Meet Our Ambassadors
ATSIHAW has been able to recruit high profile Ambassadors to help spread the word about HIV in our communities and the role all individuals can play in preventing HIV and ending the stigma around HIV.
Interested in becoming an ATSIHAW Ambassador? Just complete this form.
The fabulously funny Steven Oliver is our National Ambassador. Steven is a descendant of the Kukuyalanji, Waanyi, Gangalidda, Woppaburra, Bundjalung and Biripi peoples. He studied at the Aboriginal Music Theatre Training Program in Perth, and was subsequently accepted into the Music Theatre Programme at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). Steven’s musical, Black Queen Black King, was shown as part of Queensland Theatre Company’s Creative Development Series and his play, Proper Solid, produced by Jute Theatre in 2014, will tour Queensland in 2016. He is also a writer, poet, actor and associate producer for ABC’s Logie nominated sketch show Black Comedy.
Steven says: “I’m doing this because I want to help fight and breakdown the stigma associated with HIV and those living with it.”
Check out Stephen’s ATSIHAW video message on Facebook
Sharon is an Aboriginal Health Worker who has worked in the community for the past 25 years.
Sharon says: “I have seen our communities face many new challenges in obtaining good health. Utilising weeks such as ATSIHAW is crucial in the effort to raise awareness in an area that might be seen as a difficult topic to discuss. Increasing communities’ knowledge about the prevention of HIV, why it is important to be tested for HIV and the treatments that are now available, are all essential steps in the journey our communities are taking to better health. “As a health professional I feel that it is paramount that we feel comfortable to discuss risk behaviours and prevention strategies during health screening of our clients, such as using condoms and not sharing injecting equipment. We should encourage our clients to be tested for HIV and other BBVs.”
Pat Anderson, AO
Pat is an Alyawarre woman known nationally and internationally as a powerful advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She has extensive experience in Aboriginal health and advocacy and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Lowitja Institute. In 2014, Pat was appointed Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to Australia’s First Peoples.
Pat says: “In the mid-1990s, I was part of the campaign to establish the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV/AIDS strategy.
A lot has changed in the past 10 years, so get tested if you are worried because there are great treatments available. Let’s keep on talking about HIV, stay safe and look after each other.”
Amanda is a 28 year old Bard and Wardandi woman. She is currently the Sexual Health Coordinator at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services.
She is passionate about holistic sexual health for our mob. She believes everyone has the right to safe, consensual, pleasurable sexual experiences.
Amanda says: “HIV is a preventable disease. Let’s keep our communities safe – use condoms and get tested for HIV regularly.”
Marlene is Program Head – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program, Kirby Institute, University of NSW.
Marlene says: “As a Worimi woman, I am passionate about improving the health of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This cannot be done without our people being involved in every aspect of health care, from the ground up to the Prime Minister of Australia, acting in good faith. Australia has a long way to go in bridging the big cultural gap that continues to exist in our practices today; HIV among our people being one of the growing and persistent health disparities.
“I call upon the leaders of our nation – especially those working in HIV medicine – to lead by example in addressing this important gap.”
Mario is Senior Public Health Officer – Indigenous Sexual Health, with the Men’s & Women’s Health Program at the Thursday Island Primary Health Care Centre. He is a Torres Strait Islander with family connections to Badu Island.
Mario says: “People living with HIV should be supported, loved and accepted by our communities so that they feel that they are still part of our community. Discrimination should not be tolerated by anyone; we are all one people, regardless of race, religion or sexuality.
“It is important for the conversation about HIV and sexual health to be regularly highlighted on an everyday basis. We should normalise the conversation particularly in indigenous communities to raise awareness in regards to sexual health. HIV awareness should be discussed every day – not only on World AIDS Day.”
Bobby is a Yamatji woman with ancestral ties to the Pilbara and Kimberley, born and raised on Njaki country in the South West of WA. Bobby is passionate about promoting positive health messages in sexual health and respectful relationships through a human rights lens.
She says: “It is important for our mob and all communities to have positive and clear messaging about HIV. If HIV gets into our communities it might be a real disaster for families. Understanding about preventing and managing HIV is really important. HIV is not a death sentence now. With good care, people with HIV can live a full and healthy life.
Barriers such as discrimination and stigma can attack people’s self-esteem and prevents them from accessing health services. We need all our communities and services to understand this and to be the best that they can.”
Professor Gracelyn Smallwood
Professor Smallwood is a Birrigubba, Kalkadoon and South-Sea Islander woman born in Townsville in 1951. She is Professor of Nursing at Central Queensland University and Adjunct Professor at the Division of Tropical Health and Medicine at James Cook University (JCU), Townsville, Queensland (QLD), and is a Member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections.
Professor Smallwood says “I am I have been advocating against the racism and violation of human rights against my people for the past 45 years. Extreme poverty, high unemployment rates, low self-esteem, with boredom, high rates of illness in particular, high rates of other sexually transmitted diseases symptoms are the perfect breeding ground for HIV/AIDS in any community. “HIV/AIDS must now be given priority attention in our communities and we should not wait until the tsunami arrives, we have to try and prevent its spread. Culturally appropriate Strategic Plans should be in place to monitor and evaluate the achievable goals and targets that are sustainable for quality KPIs. Collaboration of all Government and NGOs must occur for effective outcomes that meet the needs of the community.”
Dion Tatow is an Aboriginal (Iman and Wadja) and South Sea Islander (Ambrym Island, Vanuatu). Dion has contributed significantly to the HIV sector over a long period of time including working at in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health for 20 years for both the Commonwealth (OATSIH) and State Governments (Queensland Health) and for almost 10 years at QAIHC. His roles have focused on program development and implementation and policy development and evaluation with a particular focus on social and emotional well being/mental health and sexual health/blood borne viruses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Dion has a Bachelor of Business degree and a Graduate Certificate in Health Service Management. Dion has been involved with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community based organisations since the early 1980s as an elected committee member. Dion was the Secretary of the Queensland AIDS Council from 2012-2014 and represented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the board of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations in 2008-2009.
Dion says: “Increasing rates of HIV infection amongst our population are concerning. We all need to increase our knowledge of HIV, protect ourselves against HIV infection and support those members of our communities living with HIV”
Arone is a Kuku Midigi man, and currently lives in Cairns. He grew up near El Arish, in far north Queensland, although his country is the area around Laura, Cape York. Arone is a visual artist who enjoys national and international success. A former member of the Boomalli urban Aboriginal artist’s co-operative, he won an Australia Council fellowship to study in Paris in 1989 and went on to exhibit throughout Europe and North and South America. His work appears in national and international collections, both public and private. In Australia, he is represented in many public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia and the Queensland Art Gallery. His work is represented in collections in Canada, the United States, France and Japan.
Arone says ‘HIV is everybody’s business. Let’s not make it part of our story – have an STI test.’
Professor Kerry Arabena
Professor Arabena is a Torres Strait Islander woman.
She is the current Chair for Indigenous Health and Head of the Indigenous Health Equity Unit at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Arabena says: “We all need to do our bit to prevent HIV from escalating in our communities. “I know we have been talking about it for a long time, but now more than ever we need to look after ourselves and each other. We can do this by getting tested.”
Brett is a Nyoongar/Yamatji man originally from Morawa WA, but he has lived most of his life in the Perth region. He has over 20 years’ experience in Aboriginal health, including in drug and alcohol counselling. He is currently Clinical Practice Support Officer/ TTANGO (Treat Test and Go), with the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia.
Brett says: “I am passionate about improving the sexual health of our people through Education, Health awareness and promotion and accessing appropriate health services. I encourage all people to go to an Aboriginal Medical Service to talk to an Aboriginal Health Practitioner/Worker and your doctor to get a blood test if they concerned about their Status of HIV/AIDS. “As a father I would encourage other dads and parents to have the conversation with their kids to practise safe sex to prevent the spread and infection STIs and Blood Borne Viruses such as HIV and AIDS. We also know that Intravenous drug use is on the rise in our community, we can educate our people on getting tested for Blood Borne Viruses and to not share needles and equipment. The positive promotion of Needle Syringe exchange programs can also help protect our communities.”
Celeste is a Birrigubba woman from far North Queensland. She is 21 and currently resides in Sydney, NSW.
Celeste works part-time at the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy (NASCA) in Redfern, where she mentors Indigenous young people across Australia in the areas of sport and education. Celeste recently commenced her Diploma of Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney.
She is passionate about working with Indigenous young people in the sexual health space and is eager to increase her knowledge of sexual and reproductive health.
Gabriel is a direct descendent of Athe Bari, and the Kuyku garka (Head man) of the Major Tribe of Wagadagam, a sovereign nation of people of the Torres Strait Islands. Gabriel says: “My tribal totem is Koedal (crocodile), my tribal wind is the Kuki Guuba (Northwest Wind), and my tribal tongue is ‘Mabuyag’ which is a dialect of the Kala Lagaw Ya, the Western Island language. I speak my native tongue ‘Kala Lagaw Ya’ as my first language, Torres Strait Creole my second, and English is my third language.
“As a cultural mentor and advisor, my presentations at local Forums, national Conferences, and gatherings, focus on Cross Cultural Communication – identifying barriers, and working towards positive solutions.”
Jade is a Guereng and Southern Baradah Kapalbara descendant with family heritage from Ireland and France as well. He was born and raised mostly in Rockhampton, Central Queensland.
Jade was an Indigenous Youth Worker with Darumbal Community Youth Services, and then worked as Senior Indigenous Recruitment Officer/Cultural Awareness Officer and Team Leader of Woorabinda with Neato Employment Services. He went on to work with CQ Youth Connect as an Indigenous Engagement Officer and is now with CQ’s Sexual Health Department.
Jade says: “I would really like to get the message out to our Indigenous communities especially that it is not shame to get a sexual health screening, it’s just like seeing a doctor for a broken arm or a cold. You see a Sexual Health Worker to check up on your sexual health to make sure everything is working the way it should be.”
Professor Shaun Ewan
Professor Ewen is the Foundation Director of the Melbourne Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Melbourne. He has held the position of Associate Dean (Indigenous Development) since its inception in 2010.
Professor Ewan has a clinical background in physiotherapy, and holds postgraduate qualifications in international relations and education.
Professor Ewan says “If you’ve put yourself at risk either by having unprotected sex with a new partner or through sharing injecting equipment when injecting drugs, it’s better to get tested. Know your status so you look after your health and the mob’s health.”
Shana is a 20 year old Barkindji woman who now lives in Sydney. She was born in Albury NSW and grew up the small town of Leeton. Shana’s family is originally from Wilcannia. Shana is the full-time Administration Officer at the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW.
Shana says: “I contribute to Aboriginal affairs in every way I can, learning more every day about my very own Culture. How we respond & promote HIV awareness all comes down to how we understand interdependence – it is not someone else’s problem, it is everyone’s. Hence the reason I support ATSIHAW. I think that it is important that HIV Awareness along with knowledge is promoted because it is not just the physical well-being of an individual; it is the social, emotional and cultural well-being of all indigenous communities. “I have learnt and grown, also listened to stories vocalized by many – a young woman in particular, about facing HIV; the Journey she has endured but the support she has earned – she deserves gratitude. THANK YOU ATSIHAW.”
Robyn is a Kamilaroi woman, born at Pilliga in far west NSW and raised on the Pilliga Mission. She has lived in and around Aboriginal communities of Alexandria, Redfern and Waterloo in Sydney all her life. Robyn is the receptionist/administration Assistant at the Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of NSW.
Robyn says: “Health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
I support ATSIHAW as I think this is the time to promote HIV awareness in Aboriginal & TSI communities.
Knowledge is power and this week is a useful time to help further promote and give power through education to help in the prevention of HIV.”
Shahmir is a Badimaya Yamatji man with family from Mount Magnet in Western Australia. He lives in Perth and is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Promotion Officer at the WA AIDS Council. Shahmir’s work focusses on getting info out to the community, supporting regional and metro events and finding new ways to engage with the community to further encourage testing and knowledge of HIV and BBVs. Shahmir says: “Our mob needs to understand the importance of being tested regularly, especially for our regional communities where accessing services may not be as frequent as our metropolitan communities. The conversation around HIV and BBVs needs to be normalised as there is a lot of stigma and myths surrounding what they are and how they are transmitted.
ATSIHAW is a great opportunity to get these conversations started and break down some of that shame and fear. ATSIHAW is an awesome time for people who do have questions to be able to raise them with their peers or health workers.”
Sandra Van Diermen
Sandra Van Diermen was born in Leigh Creek, in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia. Her parents were children of Cameleers – her Mum a Western Arrernte woman. Sandra identifies with both her Aboriginal and Afghani heritage. She works at the Department for Communities & Social Inclusion, engaging with community to ensure the Aboriginal voice is heard in reforming the Ageing and Disability sectors. Sandra says: ‘Awareness weeks are designed to help us all acknowledge issues and understand that there is something we can all do. Once we believed that getting HIV was a death sentence, and that it affected only gay men – that if someone wasn’t gay then they were ‘safe’ from contracting the virus.
Through awareness-raising, education campaigns and committed research, there is now a better understanding of HIV. Sadly stigma and discrimination remains and these can steal away that sense of belonging that forms part of our foundations, leaving people feeling lost and alone. This compounds sickness and drives health and wellbeing from people’s lives.
I support ATSIHAW because it is time for a new way. It’s time to throw out attitudes that exclude fellow human beings who are already struggling to live full and healthy lives. We need to accept and include; to believe in and value everyone. You and me can stop HIV.’
Dominic is an Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna man, born and raised in Adelaide. He has a keen interest in Sexual health, harm minimisation and health promotion. Dominic is currently employed as the STI Project Officer/ Community Educator at the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and has worked in Aboriginal Health for 12 years.
Dominic says: “I want to see greater education and awareness of HIV within our communities, particularly around transmission and prevention. It’s important that we have health promotion and resources that are Aboriginal-specific, so it’s important to get involved in ATSIHAW events.
I also want to see an end to stigma and discrimination towards people who are living with HIV; this includes making our health services safe spaces.”
Phillip is Darwin born and bred but has called Brisbane home for the past 20 years. Phillip is a descendant of the Gurindji People from the Northern Territory, and the Djaru People of the East Kimberley in Western Australian – both on his mother’s side. Phillip has had a long affiliation with Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC) and the gar’ban’djee’lum network over the last 19 years. His currently a Health Promotion Officer in the 2 Spirits Program at QuAC in Brisbane.
Phillip is passionate about advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men, lesbians, sistergirls and brotherboys, to improve their sexual health and also overall health and wellbeing.
Phillip says: ‘I am honoured to be a ATSIHAW ambassador to promote HIV awareness. I can’t stress enough how important it is for our mob to take control of our health and get tested regularly. We are individually responsible for protecting our own health, our family, our culture and our future.”
Zane is a Wocca Wocca, Gureng Gureng man, currently studying for a diploma in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care. He has worked as a men’s Indigenous health care worker in sexual health for four years, at Queensland Health (Metro South). Zane says: ‘I’ve been interested in medicine and good health since I was a young fella. My job involves educating our community on STI’s and encouraging our mob to have regular sexual health checks. I would love to see our mob really support each other regarding sexual health and for us to break down the shame factor attached to this topic – in a way that’s culturally sensitive and mindful of each person’s journey in life. Let us teach our younger generation the proper way about safe sex practices.
Let us stand together as One Mob and fight against HIV. Together nothing is impossible.’
Garry is a proud descendant of the Ngatjumay and Noongar peoples. He now lives and works in Victoria on Wurundjeri and Boon Wurrung Traditional Lands. He works at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation as the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Coordinator, training and supporting Aboriginal Health Workers across the State. Garry previously worked with the Western Australian AIDS Council, and Hepatitis Victoria. Garry says: ‘I’m an HIV Ambassador because I’ve seen the harm that HIV and can do and I’ve seen what can be done to stop it! I know we can prevent people in our communities getting HIV, and that we can support people living with HIV to have healthy and rewarding lives.
All it takes is for all of us to learn more about HIV, what it is, what we can do prevent it, and what we can do to support people with HIV in the community. I’m an ambassador because I know we need to break down the taboo around talking about sex and injecting drugs in our communities. We need to learn how to protect ourselves and our communities from HIV. Together we can stop it. We can stop it and with your help we will stop it. #UANDMECANSTOPHIV.’
Richard has worked in the field of Indigenous Sexual Health for the last 17 years – in the Men’s & Women’s Health Program on Thursday Island. He is a Murray and Darnley Islander descendant.
Richard says: “I support ATSIHAW because it informs and educates the Torres Strait community about the risks involved with unsafe sex, having more than one partner and the importance of regular screening and testing.
“We need to let the community know about the importance of knowledge and understanding in regards to sexual health.”
Trent is a 25 year old proud Aboriginal man (Ngarrindjeri / Kaurna / Boandik ) from Murray Bridge in South Australia. Following in his grandmother’s footsteps, Trent has always been passionate about closing the gap and educating the community on the importance of a healthy and positive lifestyle. He currently lives in Adelaide and works for the Aboriginal Health Council of SA (AHCSA) as the Youth Project officer in the Tackling Smoking and Healthy Lifestyle Program, delivering education on the risks of smoking, the importance of regular exercise and on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Trent says: “It’s important to educate our youth on HIV awareness and the importance of health and wellbeing in our communities.
As a young Aboriginal man I want to help breakdown the stigma associated with HIV and those living with it. We all should stand up and raise awareness together as one!”
Bonny is a Gomilaroi woman from Moree NSW. She is the Community Liaison Coordinator at the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW.
Bonny says: “The work I do for HIV is something I love and am very proud of. My enthusiasm for improving services and education to stop our mob getting HIV will never waver.
I am now even more determined to work in this area because the HIV rates for First Nations people continue to go up, especially for our women and injecting drug users.”
Mish is a Koori woman born and living in Sydney. She is a proud descendant of the Bundjalung nation (Northern Rivers, NSW) and works at ACON in its Aboriginal Project. She is a media, arts and events producer, working with community on events around HIV awareness, community connection and health promotion. Mish says: “I have lots of friends living with HIV – men & women, young & old, black & white, gay & straight. HIV doesn’t discriminate. “I support ATSIHAW because I want everyone to be able to take control of their health for a long and happy life.
HIV is usually passed on when someone doesn’t know that they’re carrying the virus. If you’ve ever shared any injecting equipment, or if you’ve had sex without a condom with someone whose HIV status you aren’t sure of, then ask for a test at an AMS, GP or Sexual Health Clinic. If you do find you have HIV, support and treatment are there for you to live a long and healthy life, and to protect others, too. Together we can stop HIV.”