Ngangk Yira Institute for Change

Ngangk Yira Research Advisory Board

The Advisory Board of the Ngangk Yira Institute For Change 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 Institute for Change

Director of the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change and Professor in Aboriginal Health, Rhonda leads a multidisciplinary team and a range of research projects addressing Aboriginal peoples’ questions of research priority. Her personal mantra is “nothing about us without us”.

With a national and international reputation for excellence in Aboriginal research, Rhonda uses her knowledge, expertise and phenomenal professional networks to advocate for the changes needed in health, child protection, education and environmental policies and the systems which operationalise these.

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

Rhonda has been the recipient of many awards, including being inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019, being made a member of the Order of Australia in 2020, and receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2021 WA Nursing and Midwifery Awards.

Rhonda is invited to participate in many expert groups, including by the World Health Organisation and is an invited guest at the International Indigenous People’s Health Conference in August, 2022.


Board members

Aunty 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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Melanie Robinson

Director, Aboriginal Health, Child and Adolescent Health Services

Melanie Robinson has worked in diverse roles in nursing over the past 30 years, including clinical practice, education and policy. She was appointed Director of Aboriginal Health in CAHS in 2020, the same year she was appointed Chair of the Ngangk Yira Advisory Board.

Melanie has cultural connections to the Gidja and Ngarinyin people of the Kimberley, and is passionate about supporting young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Having grown up on Gibb River Station in the Ngallagunda community, she moved to Derby for the majority of her education. She has a connection with the particular health challenges faced by rural and remote communities and a deep personal understanding of the impacts of colonisation, including having family members affected by Stolen Generations policies.

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.She completed a Masters in Nursing Research at the University of Notre Dame Australia in 2018.

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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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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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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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Amy House

Amy House leads fundraising and development for the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Amy has a highly credible reputation for delivering major impacts across the conservation, health, education and legal sectors in Australia. She has enabled the investment of some $500million into these sectors by creating mutual investment partnerships with public & private sectors and building major philanthropic programs. Amy joined the ‘for purpose’ sector in 2008, following a 15-year background in law and commercial development. Amy is a Board Member of the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change, Murdoch University, and prior to joining AWC she was the Director of Advancement, Murdoch University. She has chaired several philanthropic Foundations in Australia and advised multiple high-profile organisations and individuals on revenue maximisation for purpose. Amy is a graduate of the Oxford University Said Business School, is an internationally accredited fundraising executive, and has post-graduate qualifications in executive leadership, project management and law.

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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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