Senator Richard Di Natale, former GP and public health specialist, was widely described as “little known” in the mainstream media when he was elected leader of the Greens yesterday.

But he is well known in health circles, where his election and likely focus on health issues was warmly welcomed in many quarters.

The Australian Medical Association led the charge:

“There is no doubt that health policy will be front and centre for the Greens under Senator Di Natale’s leadership.

He is a GP with a special interest in public health.

He has worked in the front line of health service delivery, including in Aboriginal health, and he is a strong voice about the harms to individuals and the community from alcohol and drug abuse.

As Health spokesman, he regularly sought advice and discussion about health policy. He listens, and is not afraid to actively prosecute his views.

Senator Di Natale has been very consultative with the AMA at both the Federal and State level.

We congratulate him on his election, and we look forward to continuing our constructive working relationship with The Greens on health policy.”

The Consumers Health Forum also issued this statement of congratulations.

Di Natale told the 730 Report last night that he wanted his leadership to be defined by work on building up the health care system, getting children out of detention centres, and making sure the “the big end of town” pays its way. Climate change, he added, was the big overall challenge and priority. Watch the full interview.

His official bio notes he was elected to the Senate in 2010 as the Greens’ first Victorian Senator. His portfolios have included health, multiculturalism, youth, gambling and sport. It says:

Prior to entering parliament, Richard was a general practitioner and public health specialist. He worked in Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory, on HIV prevention in India and in the drug and alcohol sector. His key health priorities include preventative health, public dental care and responding to the health impacts of climate change.

Richard’s achievements in parliament so far include securing almost $5 billion towards Medicare-funded dentistry, winning a campaign to divest $250 million worth of tobacco stocks from the Future Fund, and spearheading senate inquiries into many issues of public significance such as dying with dignity, superbugs, hospital funding, budget cuts, medicinal cannabis, air pollution, pharmaceutical transparency, sports science and gambling reform.

Richard is also fighting hard for human rights in West Papua, greater transparency in the pharmaceuticals industry and timely access to cost-effective drugs through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. He believes in public health policies that put science and evidence above politics.

Defying stereotypes about the Greens, Di Natale and his wife Lucy live on a working farm in the foothills of Victoria’s Otway Range, he’s the son of non-English speaking migrants, and he played VFA football for six years.

Here’s some of the media commentary:

Richard Di Natale has yet to make a splash, but Shorten and Abbott should worry

Di Natale adds new tinge to Greens

Meet Richard Di Natale – new Greens leader is a former GP and AFL tragic

From the Greens: 10 facts about Richard Di Natale

And some Twitter responses:

 

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