The history of ACRRM

In 1987 the Rural Doctors Association of New South Wales was formed, and in 1990 a federation of State RDA's was formed and later incorporated in1991 as the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA). This body was instrumental in convening the first National Rural Health Conference (NRHC) in 1991, from which recommendations to establish a dedicated rural medical training program, Rural Health Training Units and the multidisciplinary National Rural Health Alliance (NRHA) arose.

In 1992 the RDAA procured a Government grant to develop advanced curricula for training in the specialist fields of anaesthesia, surgery and obstetrics as part of a dedicated rural training pathway. After considerable negotiations to form a Faculty of Rural Medicine and secure a Fellowship of the Faculty of Rural Medicine, RDAA in a plebiscite, agreed to hand over the advanced skills curricula as a basis for the RACGP to develop a discrete training pathway incorporating extended specialty skills (including obstetrics, anaesthetics, surgery, paediatrics etc.).

The advanced rural skills curricula initiative signalled the hope that Rural and Remote Medicine would be accommodated with due recognition in the RACGP. Rural doctors assisted the RACGP to develop its first curriculum and incorporate advanced skills into an integrated four-year rural training pathway under a Director of Rural Training.

The RACGP Council subsequently dismissed the name Faculty of Rural Medicine for the term Rural Faculty. It also diminished the Fellowship of the Faculty of Rural Medicine to a Graduate Diploma of Rural General Practice, and insisted the qualification be a one-year program of “add-on” qualifications upon completion of the RACGP standard General Practice training program. These decisions resulted in widespread disillusionment, and the resignation of many rural RACGP members, including eight of the ten board members of the RACGP Rural Faculty.

In 1995 a further national plebiscite of rural medical practitioners and rural trainees voted by a ratio of 2:1 to establish a separate college to foster Rural and Remote Medicine as a new specialty. The Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) was incorporated in March 1997 and the ACRRM Primary Curriculum in Rural and Remote Medicine (Edition 1) published in 1998. Fellowship criteria were advertised to foundation members in 1998 and, in the same year, ACRRM’s rural training pathways and the commencement of a continuing development program in Rural and Remote Medicine were established.