IAHA Member Insights on The Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference


(L-R) IAHA members Celeste Brand, Kirsty Nicholls and Deborah Barney at The Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference

Indigenous Allied Health Australia was pleased to offer our membership professional development opportunities to attend The Lowitija Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference in Melbourne held from the 8-10 November 2016. IAHA supported student members Celeste Brand and Kirsty Nichols, and graduate member Deborah Barney to attend the conference; these are their insight from the conference.

Celeste Brand – IAHA Student Member

The Lowitja Conference provided the space for community members, professionals, organisations, academics and students to come together to share knowledge and research in relation to the health and wellbeing of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Indigenous people from across the world. Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and United State of America presented and attended the conference.

I co-presented with Donna Murray about the IAHA Health Fusion Team Challenge (HFTC). This was my first opportunity to speak in a public forum, and a new professional development skill. I reflected on how the HFTC has benefited me. Key points I discussed were:

    • Learning new skills i.e. negotiation, communication; opportunity to share what I knew about my own professions whilst learning about other allied health professions; and the opportunity to learn about my own values, beliefs and myself.
    • I spoke about how I have gained more confidence and courage to seek new learning opportunities, such as the SRC – and nominate for vice-chair. After attending my first HFTC in 2014, I left with a ‘buzz’ and really wanted to carry this buzz feeling wherever I could within IAHA.
    • I mentioned how the HFTC has assisted me professionally, including job opportunities. Lastly, I spoke about unexpected positive outcomes that have reduced the feeling of isolation. This includes the relationships, networks, mentors I have created as well as the knowledge gained.

During breaks I assisted the team to promote IAHA at the IAHA stall. Here, I met and was introduced to presenters, academics and people working in the space of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing. I found this to be a great experience as I promoted IAHA and shared my experience as a student member of IAHA.

Another highlight was listening to Chief Wilton Littlechild. Chief Littlechild, from Canada spoke about Truth and Reconciliation in Canada following historical events where young children were placed in residential facilities (similar to our historical events such as the Stolen Generations). He spoke about ReconciliACTION – time for action.

Deborah Barney


IAHA Members Kirsty Nicholls and Deborah Barney volunteering at the conference. Credit: James Henry Photography

The conference was such an amazing experience for me, although it’s challenging to narrow down the highlights, they would have to be:

  • Uncle Archie Roach’s performance on Thursday
  • Presentations by Chief Wilton Littlechild, Moana Jackson and the extraordinary Professor Karina Walters. All three of these speakers inspired and motivated me to seek out their work to better understand the stories they shared with us.
  • The connections and friendships that I have made within IAHA.

I applaud IAHA for their commitment to supporting Indigenous allied health students and new graduates, and extend my thanks for this amazing professional development opportunity.

Kirsty Nicholls

I had the pleasure of receiving an Indigenous Allied Health Australia student professional development scholarship to volunteer and attend the 2016 Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference held in Melbourne in November 2016. The conference theme: Identity; Knowledge; Strength was a well thought-out and inspiring theme for the Lowitja Institutes first international Indigenous health and wellbeing conference. The conference program was deadly with many opportunities to grow and learn alongside of Australia’s leading academics, researchers and cultural leaders, all the while hearing from the exemplary list of international guest speakers such as Chief Wilton Littlechild and Professor Katrina Walters just to name a few.

Volunteering at this conference was an amazing experience, where I got to meet and learn about the work of the Lowitja Institute. It also presented as an opportunity to give back to the organisation that is putting Indigenous Allied Health professions at the forefront health workforce development to improve culturally safe and responsive care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, IAHA that is! Over the course of three days I was able to network with students from other international universities and academics while manning the IAHA stall. People were so impressed with the work that IAHA are doing and asked about opportunities to collaborate on mentoring, professional development and Health Fusion Team Challenge, so much so that I am excited about the next 12 to 18 months for the new Board of Directors and Student Representative Committee.

My highlights included seeing and hearing from Uncle Archie Roach, Chief Littlechild and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Keynote address by Professor Karina Walters and watching fellow student member and SRC Deputy Chair Celeste Brand co-present with Donna Murray on Strengthening our future Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and the Health Fusion Team Challenge!

If you have the opportunity to apply for one of these scholarships in the future, do it because the opportunities and networking that you will get out of it are deadly and endless!


December 20, 2016


Posted by: Admin