We hear a lot about health data, and statistics these days… but to really understand what we need from our health system, we need to look beyond the data, and remember that every statistic is a person, and every person has a unique voice that should be heard.
Appreciating Voices brings you the personal stories of lived experience from across Australia’s diverse communities- and shows how appreciating and acting on these voices can improve the health of people from diverse backgrounds, accessibility and impact of care and make our health systems more inclusive of everyone.
Dr Mellissa Naidoo
Dr Mellissa Naidoo is a first generation Australian of South African Indian heritage. Her parents migrated from South Africa in the 1970s to escape the oppression of Apartheid and her grandparents followed as refugees after the Soweto riots. She was born in Townsville and spent her early childhood in rural and regional Queensland, mindful of difference as she was often the only person of colour in her class and neighbourhood. Inspired by her father who, as an International Medical Graduate worked tirelessly supporting the health of rural and regional communities and training of other doctors, she is conscious of the commitment and contribution migrants make to the community and their adopted home.
Mellissa has over 18 years’ in clinical and medical leadership roles in the healthcare sector with a passion and focus on health improvement. She was diagnosed with cancer at age 37 and having been on both sides of medicine, as a doctor and a patient, Mellissa is passionate about person-centred care, health equity and growing health literacy to improve health outcomes, particularly for those at the margins.
Recognised for her achievements and advocacy, Mellissa was named as a finalist for the 2020 Women in Digital Executive Leader of the Year Award and recently made Insurance Business Australia's 2021 Elite Women in Insurance list. As founder of Women & Medicine, her advocacy led to her assistance being sought to join and source audience participants for SBS Insight's 'Female Firsts' episode and she has helped amplify emerging intersectional voices in multiple different forums. She is a vocal advocate of the need for diverse and inclusive leaders to enable equitable health outcomes and support the healthcare needs of diverse communities; and proud to be mentoring and training the next generation of diverse medical leaders through her college and university roles.
Mellissa is an ambassador for Mummy's Wish and mum to two primary school age daughters, a rescue greyhound and a cavoodle.
Dr Tanya Pelly
Dr Tanya Pelly is a health system change leader dedicated to supporting the role of consumers, carers and health care workers in the leadership of positive change across the health care system. She has over 20 years’ experience in networked leadership and change agency, at front-line, management and whole-of-system levels.
Tanya is passionate about health and wellbeing literacy and communication in health care. She supports consumers, advocates, clinical leaders and health care organisations who value a person-centred, collaborative approach to delivering better health outcomes, and who want to create supportive, positive working environments for health professionals.
Tanya draws on experience in medicine, education, health and human services outcomes, organisational leadership and culture and change management.
She has worked in many varied health care environments, from preventative health, to medical technology, to GP education design to strategic consulting on health and social policy and system improvement. She practices part time clinically as a surgical assistant in head and neck surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney.
Tanya was born in Australia and has German and Australian parentage.
D&I Council and Advisory Group
Gordon is a proud Bundjalung/ Coodjinburra and South Sea Islander man from Fingal Head. He is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Regional Health Coordinator for the Sunshine Coast Wide Bay Central Queensland Primary Health Network.
Gordon has a passion for community and health equity for all of community. He has worked in a range of health services roles in Queensland since 2010., including as manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Team at the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service and the Care Coordinator for the Integrated Team Care Program (Chronic Disease Program) for the Sunshine Coast Wide Bay Central Queensland Primary Health Network.
Gordon has also been a member of the management committees of the North Coast Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health, Choice Support Services, Cooloola Human Services Network and Weeroona Disability services.
"I’m an advocate and community connector for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Health Services. I am proud of helping create a culturally safe place for community in my position as the first Aboroginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker in Gympie. Right now, I would like to advocate the importance of our First Nations community becoming vaccinated against coronavirus."
Michelle Farquhar is an executive leader with a background in journalism, communications and marketing. She has worked across several industries including tourism, education, health and now energy, but always at the heart of her working life is connecting and empowering people, and creating understanding. Having worked for some of the biggest names in this sphere including Ogilvy & Mather (London), Hapsburg Auction House (Geneva), Channel 9, and ABC Radio, as well as her own boutique consultancy, she loves people, creative thinking and language. She has a passion for creating impact at both operational and cultural levels, a key component of which is being a disruptor, challenging norms around gender balance and other forms of diversity.
Michelle’s previous roles include program director for the Aspiring Women Leaders’ Summit for the Queensland public service, and delivery of recommendations for the recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Queensland Health hospital boards. She is a board member of the Brisbane Portrait Prize and Fashion Council Queensland.
"I like storytelling and developing effective communications and want to encourage health professionals to take an interest in the life experience of the patient, and to actively be part of the solution. I have struggled to the point of feeling broken at times by trying to navigate Centrelink, Medicare, NDIS and access and harness the health system - it adds an enormous weight to a life changing health condition. The end result is that it inflicts poor health on the carer – a person who is already, by definition, taking on a role they are unprepared for, in addition to their existing load. My advocacy passion would be to try to encourage health professionals to take an interest in the life experience of the patient, and to actively be part of the solution."
Tania is a communications strategist, connector and consultant with over 20 years’ experience in consulting and operations who is passionate about connecting people and bringing human- centred design to life.
She is a consumer representative on the Pulmonary Fibrosis Australasian Clinical Trials (PACT) Consumer Advisory Group, a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, an Asia Society Asia 21 young leader and an advisory board member for Refugee Talent, a technology business that connects refugees to employment. She is an expert in communications design and works to facilitate customer centred strategy for projects in health, cities and sport and entertainment.
Tania’s mother is from Singapore, which is where she was born. She was an Asia Society Asia 21 young leader (2013) and has since actively served on its strategy committee to build its network which spans 40 countries and regions.
"I enjoy helping advocates amplify their stories. I feel passionately about equity in education and creating consumer centred strategy"
Dr Dinesh Palipana
Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the second person to graduate medical school with quadriplegia in Australia. Dinesh is a doctor, lawyer, disability advocate, and researcher. Halfway through medical school, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. Dinesh has completed an Advanced Clerkship in Radiology at the Harvard University. As a result of his injury and experiences, Dinesh has been an advocate for inclusivity. He is a founding member of Doctors with Disabilities Australia.
Dinesh works in the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital. He is a senior lecturer at the Griffith University and adjunct research fellow at the Menzies Health Institute of Queensland. Dinesh is a researcher in spinal cord injury. He is a doctor for the Gold Coast Titans physical disability rugby team. Dinesh is a senior advisor to the Disability Royal Commission. Dinesh was the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Junior Doctor of the Year in 2018. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019. He was the third Australian to be awarded a Henry Viscardi Achievement Award. Dinesh was the Queensland Australian of the Year for 2021.
Dinesh was born in Sri Lanka, of Sinhalese ethnicity and moved to Australia when he was 10. He returned to Sri Lanka with his mum following his accident and during his rehabilitation prior to returning to complete his medical schooling. He contributed to the Disability Royal Commission and Human Rights Commission, amplifying the experiences of people with a Spinal Cord Injury and as a Disability Advocate.
"I am privileged to play a part in patient journeys at the frontline. Inclusion is close to my heart because I have experienced so many barriers to it"
Chithrani Palipana is a dedicated mother, qualified rehabilitation counsellor, case manager and disability advocate who has given up years of her life to see her son achieve his dreams.
In 2010, the lives of Chithrani and her medical student son Dinesh, changed forever when he was involved in a car accident, which left him paralysed from the chest down. She made a decision to always be at his side, which she has honoured, supporting him in every way she can to help him achieve his dream of becoming a doctor, and more recently, a qualified lawyer.
Chithrani continued to follow her passion in supporting people with disability and became a qualified vocational rehabilitation counsellor. Her son’s life changing experience has deeply inspired her and broadened her understanding of the road to rehabilitation, the disability sector and the inner workings of the NDIS.
Through her lived-experience, Chithrani is well equipped to empathise with, and support people with disabilities – with a genuine interest in helping individuals to not only recover and rehabilitate, but to gain independence, achieve their life goals, and importantly, to thrive! Chithrani is a strong advocate for people with disabilities and has proven success in navigating the tedious NDIS system.
Chithrani was born in Sri Lanka and speaks fluent Sinhalese.
"I am a person with lived experience who is passionate about making a difference in the world of differently abled. Our journey has taught us many lessons including the power of advocacy"
Hanh Nguyen is a radiation therapist and current 2nd year medical student at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Western Australia. She has worked clinically as a radiation therapist looking after cancer patients across hospitals in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Outside her clinical role, she has strong interests in contributing to initiatives and projects pertaining to improving patient care and outcomes, doctor’s health and wellbeing and social justice in society. She is the current Independent Representative to the Australian Federation of Medical Women (AFMW) and the founder of Cedar Nest Productions where she serves as a videographer and hopes to use film to bring forth a message, instigate change and make a positive difference in society.
Hanh was born in Vietnam and moved to Australia at age 2 with her mother who was offered a scholarship to study at the University of Queensland with her mother, her father joined them 5 years later and they permanently settled in Brisbane. Hanh’s values, attitudes and beliefs have been influenced by her family, culture, religion and personal experiences, and her desire to give back to her country of birth, saw her return to Vietnam to volunteer as a radiation therapist prior to commencing her medical studies.
"I am passionate about collaborating with others to make a positive difference in society. I want to optimise patient care and patient experience regardless of who they are and where they come from. I have grown personally and professionally by working, living and breathing alongside our patients within the rural community.’'
Ian is a communications professional, researcher and facilitator with over 25 years of specialist expertise in co-designing communications and engagement processes and projects with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disability, and people living in rural and remote communities.
He has won multiple awards for his work in communicating with diverse audiences, including a Queensland Media Award for best multicultural communication and a TheMHS mental health media award. Ian has managed multiple large-scale health communications projects targeting CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences, as well as people with disability, including projects featuring co-designed content, translated messaging, and podcasts. He is also completing a PhD focusing on effective communication and health messaging for remote First Nations audiences internationally, and is an Adjunct Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research and a member of the national Mindframe Media Advisory Groups for alcohol and other drug use and for mental health and suicide prevention.
Ian's business 26 Letters has been a recognised supplier on the communications Multi User List for Australian Government campaigns for both CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences. He has worked in an advisory capacity and developed a range of health and communication campaigns for over 10 years for Queensland Remote Aboriginal Media and was previously General Manager of the Brisbane ethnic radio station Radio 4EB
"I believe that, for too long, we have used a broadbrush and 'single story' approach to communicating around important social justice and health issues which make a major difference in the lives of people from CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds, as well as people with lived experience of mental illness and people with disability. We need to ensure people from diverse backgrounds and with lived experience are actively part of the co-design of communications processes and content that is relevant to them."
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of Country throughout Australia and their enduring connection to land, waters, culture and community. We pay respect to their Elders past, present and future and recognise the richness and diversity of customs, language, stories, educational and social practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and their significant contribution to this Nation.