About us

History  |  Awards  |  Future plans  |  Funding  |  Advertising Content approval Governance | NCFH team  | Boards  | Our partners

Farmer Health is the website for the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH).  The Centre provides national leadership to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of farm men and women, farm workers, their families and communities across Australia.

The Centre is a partnership between Western District Health Service and Deakin University and is based in Hamilton, Victoria.

The Farmer Health website’s key objective is to increase knowledge transfer across the target groups of farmers, rural professionals, academics and students.


The NCFH has been operating since November 2008 and was officially opened by the Victorian Premier on 10 July 2009.

The Centre evolved from two main areas:

  1. The Sustainable Farm Families (SFF) program – a health promotion program which addresses farmer health, wellbeing and safety issues. The core message of SFF is that the most important aspect of a healthy Australian farm is a healthy farm family.
  2. A Victorian Travelling Fellowship which examined overseas models for working with agricultural populations and provided the five key strategic areas which have been adopted by the NCFH.

Awards and recognition

  • 2017 Western District Health Service – Award for excellence and innovation – non clinical
    The Ripple Effect Project
  • 2016 Vic Health Awards Finalist – Improving health equity
    “Making a difference to farmers’ lives – working towards health equity in farming communities.”
  • WDHS Award2016 Western District Health Service – Award for excellence and innovation – non clinical
    Creating healthier communities
  • 2016 Sustainable Farm Families™ program recognised as an example of best practice – Victorian Workplace Mental Wellbeing Collaboration View article detail »
  • 2014 Vice Chancellors award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Agricultural Health and Medicine – Deakin University
  • 2014 Best Presentation at the 2014 GSSA Annual Conference  – Grasslands Society of Southern Australia Inc
  • 2011 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards
    Highly Commended – Health Leader’s Awards. Developing a capable and engaged workforce
    National Centre for Farmer Health, Western District Health Service and Deakin University
  • 2009 APEN Award for Excellence in Extension Network
    Award for extension for excellence in Extension 2009
    Certificate of Recognition awarded to Western District Health Service, Hamilton Victoria for Sustainable Farm Families Program
  • 2007 Victorian Healthcare Association
    Western District Health Services:
    Winner for Initiative in population health for their project: Sustainable Farm Families
  • 2007 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards – Highly commended
    Category 8: excellence in health promotion and prevention
    Sustainable Farm Families – raising the bar, Western District Health Service
    View article detail »
  • 2006 Public Health Awards
    Public Health Programs
    Winner for Excellence: Sustainable Farm Families Project, Western District Health Service
  • Victorian Awards2005 Awards for Innovation and Excellence in Primary Health Care
    Health Promotion category:
    Sustainable Farm Families – the human resource in the triple bottom line,Western District Health Service, Hamilton
    Awarded by Primary and Community Health Network
  • 2005 Powercor Business Achievement Award
    Business Innovation: Western District Health Service, Sustainable Farm Families
  • 2005 Victorian Public Healthcare Awards
    Category 2b: Excellence in consumer involvement in their own care
    Sustainable Farm Families: The human resource in the triple bottom line, Western District Health Service
    View article details »

Future plans

The National Centre for Farmer Health will continue to build on the industry-service-government-academic partnerships developed initially through the Sustainable Farm Families™ program. The Centre will address the health, safety and wellbeing issues associated with farming and develop timely, appropriate and effective interventions.

The National Centre for Farmer Health will bring together university research, service delivery, government and education by focusing on these five key areas:

  • Professional training and education – providing undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education for health professionals, including GPs, nurses, allied health practitioners, vets, agronomists and associated primary industry personnel.
  • Applied research and development ¬– expanding the evidence base for effective interventions to improve farm and agricultural workers’ health.
  • Web based information and services – increasing knowledge and understanding by providing links to quality information and in future by providing e-learning and telemedicine services.
  • AgriSafe clinics – introducing innovative occupational health and safety services to farm and agricultural workers.
  • Sustainable Farm Families programs – maintaining the farmer health programs with an increasing emphasis on the dissemination of research results from the programs.


The National Centre for Farmer Health is a non-profit organisation, funded through the Victorian government’s Future Farming Strategy and the Helen and Geoff Handbury Trust. The Centre has successfully applied for a number of research grants for specific projects.

The Centre also accepts commercial sponsorship in some instances, for example:

  • To allow us to provide low cost events like conferences

The National Centre for Farmer Health does accept occasional commercial sponsorship for research or service delivery purposes, however is governed by a strict conflict of interest policy through Western District Health Service.

All funds generated by the National Centre for Farmer Health, for example from the Safety shop or from providing educational services, are used to support further research.


Farmer Health does not host commercial advertising, however the Centre does accept commercial sponsorship in some instances. When sponsorship funding is accepted it does not influence the Centre’s research protocols or outcomes. Sponsorship information is displayed separately from clinical information.

Content writing and approval

Medical and health information on Farmer Health aims to provide summary information which is specifically targeted to the needs of farmers. Each topic page also provides researched links to further information which may also be of interest to health workers and researchers.
Health and safety  topic content on the Farmer Health website goes through a multi-step QA process:

  • Initial research for content on the site is conducted by a qualified health researcher
  • Content is written and further research is conducted by an experienced medical writer and editor.
  • Content is checked by NCFH Lecturer, Dr Jacquie Cotton (see below for bio.)
  • Content is signed off by NCFH Director, Clinical Associate Professor, Susan Brumby (see below for bio.)

The website is also overseen by an Advisory Group; see below under Governance.


The National Centre for Farmer Health is overseen by a Board and each of the five service elements are also guided by an advisory group.  See below under Boards and Advisory Groups.

The Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health, Professor Susan Brumby, integrates a highly experienced multidisciplinary team of academic, health, social and industry professionals.

Website ownership

While the National Centre for Farmer Health is a partnership between Western District Health Service and Deakin University, the Farmer Health website is owned by Western District Health Service, ABN 47 616 976 917.

Contact us for more information.

Meet the NCFH team

Susan Brumby (view ResearchGate profile »)
PhD, RN. RM., DipFarmMnt, GDipWomensSt, Master Health Management, Certificate IV (Workplace training and assessment) MRCNA, ACHSE, ARLF

Prior to commencing with the NCFH Sue was Director of Community Services at Western District Health Service (WDHS). In this position she oversaw the introduction of new programs and innovative service delivery models resulting in numerous awards for service excellence, consumer involvement and health promotion.

She is a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership program, holds a Diploma in Farm Management, completed a Masters in Heath Management in 2004 and has been active in the agricultural and health sector both in a practical sense managing the family property and holding prominent positions in the sector. Sue has received the following awards:

  • 2014 – Vice Chancellors award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Agricultural Health and Medicine from Deakin University.
  • 2013 – Awarded Overseas Study Program to the USA.
  • 2009 – The Victorian Regional Achievement Award for her work in rural health and farmer health. View article details »
  • 2006 – Awarded the Victorian Traveling Health Fellowship to study farmer health and decision making in the USA & UK.
  • 2005 – Rural health professionals award (Barwon SW Region) for her outstanding contribution to the health of the community.

Alison Kennedy (view ResearchGate profile »)
Research Fellow
PhD, BBSc (Hons), PostGradDipArts (Criminology)

Alison is a Behavioural Scientist who has lived and worked in Victoria’s rural farming community for the past 15 years. Her doctoral research explored the impact that suicide & accidental death have on members of Australian farming families. Alison’s role at the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) since 2010 has included research addressing alcohol misuse in farming communities (Alcohol Intervention Training Program), rural suicide prevention and suicide stigma reduction (The Ripple Effect www.therippleeffect.com.au), and increasing the understanding of rural women’s experience of managing tough times (From Inside the Farm Gate).

As a community educator, Alison has worked as part of the ‘Look Over the Farm Gate’ campaign—delivering health and wellbeing workshops to farmers and community members across areas of Victoria experiencing tough times. She also regularly presents to community, health professionals and industry groups on issues of farmer health, wellbeing and safety.

Alison has received the following awards:

  • 2012-2016 – Collaborative Research Network PhD Scholarship
  • 2013 – American Association of Suicidology ‘Seeking Hope’ Dissertation Grant.
  • 2016 – Chancellor’s Research Medal, University of New England.
  • 2018 – Suicide Prevention Australia, Emerging Researcher LiFE Award, recognising excellence in suicide prevention.

Jacquie Cotton
Lecturer/Researcher Rural Health
BSc(AnimSc)(Hon), PhD, GCertHighEd

Dr Jacqueline Cotton resides in Hamilton, south west Victoria. She commenced her PhD (Agriculture) in 2005 and her degree was conferred in 2009 after submission in 2008. This research was undertaken in the La Trobe University, School of Agriculture and School of Chemistry. Dr Cotton was appointed as lecturer and researcher in Rural Health within the Deakin University School of Medicine, lectures and chairs the units HMF701 Agricultural Health and Medicine and HMF702 Healthy and Sustainable Agricultural Communities. She has completed a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education and is involved in development of curriculum and assessment within the Graduate Certificate of Agricultural Health and Medicine. Complementing her research is active involvement in supervision and mentoring research and medical students. Most recently a study evaluating the impact of agrichemical exposure research on practice change by participants.

Dr Cotton is appointed as a member to both the Victorian Farmsafe Australia committee, the recently formed Agriculture Safety Reference Group established by WorkSafe Victoria. Dr Cotton has multidisciplinary scientific and industry expertise, in particular, translational research within human population health, occupational health and safety, agriculture and animal production science. Communication and uptake of project outcomes will require a these skills to ensure effective translation into practice and behaviour change.​

Jacquie has received the following awards:

  • 2014 – Vice Chancellors award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning for Agricultural Health and Medicine from Deakin University.

Lei Kelly
Executive & Administrative Assistant
Dip Bus. Admin

Lei has worked in administrative roles for the past 30 years across Rural Western Australia, Northern Territory and settled in the Western District of Victoria in 2010.  Lei and her husband live and work on their sheep farm in Macarthur. She enjoys sustainable gardening and travel.  Lei is looking forward to supporting Director Susan Brumby and the Centre in ‘making a difference to farmers lives’.

Cecilia Fitzgerald
Business Development & Industry Engagement
Adv. Dip. Business

Cecilia was appointed as the Manager, Business Development and Industry Engagement in June 2019. Her previous experience as practice manager of a local legal firm and intimate knowledge and understanding of the NCFH’s strategic direction provided a sound foundation to transition into the role. As a dedicated employee, she enjoys a challenging working environment and is committed to growing the NCFH’s capacity to deliver programs nationally, building meaningful relationships and delivering on the mission of ‘making a difference to farmers’ lives’.

Cecilia is an ambassador for Hamilton’s GenR8 Change and is secretary for Hamilton (Gray) Street Primary School Council. She was also the Chair for the Combined Preschools of Southern Grampians Board for a period of 3 years. As a busy mum of two energetic boys, she enjoys keeping fit and loves to spend quality time with her family.

Dr Richard Lunz
BScHons, MBBCh, M PubHealth TropMed, PGCertPHC, DipOccupMed, ACCAM

Dr Richard Lunz is a South African trained doctor with experience in science/research/education and postgraduate degrees in Primary Care/Public Health/Occ Med/Aviation/Safety and risk joins NCFH for a return role after initial work with AgriSafe for a project support position.

He has worked internationally and most recently  in rural General Practice NZ in a locum capacity – then transitioned to Australia and was accepted into the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine – GP Training/Independent Pathway for rural interested doctors. https://www.acrrm.org.au/home

Currently Richard is working with the NCFH on a Needlestick case review/education/online CPD for doctors based on http://www.farmerhealth.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Farmer-Needlestick-Injuries-Risk-and-Recommended-Treatment-V1.3.pdf and helping craft WVPHN Health pathways that recognise the unique role of farmers and agricultural workers. – see next https://melbourne.healthpathways.org.au/LoginFiles/Logon.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2f

Tam Phillips
AgriSafe™ Clinician
RN, GCertAgHealthMed

Tam is a Registered Nurse and lives and works with her husband and three children on their grain and sheep farm in Glenthompson – Western Victoria. Her passion for farming and the desire to improve farmer health and the health of the communities they support has inspired her to pursue postgraduate studies in Health Promotion and Agricultural Health and Medicine. Tam works with the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) to deliver their unique AgriSafe™ program, providing farmers, families & agricultural workers with industry specific health and safety assessment and clinical screening. Other RN responsibilities for Tam include the delivery of Sustainable Farm Families Program and co-ordinating portable delivery of convenient Health & Lifestyle Assessments to agricultural agencies and associations nationwide.

Jessie Adams
Research Assistant
BCom, BPubHealth & HealthProm(Hons)

Jessie grew up on a beef farm outside Albury-Wodonga. She actively participated in many sports, in particular horse riding, netball and tennis. Following a gap year working in England she moved to Melbourne to study at Deakin University. In 2016, Jessie completed her Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion/Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Accounting. Subsequently, she then completed Honours in Public Health and Health Promotion in 2017, focusing on physical activity and motor skill performance of children in playgrounds of varied design. This led to working as a Research Assistant in Deakin’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition focusing on children’s physical activity within schools. Jessie is looking forward to being a part of the terrific work the NCFH does and living and being a part of the Hamilton community.

Tracey Hatherell
Program and Data Coordinator
Dip Bus. M’ment, Cert IV Rural Bus.

Tracey joined NCFH in 2009 and worked as Data Coordinator until June 2014 and re-joined the NCFH team in March 2016 as Program and Data Coordinator. Tracey and her husband live and work on their sheep and cropping farm in Western Victoria and in the Wimmera.

Tracey is passionate about the health and wellbeing of our farming communities nationwide and works with the NCFH team to deliver their award winning Sustainable Farm Families™ program, developed to bring better health, wellbeing and safety to our people on the land. People who have already been involved with the program have been able to implement changes on the farm that have potentially life-saving consequences. This drives Tracey to promote all farm families and rural and regional health agencies to be involved. Tracey is also responsible for coordinating data and specific NCFH projects to ensure successful delivery and reporting of service targets are met.

Morna Semmens
AgriSafe™ Clinician
RN, B.Nursing, B.Applied Science (Speech Pathology)

Morna is a Registered Nurse, and works with her husband on their sheep and cattle grazing farm in Gazette, Western Victoria. She is also actively engaged in Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Landcare roles within her local farming community.

Morna works with the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) to deliver their Health and Lifestyle Assessments (HLA) nationally, as well as the AgriSafe™ program at Penshurst District Health. These programs provide farmers, farming families & agricultural workers with customized health and safety assessments and education. Morna also delivers the innovative, interactive “Gear Up for Ag™” programs to young agricultural students empowering the next generation to identify hazards on farms and proactively manage their safety.

Morna loves swimming and bike riding to keep fit. She also loves planting trees on the family farm to encourage biodiversity and shelter for stock.

Samantha Kaspers
Online Communications Coordinator

Samantha joined NCFH in March 2016 as the Online Communications Coordinator. Samantha keeps our website and social media up to date while sharing the vision of Farmer Health both nationally and internationally. Samantha has her own business in web design and understands the local needs of farmers and the community and love collaborating. She also has a strong passion for photography and a history in photo journalism. Originally a Melbourne girl who married a country boy and couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Rowena Smith
Casual Data Clerk

Rowena grew up on a small farm in Byaduk. A busy mother of three busy children she is passionate about public health and nutrition and is currently studying a Bachelor of Health Science (nutrition and health promotion) through Deakin University, graduating mid-2019.

Rowena enjoys playing hockey and social tennis, reading and photography and is pleased to be supporting the NCFH team as an administration data clerk.

Corrina Lee Lester
Casual Data Entry Clerk

Corrina joined the team back in 2012 as a Receptionist and Casual Data Clerk.

She has continued with our team as a Casual Data Clerk for many years while studying a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education with Deakin University, to follow her passion for teaching Kindergarten and Primary children.

She grew up in the Western District and has raised four children in Hamilton. Always happy to help our Data Team when the need arises.

Aziz Rahman (view ResearchGate profile »)
Casual Academic

Dr Rahman is a Public Health Specialist and overseas trained Medical Doctor. He joined NCFH with the experience of working in public health research and programs, both in Australian and overseas settings. He had been working as a Senior Research Fellow at Australian Catholic University for the last four years prior to commencing his role at NCFH.

Dr Rahman completed PhD in Public Health from the University of Adelaide, Master of Public Health (MPH) and Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) from Bangladesh. He is trained on advanced Epidemiology from Australia, Europe and USA.

Dr Rahman’s research track record includes work on behavioural risk factors for prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases, cardiovascular diseases in particular, tobacco research, health promotion, health system research, work with Aboriginal, disadvantaged and rural population. He has experience of managing public health programs in developing countries and engaging multicultural communities to improve health and wellbeing. He is also experienced in teaching public health and epidemiology. He has been supervising higher degree research students and three of his PhD students have already graduated.

As a Senior Research Fellow of NCFH, Dr Rahman will play the key role in offering research leadership, contributing significantly to the research outputs, mentoring research staff and students, promoting research links with collaborators, contributing to relevant programs to improve health and wellbeing of the farmers, and thereby, improving the profile of NCFH.

National Centre for Farmer Health Board

Professor Karen Dwyer
Acting Dean Head of School – Medicine
Deakin University

Rohan Fitzgerald 
Chief Executive
Western District Health Service

Professor Catherine Bennett
Chair in Epidemiology
Deakin University

Greg Walcott
Board Member, Western District Health Service

Professor Susan Brumby   
National Centre Farmer Health

National Centre for Farmer Health Advisory Group

Professor Karen Dwyer
Acting Dean Head of School – Medicine
Deakin University

Professor Catherine Bennett
Chair in Epidemiology
Deakin University

Rohan Fitzgerald 
Chief Executive
Western District Health Service

Greg Walcott
Board Member, Western District Health Service

Sarah Crosthwaite
Farmer Representative, VIC

Heather Fleming
Farmer Representative, VIC

Hugh Macdonald
Farmer Representative, VIC

Tammy Sandison
Farmer Representative, VIC

Sarah McLean
Victorian Young Farmers Advisory Council

Jeanne Van Der Geest Dekker
GCertAgHealthMed Representative

Julie Simons
Director, Agriculture Industry and Rural Transition
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources

Kylie Johnson
Senior Policy Officer, Mental Wellbeing and Injury Prevention
Department of Health & Human Services

Graham Phelps
Program Manager, Agriculture
Worksafe Victoria

Susan Brumby   
National Centre Farmer Health

Web Hub Advisory Group - Retired
Applied Research and Development Advisory Group - Retired
Professional Training and Education Advisory Group - Retired
Sustainable Farm Families Advisory Group - Retired
Agrisafe Advisory Group - Retired

Our partners

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Page updated: 3rd February, 2020