Health Futures Institute

Ngangk Yira Research Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of the Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity advises on the strategic direction of the Centre, including: achieving its vision; ongoing research strategy; sustainability; and impact.

The Advisory Board is comprised of scientific members, cultural members and senior leaders from key organisations in sectors related to the work of Ngangk Yira. Some members represent an organisation whilst others are members by virtue of their skills and expertise.


Professor Rhonda Marriott

Director, Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity

A Professor in Aboriginal Health and the Director of Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity, Rhonda applies community participatory action research methods and is a chief investigator on 15 research projects that are addressing questions of concern to Aboriginal communities. Rhonda is the CIA on a major NHMRC Partnerships Project into Cultural Security for Aboriginal birthing women. In addition, she is a chief investigator on two NHMRC Centres for Research Excellence focussing on improving Aboriginal health outcomes.

Rhonda was born in Derby, Western Australia, and is descended from Kimberley Nyikina people through her mother. She is a registered nurse and midwife and celebrates 50 years in nursing this year. In 2003, she became the inaugural Head of the School of Nursing at Murdoch University and became the first Indigenous Head of a University School of Nursing in Australia.

Rhonda was recently appointed to the North Metropolitan Health Service Board and is a Board Director of the Western Australian Primary Health Alliance. She has also held a joint appointment with the Department of Health WA as a Chair in Nursing, Maternal and Newborn Health, and Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing. Rhonda is currently consulting with the Department of Communities and Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the co-design of a new Parent and Baby Service.


Board members

Professor John RG Challis


John Challis trained at the Universities of Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford, was appointed as MRC Scholar at McGill, and later inaugural Director of the Lawson Research Institute and Founding Director of the MRC Group in Fetal and Neonatal Health and Development at UWO. He became Chair of the Department of Physiology and later Vice President Research and Associate Provost of the University of Toronto and was inaugural Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute for Human Development, Child and Youth Health.

Subsequently Professor Challis served as President and CEO of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research in Vancouver BC, and as pro-Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia. His research has focussed on the mechanisms of term and preterm birth, endocrine development in fetal life, regulation of placental function and impact of the in-utero environment on post-natal health and disease. He has published more than 550 peer review papers and articles, has an H-index of 75 and has trained more than 100 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. He has been elected to Fellowships in several learned Societies and is a Life Member of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). He is recipient of the McLaughlin medal of RSC , the Malcolm Brown Award of CFBS, the Sarrazin and McIntosh Awards of the Canadian Physiological Society, the Transatlantic Medal of the Society for Endocrinology (UK), the Sir William Liley Award of the Perinatal Research Society (USA) and the Distinguished Investigator and Lifetime Achievements Awards of the Society for Gynaecologic Investigation (USA) amongst others.

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Marie Taylor

Whadjuk Elder

As Nyungar Elder, Marie Taylor descends from a long line of storytellers and has inherited this family gift. Aunty Marie is a woman of many talents, roles and identities. She is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and has been a junior state hockey representative, Bible College graduate, housing officer, evangelist, a course author and teacher at Murdoch University.

Auntie Marie has helped establish an Aboriginal Cultural Centre, produced programs that are taught in schools across the city and, in her role as Nyungar Elder, conducts traditional Welcomes to Country and Smoking Ceremonies. She has had a long career in both Government and non-Government agencies in a range of positions.

Officially retired, Aunty Marie is the chairperson of the Yelakitj Moort Nyungar Association which ensures culture, traditions, language and stories of the Nyungar families are maintained and taught in schools and communities. As part of the Honorary Elders Group for Murdoch University and member of the Ngangk Yira Advisory Board, Auntie Marie shares her wisdom and cultural guidance for research directions and the future of the University.

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Professor Fiona Stanley AC

MSc, MBBS MD, FFPHM, FAFPHM, FRACP, FRANZCOG, Hon DSc, Hon DUniv, Hon FRACGP, Hon MD, Hon FRCPCH, Hon LLB (honoris causa)

Co-Patron, Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity

Trained in maternal and child health, epidemiology and public health, Fiona has spent her eminent career researching the causes of major childhood illnesses, including in Aboriginal populations.

Her major contribution has been to establish the Telethon Kids Institute and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth.

She was Australian of the Year in 2003. In 2006 she was made a UNICEF Australia Ambassador.

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Learne Durrington

Adjunct Associate Professor

CEO of WA Primary Health Alliance

Learne Durrington is at heart a social worker who happens to be the CEO of WA Primary Health Alliance. She is known for saying ’if you keep doing the same thing you will get the same results’. This statement reflects how Learne leverages her role at WA Primary Health Alliance to improve outcomes for people and the community. She is guided by the principles of collective impact and a commitment to social justice.

Learne has had a career in both government and not-for-profit sectors across health, mental health, child protection and social care. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor with a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Management and has a range of industry nominal.

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Doreen Nelson

Aboriginal Elder from the Noongar Community

I am involved in the Birthing on Noongar Boodjar Research Project at Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health & Social Equity.

I am also the Chair of the Elder's Committee that will oversee a new Book on Elder's and Senior Aboriginal women's traditional birthing stories. Ngangk Yira transcribed my birthing story along with 17 others and they were made into posters which were displayed at the Birthing on Noongar Boodjar Symposium in 2018. All Elders sat under the posters while participants asked questions and yarned about those stories.

I have undertaken Welcome to Country for conferences, workshops and I also sit on an Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Committee and many others to help our mob. I am on many Committees, an example is at Fiona Stanley Hospital. It is a good thing to have Elders involved because we have the past stories, can advise on Aboriginal culture.

I am committed to the Aboriginal people and give whatever I can as an Elder to improve health systems, environment, literally any area for the betterment of our people. I am an Elder and leader in my Noongar Community.

As a Noongar Community Elder and Chair of the Birthing Book Elder's Committee; I am also a member of the Ngangk Yira Advisory Board where I can contribute the voices of my Community.

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Terri Barrett

Nurse Co-Director for Child and Adolescent Health Service Community Health

Terri Barrett has been a nurse and midwife for more than 30 years working in both the public and private sector across metropolitan and rural Western Australia.

Having initially completed hospital-based training as a nurse, Terri graduated as a midwife in 1982. Over the next 20 years she worked as a clinician and education facilitator before moving into midwifery management. Terri has undertaken a number of senior roles across WA Health and is currently Nurse Co-Director for Child and Adolescent Health Service Community Health.

Terri has been involved in the Birthing on Noongar Boodjar Project since its inception in Alice Springs. She is committed to improving services to families across the state, especially for Aboriginal mothers and babies. Terri is also the current President of the Australian College of Midwives.

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Denese Griffin

Director, Aboriginal Health Strategy at East Metropolitan Health Service

Denese is a Ngikina and Jaru woman born in Derby in the Kimberley, Western Australia. With a Bachelor of Applied Science in Aboriginal Community Management and Development, Denese has developed her leadership skills through her roles and a number Aboriginal leadership programs, including the Department of Health Leadership Excellence and Development Program.

She has 20 years’ experience in Indigenous policy and practice development and has developed her roles to incorporate strategic direction and operational leadership of substantial program areas. Her first role was working in Derby at Community Health providing health services and support to Aboriginal population locally and in the remote communities of the central west Kimberley. She has also worked in Aboriginal education in Pilbara, in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s legal services sector, at state-wide policy level with Department for Communities; Denese returned to work in Aboriginal health with North Metro Health Service, Women and Newborn Health, Aboriginal Maternity Services Support Unit and the WA Country Health Service developing and implementing Aboriginal health programs and services aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal community.

Denese is currently Director, Aboriginal Health Strategy at East Metropolitan Health Service leading the strategic direction of Aboriginal Health in partnership with the Aboriginal community and the organisation.

For the last five years she has also been an Associate Investigator of the Birthing on Noongar Boodjar Project, the Chair of the Cultural Leadership and Brokerage Stream and is the current Chairperson of the Kaadaninny Aboriginal Advisory Committee of Ngangk Yira.

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Melanie Robinson


Melanie Robinson, appointed as CEO of CATSINaM in February 2019, has worked in diverse roles in nursing over the past 30 years, including clinical practice, education, and policy. Her priorities at CATSINaM include growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives, ensuring the workforce is strongly supported, advocating for members, engaging with national policy development, and building strong partnerships across government and non-government sectors.

Melanie, who has cultural connections to the Gidja and Ngarinyin people of the Kimberley in Western Australia, is also passionate about supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Having grown up on Gibb River Station on Ngallagunda community before moving to Derby as a young girl, she has a connection with the particular health challenges faced by rural and remote communities. Melanie has a deep personal understanding of the impacts of colonisation, including having family members affected by Stolen Generations policies. Through her professional and own family’s experiences, Melanie has seen many examples of institutional and interpersonal racism contributing to poor health outcomes and inequitable access to healthcare. During her career, Melanie has worked at hospitals in Derby, Fitzroy Crossing and Perth, as well as aged care services in Derby and Dublin, Ireland. Melanie has also worked as a nurse educator at Marr Mooditj Training, and in policy in the Western Australian Department of Health. She completed a Masters in Nursing Research at the University of Notre Dame Australia in 2018.

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Tracy Reibel

Associate Professor

Tracy has been conducting research in the broad field of maternal and infant health for over 25 years. A passionate advocate for the routine provision of woman centred care in maternity health systems, Tracy has formed strong relationships with colleagues from across the health and research sectors. She also has a long association with women’s consumer advocacy groups across Australia. Since 2008, she has focussed much of her research on Aboriginal women’s access to maternity care which is culturally safe and meets women’s cultural and personal needs. This has always been done in partnership with Aboriginal colleagues as working together is the best way to effect the changes needed for the future health and well-being of First Nations families.

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Janinne Gliddon

Badimia Yamatji and Ballardong Nyoongar senior woman

Janinne is a proud Badimia Yamatji and Ballardong Nyoongar senior woman and has been in the public service for 30 years. She has worked within the public housing field (Aboriginal housing) and since 2008, has been in the health sector, specifically women’s health. Janinne has a Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion and has held the position of Aboriginal Senior Health Promotion Officer at King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women and Newborns. Since its inception, Janinne has been a researcher on the Ngangk Yira Research Centre’s Birthing on Noongar Boodjar project. She also held the role of the Cultural Leadership and Community Brokerage Coordinator and remains a Chairperson of the Aboriginal Consultative Group throughout the project.

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Ngangk means both 'mother' and 'sun'. Alongside the Noongar word Yira, the meaning expands to: the rising sun (ngangk yira). Together, they have added spiritual meaning for the sun's giving of life to all things in its passage across the sky.

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