IAHA National Conference Speakers and Program

Kevin Yow Yeh is a Wakka Wakka and South Sea Islander man, trained Social Worker and Sessional Academic at Queensland University of Technology. Kevin is employed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) to lead its systemic reform work, ensuring the notification process is culturally safe for First Nations peoples. Kevin is a director at the Institute for Collaborative Race Research and director of Powerback, an Indigenous led company providing solar power to remote Indigenous communities in northern Australia. As a Social Worker, Kevin provides cultural supervision to a number of organisations in Brisbane and the Aboriginal community of Cherbourg. In his spare time, Kevin hosts Triple A Murri Country’s radio program, Let’s Talk and enjoys a laugh as a tv commentator on Network Ten’s Gogglebox series.

Catrina is a Yangkaal & Gangalidda woman from Mornington Island who currently lives and works on Kalkadoon country in Mount Isa. She has an extensive academic career in Indigenous Health of over 20 years. She commenced her academic career in 2000 at the then Mount Is Centre for Rural and Remote Health, the second University Department of Rural Health to be established nationally in 1997 and renamed the Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health in 2016. As Director, Catrina leads a multidisciplinary team of clinical educators, researchers and operations staff to deliver a program of work that addresses the health workforce needs of rural and remote communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health improvement in the region. Catrina is an established researcher with a focus on projects that address key health issues for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Catrina is a current board member of the Royal Flying Doctors Service – Queensland Section.  

Dr Jackie Huggins AM FAHA is an historian and author. She is a Bidjara and Birri Gubba Juru woman from Queensland. Former Co-Chair National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Reconciliation Australia, Treaty Advancement Committee for Qld, previous Commissioner for the national Inquiry Into The Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children From Their Families, among many other titles. She has worked in Aboriginal affairs for over four decades including academia, government, non-government and community. 

 She is currently Elder in Residence for Australia Progress, POU Atlantic Fellows, Melbourne University, Honorary Professor ANU, Director National Centre for Reconciliation, Truth and Justice, Federation University Vic., Referendum Working Group. Expertise has been writing Aboriginal women’s history and place since the 1980s. She has authored “Sister Girl” and exploration of women’s issues in 2022 and other books. 

Johnathan Thurston AM is one of the greatest rugby league players of all time and a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights and empowerment.  

As a player, Johnathan showcased exceptional skills and leadership, earning him numerous accolades, including four Dally M Medals, three Golden Boots, and a Clive Churchill Medal. He won the 2004 and 2015 NRL Premierships, represented Queensland in State of Origin on 37 occasions and donned the green and gold jersey for the Australian national team in 37 Tests. 

Beyond his on-field achievements, Johnathan has been a tireless advocate for the Indigenous community. He has used his platform to raise awareness about issues affecting Indigenous Australians and has actively campaigned for equality, education, and improved opportunities for young Indigenous people. 

Johnathan has established various initiatives, including the JT Academy, which provides educational and leadership programs for Indigenous youth. He has also served as an ambassador for numerous Indigenous organisations, using his influence to drive positive change and inspire future generations. In 2017, Johnathan helped launch the $9.5 million NRL Cowboys House, a home away from home for over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from remote North Queensland.  

Today, Johnathan continues to make a significant impact as a commentator, mentor, and ambassador, leaving an indelible legacy both on and off the field. 

Mr Napau Pedro Stephen AM is in his third term as a member and second term as Chairperson of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Board. 

Mr Stephen has more than 40 years of extensive experience in executive leadership and management with Australian Government and state and local government agencies and community organisations.

Previously a maritime engineer, he spent 10 years with the Royal Australian Navy before returning to Thursday Island in 1982.

Mr Stephen is a former Mayor of the Torres Shire Council and served the community for 20 years in that role.  He is an ordained minister of religion and a member of the Port Kennedy Association and the Torres Strait RSL.

His aspiration is to establish a single regional governance body in the Torres Strait and the Northern Peninsula Area, to provide effective and efficient governance with a model of hope and security in line with social and economic independence for people living in the Torres Strait

Mr Stephen continues to advocate for increasing the wealth of the Torres Strait region through developing local industries and jobs, and for supporting community organisations with service delivery.

He is passionate about local-led action towards Closing the Gap, including around housing and home ownership, employment, health, domestic and family violence prevention and climate change to support more local people and communities to thrive.

In 2022, Mr Stephen was appointed to the Referendum Working Group and Referendum Engagement Group alongside First Nations representatives from across the country tasked with establishing the path towards a referendum on the Voice to Parliament.

Professor Calma is an Aboriginal elder from the Kungarakan tribal group and a member of the Iwaidja tribal group in the NT. Currently the National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking and Chancellor of the University of Canberra, Professor Calma previously served as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the Race Discrimination Commissioner. Professor Calma has a special interest in Indigenous education, employment and training programs.

Professor Calma is a long-serving supporter of Indigenous Allied Health Australia and IAHA Lifetime Achievement Awardee. He has been a prominent advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, pioneering the Close the Gap campaign and more recently leading the national effort to tackle Indigenous smoking.

Dr Michael (Uncle Mick) Adams is a respected Elder in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. He is a descendent of the Yadhiagana/Wuthathi peoples of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and the Gurindji people of Central Western Northern Territory with extended family relationship with the people of the Torres Straits, Warlpiri (Yuendumu), and East Arnhem Land (Gurrumaru) communities. 

He is recognised and credited both nationally and internationally as one of the leading Australian Aboriginal researchers. His research includes male health, suicide, domestic/family violence, cancer, mental health, maternal health and so forth. Dr Adam’s PhD research study investigated the prevalence and correlates of sexual dysfunction among Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males. This has been produced into text titled Men’s Business: A Study into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Men’s Sexual and Reproductive Health. This study is the largest (300 participants) and only research that engaged Aboriginal males on this topic. He has also written his second book titled My Journey Through the Academic Mist which provides an insight into the trials and tribulations of academia.

Dr Adams has recently received an Elders award from the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Advisory Council for his active participation in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander higher education. He has also been recognised by his Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peers by being awarded their 2006 Deadlys Award for Outstanding Achievement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health. He has also been awarded the Australian Queensland University Technology 2010 Chancellor’s Outstanding Alumnus Award and the 2010 Faculty of Health Outstanding Alumnus Award.

Elizabeth Walker is a proud Aboriginal woman of the Nunakal (Noonuccal), Ngughi and Goenpul tribes from North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island in South East Queensland. Elizabeth is passionate about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and, organisations to achieve positive change as determined and defined by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Inspired by her family legacy, Elizabeth explores writing, poetry and connection to culture as protective mechanisms for health as an Aboriginal woman. Her poetry reflects the critical relationships and connections between Aboriginal people, culture, country and kin and, how that intersects with holistic definitions of health for Aboriginal people.