MC & Keynote Speakers

 Conference MC

Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark Wenitong (Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University, School of Tropical Public Health, Medicine and Health Sciences) is from the Kabi Kabi tribal group of South Queensland.

Dr Wenitong the Senior Medical Advisor at Apunipima Cape York Health Council where he continues to practice clinical medicine and remote health service program delivery.

Prior to returning to Apunipima, Dr Wenitong was the PHMO and acting CEO at NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) in Canberra, as well as the Senior Medical Officer at Wuchopperen Health Service in Cairns for nine years.

Dr Wenitong was the medical advisor for Rural Remote Indigenous Health Unit (OATSIH) in Canberra and past president and founding member of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association. He is a member of the National Health and Medical Research Committee – National Preventative Health Committee, and chairs the Andrology Australia- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Reference group.

He is s board member of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and sits on the National Health Performance Authority – Primary Health Care Committee.

He has studied at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Summer School Program, on International Indigenous Health.

Dr Wenitong has had a long involvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce initiatives and was Chair of the committee which developed the Blueprint for Action – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategy.

He was a member of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Review Expert Advisory Group in 2008.

Dr Wenitong received the 2011 Australian Medical Association Presidents National Award for Excellence in Healthcare and the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council Hall of Fame Award in 2010. The Medical Journal of Australia recognised Dr Wenitong and his  colleagues’ (all Chief Investigators) multi – centre, randomised control trial on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander antenatal smoking cessation as their Best Research Publication of 2013.

International Keynote Speaker

Dr Kamilla Venner

Dr Kamilla Venner

‘Cultural adaptation of evidence-based treatments in partnership with First nation communities’

Kamilla Venner, Ph.D., is a member of the Athabascan tribe and is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. Her expertise is sought after by researchers around the world who are testing motivational interviewing (MI) with indigenous populations. Dr Venner’s research with MI began with culturally tailoring MI in partnership with American Indians and this manual is freely available at She has conducted a randomized clinical trial to test the effectiveness of MI with American Indians. In addition to research, Dr. Venner has expertise in training providers to use MI. She was a graduate student of William R. Miller, one of the originators of MI.

In 2002, Dr Venner became a member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers (MINT). Since then, she has completed two additional workshops to train supervisors to use MI as they help their supervisees to learn MI. The vast majority of Dr. Venner’s MI trainings have concentrated on American Indian/Alaska Native and other indigenous communities interested in this approach. Projects have included improving oral health, decreasing obesity in infants, improving diabetes management and other behavioral health issues such as substance use problems. She enjoys working in partnership with communities and agencies to see how MI may fit best for their clientele.

 Keynote Speakers

Ms Pat Anderson AO

Ms Pat Anderson AO

‘Empowerment: the missing determinant’

Ms Pat Anderson, AO is an Alyawarre woman known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for disadvantaged people, with a particular focus on the health of Australia’s First Peoples. She has extensive experience in all aspects of Aboriginal health, including community development, advocacy, policy formation and research ethics.

Ms Anderson has spoken before the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous People, and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Lowitja Institute. She has also been the CEO of Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin, Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Executive O
fficer of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT), and was the Chair of the CRC for Aboriginal Health from 2003 to 2009. Ms Anderson has published many essays, papers and articles. She was a co-author with Rex Wild QC of Little Children Are Sacred, a report on the abuse of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. In 2007 she was awarded the Public Health Association of Australia’s Sidney Sax Public Health Medal in recognition of her achievements and she was awarded the Human Rights Community Individual Award (Tony Fitzgerald Memorial Award) in 2012 and an honorary doctorate from Flinders University in 2013. Ms Anderson is based in Canberra.

In June 2014, Ms Anderson was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the Indigenous community as a social justice advocate, particularly through promoting improved health, educational and protection outcomes for children.

Professor Kerry Arabena

Professor Kerry Arabena

‘Where and when allied health professionals can have the biggest impact on the future of our families’

Professor Kerry Arabena is Chair for Indigenous Health and Professor and Director, Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit, and formerly the Professor and Director of Indigenous Health Research in the School for Indigenous Health, Monash University. A descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, and a former social worker with a doctorate in human ecology, Professor Arabena has an extensive background in public health, administration, community development and research working in senior roles in Indigenous policy and sexual health. Her work has been in areas such as gender issues, social justice, human rights, access and equity, service provision, harm minimisation, and citizenship rights and responsibilities. She was a founding Co-Chair of the new national Indigenous peak body, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, a collective voice to lobby governments on Indigenous issues.

Professor Steven Larkin

Professor Steven Larkin

‘The ascendancy of Indigenous Knowledges: Creating, leading and sustaining healing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’

Professor Steven Larkin is a Kungarakany man from Darwin in the Northern Territory. He is the Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership and the Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE).

As a member of the CDU Executive, Professor Larkin works closely with other senior managers and stakeholders, including the Commonwealth, in developing and implementing strategies and providing leadership to further progress the vision, strategic framework, goals and objectives of CDU in becoming a leader in Indigenous education.

Professor Larkin holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) from the  Queensland University of Technology, a Master’s degree  in Social Science  from Charles Sturt University and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Queensland.

Professor Larkin has served on numerous national advisory committees in Indigenous Affairs. He has chaired the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council or ATSIHEAC (then Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council) for three years (2009-2012), and the Northern Territory Board of Studies for two years (2010-2012); and continues to provide invaluable input as a member of several well-respected professional affiliations which include:

  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council (ATSIHEAC)
  • National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN)
  • Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
  • The Healing Foundation
  • beyond blue
Joy Savage

Joy Savage

‘Global problems, local solutions’

Joy Savage is a proud Kandju woman from far North Queensland with more than 20 years senior management experience in government and non-government sectors.  She is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Aboriginal Hostels Limited, a Commonwealth owned company, which manages a network of temporary accommodation facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Prior to joining the Australian Public Service in 2000, Joy worked for 16 years in the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector, including as CEO of two Aboriginal controlled health services.

Joy has a unique blend of leadership and management experience in policy and program implementation and was a key contributor to the roll out of the Australian Government’s Close the Gap strategy and COAG’s Indigenous Disadvantage agenda. In her previous roles as Assistant Secretary for Indigenous Policy and Citizenship in the Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Joy was a vocal advocate for change.

Joy also previously headed the Remote Health Services Development Branch, in the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, where she worked to enhance the health workforce and improve primary health systems in remote communities.

Joy has been a Board Member of The Fred Hollows Foundation for the past 3 years and has a Master of Business Administration.  She holds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and equity as key driving factors to her personal and professional life.