Keynote Speakers

A – D   E – H   I – L   M – P   Q – T   U – Z

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Tim Costello
Chief Advocate, World Vision
Advocacy, equity and access around the world

Rev Tim Costello is one of Australia’s best known community leaders and a sought after voice on social justice issues, leadership and ethics.

For 13 years until October 2016, Tim was Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, placing the challenges of global poverty on the national agenda. In his current role as Chief Advocate, Tim continues to use his public profile to affect change.

In earlier roles Tim was National President of the Baptist Union of Australia and Mayor of St Kilda. He has been Baptist Minister at St Kilda Baptist and Collins Street Baptist in Melbourne, as well as Executive Director of Urban Seed. In these roles he spearheaded public debate on problem gambling, urban poverty, homelessness, reconciliation and substance abuse.

Initially Tim studied law and education at Monash University, followed by theology at the International Baptist Seminary in Rueschlikon, Switzerland.  He also received a Masters Degree in Theology from the Melbourne College of Divinity.

In 2004, Tim was named Victorian of the Year; in June 2005 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO); and in 2006 was named Victoria’s Australian of the Year.
His books include Faith (2016), Hope (2012), Another Way to Love (co-edited with Rod Yule); Streets of Hope: Finding God in St Kilda; Tips from a Travelling Soul Searcher; and Wanna Bet? Winners and Losers in Gambling’s Luck Myth (co-written with Royce Millar).

Tim and his wife Merridie have three adult children, Claire, Elliot and Martin.


Coming soon..


Phil Edmondson
Chief Executive Officer, Primary Health Tasmania
Lessons from the front line - tackling big system challenges through rural primary health commissioning

Phil is the CEO of Primary Health Tasmania, a non-government, not-for-profit organisation working to connect care and keep Tasmanians well and out of hospital. It was established on 1 July 2015 under the Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks Program to support and enable a coordinated, primary care focused health system.

Phil has worked in the general practice and primary health care sector for more than 20 years at both program management and organisational leadership levels and is well known to providers and system, policy and organisational administrators across the state.

This work has included leading several transformative organisational reconfigurations and establishment of a number of new and innovative services and solutions supporting primary health providers to improve the health of Tasmanians.

He sees his current role working with providers and communities to build understanding and capacity to influence the changes to our health system that Tasmania needs.  Working in complex system environments presents a myriad of challenges for the health system in Tasmania and Phil has enjoyed the opportunities to develop and evolve the type of sustainable system and service partnerships and collaborations that underpin positive outcomes for our health system and state.

As CEO of Primary Health Tasmania, Phil is overseeing the introduction of new approaches to partnership-based health service commissioning and capacity building - a genuine opportunity for the primary health sector to play a stronger role in a more balanced and sustainable health system.


PHNs have a unique, some may say, monumental challenge in effecting changes through their commissioning roles to the service delivery systems for primary health care across regional, rural and remote Australia. Navigating the challenges of community change management, local ownership and control, integration of health and medical services, multi layered politics and policy settings that seemingly change with the wind require a degree of realism, pragmatism and persistence. 

This presentation examines the experiences of one PHN in evolving a new commissioning role and outcomes in rural and remote primary health services across a whole state.  It considers the myriad influences that such a process throws up for the unwary and some of the lessons learned along the way.

Allan Fels
Chair, National Mental Health Commission
An economic perspective on the rural and regional mental health challenge

Professor Allan Fels is currently the Chairman of the National Mental Health Commission.  In the field of mental health Professor Fels serves or has served on several government advisory boards.  He is also Chairman of the Haven Foundation, which seeks to provide accommodation, support and care for the long-term mentally ill.   He is also patron of many mental health networks.   He was a member of the Bayside Health Board for several years.

Professor Fels is a long-term advocate of mental health policy reform and a carer for his daughter.

He is former Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (1995-2003). Prior to that he was Chair of its predecessor bodies, the Trade Practices Commission (1991-1995) and of the Prices Surveillance Authority (1989-1992). 

He is currently a professorial fellow in the University of Melbourne, both in the Melbourne Law School and in the Faculty of Economics and Business, an adjunct professor at Monash University in the Faculty of Business and Economics, and visiting professor at the Division of Social Sciences in the University of Oxford.  Professor Fels is former Dean of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), a position he occupied from 2003 (as Foundation Dean) until 2012. 

Professor Fels is Chair of the Commonwealth Government Migrant Workers Taskforce, Chair of the Visy Australasia Governance Board and member of the Global Advisory Board of Uber.


This presentation will cover the current national mental health reforms resulting from the National Mental Health Commission Report and special issues affecting rural and remote Australia will be the focus and the economic issues emphasised.

Sr Anne Gardiner
2017 Senior Australian of the Year
Community champion, connecting cultures and celebrating Aboriginal heritage

In 1953, as a 22-year-old member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Sister Anne Gardiner was asked to move to Bathurst Island to live among the Tiwi people.

Sister Anne has devoted 50 of the 63 years since to enriching community, enhancing opportunity and supporting the Tiwi culture. An advocate of peace, love, local decision-making Tiwi language and culture, Sister Anne has worked tirelessly to educate generations of children while also establishing community groups from mother’s clubs to Little Athletics.

Since her retirement as principal of the local primary school, Sister Anne has run regular prayer meetings, founded an op shop and established a coffee shop to support her much-loved community. Sister Anne’s labour of love is working with community members to establish the Patakajiyali museum where Tiwi history, culture and language can be preserved for future generations.

A key part of the community, Sister Anne is much loved and respected by the Tiwi people and has earned an enduring place in their hearts.

Coming soon..
David Gillespie
Assistant Minister for Health

David and his wife Charlotte married in 1990 and have three children: Isabelle 22, Oliver 20 and Alice 17. David and Charlotte have raised their family on their farm in the Hastings Valley, on which they run grass-fed Angus beef for the export market.

David graduated MB BS from University of Sydney in 1981 and Fellow of Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP) in 1991. As an undergraduate, he gained experience training both in Papua New Guinea and British Columbia. David’s post graduate specialist training included stints at hospitals at Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo while based at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in Sydney (1981-1982 and 1987-1990). David also gained two years of paediatric experience at Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children (RAHC) Camperdown (1983-84), St George Hospital (1991) and at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital (1992). David obtained a Diploma of Anaesthetics (London) and Diploma of Child Health (UK) in 1986 after working in the UK NHS (1985-6).

Before entering Federal Parliament, David had 33 years of medical practice, including 21 years as specialist Gastroenterologist and Consultant Specialist Physician in Port Macquarie (1993 -2013). David was active in Postgraduate Medical Training as Director of Physician training at Port Macquarie Base Hospital (1995 – 2009) and was instrumental in the Base Hospital achieving accreditation by Royal Australasian College of Physicians for Specialist Training and becoming a Centre for College Examinations.

David and Charlotte built, licensed and ran the free standing Hastings Day Surgery in Port Macquarie for 12 years. During this period, David also lectured and tutored at UNSW Rural Medical School since its inception.

David uses his first-hand experience in public and privately managed health delivery and small business to ensure Australia’s health system delivers high quality cost-effective care in an affordable and fiscally sustainable manner.

Coming soon..
Sandra Harding
Vice Chancellor, James Cook University
State of the Tropics Project

Professor Sandra Harding, BSc (Hons) ANU, MPubAdmin UQ, PhD NCSU, Hon Doc JIU, FACE, FQA, FAICD, FAIM, took up her appointment as Vice Chancellor and President of James Cook University in January 2007. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring clear and effective leadership and management of the University across all operating sites, including campuses in Cairns, Singapore and Townsville.

Professor Harding has extensive academic and academic leadership experience. An economic sociologist by training, her areas of enduring academic interest include work, organisation and markets and how they work. She also has a keen interest in public policy in two key areas: education policy and related areas; and; the global Tropics, northern Australia and economic development.

Professor Harding has undertaken a wide variety of external roles within the business community and the higher education sector, including Chair of the peak body representing all Australian universities, Universities Australia (2013-2015); Member, Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) Advisory Board (2012-2015); and; Member, Northern Australia Advisory Group (advising Prime Minister Abbott, 2014-2015).

Current roles include: Project Convener, State of the Tropics project; Chair, Australian Bureau of Statistics Independent Assurance Panel on 2016 Census of Population and Housing data; Commissioner, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; Member, Trade, Tourism and Investment Policy Advisory Council; Member, National Research Infrastructure Roadmap Expert Working Group; Director, Australian American Education Leadership Foundation; Director, Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Board; Councillor, Queensland Futures Institute; Co-Vice Chair, the New Colombo Plan Reference Group; Council Member, the Australian Institute of Marine Science; Director, North Queensland Cowboys NRL club; Director of Townsville Enterprise and of Advance Cairns (regional economic development bodies); and; a Governor of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).


At a time of great global change and as the world begins to implement a redefined global development agenda, the importance of the tropical region and its role in our global future looms large. At present around 42 percent of the world’s population resides in the Tropics, along with 55 percent of the world’s children. 

By the 2040s, more than half of the world’s population will live in the Tropics and by 2050, around 67 percent of the world’s children will reside there. Poverty has halved in the Tropics since the 1980s, the rates of infectious diseases are declining, along with maternal and child mortality rates. Life expectancy is on the rise. However, it is not all good news. Tropical nations also face many health challenges, including the risks associated with the ‘double burden’ of disease where the prevalence of non-communicable, lifestyle disease is increasing even as infectious disease and under-nutrition remain public health issues. The landmark State of the Tropics Report 2014, launched by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in June of that year, and the larger project of which this is a part has served to raise awareness of the Tropics worldwide, yielding action at the United Nations and gathering momentum to ensure key challenges in the Tropics are addressed and opportunities realised. 

For universities and research institutions focused on the Tropics, this is our place, and we share a responsibility to work with and for the people of the Tropics, to bring to bear the power of our understanding, science and innovation on the issues of the Tropics to create a brighter future for the Tropics and its peoples. 


Claire Jackson
Director, UQ-MRI Centre for Health System Reform and Integration, and Professor in Primary Care Research, Primary Care Clinical Unit, University of Queensland
Primary health care: leading Australian health system reform

Claire Jackson MBBS (Uni of Qld) MD (UQ) MPH (UQ) CertHEcon (Monash) GradCert Management (QUT) FRACGP FAICD, Professor in General Practice and Primary Care Research, and Director, Centres for Primary Care Reform Research Excellence, University of Queensland.

Claire has been active in integrated care innovation, education and research for many years, and has been extensively involved in health services research and reform since the early 90s. She was appointed to the national PHC Advisory Group in May 2015, and was a member of the National Primary Care Strategy Expert Reference Group, the guiding force behind Australia’s first national primary care strategy.  She provided a commissioned paper for the National Health and Hospital Reform Commission on new models in primary care. Her description of the ‘beacon’ practice model, piloted at Inala Primary Care, was adopted as both the clinical prototype for the Australian Association of Academic General Practitioner’s endorsed model for GP Superclinics, and the basis for UQ’s successful $ 10 million Superclinic tenders.  Inala Primary Care won RACGP Qld ‘Practice of the Year’ in 2009.

Since 2009, Claire has been a national driver in the Health Care Home initiative – publishing and presenting widely on the topic and sitting on national Advisory Committees for both Ministers Plebisek and Ley.  She is Clinical Director of two $ 2.5 million Centres for Research Excellence in Primary Care Reform - one exploring new models of integrated care between hospital and community, the other investigating the impact of researcher and end-user ‘co-creation’ on clinical quality, patient experience, governance and models of care.

Her current primary area of research interest is in health system reform involving primary care, a topic on which she has published and presented internationally. Her MD Thesis was entitled ‘Building an Integrated Health Care Delivery System around Primary Care’.  With Inge de Jong, Claire co-authored “Achieving Effective Health Care Integration – the Essential Guide”, a publication that sold over 1000 copies.  Claire was heavily involved in the development of Australian Divisions of General Practice and Medicare Locals, and sat on state assessment panels and a number of Divisional and one Medicare Local Board.

Claire is currently Chair of Brisbane North Primary Health Network and is a Board member of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia Ltd (HCF), Australia’s largest NFP private health insurer.  She sits on the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Medical Journal of Australia and is a member of both Queensland Health’s Integrated Care Innovation Fund Select Committee and the Department of Health’s, Health Care Home Working Group. She was a Ministerial appointment to lead the National Review of Afterhour’s Primary Health Care in 2014.

She is immediate Past-President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and is an active clinician and GP trainer in Brisbane.

She was a 2014 Finalist in the Qld Telstra Business Women’s ‘Business Innovation’ and ‘Community and Government’ Awards.


This presentation will trace the evolution of primary health care (PHC) quality and capacity building in Australia from our first National Primary Health Care Strategy to current reform initiatives such as the COAG National Coordinated Care Reform, health pathways, PHN / LHN co-commissioning and the Health Care Home pilots.  It will include tools to build excellence in primary care delivery, achievements to date, and conclude with the challenges which lie ahead.

Anne Kelso
Chief Executive Officer, National Health and Medical Research Council

Professor Anne Kelso AO is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Anne was previously Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza in Melbourne, a role she held from 2007 until early 2015. Her earlier research career was spent at the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, where she earned her reputation as a leading researcher in the field of immunology. From 2000 until 2006, she was also Director/CEO of the Cooperative Research Centre for Vaccine Technology. She has previously served as President of the Australasian Society for Immunology, as Secretary-General of the International Union of Immunological Societies and as a member of several governing boards and advisory groups, including the Council of QUT, the Boards of the Telethon Kids Institute and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, and committees advising the WHO and the Australian Government on influenza. She was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia in June 2007 for service to science.

Coming soon..
Marcia Langton
Chair, Australian indigenous Studies, University of Melbourne

Professor Marcia Langton B.A. (Hons) ANU, PhD Macq. U., A.M., F.A.S.S.A. has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at The University of Melbourne since February 2000. As an anthropologist and geographer, Professor Langton has made a significant contribution to government and non-government policy as well as to Indigenous studies at three universities. She has produced an extensive body of knowledge in the areas of political and legal anthropology, Indigenous agreements and engagement with the minerals industry, and Indigenous culture and art. Her 2012 Boyer lectures titled ‘The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom' is one of her recent contributions to public debate, and have added to her influence and reputation in government and private sector circles. In 1993 she was made a member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her work in anthropology and the advocacy of Aboriginal rights. Professor Langton is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, a Fellow of Trinity College, Melbourne and an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College at The University of Queensland. In 2016 Professor Langton is honoured as a University of Melbourne Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor.  

Coming soon..


Bob Manning
Mayor of Cairns
Welcome to Cairns

Bob Manning became Mayor of Cairns in 2012 as the leader of the Unity Team and is a prominent Cairns identity. Bob has a wealth of experience in senior management roles in Australia and overseas. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Queensland and has a Business Studies degree with a major in accounting.  He was Shire Clerk at Longreach for seven years before becoming Chief Executive Officer of the Cairns Port Authority from 1984 to 2002. Overseas, he worked as a strategic management consultant in Jordan on a US aid project to modernise the management of the country’s Custom
Service. Bob held the position of General Manager of the Cairns ship building and engineering company NQEA having previously served as a Director of the company for nine years.

In 2005, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Hermes Airports Ltd, a multinational consortium established to set up new international airports in the Republic of Cyprus. The company carried out a large scale re‐development program, including the construction of two new terminal building and associated works costing A$1 billion.  He has received a number of major awards marking his business and community work. They include the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to the Cairns community through the development and promotion of the tourism maritime and aviation industries. He was awarded the Australia Day 2002 City of Cairns Citizen of the Year. Bob is a Life Member of Tourism Tropical North Queensland, having served on the Board of the organisation for 15 years, three of these as Chairman and he recently was made an Honorary Member of Airports Council International, the peak world airport association. Bob is also a director of the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair. Bob is a Vietnam veteran after graduating from the Officer Training Unit with the rank of 2Lt, he served in SVN from 1970 to 1971.

Coming soon..
Kelly McJannett
Chief Executive Officer, Food Ladder
The seed of change

Kelly McJannett is the Chief Executive Officer of Food Ladder, an innovative NGO creating social enterprises to address food security internationally.

Kelly is passionate about using business to create sustainable solutions to pervasive social issues affecting communities around the world and galvanising the power and passion of organisations and governments to the movement.

In four years Food Ladder has transformed from the seed of an idea to an award winning business funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that has collectively created employment for over 300 people previously living in poverty or suffering from long-term unemployment.

With a background in communications, Kelly is experienced in developing start-ups as well as designing innovative and compelling strategies to deliver growth. Kelly has held management roles in Indigenous education, employment and development sectors before pursuing her dream of addressing food security challenges on a global scale.

With a unique model that promotes the self-sovereignty and economic independence of communities, Food Ladder is empowering disadvantaged people to grow their own produce using its hydroponic greenhouses in the slums of India through to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Working with Governments to scale its reach, Kelly’s vision is to provide a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable solution to food security for impoverished communities around the world. 

Kelly is the recipient of the Sydney University 2016 Anstice Community Leader MBA Scholarship.

Kelly was named by The Australia Financial Review and Westpac among Australia’s 100 Women of Influence in November 2016.


Food security and related health issues are one of the greatest challenges facing remote communities. The success of the Food Ladder model illustrates how social enterprise, appropriate technology, collaboration and a shared responsibility for the epidemic is able to deliver lasting impact and outcomes in a way which is sustainable and financially viable in the long-term.

With visions expanding, Food Ladder is sowing the seed for change through broad implementation of its high-impact and proven model for improved remote Indigenous health across the country.

Janine Mohamed
Chief Executive Officer, Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives
How will our history be told?

Janine Mohamed is a proud Narrunga Kaurna woman from South Australia. Over the past 20 years she has worked in nursing, management, workforce and health policy, and project management in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector. Many of these years have been spent in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector at state and national levels. Internationally, Janine has been a delegate at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on two occasions. Currently, she is the CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).

Janine has a passion for both increasing and supporting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, in particular, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the health workforce; in fact, this has been a primary focus in all of her state and national work. She has initiated and/or managed many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and governance projects, and has been a representative for both NACCHO and CATSINaM on The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Working Group which she now chairs and is a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Health Leadership Forum. Janine has also led and participated in numerous Health Workforce Australia Projects and Committees.


Embedding cultural safety at all levels of the Australian health system is essential for improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and health professionals, and also for other Indigenous people working in health systems. Momentum is building for a wider uptake of cultural safety, thanks to the forthcoming Version 2 of the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards as well as other moves in the pipeline. However, concerted efforts are needed to ensure these measures have the desired effects, especially for rural and remote communities.

How do we ensure that when history is told about this era, it shows that regulation for cultural safety improved healthcare and health outcomes?


Mick Reid
Deputy Chair, Royal Flying Doctor Service
Best bang for buck?

Mick Reid has undertaken many roles in the Australian health system during a career that spans four decades. His experience includes bureaucrat, consultant, academic and political advisor giving him a breadth of experience and depth of knowledge that is unique in Australia.

Mick was Director General of Health in two States. For five years until 2002, he held the position of Director General of New South Wales Health. More recently, until 2011, he spent three years as Director General of Queensland Health.

Between these two appointments he worked at the George Institute for International Health, was Director General for the Ministry of Science and Medical Research in NSW and was Chief of Staff to the Australian Minister for Health.

When not engaged in the public sector, Mick is Principal of his consulting company, Michael Reid & Associates, which has undertaken health and science projects throughout Australasia, for governments in Asian, and the Pacific and with UN organisations.

Broad areas of consultation have related to macro health systems development and evaluation, services planning, indigenous health, coordination and translation of health and science research, health workforce reform and performance analysis. He provides mentoring servies to many people in engaged in the Health Sector.

Mick holds Adjunct Professorships in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney and the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Western Sydney.

Currently, he is President of Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia and Deputy Chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia.

Mick is also a member of RSL Healthcare and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics Advisory Board.

In 2011, Mick was awarded the Sidney Sax Medal for contributions to Australian Health Services.


If you could direct scarce rural health funding to initiatives likely to maximise health outcomes, what would that initiative be?  Professor Mick Reid, the Co-Chair of the Royal Flying Doctor Service with a life’s experience in health care policy, will consider what’s most likely to lead to better health outcomes in the bush, informed by what bush health consumers think.

Lesley Russell
Adj Assoc Prof, Menzies Centre for Health Policy
The economics of delivering primary care in rural and underserved areas

Dr Lesley Russell is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Menzies Centre for Health Policy (MCHP) at the University of Sydney.  Her research interests include health care reform in Australia and the US, mental health, Indigenous health, addressing health disparities and health budget issues.

Dr Russell was previously a Senior Research Fellow and Visiting Fellow at the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University,

Dr Russell has substantial experience working in health policy in the United States and Australia, both in and out of government.  In 2009-12 she worked in Washington DC on a range of issues around the enactment and implementation of President Obama’s health care reforms, initially as a Visiting Fellow at the Center for American Progress and later as a Senior Advisor to the US Surgeon General in the Department of Health and Human Services.

From 2007-2010 she was the inaugural Menzies Foundation Fellow at the MCHP and a Research Associate at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.  Prior to that she was a health policy advisor to the Federal Australian Labor Party.  She worked for seven years as health policy advisor on the Energy and Commerce Committee in the US House of Representatives.

Dr Russell holds a PhD in biochemistry from the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the ANU.

Coming soon..
Jonathan Sher
Consultant on preconception health, education and care, Scotland
Preparing the next generation of rural mothers and fathers

Jonathan Sher is a Harvard University Graduate, School of Education.  He also has a Master's degree and Doctorate in Administration.  He is a Senior-level professional and NGO leader with an international track record of research, writing, speaking, teaching/training, policy analysis, advocacy and management in the fields of education, health inequalities, early years, families (mothers, fathers and carers), social justice, child health/wellbeing, school reform, children’s rights, child maltreatment prevention and rural community development.  Currently Director of Sher Consultancy.  Previous positions have included Scotland Director of WAVE Trust; Director of Research, Policy and Programmes, Children in Scotland; CEO of the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute; Lead Consultant, Annenberg Rural Challenge; Co-founder of Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning; CEO of the Rural Education and Development Inc.


The majority of OECD nations continue to display an unfortunate professional, political and societal 'blind-spot' about the root causes and starting points of child health and health inequalities. Just as child development does not begin at birth, so too, early intervention and primary prevention do not begin with pregnancy. 

The good news is that everyone who will ever become a parent wants the same three outcomes: a safe pregnancy, a thriving baby and a rewarding parenthood. The bad news is that these three universal goals are not achieved as often as could, and should, be the case.  We have sufficient human, financial and institutional resources to close the gap between positive rhetoric and negative realities.

My presentation will focus on why this gap exists and what can actually be done. I will also focus on the rural dimensions of this story. The distinctive obstacles and untapped opportunities existing in small places and the bush will be discussed.

My basic recommendation is to dramatically increase the analysis, resources and action we devote to preconception health, education care across the life course. At each age and stage of life, we must – individually and collectively – take full advantage of the abundant chances that already exist to better prepare and support the next generation of mothers, fathers and carers.

Preconception and interconception health – that is, preparing well for the first baby or the next baby -- is a powerful, multifaceted, democratic strategy for:

* Promoting social justice across generations; 
* Integrating public services and public action;
* Preventing a ‘bad hand’ from being dealt in the first place;
* Easing the demands upon health professionals; and, 
* Grasping the opportunity to listen to, and then support, girls and women, boys and men in ways leading to healthier families, wiser use of public resources and a more successful society.  

Inadequate, or altogether absent, preparation for parenthood is both a cause and a consequence of intergenerational poverty and other seemingly intractable problems.

Neither the wellbeing of prospective mothers and fathers, nor the futures of their babies, are spectator sports. The choices we make and the actions we take (or fail to take) – individually and collectively -- will have at least as much impact on the next generation as either their postcodes or their genetic codes. 

Gracelyn Smallwood
Professor of Nursing and Midwifery, CQ University
Integrating different world views of health and wellbeing

Gracelyn Smallwood is a Birrigubba, Kalkadoon and South-Sea Islander woman born in Townsville in 1951.  She has been advocating against the racism and violation of human rights against her people for the past 45 years and prior to this her parents for 50 years, and grandparents for another 50 years before that. She has dealt with almost every disease, both nationally and internationally, however, has never been able to come to terms with the ugly disease of racism.

Gracelyn Smallwood grew up in a condemned house with a dirt floor, 18 siblings (14 in one family, five more when her father re-married).  Her father was one of the Stolen Generation, taken from his family in the North Queensland town of Ayr and banished to the notorious Palm Island dormitories, for the ‘crime’ of having brown skin instead of black skin. Brown babies were proof of the relationships the white men of small towns were having, so the children were removed to spare the white men’s embarrassment.  Gracelyn lived under the threat of the Aboriginal Protection Act in North Queensland and struggled at school as did many Indigenous kids.  Many thought sport would pull them through, and they felt disengaged until a dynamic and caring Indigenous teacher made helped them realise they couldn’t rely on sport as a career move.   There were few options for Aboriginal girls, so Gracelyn decided to train to be a nurse.

In 1972, Gracelyn became a registered nurse and worked in communities such as Alice Springs, Palm Island, remote Western Australia and South Australia.  She was a volunteer member of the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health service in 1974, and worked as a volunteer Registered Nurse with two volunteer Doctors.  She later became a registered midwife and worked with the Remote Emergency Nursing Services, which took her all over remote Australia delivering babies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with no benefits of modern technology.  Gracelyn has also worked in remote Australia with the late Dr Fred Hollows on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program.

Gracelyn was awarded the Queensland Aboriginal of the Year in 1986 and an Order of Australia in 1992 for service to public health, particularly HIV-AIDS education.

In 1993, Gracelyn was the first Indigenous Australian to receive a Masters of Science in Public Health (JCU) for her work on HIV education in North Queensland Indigenous communities.  She has been employed as an advisor to the World Health Organisation on HIV-AIDS and Indigenous communities; the Queensland Health Minister Ken McElligot and the Queensland Minister for Family Services, Ann Warner because of her expertise on health and domestic violence inequalities.

In 1994 she became the first woman, first Indigenous person and first non-paediatrician to receive the Henry Kemp Memorial Award at the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.  She completed a Diploma in Indigenous Mental Health, and has worked with acute and chronic psychiatric patients, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, for many years.

In 1997 Gracelyn was invited to be special guest for the then South African President, Mr Nelson Mandela, and used the time speaking with activists including the sons of the late Steve Biko, and giving HIV-AIDS prevention talks and workshops.  She was one of the small group of health practitioners who understood the risk of HIV-AIDS in Indigenous communities, and helped devise the now mainstream and famous Condoman to promote safe sex in a culturally appropriate way.

In 2007 Gracelyn received one of her greatest achievements, the Deadly Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Indigenous Health.  She was especially delighted with this award, as it is peer- and community judged.

From 2007-2011 Gracelyn held a part-time role as Special Advisor to the Vice Chancellor on Indigenous Matters at James Cook University where she was given the task of improving relationships between the University and the Indigenous community.

In October 2013 Gracelyn was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia Queensland Community Award - Individual, in recognition of service to public health, in particular HIV AIDS, contribution to Australian Universities, and consultation to the World Health Organisation.

In 2014, she received the prestigious award of NAIDOC Person of the Year and was also formally recognised for her contribution of 45 years to health and human rights advocacy and became a member of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council.  Gracelyn also received the James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award in 2014.

In 2015 Gracelyn was appointed Member of The Harvard FXB Health and Human Rights Consortium; the North Queensland Primary Healthcare Network (NQPHN) Clinical Council for the Townsville-Mackay region; the Townsville Hospital and Health Board; and the Federal Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections.  She was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).

In 2011, Gracelyn completed her PhD Thesis Human Rights and First Australians Well-being.  Her PhD has been published by Routledge in London as a hardback monograph and the publication is titled Indigenist Critical Realism.

Coming soon..
Trent Twomey
Chair, Northern Queensland PHN

Trent is the Chairman of Northern Queensland PHN.  He is also the Chairman of Advance Cairns, the peak economic development and advocacy organisation for Tropical North Queensland, a National Councilor of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, a member of the Council of James Cook University and the Chairman of the Northern Australia Alliance.

Trent is an Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, a Council Member of the Queensland Futures Institute, a trustee for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, a fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and a fellow of the Australian College of Pharmacy.

Trent and his wife are both pharmacists and together they are partners in a group of seven pharmacies. They live with their two children in Cairns.

Coming soon..


Michael Walsh
Director-General, Queensland Health; Board Member, Australian Digital Health Agency
Digital transformation across the health continuum

Michael is the Director-General Queensland Health where he leads a public health and hospital system for a population of 4.7million people.  Prior to this role, Michael was the inaugural Chief Executive / CIO of eHealth NSW, providing eHealth and ICT services to the NSW Health System.  Michael has also worked as Chief Executive of HealthShare NSW, the NSW Health shared service provider. Michael has extensive experience at the Government Senior Executive level in both NSW and Queensland and has worked in the private sector including for a leading consulting firm.

Michael has led large organisational strategy and change programs including major departmental integrations; significant ICT programs; and, large hospital infrastructure programs such as the $10 billion Queensland Hospital rebuilding program including the Gold Coast University Hospital, Sunshine Coast University Hospital and Queensland Children's Hospital.

Michael has a strong background in public sector governance and leadership. Michael also has strong experience in portfolio, program and project management, business case development and implementation of major government initiatives.

Coming soon..
Mark Wenitong
Senior Medical Officer, Apunipima Cape York Health Council
Health and cultural competence – remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives

Dr Mark Wenitong (Adjunct Professor, QUT ) is from Kabi Kabi tribal group of South Queensland.  He is the Senior Medical Advisor at Apunipima Cape York Health Council, where he is working on health reform across the Cape York Aboriginal communities.  He was the Senior Medical Officer at Wuchopperen Health Services in Cairns for the previous nine years.  He has also worked as the medical advisor for OATSIH in Canberra, as well as the public health medical advisor and acting CEO of NACCHO.

Dr Wenitong is a past president and founding member of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and was a member on the National Health and Medical Research Committee - National Health Committee for the last three triennium.  He is an advisory  council member of the Queensland Mental Health Commission, a member of IPAG ( implementation group for the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health Plan) the GPTAC (general practice training advisory committee) the board of AITHM (Australian Institute of Tropical health and Medicine) and board of National Center for Indigenous Genomics.

He is involved in several research projects, and has worked in prison health, refugee health in East Timor as well as studying and working in Indigenous health internationally.  He was a member of the NTER review expert advisory group in 2008.
He is involved in clinical and policy work with the aim of improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes in Australia. He has received the 2011 AMA Presidents Award for Excellence in Healthcare, and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council Hall of Fame award (2010).


Cultural competence is a central tenant of effective remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health service provision, and for us as health professionals or those involved in the health system, we need to stay open to learning Indigenous socio-cultural ways and applying this in practice, as well as understanding our own cultural bias if we are to improve health outcomes.