Natalie Lewis, Co-Chair
Natalie Lewis is a descendant of the Gamilaraay/Gamilaroi Nation and is the CEO of the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Protection Peak (QATSICPP). Natalie serves on the National Executive of SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, and co-chairs Family Matters: Strong communities, Strong culture, Stronger children, the national campaign to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in statutory child protection systems. She holds appointments on the Queensland First Children and Families Board and the Joint Ministerial Council for Closing the Gap. She has been involved in youth justice and child protection for the past two decades, providing direct service, program and policy development, and organisational leadership both in Australia and the United States.
Natalie remains fiercely committed to progressing a transformational reform agenda for child protection systems in Queensland and nationally.
Richard Weston, Co-Chair
Richard is the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer for SNAICC, the national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and the co-chair for Family Matters.
As a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, Richard has worked in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs for more than 20 years. For nine years, he held the position of CEO of The Healing Foundation to improve the strategic development of the organisation. And previously, Richard led Indigenous-controlled health services in far west New South Wales and Queensland.
Muriel Bamblett (Vic.)
Muriel Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung woman who has been the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency’s’ (VACCA) CEO since 1999. She is SNAICC’s current Chairperson and was SNAICC Chairperson in the past from1998-2008.
Muriel is currently active in over 30 advisory groups concerning the Aboriginal community, including the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group; Aboriginal Family Violence Steering Committee; Victorian Children’s Council; Aboriginal Justice Forum; and the Aboriginal Community Elders Service, to name just a few. Muriel was heavily involved in the Northern Territory Child Protection Inquiry from 2009-11.
Jenny Brown (NSW)
Jenny Brown is a Wandandian woman with strong connections to the Yuin Nation, south eastern New South Wales. She has a background in strategic and operational leadership in both the Australian and State bureaucracy. Her expertise is in community based research, strengthening sector capacity and developing strategic frameworks and public policy.
Her current role is National Manager, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Wellbeing with the Australian Red Cross, where she leads a strategy outcome that supports co-designed approaches with young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples to improve their wellbeing connected to identity, culture and community. She is committed to leading and advocating for the role and voice of the Red Cross National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership team in driving cultural change at the organisational level. This comes with a whole of organisational remit in oversighting the implementation of the Red Cross commitment to reconciliation.
Natahlia Buitendyk (Qld)
Natahlia Buitendyk is a Budawang NSW woman, born and raised on Jaggera and Turrbul Queensland country. She is also proud of her European and Micronesian heritage. Her background working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and families set the foundation to become the Care Support Specialist in the Flexible Support Program for UnitingCare. She currently oversees holistic cultural support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in state care and is passionate about reducing systemic over-representation.
Jeffrey Chesters (Qld)
Jeffrey Chesters was born in Victoria and studied in the western suburbs of Melbourne.
As an Aboriginal child we didn’t get much of an opportunity to learn about my culture from Wurundjeri tribe area, which made it hard in growing up not knowing my true identity. When I was 17 years old I left Melbourne and joined the army. The army life was tough at first and I didn’t tell many people about my culture, as the army was not the best place to say anything at the time. In 1983 I was shifted to Oakey, Queensland, which was very hard to deal with at the age of 17. The people I was working with were amazing, and I started to talk about my culture to a limited group of personal that were very supportive to me, and I was felling much better about myself.
Jeffrey started working with children after getting out of the army and – after some great people and Elders pushed him to study and get an education degree – he is now lucky enough to run Kulila Indigenous Kindergarten in Toowoomba. Jeffrey has lived in Queensland for the last 36 years, mentoring and teaching culture, and now working in an organisation where he works with children who have been sent via the courts for a bail program.
Melissa Clarke (SA)
Melissa Clarke is a proud Ngarrindjeri woman and mother to three beautiful children. Melissa is a strong advocate for social justice and especially for opportunities for the self-determination of Aboriginal communities. Fundamental to her current role as Director of Aboriginal Services at Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement, is ensuring the rights of Aboriginal people and communities are met in the Child Protection and Youth Justice systems across all of South Australia. Melissa has the privilege of regularly travelling to Aboriginal communities across South Australia to engage, educate and identify the needs and hear the views of Aboriginal communities to inform advocacy at a high level and deliver appropriate and relevant services to Aboriginal people in South Australia.
Prior to working at ALRM, Melissa was the Aboriginal Children’s Advocate at the SA Children’s Guardian. And prior to that, she served with South Australia Police, specialising in areas such as Family Violence, Prosecution, Youth Justice, Community Policing and Crime Prevention. Her current and previous roles have assisted in developing strong leadership skills and experienced strategic planning, policy development and community engagement.
Michael Currie (Qld)
Michael Currie is a Mununjahli Yugambeh man from South East Queensland. Currently employed as the Principal Advisor, Indigenous Development at The Benevolent Society in Queensland, Michael has over 20 years’ experience in working with vulnerable children and their families in the areas of Youth Justice and Child Protection, across the jurisdictions of Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania.
His experience includes working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled sector in the areas of prevention and early intervention policy, training and program delivery. Michael has management experience in community and custodial secure care and 5 years living and working remote to deliver frontline child protection and support services with communities, families and their children.
Joanne Della Bona (WA)
Joanne Della Bona is a Noongar woman from Whadjuk and Balardong country in Western Australia. Joanne has more than 30 years’ experience in the community services sector, in education, housing, child protection the reunification of children, childcare, job skills, and employment.
Joanne started her career as a primary school teacher, and has a Bachelor of Arts (Education). In 1994 Joanne was awarded the Western Australian of the Year Award, in the Youth category. She has held Board positions for Noongar Radio, (now) Aboriginal Family Law Services, and the Noongar Child Protection Council (NCPC), and is a Delegate on the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC). Joanne was the Acting CEO for Beananging Kwuurt Institute.
Joanne is currently serving as the Executive Director of Coolabaroo, which is inclusive of Coolabaroo Neighbourhood Centre, Colabaroo Housing Service, and Coolabaroo Community Service.
Joanne Else (SA)
Joanne Else is a proud Aboriginal woman; her Aboriginal heritage is Ngarrindjeri from the Lower Lakes Coorong region of South Australia. Joanne’s working background is in Aboriginal Primary Health Care. Her passion as an advocate has led her to the child protection sector, firstly working for the SA Gazetted Agency – Aboriginal Family Support Services as a Cultural Consultant, and currently as the Family Matters Campaign Coordinator for South Australia. Joanne has a strong commitment to self-determination and empowerment of Aboriginal people nationally.
Gerald Featherstone (Qld)
Gerald Featherstone is a Bundjalung man and proud father of 1 and has been a Director of QATSICPP since 2017. He has worked for Kummara Association as a Social Worker in many roles since moving from Queensland Health and Education Queensland in 2003. In 2009, Gerald was asked to take over as Kummara’s CEO. Since that time, he has been involved in the development of Kummara Association and their services whilst simultaneously completing research on Aboriginal parenting, capturing specifically those aspects that create strong and well-functioning families.
In 2017, Gerald completed research on what makes for well-functioning Aboriginal families in Brisbane as a direct attempt to inform child protection and kinship care practices in Queensland. This research contributes to the conversation on how we can work across difference and achieve significant and lasting change for families.
Gerald’s leadership of Kummara has seen the establishment of Aboriginal family led decision making as a core component of work with families linked to the child protection sector.
Gerald is currently the state co-chair of Family Matters Queensland and was directly part of drafting the current generational approach to bringing about change for the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through the Our Way Strategy.
Tim Ireland (NSW)
Tim Ireland is a Bundjalung man from northern NSW. He has served as Chief Executive Officer of AbSec (Aboriginal Child, Family and Community Care State Secretariat) since 2015. He has a background in family and community services and Aboriginal community development. Tim previously worked in senior executive roles at the NSW Department of Family and Community Services, and in Aboriginal community development roles within local government.
Toni Janke (Qld)
Toni Janke is a Wuthathi/Meriam woman from Cape York and Murray Island, Torres Strait. Toni grew up in Cairns, QLD and Canberra, ACT. She holds an Arts/Law Degree (University of NSW), a Graduate Certificate in Ministry, (Australian Catholic University) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice (Bond University), Gold Coast, QLD.
Toni has extensive networks in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and has worked in community, government and numerous agencies for over 30 years. She has held several positions on boards and committees at various levels in arts, media, music, education and the community sector.
Toni works at Centacare Family Relationship Services, Brisbane as the Coordinator, Indigenous Services working closely with families, especially those experiencing domestic and family violence and complex issues. Toni is passionate about healing, social justice and self-determination.
Maureen O’Meara (WA)
Maureen O’Meara is a Bardi and Djaru woman with a wealth of experience in government and non-government sectors. She’s worked for the Department of Health in Western Australia and the Department of Health and Communities in the Northern Territory, where she was part of ground-breaking reforms. She’s served as the regional co-ordinator in both the East and West Kimberley for the Department of Housing and the chief executive of Emama Nguda Aboriginal Corporation and Derby Aboriignal Sporting Association. At a board level, Maureen is a director of the Bardi and Jawi Niimidiman Aboriginal Corporation and serves as director of Community Housing Limited and chair of Aboriginal Community Housing Limited.
Maureen is currently undertaking her Master Public Health at Deakin University at the Waurn Ponds Campus in Geelong. She has completed her Post Graduate Certificate Alternative Healing Practices and BAsc Indigenous Health at Curtin University in Perth, and Associate Diploma of Business (Community Development) at Batchelor Institute NT. Maureen is also a qualified trainer in Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid and holds a current Certificate IV Training and Assessment.
Kathleen Pinkerton (WA)
Kathleen Pinkerton is a proud Widi woman from the Yamatji Nation in Western Australia. She is a Chairperson of Yorganop Association Incorporated and a graduate of Edith Cowan University with a Batchelor of Social Science in Indigenous Services. Kathleen’s background includes having worked in child protection, early childhood and training sector where she developed extensive experience in facilitating, coordinating and delivering programs, particularly in rural and remote communities.
Dawn Ross (NT)
Dawn Ross is a Pintupi Luritja and Kaytetye woman and Manager of the Early Years Division at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (CAAC), Dawn oversees early childhood services in the region, ensuring evidence-based parenting support and education is provided to vulnerable and at-risk Aboriginal children and their families in Alice Springs.
Sheena Watt (Vic.)
Sheena Watt is a public health advocate and company director. Sheena, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, is a Board Member of the Centre for Australian Progress and Queen Elizabeth Centre. She is a member of the Clinical Governance Committee at Merri Health.
Sheena is currently the Manager of Government Relations at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership. With a background in Aboriginal and Multicultural Health, Sheena has a particular focus on health equality and clinical governance. In 2016, Sheena was awarded as a Top 50 Australian Advanced Not-For-Profit Governance Leader.