‘Queen of Population Health’ Christine Newman retires after 45 years

“Of the reasons we love her – this woman is real; she’s grounded and trusted, respected with zeal.”

This is just one of 33 fun and complimentary lines in the amazing farewell poem written for Christine Newman, outgoing Deputy Director for Population Health at Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

Christine is a beloved colleague with an impressive career that spans five decades in health – the highlights of which include making safety improvements to our roads, hospital grounds and medication containers.

She has spent almost 20 years of that career in population health, consequently gaining the title ‘Queen of Population Health’ by colleague and poem author Belinda Duckworth of the Health Promotion Team.

Other focuses have included injury prevention and surveillance, domestic violence advocacy, gynaecology, cardiology and endocrinology.

Christine’s career began in 1975 as a doctor’s receptionist in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. As a registered nurse, she spent time in Scotland and England, and within two years of returning to Australia joined the Emergency Department team at Westmead Hospital. She has worked within western Sydney ever since.

One of Christine’s fondest memories is completing her nurse training and the ceremony that surrounded it.

It was the most amazing thing; there was so much pomp about it – the veil, the certificate, throwing off your training hat and trampling it to the ground, the ball thrown by the previous graduating year; it was just so special,” she reminisced.

In early 2000, Christine was awarded a Department of Premier and Cabinet Master of Public Administration scholarship, awarding her the opportunity to learn how to work across government and moving away from silos. She cites this as a highlight that provided the contacts, tools and knowledge to really help her to drive innovation and change in health and other agencies.

Christine’s career highlights are not only her proudest professional accomplishments but are also WSLHD legacies.

She implemented emergency department injury surveillance across WSLHD, a first in Australia. The data gathered provided vital information to various government departments, helping to make key changes such as reducing road speed limits in NSW and adding additional safety precautions to methadone containers.

Christine at the Blacktown Vaccination Hub opening in 2021.

Christine also led one of the country’s first pilot for the Australian Early Development Census in western Sydney which is now a national initiative used to provide a snapshot of children’s development to inform communities and support planning, policy and action.

Other projects of note include the implementation of Work Development Orders with Legal Aid, which to this day helps support disadvantaged people, and championing the implementation of no smoking policies across the District.

Throughout her many roles, Christine ensured the community was at the centre of all she did, as “at the heart of it all, it’s the people that count”. This rung especially true throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christine is the engine room of the Centre and this has never been more visible than over the last two years,” said Shopna Bag, Acting Director for Population Health WSLHD.

“It is through her dedication, tireless support and fearless leadership that we have been able to navigate the storms to where we are today.

“With staff coming from all over the District to join Centre for Population Health, the feedback was unanimous that they valued the culture of the team, our teamwork and felt it one of the best teams they’ve worked in.

“This is at the heart of her legacy and her contributions to the success and achievements of the Centre are immeasurable.”

Christine said she will miss WSLHD for its willingness to take measured risks and working in a supportive and exciting environment. She will also miss her partnerships across different government agencies and her “amazing” Health Promotion team.

The feeling is mutual, with Michelle Nolan, Acting Manager Health Promotion saying:
“Christine has taught us what makes a great leader and have given us so much to aspire to.

“Her real, approachable, honest and compassionate approach to our work and our team is valued by us all.”

Happy retirement Christine!