APNA honours two shining lights of primary health care nursing

Nurse, Professor recognised for contributions to immunisation, Indigenous health 

Media Release 28 July 2023 

A nurse who has spent decades bringing high quality, community-led healthcare to remote area Indigenous Australians and a social scientist and nursing professor who fundamentally changed the way primary health care (PHC) nurses provide vaccinations have both been recognised for their monumental contributions to PHC nursing in Australia. 

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) is proud to announce that: 

  • Nurse Sarah Brown AM has been awarded the 2023 APNA President’s Award 
  • Professor Julie Leask has been awarded the 2023 Rosemary Bryant Award 

Ms Brown and Prof. Leask were presented with their awards today at APNA’s Festival of Nursing national conference, being held in Perth.  


2023 APNA President’s Award 

Indigenous health has long been under resourced in health service planning, especially in rural, regional and remote locations. Sarah Brown AM, CEO of Purple House, an Alice Springs-based not-for-profit organisation, has brought dignity and respect and much needed care to Indigenous renal patients in remote communities for 20 years.  

The scourge of renal disease in remote communities and the need for ongoing dialysis meant many people could not remain in their communities with family support and close connection to country. This significantly increases both the personal and economic cost of renal disease. Purple House brings dialysis units to Indigenous communities to avoid the need for patients to travel for hundreds of kilometres for treatment and help to maintain family and cultural connections. Sarah is a tireless campaigner working to improve access to care and the quality of life for those in her care. As of 2018, Purple House has 14 remote clinics across Central Australia, with four more in development.   

APNA President Karen Booth said that Ms Brown has spent decades sourcing funding and support to bring high quality, community-led primary health care to Indigenous Australians.  

“For decades Sarah’s work has been exemplary and has set a strong example, utilising a nurse-led model to show what is possible when a nurse looks at how collaboration and local solutions for great care, can be provided in their community,” Ms Booth said. 

“Sarah’s work, while more recently recognised with Purple House, has roots in her experiences in remote communities in Tasmania, Western Australia, and Northern Territory.”  

“While her contribution to primary health care began with nursing, she has also played a significant role as an educator, health service manager and advocate for better health services in every community she has served,” Ms Booth said.  


2023 Rosemary Bryant Award 

Immunisation forms a substantial part of the PHC nursing workload.  Professor Julie Leask’s work has changed the understanding and practice for all nurses who administer immunisation in Australia, in particular dealing with people’s concerns and hesitancy.  

Professor Leask’s research focuses on the behavioural and social aspects of vaccination, for which she currently holds an NHMRC Investigator Leadership Fellowship. She is also Professor in the School of Public Health, University of Sydney, has qualifications in nursing and midwifery, and holds an affiliate appointment in the Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery. Professor Leask sits on advisory committees for the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, National Health and Medical Research Council, and Australian Federal and State governments.  

APNA President Karen Booth said Professor Leask had made a huge contribution to PHC nursing and the health of Australians during her career. 

“Julie’s work has been instrumental in increasing the capacity of Australia’s primary health care nurses to play a significant role in supporting and tailoring approaches to vaccination and dealing with people’s concerns, helping to increase the uptake in vaccinations in Australia over the past 15 years,” Ms Booth said.  

“Her substantial contribution to research regarding the social issues related to vaccination uptake, refusal and hesitancy, has had significant impact.” 

“However, her tenacious approach to educating health professionals and the public through extensive media representation, development of evidence-based materials and advocacy for policy change is equally valuable,” Ms Booth said.  



About the Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association 

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) is the peak professional body for the 96,000 nurses working in primary health care. This includes nurses in general practice, aged care, defence, disability services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, corrections and other community settings. APNA champions the role of primary health care nurses; to advance professional recognition, ensure workforce sustainability, nurture leadership in health, and optimise the role of nurses in patient-centred care. 


About the APNA President’s Award  

APNA presents this award occasionally to honour an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to primary health care nursing over many years. The award recognises a legacy contribution to primary health care nursing in Australia. 


About the Rosemary Bryant Award   

APNA awards the Rosemary Bryant Award annually to a nurse who has made a substantial long-term contribution to advancing excellence in primary health care nursing. As the first Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer in Australia, Rosemary Bryant AO was tenacious, visionary, and strategic in seeking change for Australia’s nursing workforce and ultimately the health of Australia.   Rosemary is also the first APNA Patron. 

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

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