Sidney Sax Medal 2019 awarded to Aboriginal heart health advocate and leader Vicki Wade

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association’s 2019 Sidney Sax Medal was awarded in Brisbane last night to Aboriginal heart health advocate Vicki Wade.

‘The Sidney Sax Medal is awarded to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the development and improvement of the Australian healthcare system in the field of health services policy, organisation, delivery and research’, Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Chief Executive Alison Verhoeven said.

‘Vicki has demonstrated outstanding service and commitment to Aboriginal health, particularly heart health, in a career spanning over 30 years.

‘And, like the late Sid Sax himself, she has been highly influential through being consultative and respectful.’

Vicki is a Nyoongar woman from rural south west Perth. The women in her family were healers—beginning with her Nan Lily, who helped Aboriginal women at the Gnowangerup mission. She had no formal education because Aboriginal people at the time were denied it.

Subsequently, Vicki’s mum was one of the first Aboriginal women in the area to become an enrolled nurse. Vicki herself continued along this path and began training to be a registered nurse in 1976 before becoming a specialist cardiac nurse and strong advocate for improving Aboriginal health, having witnessed Aboriginal women ‘dying far too young from heart disease’.

Vicki is currently Senior Cultural Advisor with Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) Australia, an organisation based at the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin. RHD Australia is dedicated to lessening the burden of acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in Australia.

Vicki was also, for many years, leader of the National Aboriginal Health Unit at the National Heart Foundation and played a key role in the Lighthouse Hospital Project, an initiative of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association and the Heart Foundation, funded by the Australian Government.

This recently concluded 8-year project successfully drove changes in hospitals across Australia to achieve better care and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with coronary heart disease. Notably, exemplars from the Lighthouse Hospital Project have been highlighted in the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare’s case studies for best practice healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ms Wade said she was humbled to have her name among the many outstanding medal recipients. ‘I‘ve worked in many outstanding teams without wanting recognition or praise for myself. I’m not one to seek accolades at all. But I am humbled and privileged to be awarded the Sidney Sax Medal’, she said.

AHHA Board Chair Adrian Pennington said Ms Wade always approaches situations with optimism, expecting the best.

‘She will always extend a hand to help those less able and will always thoughtfully challenge assumptions and prejudices, both conscious and subconscious. Her gentle guidance never makes people feel uncomfortable—just quietly puts them on the right track.’


For more information on the AHHA, visit

Past Sidney Sax Medal winners and profiles are available here.

The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association is the national peak body for public and not-for-profit hospitals, and community and primary healthcare services.

Media enquiries:

Alison Verhoeven, Chief Executive, AHHA

0403 282 501