health of Queenslanders?
As an independent separate statutory body within the health environment, HWQld has a very big opportunity to work across the many components associated with Queensland Health but more importantly, it has to develop a strong focus that is across more than individual Hospital and Health Services, community hubs and organisations in the health environment. I want to see the organisation be heavily involved in not only policy, prevention, promotion and partnerships but also working with local government and associated community organisations, supporting First Nations people and communities to lead the development of their own solutions to address health inequity and food insecurity and set itself up as a strong public health agency working for the betterment of all Queenslanders.
What wicked questions are you pondering at the moment?
As stated previously, I continue to be impressed by what has been developed and achieved already in such a short period of time by HWQld and I want to see it develop further as a very strong public health agency across Queensland. The agency has unlimited potential in terms of bringing together stakeholders from a range of sectors through collaboration and innovation and is in a position to be a major influencer in lifestyle and wellbeing issues across the state. How we do that is the most wicked question I ask myself as a Board Chair working with a mix of extremely talented board directors – all with an extensive variety of experience across many community sectors – along with an organisation that is capable of unleashing programs that will be well supported by communities across the length and breadth of Queensland. This organisation also has a pivotal role to play with government in the lead-up to the 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games, which are an opportunity for all Queenslanders to associate with a better health and wellbeing outlook as much as they are also a worldwide sporting event.
What are your words of wisdom on balancing work and life?
I’m not sure that I’m an expert in this field as I don’t see what I’m doing currently can be considered as balancing work and life. I’m a retiree who enjoys giving back to the community that helped me in my fulltime working life and my board roles now are a continuing part of my journey through life. In my current role it’s exhilarating working with such fine people both from the board perspective and the enthusiasm associated with the exceptional organisational teamwork that is a feature of HWQld.