2014 IAHA National Indigenous Allied Health Awards

Congratulations to our 2014 IAHA National Indigenous Allied Health Award Winners!

L-R: John Egan – Commitment to Indigenous Health AwardStevie Raymond – Future Leader in Indigenous Allied Health AwardDanielle Dries – Allied Health Inspiration AwardRani Lawler – Indigenous Allied Health Professional of the Year Award, Betty Ah Kit (on behalf of Nathan Canuto) – Indigenous Allied Health Student Academic Achievement AwardDr Tom Calma – IAHA Life Time Achievement Award 


IAHA Life Time Achievement Award

Winner Dr Tom Calma

Dr Tom Calma started his health career as a social worker in the late 1970s and is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group whose traditional lands are south west of Darwin and on the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern Territory of Australia, respectively. Involved in Indigenous affairs at a local, community, state, national and international level and having worked in the public sector for 40 years, Dr Calma has served in roles in Australia relating to Indigenous and mainstream employment, community development and education.

Dr Calma is on a number of boards and committees focussing on rural and remote Australia, health, education, justice reinvestment, reconciliation and economic development. In 2010 he was appointed National Coordinator, Tackling Indigenous Smoking to lead the fight against tobacco use in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

From 2004 to 2010 Dr Calma was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission and from 2004 until 2009 the Race Discrimination Commissioner. He is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment and has spearheaded initiatives including the Close the Gap for Indigenous Health Equality Campaign, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, development of the inaugural National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy, and Justice Reinvestment.

Dr Calma was the Senior Adviser to the Minister of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and a senior Australian diplomat in India and Vietnam representing Australia’s interests in education and training from 1995 to 2002.

In 2010 Dr Calma was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from Charles Darwin University in recognition of decades of public service, particularly in relation to his work in education, training and employment in Indigenous communities. He was then awarded an honorary doctor of science from Curtin University in recognition of his work, advocacy and leadership in Indigenous health reform and Indigenous affairs in 2011.

In 2012 Dr Calma received an Order of Australia; Officer of the General Division (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, through contributions to government policy and reform, and to cross cultural understanding. He was announced as ACT Australian of the Year 2013 for his work as an inspirational advocate for human rights and social justice having dedicated his life to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. In 2014 Dr Calma became the 6th Chancellor of the University of Canberra and the first Indigenous male Chancellor of an Australian university.

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Future Leader in Indigenous Allied Health Award

Winner – Ms Stevie Raymond

Award winner Stevie Raymond is a young Indigenous woman who was the first Indigenous student at University of Wollongong to complete a Bachelor of Nutrition & Dietetics. She is forging the way for other Indigenous people to embark on a career in this critical area of need within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. She graduated in mid 2014 with Grade 1 Honours and received an award for the Deans Merit List for high achieving students.

Stevie constantly seeks opportunities to enhance her leadership capabilities and actively participates in opportunities with IAHA, the Indigenous centre at UOW and the wider community to build on her leadership qualities.

Stevie attended the IAHA student leadership workshop and IAHA HealthFusion Team Challenge in 2013 demonstrating her strong team skills. All of these experiences helped her to identify areas of herself personally and professionally which she could improve upon, and helped further highlight her passion for working in Indigenous health.

She attended the Fourth Annual Critical Dietetics Conference held in Chicago, USA this year where she presented as part of a 3 part symposium themed ‘Presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dietitians in the Australian dietetics workforce’.  The presentation looked at Indigenising the dietetic profession; strengths and barriers for Indigenous people becoming dietitians and the importance of having more Indigenous health professionals to Close the Gap.

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Indigenous Allied Health Professional of the Year Award

Winner – Rani Lawler

Rani Lawler is a Torres Strait Islander woman who in 2011 completed a Bachelor of Health Science (Podiatry) at Charles Sturt University.  During her Gap Year she worked with Indigenous students in an effort to keep them at school, engage them with learning and help them into sustained post-secondary sustainable employment. After completion of her studies Rani joined a private Podiatry practice as a podiatrist and worked hard to engage the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. She advocates strongly through the Medicare Local Close the Gap program and The University of Wollongong Graduate School of Medicine to encourage Aboriginal people to have regular foot checks, particularly people with diabetes.

Rani offered pro-bono podiatry services to the Wingecarribee Aboriginal Men’s Group, providing checks, advice and referrals as required. In 2014 she stepped up as a young allied health professional to take on a leadership role as the President of the Weenthunga Health Network, which aims to contribute to strategies to improve the health and well-being of First Australians in Victoria. 

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Allied Health Inspiration Award

Winner – Danielle Dries

Danielle Dries is a Kaurna-Meyunna woman originally from South Australia who has spent most of her life in Canberra. She completed a physiotherapy degree in 2011 at Charles Sturt University while overcoming many major obstacles throughout this time. Upon graduation she commenced working as a physiotherapist in a hospital setting where she enjoyed being part of an interdisciplinary team of health professionals.

Danni loves the country and in the future sees herself working in a regional, rural or remote community. She has a passion for working in Indigenous health, in particular preventative health. Due to a lack of rural and remote career options in Indigenous health for allied health professionals, Danni decided to pursue a career in medicine and commenced her studies at the Australian National University where has won the prestigious Dr Peter Sharp scholarship.

As a 1st year medical student Danni is still active in promoting all health professions to rural and Indigenous students, working hard to encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to study and work in areas of allied health. She actively volunteers for IAHA at many community and career events; sharing her story and experiences with young people and advocating how good health can prevent or delay disease and improve quality of life.

In 2013 Danni actively participated in the Murra Mullagari Health Careers workshop hosted by Australian Indigenous Doctors Association and is still mentoring a year 12 Aboriginal student in Laidley QLD. She actively promotes the importance of understanding Indigenous health to other ANU medical students and this year helped organise an interdisciplinary skills night run by ANU rural medical society. Danni is an active participant in leadership development, attending the IAHA and other Indigenous leadership programs and sharing those experiences and learnings with others around her. 

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Commitment to Indigenous Health Award

Winner – John Egan

John Egan is a Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba man renowned for his gentle agreeable nature and sense of humour. Beginning work at an early age as a tradesman, John has a long experience in dealing with people from all walks of life.  He is an outstanding team leader at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Family Counselling Services, in Preston, Victoria.

John is currently a team leader working in Adult Mental Health and Social & Emotional Well-Being. His work involves a broad range of people-oriented tasks and requires him to be adaptable, pragmatic and compassionate. In addition he co-ordinates a team of 19 staff, including intake workers, outreach workers, drug and alcohol workers, counsellors, doctors, nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists.

He provides leadership, guidance and supervision for all of his staff.  John is often called upon to deal with people in heightened states of distress or to respond to crisis situations.  He does this magnificently with patience, empathy and understanding.

John convenes an Aboriginal men’s healing group at Minajalku Healing Centre. The men meet regularly where they share and receive social and cultural support. John’s love for his community and his passion for men’s well-being is reflected in the trust these men show towards him.

An all-round sportsperson, John is a former Board Member of both Rumbalara Football Club and the Fitzroy Stars. He is currently President of the Indigenous Golf Association of Victoria and is a strong believer in providing a culturally strong sporting environment for young Aboriginal people.

One of John’s greatest strengths is his deep understanding of Aboriginal perspectives on wellbeing and mental health that comes from years of personal and professional experience, and community work. This year John’s expertise was recognised as he now sits on the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander committee.

John gives generously and tirelessly to his community and is a most deserving winner of this Award for his years of dedicated work and commitment to Aboriginal health and wellbeing.

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Indigenous Allied Health Student Academic Achievement Award

Winner – Mr Nathan Canuto

Nathan Canuto is a 30 years old Torres Strait Islander man from Cairns in Far North Queensland. He is currently studying in his final year of a Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) degree at Charles Darwin University (CDU) in the Northern Territory. Nathan has demonstrated consistently high academic progress throughout the course and has a current course grade point average of 6.75 out of a possible 7.

He was recently awarded the ‘2014 Top End NAIDOC Scholar of the Year’ award and in addition to his studies and other commitments, is an active member of the IAHA Student Representative Committee. Nathan has been the Indigenous Student Ambassador for the CDU Office of Indigenous Academic Support since 2013 and participates regularly in university events such as school/community group visits, Open Days, Scholarship and other ceremonies.

Nathan actively volunteers his time for IAHA events such as career expos and school visits and is an inspirational role model and mentor for enrolled students and future students who visit the university. 

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