Leadership program focuses on tackling the spread of disease

22 February 2013

Indonesian vet scentists at the University of Sydney
Indonesian vet scentists at the University of Sydney

Indonesia has turned to the University of Sydney for help in building up the leadership skills needed to tackle outbreaks of potentially devastating animal diseases such as swine fever, bird flu and rabies.

Six academics from two leading veterinary schools in Indonesia are taking part in a leadership course at the University. The two-week residential course and online program is being run by the Faculty of Veterinary Science and funded by the Australian Government through the Australia Awards Fellowships.

The course will enable the Indonesian academics to provide leadership and teamwork training for government officials and students, to improve Indonesia's emergency and serious disease control programs.

The academics are from Bogor Agricultural University, West Java, and Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Central Java.

Associate Professor Jenny-Ann Toribio said Indonesia's vulnerability to the spread of emergency animal diseases was an unintended consequence of the move to parliamentary democracy in the 1990s, which led to extensive decentralisation of animal health services and the loss of centrally coordinated responses to disease outbreaks.

"Many government functions devolved past Indonesia's 33 provinces to about 450 districts, and this made it more difficult to mount an effective response to animal and zoonotic diseases," she said.

Outbreaks of swine fever in the 1990s and avian influenza in the next decade had devastating effects on Indonesia. "Both diseases spread through large parts of the archipelago with huge and continuing impacts on the health and welfare of animals and people," said Professor Toribio.

Dr Agus Lelana, from Bogor Agricultural University, said Indonesia recognised the need to train a whole generation of junior and mid level veterinarians in leadership skills that can be applied in emergency disease situations.

Dr Lelana played a key role in setting up the project when he learnt about the University of Sydney's Masters in Veterinary Public Health Management during a visit to Australia in 2010. The program, established in 2003, was the first in the world to incorporate core units in leadership and project management into a masters for animal health professionals.

Associate Professor Helen Scott-Orr, former chief veterinary officer of NSW and now an honorary associate professor at the University, has also been heavily involved in the project. Professor Scott-Orr, whose research and collaborative links in Indonesia span four decades, says: "This exciting program will lead to the development of a curriculum for veterinary leadership training which will benefit Indonesia and also its neighbours, including Australia.

"Disease incursions such as rabies in Bali from 2008 need alert, well prepared veterinary managers and this course will be a big step forward. Prompt and effective responses can greatly reduce the risk of further spread eastwards of serious zoonotic and transboundary diseases."

Over the next year the Indonesian delegates will start to develop training courses at their home universities for central, provincial and district veterinary staff, and for undergraduate veterinary students.

"This is an amazing project," said Dr Lelana. "We need to learn the ways of leadership and it will take several years to reach our goal. But our students will be Indonesia's veterinary leaders of the future."

Contact: Richard North

Phone: 02 9351 3191

Email: 442527322c1952791a3516151a6b2930283e352a60321e10672338