A facilitated discussion for all veterinary professionals - to ensure the future success of our profession.


The AVA held the virtual Workforce Shortage Forum, Thursday the 6th of May 2021 and welcomed all veterinary professionals to this discussion.

This virtual forum aimed to provide a collaborative space to workshop the longer-term solutions to workforce shrinkage and attrition in the veterinary profession. We were joined by a panel of subject matter experts to assist us to broaden our thinking and develop positive solutions.


About the Forum Host

Associate Professor, Cristy Secombe

Associate Professor Cristy Secombe graduated in 1994 and although she still considers herself midcareer, she does concede that late career is just around the corner. Cristy has spent the majority of her career as an employee in clinical university practice and for over half of her career she has worked in a part time capacity (plus afterhours commitments)  while her husband worked full time, a choice they thought best for their family of five.  In the last 3 years Cristy has returned to full time work, her current role as the Clinical Director of a teaching hospital which involves the employment of a large number of veterinary professionals.

Cristy has been part of the team that developed and delivered the non-technical aspect of the veterinary curriculum at Murdoch University and  her interest in  workforce issues and career sustainability developed during her tenure with the EVA, leading to research in the area.

Forum panellists 

Dr Georgia Gurney

Georgia graduated UQ school of veterinary science in November 2016 and began practicing at Samford Valley Veterinary Hospital in January 2017. She has spent the last 4 years as a large animal practitioner with a particular interest in Equine Dentistry and ophthalmology.

Georgia is furthering her study in Equine Dentistry and is set to sit her memberships exams in June 2021 with hopes to sit her small animal dentistry memberships in the next 5 years. 

As well as clinical interests, Georgia is also passionate about the veterinary industry as a whole, practice management, human resources and practice profitability.

As well as being a passionate veterinarian Georgia plans to have a family very soon, is committed to having life outside of the industry as well as a satisfying career and believes there are so many ways this can be possible for future veterinarians. 

Professor Karina Jorritsma 

Karina Jorritsma is Professor of Practice at Curtin University’s Future of Work Institute, a recently established Research Institute which promotes productive and meaningful work as essential foundations of a healthy economy and society.

Karina holds over 15 years’ experience in successfully bringing together academic thinking and industry stakeholders to address critical workplace challenges. Karina has successfully delivered more than 100 multidisciplinary projects in the public and private sectors across a wide range of industries, including health care, mining, aviation, fire and emergency services, law enforcement, and the Royal Australian Navy. In recent years, Karina’s applied research has focused on employee well-being. Karina currently leads Thrive at Work, a partially State-funded well-being initiative centred on providing WA organisations with the knowledge and tools to design, implement and sustain healthy, high performing work environments.

She also currently leads the Future of Work Institute’s Work Systems Design research stream. This stream seeks to optimise the performance and wellbeing of humans in complex human-machine systems, and includes amongst other projects, a long-term research partnership with the Australian Defence Force to optimise crew endurance on Australia’s future submarine platform. 

Damian Mitsch

Damian Mitsch is a strong, committed and educated CEO and governance professional. With an interest in leadership, change and progressive thinking in the board room, he has honed his skills to become highly proficient in taking a strategic approach with an eye on risk. He is currently the National CEO of the Australian Dental Association and has held senior roles with the associations for physiotherapy and podiatry. He is a panel member for the Insolvency Practitioner Registration and Disciplinary Committee, a Council member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a director of the Australasian Society of Association Executives where he’s recently been working to introduce the Certified Association Executive credential to Australia.

Damian has sat on the board of directors of Austin Health, a large tertiary health organization with over $1bil in assets, $750mil in revenue and 8,000 staff. At Austin Health, he chaired the Primary Care and Population Health Committee and sat on the Finance and Community Advisory Committees. He has been significantly involved in policy leadership at a federal level and has developed key relationships in the federal parliament and bureaucracy. He has been Chair of the National Primary Health Care Partnership – a partnership of 23 national peak bodies and has been a director of Allied Health Professions Australia. Damian previously chaired a disability organization, is an articulate communicator and competent public speaker. He is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Monash University. 

Professor Nigel Perkins

Professor Nigel Perkins has a Queensland grazing background, is a UQ veterinary science graduate and has completed a Masters degree at The Ohio State University (USA), followed by a PhD at Massey University (NZ). Nigel worked in private practice in Australia and as a veterinary academic clinician at university veterinary schools in Australia, the USA and New Zealand. Nigel joined UQ in February 2016 as Professor of One Health and Academic Superintendent within the School of Veterinary Science. In October 2017 Nigel was appointed as the Head of School of the School of Veterinary Science.

Nigel has held leadership roles in a number of organisations, including research program manager for the Horse R&D Program within the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), surveillance program co-ordinator for the Australian Biosecurity Co-operative Research Centre (AB-CRC), and Chief Examiner of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists. Nigel's work has a strong focus on improving animal health, production and welfare outcomes in Australian livestock as well as providing leadership within the veterinary profession and in the broader areas of science, food sustainability and one health.

Heath Stewart

Heath Stewart is a Chartered Accountant and Director of ECOVIS Clark Jacobs, an accounting firm with over 20 years’ experience advising clients in the medical, dental and veterinary industries. 

With clients ranging from undergrads through to household name corporates, ECOVIS Clark Jacobs consults on a variety of business matters for healthcare and veterinary professionals, including set up and buy/sell transactions, benchmarking and practice consulting. 

A regular presenter at seminars for practitioners in both Australia and New Zealand, Heath also regularly contributes articles on taxation and practice management, and is a long-term contributor to various industry and professional association newsletters. 

Dr Julie Strous

After a two-year stint in mixed practice, Julie’s post graduate studies included animal production, business and governance.  She worked as a locum, youth worker and teacher/lecturer.

Julie joined AVBC in 2001 to compile veterinary school accreditation standards. She was appointed to the leadership role later that year.

She is vice-president of the Australian Council of Professions and is co-chair of its Professionalism and Ethics Committee.