John Vail

John Vail

John Vail

Northern NSW, Australia

Key skills

  • small scale rural development project management: nutrition, agriculture and livestock, water supply, sanitation, appropriate technology, health education, training
  • research: demographic, health, census, social, economic, rapid appraisal, surveys and questionnaires, statistical analysis
  • computing: database management, programming and SQL.



  • Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Food Aid Unit of ADAB (the predecessor of AusAID)
  • Australian Volunteers Abroad (now Australian Volunteers International) worker, spending eight years as a demographic field supervisor with the PNG Institute of Medical Research in Tari, Southern Highlands Province.
  • Community development in PNG highlands (see below).

In 1987, in line with my practical development objectives, my family moved onto a block of land at Tari where we developed a crop/livestock farm using local inputs and sustainable methods.

From this experience grew the Family Health and Rural Improvement Programme that I initiated in 1995 to address the need to improve preventive health practices and raise the quality of life among families in rural PNG.

At the same time, I maintained my research interests in association with Institute of Medical Research through the analysis of demographic data and the completion of a number of social, economic and health surveys of the Tari people.

I also provided consultancy services on health and rural development to private organisations.


Bachelor of Economics, Sydney University.


  • English (native)
  • Tok Pisin (PNG – fluent)
  • Huli (PNG highlands language).

Conferences and papers

  • The decline and fall of rural PNG: the case of Tari – seminar paper presented at Resource Management in Asia and the Pacific Department, ANU, Canberra, 2001
  • The Family Health and Rural Improvement Program in Tari, SHP – presentation to National Nutrition Forum, Madang. 1999
  • Demographic trends in Tari – presentation to: Huli Health – Into the Next Millennium Conference, Tari 1998
  • Fertility, infertility and marriage in Tari, Southern Highlands Province – Vail J, Vail P, Lehmann D; paper presented at PNG Medical Symposium, Biomedical and Social Sciences Group, Goroka 1997
  • The relationship between infant mortality and fertility in Tari, SHP – Vail J, Vail P, Crocker J, Alexander N, Whiting D, Lehmann D – paper presented to PNG Medical Symposium, Madang 1996
  • Making a Myth: Seance, Suicide and Circumstance in Tari – paper presented at Importing Cultures: Regional Transformations in Myth and Ritual in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea – Department of Anthropology, University of Brisbane 1995
  • Culture, Behaviour and Health among the Huli of the PNG Highlands – seminar paper presented at ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Canberra 1991.