Health Consumers Queensland welcomes new CEO

Health Consumers Queensland is delighted to welcome Bernadette Praske as Chief Executive Officer.

Bernadette joins HCQ with a background in Social Science and an excellent track record of leadership and outcomes in the health and human services sectors. She was most recently Chief Operating Officer at Mercy Community and before this held leadership roles at RSL Queensland, Mates4Mates, Goolburri Aboriginal Health Advancement Co Ltd, Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN, and with the West Moreton Hospital and Health Service leading transformation and strategic community engagement.

Bernadette’s appointment comes after a competitive and merit-based selection process including the perspective of a consumer representative at interview.

The Board of HCQ is confident in Bernadette’s capability to deeply listen to and explore the needs of health consumers and to partner collaboratively with stakeholders.

Board Chair Miguel Diaz says “HCQ is measured on the meaningful change we create in health outcomes and systems and Bernadette is well qualified to lead our organisation to achieve this.”

Bernadette says ““I am very excited to join the team at HCQ. It will be a privilege to lead this important work supporting and amplifying the voices of health consumers throughout Queensland as we continue to work toward a consumer-centred healthcare system.”

“I am committed to increasing opportunities for meaningful partnerships and consumer representation across the spectrum of health services and driving consumer-led improved healthcare outcomes for people in our communities.”

The HCQ Board and team wish to thank former CEO Melissa Fox for the outcomes delivered under her leadership since 2015, and most especially during the COVID-19 pandemic period and wish her well for the future. The Board also extends their sincere thanks to Jo Smethurst for her outstanding interim leadership as Acting CEO during the leadership transition.

HCQ finishes 2023 with a capable and committed team, ready to serve consumer interests.

Consumer consultations right around Queensland

Health Consumers Queensland has conducted several rounds of consultation in partnership with external organisations, including CheckUp, Darling Downs West Moreton PHN and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

Rural, regional and remote access to healthcare

CheckUp engaged us to consult with First Nations and non-indigenous rural, remote and regional consumers on their health care experiences to inform future service planning. Using the Kitchen Table Discussion and Yarning Circle methods HCQ supported the gathering of consumer views from across Queensland, as far north as Ravenshoe, out west to Boulia and down south in Kingaroy and Cherbourg. 62 consumers shared their thoughts across seven consultations.

HCQ presented the key findings from the report Not a postcode lottery: What Queensland First Nations and non- indigenous rural, remote & regional consumers want from their healthcare in 2023 in the keynote address at CheckUp’s 2023 Outreach Forum with one of the consumer hosts, Karen Metcalfe from Charters Towers. Together HCQ and CheckUp have produced an engaging summary of the key findings and recommendations. The summary is available to view here.

The rural and remote consumer voices were amplified further when Cas presented at the 3rd Queensland Clinical Networks Symposium: ‘Strengthening quality and safety in modern healthcare systems’ on Friday 6 October 2023.

Talk About in Darling Downs West Moreton

Since 2020, HCQ has supported the Darling Downs West Moreton PHN’s TALK ABOUT community engagement campaign by facilitating consultations to hear from a diversity of health consumer voices across the region. Through HCQ’s unique, consumer-led kitchen table discussion methodology we have facilitated 11 rounds of consultation topics for the PHN to date, hearing the voices of 442 consumers.  You can read more about the project here. We recently heard the exciting news that the TALK ABOUT project is a finalist in the IAP2 Core Values Awards! These awards recognise outstanding projects and organisations at the forefront of community engagement. The nomination is well-deserved: throughout the TALK ABOUT project, the PHN has shown its absolute commitment to reaching every corner of their region to hear from as wide a range of consumers as possible. It has been a privilege to work closely with the PHN and HCQ’s consumer hosts of Kitchen Tables and Yarning Circles, and other partners on this project.




Learning and development needs for partnering in quality improvement

Learning and development needs for partnering in quality improvement

Following on from a report in the September 2022 issue of HCQ’s e-Alert, yet another paper by the research team of Ruth Cox, Director of Occupational Therapy at QEII Jubilee Hospital and a PhD candidate at Griffith University; consumer co-researchers, Elizabeth Miller and Bernadette Tanner; Associate Professor Melissa Kendall; and Professor Matthew Molineux, has just been published in the Australian Health Review.  It’s called Learning and development needs for successful staff and consumer partnerships on healthcare quality improvement committees: a co-produced cross-sectional online survey.

Full Reference: Australian Health Review, Online Early

Elizabeth, who is a consumer co-researcher said “in this study, we conducted a learning and development needs analysis of quality improvement (QI) capabilities for staff and consumers on partnership committees at an Australian metropolitan HHS.  We compared their self-rated responses against capability importance and performance which demonstrated their learning needs. We also investigated whether the number of years of partnership experience influenced the ratings and which learning strategies or methods were preferred by both groups”.

The major findings of this research were that:

  • The Capability Development Framework (shown below) is a useful tool to guide learning and development for successful QI partnerships.
  • Staff and consumers should continuously develop QI partnership capabilities together, and through multiple learning approaches.
  • Increased exposure to innovative co-design strategies is needed to enhance capabilities and influence on organisational systems and policies.
  • Sharing power and leadership was a high learning need.
  • Self-reflection is very important, but it was not recognised by staff and consumers as a preferred learning strategy, so this needs more research.

This learning and development needs analysis provides direction for effective design of education and support programs.

If you would like more information and/or a copy of the paper and framework, please contact Ruth Cox via

Read the full Capability Development Framework, including the capability descriptions-

Additionally, you can go to these links to get a free open access copy of the scoping review and eDelphi study related to this research project.

Celebrating consumer appointments to roles across the health system between January and March 2023 

Congratulations to all the consumers and carers from HCQ’s network who have been appointed to consumer partnership roles on long-term, system-wide committees, focus groups or working groups as well as other activities with Queensland Health and other health organisations. 

We received over 100 expressions of interest for 19 opportunities. More than 30 consumer and carer representatives have been appointed to roles so far with some selections still to be finalised. We’ve also seen a strong increase in the numbers of consumers applying for roles who bring an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island, disability, culturally and linguistically diverse or rural and remote perspective and voice. Some of the new roles include:


Wishing Anne Curtis and Reema Naresh well as they move on to pastures new

In February and March, we said farewell to Anne Curtis, Senior Engagement Consultant and lead of our fee-for-service work and Reema Naresh, Engagement Advisor and our Training Lead as they moved on to explore new opportunities.

Anne Curtis
During her time with Health Consumers Queensland, Anne has always been passionate about the voice of ALL consumers being heard and valued at all levels of the health system.

After joining HCQ in 2015, Anne adapted the Kitchen Table Discussion (KTD) methodology for Health Consumers Queensland in 2018 so consumers could lead conversations with consumers. Since that time, she has empowered many who had never had a voice in healthcare before to lead and participate in consultation on important health issues within their own communities in a safe and supportive environment.


Introducing the new members of the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland

In early May the Health Consumers Collaborative of Queensland met together face to face in Brisbane and online to welcome and onboard its new consumer members.

Our new members come from as far north as the tip of Cape York at Seisia and as far west as Roma. Together with our existing members, the Collaborative’s consumers span the generations, include two First Nations representatives, and consumers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds as well as those who have strong knowledge on international health systems, and are involved in their local Hospital and Health Service. This diversity of consumer perspectives will contribute to the strength and quality of their conversations in session.


HCQ supports consumers and health staff in Mackay, Rockhampton and Cairns

During February and March 2023, Senior Engagement Advisor, Jo Smethurst and Engagement Advisors, Reema Naresh and Chelsea Gourgaud travelled to Mackay, Rockhampton and Cairns to facilitate tailored braining for Hospital and Health Service consumers, Executive and Board which meets their individual partnering needs.

Chelsea headed to Rockhampton to support staff and consumers and co-facilitate the Consumer and Community Advisory Committee Planning Day with Central Queensland’s Hospital and Health Service Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Executive Director, Donna Cruickshank and Patient Experience and Consumer Engagement Practice Lead, Stacey Butler. 


HCQ’s Annual Forum 2022

“Inspirational, connected group of passionate people making a difference in healthcare makes the HCQ forum excel. It is fabulous to see expansion and growth in consumer engagement and partnership practise across the state. Well done.” (Forum attendee)

It was wonderful to be finally reunited with so many consumers and health staff and to welcome new faces both online and on the Sunshine Coast for our long-awaited Annual Forum on 13-14 October 2022. 

Held across two days, it gave an opportunity for more than 200 people to gather face to face (and more on-line), to share insights and learn from others, with workshops, panel discussions, presentations and an evening networking event.