1.National : Donnella Mills – Chair NACCHO and Wuchopperen Health Service
2.NT: Donna Ah Chee Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
3.NSW: LaVerne Bellear Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service
4.TAS: Raylene Foster Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation
5.NT: Olga Havnen Danila Dilba Health Service
6.VIC: Karen Heap Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative
7.SA: Vicki Holmes Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia
8.WA: Lesley Nelson South West Aboriginal Medical Service
9.ACT: Julie Tongs Winnunga Nimmityjah Health and Community Service
10. QLD: Gail Wason Mulungu Primary Health Care Service
“Aboriginal women are the best advocates and leaders for health and wellbeing in their own families and in the broader community.
They are proving to be effective role models, mentors and influencers for the next generation of Aboriginal female leaders.
Recently NACCHO CEO Pat Turner told a women’s leadership summit
As mothers, aunts, grandmothers, sisters and daughters, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have culturally and historically always played a pivotal role in supporting and caring for families in our communities so working in the health sector was a natural progression.
For over 47 years Indigenous health activists like Dr Naomi Mayers, Coleen Shirley (Mum Shirl) Smith AM MBE, Jill Gallagher AO, Vicki O’Donnell, Pamela Mam, and the late Mary Buckskin have been just some of our leaders who have successfully advocated for community controlled, culturally respectful, needs based approach to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of our people.
See previous NACCHO #IWD Tribute HERE
As a result of their leadership and years of commitment as role models they have now paved the way for 10 women to be on the NACCHO board, 71 Indigenous women promoted to CEO’s out of 145 Organisations who employ over 6,000 staff with a majority being Indigenous woman
Our ACCHO network has successfully provided a critical and practical pathway for the education, training and employment for many Indigenous women.But much more needs to be done to develop viable career pathways to graduate more Indigenous women doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.
Last year NACCHO, RANZCOG and other medical college Presidents met with the Minister for Indigenous Health and other ministers in Canberra who are all determined to do everything possible to Close the Gap in health outcomes.
Creating career pathways for Indigenous women in our workforce will be a good starting point to continue supporting the theme ” More powerful together ”
1.National : Donnella Mills – Chair NACCHO and Wuchopperen Health Service QLD
Donnella is a Torres Strait Islander woman with ancestral and family links to Masig and Nagir in the Torres Strait.
She is a Cairns–based lawyer with LawRight, a Community Legal Centre which coordinates the provision of pro-bono civil legal services to disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the community. Donnella is currently the project lawyer for the Wuchopperen Health Justice Partnership through a partnership with LawRight. This innovative Health Justice Partnership is an exciting model of providing access to justice, where lawyers and health professionals collaborate to provide better health outcomes and access to justice for patients with legal issues.
Donnella said she was “very excited about the opportunity to contribute to working the new Chairperson, the new board and the NACCHO Executive to drive the national health debate, develop community led solution, and to champion why Community-Controlled is the pinnacle model in achieving greater autonomy and self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Utilising a legal lens in which to view health, social justice, human rights, and access to justice, my commitment is to deliver expanded and enhanced innovative health services that are community driven and community led, addressing core systemic social determinant issues that have a direct impact on our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
2.NT: Donna Ah Chee CEO Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
Ms Ah Chee is the Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation, the Aboriginal community controlled primary health care service in Alice Springs.
Ms Ah Chee is a Bundgalung woman from the far north coast of New South Wales and has lived in Alice Springs for over 25 years.
She has been actively involved in Aboriginal affairs for many years, especially in the area of Aboriginal adult education and Aboriginal health. In June 2011, Ms Ah Chee moved to Canberra to take up the position of Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation before returning to Congress in July 2012.
Ms Ah Chee convened the Workforce Working Party under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Health Forum, was Chairperson of the Central Australian Regional Indigenous Health Planning Committee, a member of the Northern Territory Child Protection External Monitoring Committee and jointly headed up the Northern Territory Government’s Alcohol Framework Project Team.
She currently sits on the National Drug and Alcohol Committee and at a local level, represents the Congress on the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition.
3.NSW: LaVerne Bellear CEO Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service
LaVerne Bellear a descendant from the Nunukle Tribe of south-eastern Queensland, grew up in the northern part of the Bundjalung Nation (north coast New South Wales).
LaVerne strongly believes that empowering Aboriginal people will create opportunity to make better informed decisions and choices regarding personal management of health care, ultimately resulting in better health outcomes. LaVerne has extensive experience in Aboriginal health, having worked in community health, Aboriginal controlled health services and as the Director, Aboriginal Health, Northern Sydney Local Health District.
Recently, LaVerne has taken up the position of CEO, Aboriginal Medical Service Cooperative at Redfern, New South Wales.
She has been a state representative on a number of working parties and committees concerning Aboriginal health. LaVerne has a Bachelor of Business, a Professional Certificate in Indigenous Research in Training and Practices and is studying a Master of Public Health at The University of New South Wales.
4.TAS: Raylene Foster Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation
Raylene Foster is a palawa women from the Cygnet area. She commenced her career in hospitality, becoming a chef, and then moved into adult teaching within the TAFE institute.
Raylene took on a six-month secondment to Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in 1995 and stayed; she has now been with the TAC for over 20 years
She’s had varying roles within the TAC, including the Director of the Aboriginal Community School, Workforce Development Officer, Emotional and Social Wellbeing Coordinator and over the past 15 years the Manager of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre in the South, which includes the Aboriginal Health Service.
Raylene has a Graduate Certificate in Administration and an Advanced Diploma in Human Resources, as well as Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs and Mental Health and a facilitator in the SMART Recovery program. Raylene is passionate about children’s wellbeing and keeping families connected to break the cycle of institutionalisation, separations and trauma-related illnesses.
Raylene’s Abstract For This Months Rural Health Conference in Hobart
The Aboriginal cultural camp was an initiative that commenced in 2016 for Tasmanian registrars, GPs and members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. We wanted to go beyond the basic requirements of attendance at cultural training, to offer an immersion in to Aboriginal culture, on Aboriginal country, with mutual benefit for the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.
The camp is held annually at trawtha makuminya, Aboriginal-owned land in the Central Highlands of Tasmania, from a Friday afternoon until a Sunday afternoon. Registrars, General Practitioners, Practice Staff and General Practice Training Tasmania staff and family members attend, in addition to the TAC staff Camp Organisers and Caterers, Cultural and Land Educators, Elders and community members.
The weekend involves an official welcome speech, dance and music, yarning around the campfire, guided walks with discussion about Aboriginal history, the land and stone tools, kayaking, basket weaving, hand stencilling, clap stick making, and a session of “You Can’t Ask That”. There is a medical education session and participants hear from an Aboriginal Health Worker and Aboriginal Enrolled Nurse about the services offered by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.
There is a lot of informal discussion about culture and life stories shared by both the adults and the children.
The feedback given to date, both informally and through the evaluation forms, is overwhelmingly positive. Participants value the beautiful location, the opportunity to spend time with community members outside the clinical setting, the obvious connection to country displayed by the Aboriginal community and the sharing of stories in a cultural exchange.
5.NT: Olga Havnen CEO Danila Dilba Health Service Darwin
Olga is of Western Arrente descent and grew up in Tennant Creek. Her great-grandfather was Ah Hong, a Chinese cook who worked on the Overland Telegraph Line whose partner was an Aboriginal woman in Alice Springs.
Their daughter Gloria, Havnen’s grandmother, was the first Aboriginal woman to own a house in Alice Springs. Havnen’s father was a Norwegian sailor who jumped ship in Adelaide and her mother, Pegg lived in Tennant Creek. Havnen went to boarding school in Townsville, Queensland.
Olga Havnen has held positions as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs Co-ordinator for the Australian Red Cross, Senior Policy Officer in the Northern Territory Government’s Indigenous Policy Unit, Indigenous Programs Director with the Fred Hollows Foundation, and Executive Officer with the National Indigenous Working Group.
And was the Coordinator General of Remote Service Provision from 2011 until October 2012, when the Northern Territory Government controversially abolished the position.
She released one report which detailed deficiencies in Northern Territory and Commonwealth Government’s service provision to remote communities in the Northern Territory.
She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service.
Havnen gave evidence at the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory critical of the outcomes and delivery of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response, commonly referred to as the Intervention stating “the experience of the Intervention was such a debacle you’d never want that repeated, but I do think that there is a role for the federal government in here in the Northern Territory”,
6.VIC: Karen Heap Ballarat & District Aboriginal Co-operative : Chair VACCHO
Karen Heap, a Yorta Yorta woman, has been the CEO of Ballarat and District Aboriginal Cooperative for 12 years and brings with her a vast amount of knowledge and skillsets procured from extensive experience within the Aboriginal Service Sector.
Karen Heap was recently the winner of the Walda Blow Award ( pictured above )
This award was established by DHHS in partnership with the Victorian Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, in memory of Aunty Walda Blow – a proud Yorta
Yorta and Wemba Wemba Elder who lived her life in the pursuit of equality.
Aunty Walda was an early founder of the Dandenong and District Aboriginal Cooperative and worked for over 40 years improving the lives of the Aboriginal community. This award recognises contributions of an Aboriginal person in Victoria to the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people.
Karen ensures the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children and young people are always front and centre.
Karen has personally committed her support to the Ballarat Community through establishing and continuously advocating for innovative prevention, intervention and reunification programs.
As the inaugural Chairperson of the Alliance, Karen contributions to establishing the identity and achieving multiple outcomes in the Alliance Strategic Plan is celebrated by her peers and recognised by the community service sector and DHHS.
Karen’s leadership in community but particularly for BADAC, has seen new ways of delivering cultural models of care to Aboriginal children, carers and their families, ensuring a holistic service is provided to best meet the needs of each individual and in turn benefit the community.
7.SA: Vicki Holmes Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia
Vicki Holmes is an Aboriginal woman descended from the Tanganekald and Western Aranda clan. Vicki has been with Nunkuwarrin Yunti for 32 years where she has had many roles; her first position was the medical receptionist but she also did whatever was needed including home visits, transport and hospital visits.
In 1986, Vicki became the Health Coordinator and while in this role programs such as women’s health, HIV, diabetes, mental health and social/welfare support expanded and developed. In 2010, Vicki became the CEO of Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia. As CEO of Nunkuwarrin Yunti, she holds positions on the Boards of NACCHO, the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia, Research Excellence in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health (REACCH), and First Peoples National Congress.
Her vision for Nunkuwarrin Yunti is around what she calls the four Cs: Community, Communication, Caring, Consistency. Vicki has always been passionate about the social and emotional wellbeing of the Aboriginal community.
8.WA: Lesley Nelson CEO South West Aboriginal Medical Service
SWAMS are united by the drive and passion to provide culturally safe, accessible and holistic health care to the Aboriginal people of the South West. WA
As an organisation, they continue to attract and employ culturally appropriate and professional staff members. SWAMS employs over 70 staff members including specialist Aboriginal Health Practitioners, Dietitians, Nurses, Midwives, Mental Health workers and Social Workers and because of this, we are able to provide a large and diverse range of services to the community.
In addition to this, they strive to create Aboriginal career pathways and opportunities across the sector and maintain a positive percentage of ATSI employees
Last year as preparations got underway for the South West Aboriginal Medical Service’s 20th anniversary, centre chief executive officer Lesley Nelson has reflected on how far indigenous health has advanced in the South West in that time.
Ms Nelson said the centre started small with a handful of staff and a desire to improve Aboriginal health outcomes in the region.
Over the next 20 years, it expanded with clinics in Bunbury, Busselton, Manjimup, Collie and Brunswick.
“We started after local elders held discussions with a number of key groups about developing a culturally appropriate service to address the health-related issues of the South West’s Indigenous population,” she said.
“Since then we’ve gone from strength-to-strength, offering a number of employment opportunities in the sector, training programs and improved health outcomes.”
Ms Nelson said the local service played an important role in the community.
“Being based in a number of country towns ensured locals can access our services conveniently, especially if they lack transport options to the bigger cities,” she said.
“We offer an important service because we intervene and manage issues early on and slowly we are improving the health of the South West Noongar people.
“We are also standing out nationally when it comes to maternal and child health.”
Moving forward, SWAMS are keen to continue growing, participating in more research studies and working collaboratively with other similar services to offer a whole of community approach to improved health.
9.ACT: Julie Tongs Winnunga Nimmityjah Health and Community Service
Julie Tongs OAM has been the Chief Executive Officer of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services since 1998. Julie has more than 30 years experience working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and in particular has extensive experience in advising, formulating, implementing and evaluating public health initiatives, programs and policy at a local, regional and national level.
Julie has been a national leader and strong advocate of quality improvement initiatives within the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector.
Julie is the recipient of a number of awards, including the ACT Governor General’s Centenary Medal and the ACT Indigenous Person of the Year. In 2011 Julie received the ACT Local Hero Award within the Australian of the Year Awards 2012, and in 2012 Julie was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia.
Julie’s vision is that Winnunga continues to build on its reputation as a national leader in the provision of holistic primary health care services delivered in a culturally appropriate environment that achieves improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Julie is committed to ensuring that Winnunga offers services that are delivered consistent with best practice standards.
10 .QLD: Gail Wason Mulungu Primary Health Care Service
‘We see the best way to build capacity and capability within our corporation is by encouraging strong leaders, maintaining effective governance, ensuring strong systems, and keeping focused on accountable performance management.
Mulungu help our clients to make informed decisions. We work in health but we also work across education and job opportunities. Our model supports individuals who want to do the best for themselves, their family and their community.’
CEO Gail Wason.
Gail is the Chief Executive Officer of Mulungu Primary Health Care Service in Mareeba. She has over 25 years’ experience in Aboriginal affairs and health, and an unwavering commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of her community.
Gail strives to ensure that the community has access to the full range of high quality, culturally appropriate primary health care services that empowers clients to fully participate in the management of their own health.
She has served as QAIHC’s Far North Queensland Director and Chairperson of QAIHC’s Finance Committee and has worked closely with the Board for many years.
Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre is an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation working to improve the lives of Indigenous people in and around Mareeba.
The centre was established in 1991 and incorporated under the CATSI Act in 1993.
The rural town of Mareeba—a word from local Aboriginal language meaning ‘meeting of the waters’—is located on the Atherton Tablelands where the Barron River meets Granite Creek. Traditionally Muluridji people inhabited this land.
‘Although the bright lights of Cairns are only 65 kilometres away we feel like a stand-alone, small country town,’ says chair of the Mulungu board of directors (and valued volunteer) Alan Wason. ‘We have a population of 10,000 and our own identity separate from Cairns.’
The town of Mareeba may be a little tucked away but it has much to offer, including Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre—a bright, open, modern building—which employs a large professional staff who work as a team and support each other. Everyone is passionate about providing top quality holistic health care to the community through Mulungu’s programs and services.
Mulungu’s mission is to provide comprehensive primary health care to the community in culturally, socially and emotionally appropriate ways. It’s about handing back power to the people to manage their own health, wellbeing and spiritual needs. So as well as providing clinical health care services Mulungu ‘auspices’ other important primary health care programs, including the Mareeba Children and Families Centre (CFC), Mareeba Parent and Community Engagement (PaCE) Program, and the Mareeba Young and Awesome Project (MY&A).
The MY&A Project tackles the problem of binge drinking in the community. Its aim is to motivate young people (aged 12 to 25) to get involved in constructive activities that they might enjoy—and to get them away from drinking alcohol. This two-year project is funded by the Australian Government.
‘We help our clients to make informed decisions,’ says Gail Wason. ‘We work in health but we also work across education and job opportunities. Our model supports individuals who want to do the best for themselves, their family and their community.’
It’s all about changing and improving lives.
To learn more about Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Medical Service visit http://mulungu.org.au.