Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce series
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The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce series

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce series

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce series provided an opportunity for key stakeholders to meet and discuss important factors affecting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and identify actions needed to best support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners.

Through listening to experiences of Indigenous practitioners and critically reflecting on our own practices, we look to find opportunities to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and improve the support structures around them.

Background to the series

The National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 outlined convening a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce summit. 

Because of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit has been converted into an event series held in a blended format including online webinars. A face-to-face event is planned for early 2023. 

The blended format allows access to these important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce discussions for all stakeholders on a national scale, while considering the health and safety of all participants.


The webinars

Beyond COVID-19: Career pipeline planning for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce 

The first webinar in the series was a panel discussion and Q&A featuring Ali Drummond, Donna Murray and Tanya McGregor, facilitated by Kevin Yow Yeh. 

The panellists discussed what the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforces; the agility of health workforces in meetings the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples and communities; and the importance of the role of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner in responding to COVID-19 in communities

The panel also discussed and what key stakeholders such as employer groups, tertiary education providers, VET providers and Ahpra need to do differently, or start to do to grow the participation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners for the future.

The cost of failing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioner 

In the second webinar in the series, we heard from two speakers who shared their lived experiences of unsafe engagement in the workforce and the impact this has had on them, their careers, their communities and the health system.

A/Prof Kris Rallah-Baker, Jade Renouf-Robertson and Warren Locke shared deeply personal stories and focused on learning and training environments. They discussed the costs of failing to provide culturally safe supports for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners.

Due to the personal nature of these stories, the webinar was not recorded. 

Best practice models for supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners

In the third event, and final webinar of the series, we shifted the conversation to look at the future, based on self-determination and strength-based principles.

Dr Karen Nicholls and Sam Paxton, in conversation with Kevin Yow Yeh, looked at effective existing models of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners, including the Newcastle medical program. 

From completing programs and training, to successfully graduating, the panellists considered the ‘ingredients’ of these models and discussed how they can be appropriately re-purposed in training environments and support bodies.

Event series presenters

Kevin Yow Yeh (MC)

Kevin Yow YehKevin is a Wakka Wakka and South Sea Islander man and current Higher Degree Research student at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), researching ways to best support First Nations peoples seeking justice and compensation from racial discrimination experienced in the workplace. He received his Bachelor of Social Work from QUT and recently managed a bail and order program based out of a Community Legal Centre in Brisbane, which, in addition to advocating for the rights of young people, also supported young people to comply with their youth justice bail and/or order conditions.

Kevin has been a social worker across both government and non-government areas, working mostly with First Nations peoples and communities. He is interested in race, racism, and justice and in recent years has developed a keen interest in the policies and processes of the Queensland Human Rights Commission and as such, has supported a number of First Nations peoples navigate this space. He also teaches Indigenous Knowledges into the School of Public Health and Social Work at QUT and is an active member of the community in which he lives, regularly attending and speaking at local marches and rallies that bring attention to social justice issues impacting First Nations peoples and communities.   

Ali Drummond

Ali DrummondAli was born and raised on Weibene (Thursday Island or TI) in north Queensland, and his people are the Meriam people of Zenadh Kes (Torres Straits), and the Wuthathi people of Cape York Peninsula.

Ali is a registered nurse with experience spanning clinical practice, management, policy, academia, and research.

Ali is completing his PhD, which is investigating the experiences of Australian nursing academics who are tasked with developing, delivering, and evaluating nursing curricula concerning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health and well-being.

Ali is the National Director of Education and Practice at the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM). His work includes a focus on improving the cultural safety of education and health settings for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who are completing their nursing and midwifery education. 

Donna Murray

Donna MurrayDonna is a proud Wiradjuri and Wonnarua nation citizen and the Chief Executive Officer of Indigenous Allied Health Australia Ltd (IAHA). Donna holds an Adjunct Associate Professor (Industry) with the University of Technology Sydney and is a 2021 Impact 25 Award winner. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD), Chair of Thirrili Ltd and Director on the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Board. She is a committed Indigenous Community Development Practitioner working to support Indigenous people’s rights, cultural governance and embed nation-building principles in shaping their own future for generations to come. 

Associate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker


Kris Rallah-BakerAssociate Professor Kris Rallah-Baker is Australia’s first and currently only Indigenous ophthalmologist. As a proud Yuggera, Warangu and Wiradjuri man, Dr Rallah-Baker is making a permanent footprint in Noosa and the local community. 

Kris is a highly respected comprehensive ophthalmologist and is one of the founding members and former President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, an Independent Director on the Federal Board of the Royal Flying Doctors Service, technical advisor to the Fred Hollows Foundation and Chair of the Vision2020 Indigenous Committee as well as sitting on numerous committees with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.

Jade Renouf-Robertson

Jade Robertson-RenoufJade is a Gubbi Gubbi woman from Brisbane, Queensland. Jade is an Indigenous Student Ambassador for the Oodgeroo Unit at QUT and a Research Assistant for the Australian Centre for Health Law Research. Jade is currently studying a Bachelor of Law and Justice with QUT and holds a special interest in Health Law.

Jade has previously studied a Bachelor of Nursing nearing completion with only two placements remaining to complete her degree. Jade has been an Indigenous Tutor for QUT and a guest speaker at lectures for her cohort including CATSINaM and was the first QUT student to be accepted into the Australian College of Nursing Emerging Leader Program which involved an overseas exchange program and placement at St Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, New York. 

Jade has also been the recipient of multiple scholarships and awards based on academic merit such as; Puggy Hunter Scholarship, Arrow Energy Scholarship and the QUT Law Founders Scholarship

Jade also has also held previous positions with the Federal Government including the Australian Taxation Office and was the Co-Chair responsible for developing the ATO’s Indigenous Evergreen Employment Program as well as positions in the Department of Human Services. 

Warren Locke

Warren LockeMulanburra Yidindji and Koko Minni heritage; my people are from the Gordonvale and South Palmer Region in Far North Queensland. 

I am currently the Manager of Strategic Pathways, Workforce Strategy Branch, Clinical Planning and Strategic Services Division in the Queensland Department of Health.

I’ve worked for over 36 years in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community service organisations, local, state, and federal government agencies.  

I’m an experienced strategic workforce planner and human resource practitioner (generalist), specialising in engagement and planning specifically with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

I developed and delivered Queensland Health’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workforce Strategic Framework (ATSIHWSF) 2016-2026.

Dr Karen Nicholls 

Karen NichollsDr Nicholls is a proud Torres Strait Islander woman with family spanning the Torres Strait down to the East Coast.

Dr Nicholls is responsible for developing and implementing AIDA’s Specialist Trainee Support program supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors who are looking to enter or undertake specialist training. 

She aims to achieve this by providing the necessary advocacy and support needed for colleges and individuals to create successful pathways into specialist training.

A graduate from the University of Newcastle, Dr Nicholls is a General Practitioner with a long history of working in the Community Controlled Health Sector, a GP Supervisor, in academia and academic support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Sam Paxton

Sam PaxtonSam Paxton is a proud Waywurru woman, born and raised on Boon Wurrung Country. She is currently part of Weenthunga Health Networks Leadership Team, in the role of Durrong Ngulu (a Woiwurrung term, meaning ‘join voices’). A First Nations-led and state-wide organisation, Weenthunga is growing and nourishing the First Nations health workforce and leading transformational change in health systems. 

Sam has undertaken work in social and emotional wellbeing across many organisations in roles as employee, advisor and consultant. This includes five years employed at VACCHO, co-creating the headspace Yarn Safe campaign, and establishing health service partnerships for an Aboriginal Early Years Centre. She is a Member of the Indigenous Allied Health Association (IAHA) and was awarded IAHA’s Local Allied Health Champion in 2020. 

Sam’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) / Bachelor of Business (Management) from Monash University, Certificate IV in Workplace and Business Coaching, and a National Mediation Accreditation Certificate. She has a passion for Aboriginal holistic social and emotional wellbeing, drive to contribute to better health access and outcomes for mob, critical consciousness, relationships/connections in health, and love of Country, culture and community.

Page reviewed 22/12/2022