Keynote Speakers

Please refer back to this page at a later date for additional speaker information.

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Justin Mohamed
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People of Victoria

Justin Mohamed is a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg in Queensland who currently is the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People of Victoria.

Justin has worked with Victorian Aboriginal communities for 20 years before moving to Canberra to take on national positions  as Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia. Prior to his move to Canberra, Justin held positions based in the Shepparton region as the Inaugural Director of the Academy of Sport, Health and Education (ASHE), CEO and later Chairperson of Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative Ltd.

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He chaired the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and chaired the Hume - Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council (RAJAC). Justin has held positions on multiple community, state and national working groups, committees and boards and continues to be a Director of Vision 2020, Co-Chair Cricket Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, Board Member of Kaiela Institute and Director of Supply Nation.

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Dr. Mark Bin Bakar HonECU
Queen of the Kimberley | 2007 Indigenous Person of the Year | 2008 Western Australian of the Year

Dr Mark Bin Bakar (HonECU) and his alter ego "Mary G", have become acclaimed and respected spokespersons for Indigenous people across Australia. In his role as "Mary G", Mark brings humour, wit, wisdom and cultural insight to bring effective and compelling social, emotional and mental wellbeing messages to Indigenous Australians.

Mark and "Mary G's" passion for and commitment to Indigenous health and justice and the building of mutual understanding and respect between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australia has earned them a range of awards including Human Rights Medal (Amnesty Australia) and a National Environmental Health Award.

Mark and "Mary G's" career spans more than 25 years including two series of "The Mary G Show" for SBS-TV and one series of "Straight Shootin'" for NITV. Mark and Mary G have also produced 2 CDs of songs, a series of corporate videos as well as broadcasting for over 20 years on the National Indigenous Radio Service.

In July 2012 Mark and "Mary G" formed an alliance with the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health to promote the Centre's "Deadly Thinking" programme of very successful social and emotional wellbeing workshops designed to inform community leaders about the mental health challenges specific to remote Indigenous communities in a culturally appropriate context.

The Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health is delighted to be working closely with Mark and "Mary G" and is proud to sponsor "Mary G's" appearance at this conference.

Master of Ceremonies

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Dana Shen
DS Consultancy

Dana has 20 years’ experience working across the public and not for profit sectors in the areas of health, families and child protection.

Dana is Aboriginal/Chinese and a descendant of the Ngarrindjeri people in South Australia, and has a passion for working with Aboriginal people and communities. She commenced her career as a Youth Community Development Officer in both the Adelaide Hills and the Murray Lands. In this role she worked with young people, many of who were at risk, in order to create better environments for young people in their communities. Dana went on to work in a number of senior roles with the SA public sector in which she had responsibility for program management, service delivery, policy development and strategic planning.

Dana’s most recent experience has been with The Australian Centre for Social Innovation where she held the role of Principal, Social Services, Systems & Aboriginal Policy. In this role she was responsible for implementing projects and supporting team members to apply innovative techniques and develop solutions to complex social and service problems. Before this, Dana was the Director of the Family by Family Program, a peer-to-peer model where families are matched together to create behaviour change.

Dana has extensive experience working with Aboriginal communities and brings a unique skill set in Aboriginal cultural consultancy, mainstream service delivery and systems change. Dana’s current work includes supporting organisations to plan for the future and improve service delivery, particularly to Aboriginal people and communities.

Dana is currently undertaking the MSc in Systems Thinking in Practice with the Open University, United Kingdom.

Other Speakers

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Prof. Dawn Bessarab PhD, BSW, Hons
Professor [Director] | Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health (CAMDH)

Professor Dawn Bessarab is an Aboriginal woman of Bard (West Kimberley) and Yjindjarbandi (Pilbara) descent who is the Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at the University of Western Australia. Dawn is a highly regarded and experienced senior social worker,  researcher and academic who graduated with her PhD in 2007. Dawn has collaboratively developed clinical yarning and regularly runs workshop on how to apply yarning in the workplace.

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Katie Brett
Aboriginal Project Officer, Population Health | Hunter New England Local Health District

My name is Katie Brett, I am a proud Kamilaroi woman from Tamworth, NSW. My mother and my ancestors are from Quirindi, NSW and Piallaway Station, NSW. I am a proud mother of 2 boys and 1 girl who are Kamilaroi/ Murawari people.

I am a Registered Nurse as well as an Aboriginal Project Officer with Population Health. My previous background includes Aboriginal Health Education Officer and Assistant in Nursing. I am a member of CATSINaM and Australian Health Promotion Association. I am passionate about health promotion and educating my fellow First Nation people on priority health issues in our communities.

I am a firm believer that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses are the frontline advocators, health educators and social/ cultural workers in the hospital setting. I also believe Nurses should feel supported to undertake these extra duties in our position descriptions. We don’t just aim to heal the physical health of a patient, we more importantly aim to heal the social, emotional and spiritual health of our First Nation people.

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Joe Bryant
Project Officer, Lighthouse Hospital Project | Coffs Harbour Health Campus

My name is Joe Bryant; I am a proud Gumbaynggirr man from mid north coast of NSW. I grew up in the small town of Sawtell, near Coffs Harbour. After finishing school, I moved to Sydney and attended the University of Sydney to complete a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy) degree. I worked at Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick before moving back up the coast to Port Macquarie Hospital. I worked have as a physiotherapist for more than 10 years for NSW Health and currently work at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.

During an unpaid sabbatical from physiotherapy I went back to university and completed a Bachelor of Indigenous Studies through Southern Cross University. During my studies I worked remotely on Palm Island and experienced first-hand the disparities in health that Aboriginal people experience. Following the completion of my degree, I commenced in the role of Project Officer for the Lighthouse Hospital Project at Coffs Harbour Health Campus. The project seeks to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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Ted Dowling
Project Officer, Lighthouse Hospital Project / Cardiac Rehabilitation Nurse Specialist | Royal Perth Hospital

Ted Dowling is a Cardiac Rehab Nurse Specialist with a career spanning 30 years, predominantly in Coronary Care at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) and collaboratively with Aboriginal Medical Service, Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service Inc (DYHS) and remote Indigenous communities in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands (Central Australia).  Ted, with several key Aboriginal mentors and community advisory, has been instrumental in the development and implementation of two highly successful Aboriginal cardiac health programs: Kworpading Koort and Heart Health. The Heart Health program is a 10 year joint initiative by DYHS, Heart Foundation WA, RPH and Curtin University.  The program has evolved into a weekly chronic disease management sessions with increasing numbers of regular clients.

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Allana Jackson
Project Officer, Lighthouse Hospital Project | Cairns Hospital

Allana Jackson, the current Project Officer for the Lighthouse Hospital Project at Cairns Hospital, has had over 20 years’ experience in the government sector of schools and education.  She began the development of her skill set in disabilities and mental health as a teacher aid, music educator and tutor and proceeded to further her study to practice social work professionally.  Over the past four years, as a social work clinician, Allana’s core values reflect a culturally responsive and inclusive practice. It is her priority to advocate for improvements in communication within multi-disciplinary teams and cross-culturally.  Allana has achieved implementing these inclinations by demonstrating the provision of staff education, patient education, the utilisation of ‘yarning circles’ in the mental health unit and the current development of a ‘Clinical Yarning Space’ within Cairns Hospital.

I am a woman from many cultures, who wears many hats and like most people I want to be heard and hope to be valued for what I bring to the table.  

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Anne-Marie McOnegal
Lighthouse Project Member / Nurse Navigator | Cairns Hospital

I am a proud decedent of Nelly Maskey – St George area – Mandandanji clan.

Having trained at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, my nursing career spans 29 years. I was in the last intake of hospital trained nurses in Queensland. Since graduation, I have worked in a variety of settings including - ICU at The Prince Charles Hospital Brisbane - Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care Unit, General ICU at the Rockhampton Base Hospital, Palliative Care Unit and Emergency department at the Caloundra Hospital. In 2008 I wrote a book titled Wishes, a self-help book aimed at providing your friends and family with all your Wishes in the event of your passing. In 2011, I moved north with my family to Innisfail where I worked as a Continence Advisor and was awarded a scholarship to attend the IUGA International conference in Brisbane. In 2016 we moved further north to Cairns where I have worked in Adult Community Health and am currently employed in the position of Nurse Navigator - with a focus on improving the health care of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I believe that working in many different areas through my nursing career has given me the knowledge and skills required to confidently navigate my clients through an increasingly complex health care system. I understand the complexities, the blocks and the barriers to clients having a seamless health journey. I am committed to improving health outcomes for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples.

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Reitai Minogue
National Project Manager | Lighthouse Hospital Project

Reitai is the National Project Manager of the Lighthouse Hospital Project at the National Heart Foundation located in Melbourne, Victoria. Reitai is a graduate of Monash University, Melbourne, where she received a Bachelor Pharmacy and a Masters Marketing degree.  

After graduation Reitai worked in both the acute and community sector as a Pharmacist. This has led to over 20 years’ experience in Primary Health Care initially in the Divisions of General Practice, NPS Medicinewise and State Government. She has extensive experience managing complex large-scale state and national projects with multiple partners and stakeholders.  Projects have been structured to systematically improve and redesign end to end processes, drive data collection, analysis and evidenced based application, targeting service delivery to improve the health and safety of Australians both in primary and across the hospital sector.

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Dr. Francesca Panzironi
CEO | Anangu Ngangkari Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation

Dr Francesca Panzironi is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Aṉangu Ngangkaṟi Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation (ANTAC).

Dr. Panzironi is an international human rights academic who applied her knowledge and experience to create a platform for the recognition of the internationally recognized right of Indigenous Peoples to maintain and practice their traditional medicines within Australia' s national health care system.

Dr Panzironi has extensive experience as a researcher and lecturer in the areas of international human rights law, international studies, international and community development. She holds a PhD in Law (University of Sydney), a Master degree in Development and Cooperation (University of Pavia), and an Honor Degree in Political Science (‘La Sapienza’ University, Rome).

Dr Panzironi has presented her research and groundwork in numerous international and national conferences. Her work and achievements with the ngangkaṟi has been featured on national media, including SBS News, National Indigenous Television (NITV), The Point - NITV, ABC Radio, SBS Radio, Channel 7.

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Reakeeta Smallwood
Project Officer, Lighthouse Hospital Project | Tamworth Rural Referral Hospital

My name is Reakeeta Smallwood, I’m a proud Gomeroi/Kamilaroi woman from Tamworth, with my roots extending to Quirindi and Toomelah. Proud mumma of 3, with two strong Murri boys and a beautiful strong young lady protecting over them.

 I’m a Registered nurse and Project Officer for the Tamworth Lighthouse Hospital Project. Proud member of CATSINaM with a passion for workforce and supporting Aboriginal people into nursing and midwifery, with a massive belief that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce is the key to Closing the Gap.

My three key mantras that have evolved from working on this project are:

  • The most rewarding experiences have come from working with and for my community, including partnering with Elders and community members.

  • The actions that are created from the project need constant community empowerment and ownership, importantly done so with a strength-based relationship.

  • Cultural safety and clinical safety should be in the same category and should be considered mutually exclusive in healthcare if we as Australians want to address the current disparity towards a healthier, empowered future for First Nations people.

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Jamie Marloo Thomas
Executive Director | Wayapa Wuurrk P/L
Chairperson | Wayapa Wuurrk Aboriginal Wellness Foundation

Jamie Marloo Thomas is a highly respected Senior Cultural Knowledge Holder for his GunaiKurnai and Maara Communities of Victoria. He is the Co-Founder of Wayapa Wuurrk®, an internationally-accredited Earth Mindfulness Connection Practice, and also the Founder of the Wayapa Wuurrk Aboriginal Wellness Foundation. Jamie is passionate about sharing his Ancestors’ wisdom of taking care of the earth for global intergenerational wellbeing as well as revitalising the traditional knowledge, practices and ceremonies of his people.

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Justine Williams
Project Officer, Lighthouse Hospital Project / Cardiac Research and Quality Nurse | Royal Darwin Hospital

Justine Williams is a Registered Nurse (UTAS) with a Graduate Diploma in Cardiac Nursing (University of Adelaide), Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Management (Flinders University), Masters of Nursing – Leadership and Management (Uni SA). Over the past 18 years, Justine has worked in South Australia and the Northern Territory in clinical, management and education roles in the areas of Cardiology and Surgery.

In 2018, Justine moved to Darwin and commenced at The Royal Darwin Hospital as the Cardiac Research and Quality Nurse managing projects within the Cardiology space. Justine is also the Royal Darwin Hospital Lighthouse Project Officer. Justine’s primary areas of focus include improving the patient experience through enhanced engagement between clinicians and patients.

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Alison Verhoeven
CEO | Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA)

Alison Verhoeven is Chief Executive of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, the independent peak membership body and advocate for the Australian healthcare system and a national voice for universally accessible, high quality healthcare in Australia.  Its members include public and not-for-profit hospitals, primary health networks, primary and community health services, universities and individual health leaders.  Ms Verhoeven has broad experience in health, education, corporate governance and communications, and has worked in both the private and public sectors in Australia, the Asia-Pacific region, and Europe.