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First 1000 Days Australia Summit, Brisbane, 2017

Event Date: 
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 - 9:00am to Friday, 20 October 2017 - 5:00pm

We held our inaugural Summit with generous support from the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability, and the University of Melbourne. The Summit brought together 176 delegates from across community, research, training, front-line delivery and policy areas, who are working to strengthen resilience, innovation and aspiration in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.

Honour and the act of honouring were a strong focus of the presentations and storytelling – honouring diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s culture and community, voices and knowledge, and innovative programs and practices that respect and celebrate the experiences and strengths of families and children. Delegate Summit highlights included making new connections, yarning and being in the presence of Elders:

So much empowerment came from this Summit for me as a younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person. This reminded me why it’s important to be part of this movement, assisting in brighter futures for our mob.

Watch the Summit videos!

These feature interviews with some of the participants from the 2017 Summit – Deb Mellett, Latoya Smith, Dean Foley, Uncle Phillip Mills, Genus Passi, Kathy Anderson, Lisa Thorpe, Samantha French and the More than a Landlord project, and the Mildura Welcome Baby to Country program.

Professor Kerry Arabena

Professor Kerry Arabena is Chair for Indigenous Health and Director of the Indigenous Health Equity Unit at the University of Melbourne. A descendant of the Meriam people from the Torres Strait, she has a Doctorate in Human Ecology and a degree in Social Work. She is the Executive Director and Lead Investigator on the First 1000 Days Australia, an interventions-based, pre-birth Longitudinal Multigenerational Study designed with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families. The First 1000 Days Australia Model aims to provide a coordinated, comprehensive strategy to strengthen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families so they can address their children’s needs from pre‐conception to two years of age, thereby laying the best foundation for their future health and wellbeing. This is now a national and international initiative through a joint collaboration between the University of Melbourne and Save the Children Australia and engaging Indigenous peoples in Indonesia and Norway.

Mr Romlie Mokak

Romlie Mokak is a Djugun man and a member of the Yawuru people. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research since 2014. Under his leadership, the Institute is transforming into a leading research and policy impact organisation in Australia, while extending its global networks and partnerships.

Prior to joining the Lowitja Institute, Romlie was the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association for almost a decade. Earlier roles included Director, Substance Use, and Manager of the National Eye Health Program, for the Australian Government’s Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. He was the first Aboriginal policy officer in the New South Wales Government’s Ageing and Disability Department.

Romlie has chaired and has been a member for a range of policy, research and evaluation bodies at the national and State government levels. He is the immediate past Chair for the National Health Leadership Forum, the collective of national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing organisations.

More recently, he convened the first Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference, and delivered the 2016 Cranlana Program Medicine and Society Oration.

Romlie holds a Bachelor of Social Science and Postgraduate Diploma in Special Education.

Ms Cheryl Vardon

The Chief Executive and Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission, Cheryl has a distinguished career in education, community and children’s services. She has held many board and university council positions and statutory roles on tribunals and commissions including the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and the Commonwealth Safety and Rehabilitation Compensation Commission.

Cheryl is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and a Fellow of the Australian College of Education, and was a Vice Principal of the University of Melbourne and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra. She is a previous Director General of Education for Western Australia and a former Chief Executive of the Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Community Services.

In 2004, while Commissioner for Public Administration in the ACT, Cheryl led a review of child protection services – ‘The Territory as Parent’ and ‘The Territories’ Children’ (the ‘Vardon Report’) – which established an ACT Children’s Commissioner. Cheryl has also worked for the business sector and the not-for-profit sector as well as leading her own successful consulting and mentoring business.

Ms Donna Murray

A descendant of the Wiradjuri nation of the Murrumbidgee River and of the Wonnarua nation of the Hunter Valley, NSW, Donna is the Chief Executive Officer of Indigenous Allied Health Australia, a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health organisation. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Governance through the University of Arizona and has extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, particularly in leadership and governance, management, education, health and community development.

Donna has worked at the national, State and local levels in both government and community organisations. She holds an honorary position at the University of Technology Sydney’s Faculty of Health, is a member of Charles Sturt University’s Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage Governance Committee and an active member of the Wiradjuri Nation Building community.

Dean Foley, Entrepreneur

Dean is an action-oriented entrepreneur and proud Kamilaroi Man who grew up within the Aboriginal community in Gunnedah, NSW. He is currently studying for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Griffith University and a Master of Business (Marketing) at the Queensland University of Technology, and has successfully completed most of both degrees. Dean served for five years in the Royal Australian Air Force before founding Australia’s Indigenous business accelerator program, Barayamal – now known as a leader in Indigenous Entrepreneurship.

Deb Mellett

Deb Mellett is a Gurindji woman who also has family ties to the Jawoyn people in the Northern Territory. She has worked in Aboriginal employment and training for more than 25 years, during which time she managed an Employment Service Office and provided specialist advice on employment strategies and training for Aboriginal people.

Deb has been instrumental in establishing Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association on the Mornington Peninsula, and is passionate about improving the outcomes of Aboriginal families and children in their early years. She is also an Aboriginal Ambassador for BreastScreen Australia, a volunteer Community Liaison Officer for Breast Cancer Network Australia, and an active member on the First 1000 Days Australia Council.

In addition, Deb is a member of Aboriginal Health Alliance, Koolin Balit Southern Metro Region Aboriginal Health Committee, Best Start Committee, Peninsula Health Aboriginal Community Action Group, Frankston Child and Family Committee, and the Local Aboriginal Network.

Adjunct Professor Phillip J. Mills OAM

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Consultant Lead

Phillip is a Kulkulgal Tribal Elder of Zenadth Kes and Associate Professor with the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) at James Cook University (JCU). He has authored and co-authored award-winning research papers, chaired scientific and inter-departmental committees and sat on ministerial policy committees on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Phillip led the reform in indigenising the public health system as Executive Manager of Mainstream Hospitals and Primary Health Care, with the establishment of specifically tailored, evidence-based scientific Indigenous health models. The success of his work in community-developed scientific health interventions, culturally acceptable health care systems and protocols, and innovative evidence-based, bi-cultural health practices and structures earned him an Order of Australia Medal. His expertise has flowed into the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector where the application of his work has enhanced the development of comprehensive primary health care.

Phillip specialises in sectoral health development, effective and efficient culturally based health models, establishing community governance for health outcomes and the interface of innovative health science and cultural norms. He has expansive experience in an array of programs and projects related to chronic illness, in communicable infectious diseases across the continuum of primary, secondary and tertiary care, and in managing public health outbreaks and other population health prevention and intervention strategies.

In his most recent role as a Senior Research Follow at JCU, Phillip has consolidated his learnings about the health sector development into the construction of AITHM as a repository for health information and knowledge on Thursday Island. It is envisaged that the Institute will become an integral part of an overall sustainable improvement in the health and wellbeing of the Tribal community of Zenadth Kes, and form the scientific basis for managing bio-security on the border between Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Karen Milward, Aboriginal consultant, trainer and facilitator

Karen is a Yorta Yorta woman based in Melbourne. Through her work as a consultant, she is well known for being a strong advocate for developing culturally appropriate solutions to addressing the issues confronting Indigenous people.

Karen has extensive experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities at grassroots and organisational levels and up to peak body representative level. She regularly undertakes complex projects commissioned by government departments and their agencies. This involves assisting those who have lead responsibility for policy and program development and service delivery impacting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Lisa Thorpe, CEO, Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Aboriginal Child and Family Centre

Lisa is a Gunditjmara/Gunnai woman from Victoria. She has lived in Melbourne’s Thomastown for 30 years and has four children and four grandchildren. As CEO of Bubup Wilam, Lisa has been integral to its inception and development and to ensuring the right to self-determination for Aboriginal children and their families.

For most of her working life Lisa has been employed in Aboriginal community-based and community controlled organisations. She has managed and worked on many programs that have directly contributed to the provision of services for Aboriginal people.

Lisa has a Master of Public Health from Deakin University where she worked as an Associate Professor with the Institute of Koorie Education for seven years. She is a strong advocate for her people and works tirelessly to ensure Bubup Wilam’s rights to self-determination are met.

Dr Wendy Bunston, Senior Clinical Social Worker, Family Therapist and Infant Mental Health Practitioner

Wendy is a vibrant and passionate speaker who runs wb training and consultancy and is an associate teacher at Melbourne’s La Trobe University. She previously managed the multi-award winning Addressing Family Violence (AFV) programs in the Integrated Mental Health Program of Victoria’s Royal Children’s Hospital for 16 years, as well as working as a senior clinician and consultant family therapist. The AFV programs developed specialist group work interventions for children and their mothers (parkas – Parents Accepting Responsibility Kids Are Safe), the Peek a Boo Club TM (for Infants and their Mothers), BuBs On Board (Building up Bonds – in Women’s Refuges) and Dads On Board TM (for infants and their fathers).

Wendy recently completed her PhD looking at ‘How refuge provides “refuge” to Infants: Exploring the ways in which ‘refuge’ is provided to, and experienced by, infants entering crisis accommodation with their mothers after fleeing family violence’. She specialises in working with infants, children and their parents impacted by family violence, and provides clinical supervision and training to multiple early childhood services across Melbourne.

Wendy is a senior clinical social worker with a Master’s degree in Family Therapy and further postgraduate qualifications in Organisational Dynamics and Infant Mental Health. The author of multiple international articles, chapters and books regarding infants, children, family violence and relational trauma, Wendy’s latest book, Helping Babies and Children Aged 0–6 to Heal after Family Violence, was released in June 2017.

Dr Johan Morreau, Paediatrician

Johan has been a child health medical specialist (paediatrician) in Rotorua, New Zealand since 1983, and is married to Karen, with three adult children and (so far) four grandchildren. He was the co-author of the original Tamariki ora document that formed the background for a range of well child health developments in New Zealand.

Johan was the Chief Medical Officer for the Lakes District Health Board for 11 years and has held a range of senior medical leadership roles both nationally and locally. This experience enabled an understanding of the direct linkage between government policy, culture and the focus of services being delivered, and the relationship of these to what is happening to children and young people in New Zealand.

He decided five years ago to return to full-time clinical practice and to contribute as much as he could to shifting New Zealand’s worsening child health ‘picture’. Reversing health inequity, the very worrying direction of child poverty and the increasing lack of ‘infant attachment’ in New Zealand is, therefore, a priority. His ‘First 1000 days’ TED talk emphasises this and reflects his interest in Maori child health.

Jody Barney

Jody Barney is a Murri – South Sea Islander woman from Urangan (near Hervey Bay) with kinship to central Birri-Gubba mob and the Gurangi people of Barcaldine. For the past 25 years, Jody has been in Victoria where she has developed strong connections with many communities through her extensive work as an Aboriginal Disability Cultural Safety consultant. Jody’s connection and work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities has seen her involved in 170 communities across Australia, growing the voices of people with disabilities and special needs.

Jody was the first deaf Aboriginal woman to present at local, state, national and international levels on the empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities and has also represented on advisory boards at each of these levels. As an Aboriginal Disability Cultural Safety consultant, Jody utilised her strong leadership and management qualifications and experience to assist the National Disability Insurance Agency on “Getting it Right” to improve the access and knowledge for people with disabilities in the trail site of Barwon Victoria. Following this she successfully completed a follow up project called "Hard to Reach" on the engagement of Aboriginal people with complex needs. Apart from this Jody is also the only Aboriginal cultural forensic communicalist in Native Aboriginal sign languages across 4 states and the Northern Territory. 

Jody is currently undertaking her honours at CSU on Aboriginal disabilities entrepreneurship and industry reform within the NDIS.