2011 Sidney Sax Medallist - Adj/Prof Mick Reid

Mick Reid is well known as an outstanding leader in our health system for over three decades.

He has spent most of his working life in the health and human services industry and has made a rich and varied contribution to it.  He has a national and international reputation as a public sector manager, as a reviewer of health systems, as a reformer of health agencies and as a planner of health services.

Mick understands well the complexities of the Australian health system with its competing demands between high-tech specialist medical care on one hand and primary and preventive health care on the other.  He also knows that resources are needed to ensure equitable distribution of services while also focusing on disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous Australians and those with mental illness.

Mick was born in Sydney in April 1948. Mick graduated with a Bachelor of Economics from the Australian National University in 1974 and for the next seven years held various public sector positions. It was during this time, Mick was seconded to work with Sidney Sax at the Health and Hospitals Commission as a policy officer.

In 1976 Mick moved to NSW and worked in the Health Department. He was awarded the inaugural Neville Wran Public Service scholarship. That scholarship allowed Mick to move to London and work at the prestigious St Thomas’ Hospital for eighteen months, focusing on UK mechanisms for resource allocation. Mick subsequently returned to NSW Health and introduced the notion of equity in budget allocations in NSW and subsequently other States.

In 1981 his career took a different turn when he became involved in the world of Aboriginal art and craft.  Mick had a keen interest in the area and so when a job for a craft adviser on Bathurst Island in the Northern Territory came up, he was very interested.  There was a small problem however.  The successful candidate needed to have extensive screen printing experience – and Mick had none.  Not to be put off by such a minor detail he enrolled in an “intensive” course at Sydney University over one weekend, and of course, he nailed the interview and got the job.  Mick still credits his time at Bathurst and Melville Islands working with the Tiwi people on pottery and traditional arts and crafts, as one of the most satisfying of his career and one that has been influential in learning the skills of management.

For a total of five years, including the two years at Bathurst and Melville Islands, he was employed by the Australia Council as Craft Adviser in Aboriginal Communities and as a consultant to the Aboriginal Arts Board of the Australia Council.

His commitment to Indigenous peoples has remained undiminished and later in his career he held important positions as Chair of the NSW Reconciliation Committee, Chair of the National Advisory Group on Indigenous Health Information and Data and much more recently was appointed as a mentor by the Australia Council to Aboriginal Theatre organisations.  In the area of health he undertook the first comprehensive study of the morbidity and mortality of Aboriginal communities in Australia. 

Mid Career

Mick’s career in health consulting took off during the eight years between 1987 and 1995 when as a Principal of Reid, Harris and Associates, he worked on numerous contracts that covered all aspects of health planning  - hospital services, community health, early childhood services, rural health, rehabilitation, public health and health promotion. 

During this time he gained international experience when working as a consultant for the World Health Organization and for national governments on numerous projects.  This included a stint living in Geneva and advising on the development of district health services and workforce requirements for Cambodia and reporting on public sector reform strategies in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.  At home he acted as a consultant to the National Health Strategy, reporting on methods to improve the organisational and financial arrangements for provisions of rural health services in Australia and hospital funding mechanisms.

During the late 1980s he undertook important work in the HIV/AIDS domain both in Australia and internationally.  He was engaged by the WHO's Global Program on AIDS to develop the Global Blood Safety Initiative and organise and facilitate several international consultations, including examination of the neuropsychiatric aspects of AIDs and impacts on Health Care Workers.  Several of these consultations were organised conjointly with the International Labour Office.

Public sector career

Mick re-entered public sector employment as Chief General Manager of the NSW Health Department in 1995, and was subsequently appointed as Director General of NSW Health in 1997 where he remained until 2002.  As Director General, he was responsible for a budget of $8.5 billion and 80,000 staff.
Between 2002 and 2004 Mick took a 'sabbatical' from the public service when he was appointed as Director, Policy and Practice Program, The George Institute, at the University of Sydney.  He couldn't stay away for long however, and was appointed the NSW Director-General of the Ministry for Science and Medical Research in 2004.  He established the Department and had oversight of the development of a major strategy for sectoral reform ofNSW’s science and medical research – involving private sector, universities and State and Commonwealth Governments.

System and agency reviews

In addition to his work as reformer of systems Mick has undertaken numerous major system and agency reviews both in Australia and overseas.  He advised the Queensland Government on the development of a State-wide Health Strategy and then in 2004, he penned “The Reid Report” for the West Australian Government on a comprehensive review of its Health Department. He was also a consultant to the ACT Government on appropriate organisational, governance and financial arrangements for the provision of health and community services.  For a number of years he worked with the Ministry of Health in China to assist and develop the capacity of Central Government and Provincial Directors General and Vice Ministers in aspects of health and welfare systems reform.  He was an advisor to the WHO on public sector reform in East Timor.