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2022 national FIRST NATIONS women's conference GUEST speakers





hon. lidia thorpe

greens senator vic

australian parliament 

Lydia Thorpe is a Senator for Victoria, a proud Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman, lifelong activist and fighter for human rights, social justice and the environment. She became the first Aboriginal person elected to Victorian parliament, as the Greens MP for Northcote. In September 2020, Lidia took her seat as Victoria's first Aboriginal Senator in the federal Parliament. Lidia was sworn in to the Senate holding a message stick burned with 441 marks, one for each death in custody since the handing down of the findings of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 and holding up her fist in a gesture of strength and solidarity. Lidia Thorpe grew up in the Collingwood Housing Commission flats, the granddaughter of one of the founders of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, and she is a life-long activist. She has raised three children, is a survivor of domestic violence, and completed her university education as an adult. Her professional background includes work in public policy, advocacy, small business, government and NGOs, always with a focus on activism and social justice. Lidia lives on Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne with her partner, her youngest daughter and a rescued Neapolitan Mastiff named Chilli. 




emma milliss

programs training lead

esafety women nsw

Emma Milliss is the Indigenous Programs Training Lead for eSafety Women. She identifies as a First Nations woman and mother, with mob from the Burragorang Valley on Gundungurra Country. Emma has a passion for changing outcomes for all First Nations peoples, particularly women and children. She has a background as a paramedic and a teacher, and is committed to using her skills and experience to help create collaborative and trauma-informed relationships that will encourage place-based changes. 

elliejean singh

chief executive officer

boorndawan william aboriginal healing service vic


Elliejean Singh is a proud Aboriginal, Torres Strait and South Sea Island woman from Far North Queensland who has been living and working on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung country for close to 20 years. She is a proud descendant of the Kalkadoon, Olkola and the Wagedagam. Elliejean is the current CEO of Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service. Prior to the CEO role, Elliejean was team leader at Bert Williams Aboriginal Youth Services, a program of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd. (VACSAL) where she held the portfolios for Koori Youth Justice, Early School Leavers and Youth Employment program and the Aboriginal Youth Hostel for young Aboriginal men. Before her return to VACSAL, Elliejean was the Koorie Education Co-ordinator for the Hume Moreland and Northeast Melbourne Areas for 7 years and had also spent some time in the role of Koorie Education Manager for the Northwest Region of the Department of Education and Training. Prior to her role at the Department of Education and Training, Elliejean has held numerous roles across various sectors in community commencing in Family Violence specialising in Family Violence prevention education then moving into homelessness housing and Education before returning to Family Violence Sector. Elliejean is a dedicated mother of four and a high performing professional with over 16 years’ experience in cross-sectorial settings, with a variety of high-level skills obtained through current and past positions held, Elliejean is committed to maintaining and strengthening identity, culture, and social purpose for herself and all Aboriginal, Torres strait and South Sea Islander people.

Hon. cynthia lui, mp

state member for cook

queensland parliament

Cynthia Lui is a proud Iamalaig woman from the Kulkalgau Clan of Iama (Yam Island) and the Kulkalgal Tribe of the Torres Strait and was elected as the Member for Cook at the 2017 Queensland State election. Cynthia has over 12 years' experience in health, child protection and family support services throughout Far North Queensland. Cynthia's work experience has enabled her to gain local knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of the issues that affect her electorate. Cynthia believes that education is the key to success. As a parent, Cynthia knows that a quality education changes people's lives and helps build stronger communities. Cynthia's priorities include improving access to quality education and health services and supporting more local jobs to help build a stronger region for generations to come.

dr. amber logan

indigenous development specialist

health psychologist nz

Dr. Amber Logan is a traditional Kahungunu Māori wahine, a New Zealand Health Psychologist and a Doctoral Fellow in Public Health at Otago University.  She teaches health psychology course work at the University of Auckland and Otago University and is well-known in New Zealand for her work in Methamphetamine education and community activism.  Amber is a consummate grant writer, health services evaluator and health services program designer.  She has presented extensively in Australia, Canada, and the USA at Harvard University, the University of Washington, and to the US Federal Government under the Obama administration.               


linnea burdon-smith

aboriginal family violence researcher

boorndawan william aboriginaL HEALING SERVICE VIC

Linnea Burdon-Smith is currently working for Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service (BWAHS) as an Aboriginal Family Violence Researcher. This work involves documenting and promoting the approaches used by ACCO’s, such as BWAHS, in response to Aboriginal family violence. Linnea’s work informs BWAHS’ Training and Education Team, which provides accredited and non-accredited Aboriginal Family Violence Case Management training programs. Linnea has previously worked for government oversight bodies, in the community legal sector and university sector. Linnea enjoys working on projects that prevent and respond to, individual and collective trauma. She has completed frontline work as a support worker/caseworker and worked in project officer and research officer capacities. Linnea’s experiences delivering trauma informed, holistic, culturally safe, accessible, and inclusive services inform her research. 






Sharon Finnan is a descendant of the Dunghutti, Gumbaynggirr and Biripi language groups from the mid-north coast of NSW. She was a member of the victorious Australian Netball Diamonds World Cup teams in 1991 and 1999, Commonwealth Games team in 1990 and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to the sport of netball. Her industry experience spans over three decades, working in the private, public and community sectors, including state government, educational and financial institutions, not for profit organisations, media and sport. She is currently the co-owner and co-director of Sharoma Indigenous Corporation trading as Sport, Culture and Leadership Academy; is a member of the Netball Australia First Nations Advisory Committee, Netball Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee; and was a member of the Queensland Sports Ministers Advisory Council. Sharon made her debut as an expert commentator with Fox Netball for the Suncorp Super Netball league in 2022.






eleanor connop


katherine women's information & legal service nt

Eleanor Connop is a solicitor working in Katherine, NT with the Katherine Women’s Information and Legal Service (KWILS). KWILS is a community legal service that works to ensure that women in the Big Rivers Region in the NT have access to free legal advice and services. KWILS mainly assists women with Domestic Violence Orders, Child Protection Matters, Family Law and other civil matters including support with Housing, Finance and other issues that can and may arise for women in DV relationships. Eleanor’s role is specifically as an outreach solicitor, travelling to Communities within the Big Rivers Region for Bush Circuit Courts and to provide legal education to help empower women in Communities to know their legal options. Eleanor regularly travels East of Katherine to Beswick, Barunga and Borroloola Communities and has developed relationships with women and services in these Communities. She has also travelled out west to Lajamanu and Kalkarindji to speak with women about domestic violence and its impact. Eleanor has had some incredible experiences yarning with Indigenous women in Communities whilst weaving, cooking Roo tail and learning a lot about the culture and experiences of these amazing women on Country.





aunty jenny springham

healing circle facilitator

kultchafi qld

Aunty Jenny is an Australian Aboriginal Elder of the Gurang clan/family with more than three decades’ experience in Governance & Management in the sectors of health & wellbeing, child & family, and education. Aunty Jenny holds a Bachelor of Arts in Adult Education & Community Development, an Associate Diploma in Aboriginal Studies and Certificate IV in Aboriginal Health. She has been a Healing Circle Work Facilitator for almost eight years, working with men and women experiencing the impacts of Lateral Violence, intergenerational trauma and substance abuse. She advocates for the rights of women with a focus on the areas of policy, decision-making and governance. As part of this commitment, Aunty Jenny sits on the Board of Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) Indigenous Wellbeing Centre (IWC) Ltd in Central Queensland,and is a member of the IWC Cultural Advisory Council. Aunty Jenny also sits on the Elders’ Council of the Port Curtis Coral Coast (PCCC), which represents the  Bailai, Gurang, Gooreng Gooreng and Taribelang Bunda peoples. 



thelma schwartz

principal legal officer

queensland indigenous family violence legal service

Thelma Schwartz is the Principal Legal Officer of QIFVLS, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisation providing legal and non-legal support services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims and survivors of family violence and sexual assault. Thelma identifies as of Torres Strait Islander heritage alongside her German/Samoan and Papua New Guinean heritage. Thelma has worked extensively with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, providing legal services and legal representation as a criminal defence solicitor with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service for over nine years, representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and young people in regional, rural and remote Far North Queensland across the Magistrates Court, Children’s Court, District Court, Supreme Court and Court of Appeal. Thelma has experience in the intersection of justice responses and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences, recently appearing as a witness before the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability in relation to the experiences of First Nations People with Disability and their families in contact with the Child Protection Systems as well as before the Commonwealth Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs, Inquiry into Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence.



Jonty Bush began her career in human resources on the Sunshine Coast, working with a number of small - medium businesses over a seven-year period in areas of recruitment, training, workplace health and safety and volunteer management. Following the homicides of her sister and father, Jonty changed careers and joined the Queensland Homicide Victim Support Group (QHVSG), initially as a family support coordinator in 2004. She was appointed as Chief Executive Officer to the QHVSG in 2007 and awarded the Young Australian of the Year in 2009 recognising her work in advocacy for victims of crime in Queensland. In 2010, Jonty accepted a role in the public service with the Department of Justice and Attorney General, and additionally was selected as a Council Member in Queensland's inaugural Sentencing Advisory Council. Until elected to the seat of Cooper in 2020, Jonty remained with the department enjoying a variety of roles including the Director of the Office of the Public Guardian and Director of the Strategic Support Office.



 katherine women's information & legal service nt

Olivia Huntington is a lawyer working in Katherine, NT with the Katherine Women’s Information and Legal Service (KWILS). KWILS is a community legal service that works to ensure women in the Big Rivers Region in the NT have access to free legal advice and services. KWILS mainly assists women with Domestic Violence Orders, Child Protection Matters, Family Law and other civil matters including support with Housing, Finance and other issues that can and may arise for women in DV relationships. Olivia’s role is as a domestic violence duty lawyer, servicing the Katherine Local Court. Olivia is available to take on urgent referrals for both applicant and defended domestic violence orders, particularly misidentified victims. Olivia also completes outreach trips with the outreach solicitor to nearby communities such as Beswick, Barunga and further east to Borroloola. Olivia has been participating in the women’s group at Beswick, learning about culture and experiences of women and being available to talk in a safe space about domestic violence if/when required.


Johanna Bou-Samra    

Project Officer for Smoke Free Healthcare

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service and involved in BAIBS

Johanna is an accredited consultant pharmacist with 25 years’ experience. Since 2011 she has worked for Queensland Health as part of the Toowoomba Community Health Chronic Disease Team as the Indigenous Health Outcomes Pharmacist, helping to reduce chronic disease related hospital admissions through outpatient medication and smoking cessation services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Johanna works closely with Aboriginal Medical Centres in the area providing clinics at the medical centres and home visits. She also conducts smoking management clinics for surgical candidates at out-patient clinics.

Johanna is a member of the The Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs, American Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence and an accredited Tobacco Treatment Specialist. She is the Project Officer for Smoke Free Healthcare for the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service and involved in BAIBS.

Toni L. Smith

Principal Female Aboriginal Health Worker in Domestic Violence & Women’s Health

Sydney Local Health District

Toni Smith is a ‘Gadigal’ born woman with ‘Yuin’ ancestry. She has lived and worked in her local Aboriginal community, Redfern for many years. Toni is the Principal Female Aboriginal Health Worker in Domestic Violence & Women’s Health (Community Health Specialist Services, SLHD RPAH). Toni is an experienced Registered Nurse, graduating from The University of Sydney in 1995. She has worked for NSW Health in identified positions including Aboriginal Education Officer, Promotions Officer, Project Officer and Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer across St. George and The Sutherland Hospitals. Toni has worked with her local Aboriginal community as the Camps and Conferences Manager at the National Indigenous Centre of Excellence (NCIE) and the Redfern PCYC. Toni was granted the ‘Equity Challenge’ of $10,000 to begin her project “Tidda-Links” (Linking Sisters), her first project when newly appointed in her role at Sydney Local Health District.

Desley Thompson 


Ninti One Limited

Desley Thompson is a proud Mamu woman from Far North Queensland with a working career that spans over 11 years with the Commonwealth Public Service and another 16 years with the non-government sector. Before commencing with Ninti One Limited in Adelaide, Desley was involved in a number of National Boards and has been heavily involved in the Family Support and Child Protection fields.  Desley is currently the full-time Program Manager of the National Best Practice Unit Tackling Indigenous Smoking (NBPU TIS). As the inaugural Program Manager Desley has led the successful establishment of support and assistance to the TIS-funded ACCHSs, Peak Bodies and AMSs.  Desley is also a company Director of a family-owned business. 

Christine Fing

Aboriginal Engagement Project Officer

BreastScreen Aboriginal Engagement Project

Christine Fing is the Aboriginal Engagement Officer for BreastScreen NSW. The Aboriginal Engagement Project embodies the ‘First Nations Women’s Health’ and ‘Successful community partnerships between First Nations peoples, governments and NGO`s’ themes of the 2020 Closing the Gap Indigenous Health Conference. Our project has been going for 3 years and our stats confirm it is a success. The aim of the project is to increase the participation rate of Aboriginal women in the target age group (40-74 years) through the use of community led ‘Yarning Circles’. These sessions will discuss the importance of screening mammograms and also address fears and barriers to screening.  Yarning Circles will precede a Screening Session in which eligible attendees of the Yarning Circle can then be screened. We are currently in Phase 2 of our project and concentrating on re-Engagement of past participants as well as engagement with new ladies who haven’t attended a yarning circle before.  We have also had success in building strong relationships within our LHD Aboriginal Health Leadership Team as well as community NGQs as we recognise local Aboriginal Health Workers and Aboriginal community organisations are vital to the success of engagement of local Aboriginal women.

Meg O’Brien


BreastScreen service at Greater West

Meg O’Brien is the manager of the BreastScreen service at Greater West. She has been working in this role for over 5 years and within this time, she learned a great deal about breast screening and breast cancer management and treatment. Meg is a Registered Nurse/midwife and was drawn to BreastScreen when her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer through BreastScreen. She owes her life today to the early detection of breast cancer through BreastScreen and with subsequent treatment, they are fortunate to have her in thier lives today. Meg oversees the operations of the BreastScreen service that stretches from Lithgow to Broken Hill and all city rural and remote sites in between. They have very strict accreditation standards to monitor and meet and some of these oversee cancer screening assessment and detection. She stated, 'if there is one mission I have is to reduce the deaths from this dreadful indiscriminate disease by screening and early detection'.

TO BE CONTINUED...........

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