The Australian Health Sector Women's Leadership Summit

Friday 25th March 2022 | Interactive Online Event

All times listed are in Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT)

Panel Members

Dr Mellissa Naidoo is a specialist medical administrator with over 15 years in executive management and health leadership across the private and public sectors. A clinician by background, Mellissa is a trusted health advisor and strategist and as Chief Medical Officer, her expertise in disaster preparedness and response, crisis leadership, communication and genuine people focus guided nib’s pre-emptive COVID-19 response. With an interest in health innovation and digital health and technology, Mellissa is passionate about health equity, combining her medical background, industry experience and specialist skills in health systems strategy and policy, value-based health care and health communication to work with government, corporates, and boards. Mellissa is a strong advocate for leadership diversity and actively involved in training, mentoring, and coaching the next generation of medical leaders through her college and university roles.

Alison McMillan commenced as the Australian Government Department of Health’s Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer in November 2019. Alison is a Registered Nurse with a Critical Care Nursing Certificate, and she has held senior executive roles in government and health services within Victoria including the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and Director of Quality, Safety and Patient Experience. Alison is a member of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee contributing to advice provided to the National Cabinet during the COVID-19 pandemic as Co-Chair of the Infection Control Expert Group. Alison has been a part of a team providing communication to the community, which is clear, honest, and compassionate. She was awarded a Public Service Medal in June 2021 for outstanding public service to driving the Government's national health response priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly to infection prevention measures.

Professor Margaret Hellard AM was appointed Deputy Director of the Burnet Institute in March 2017; prior to this appointment she was Head, Centre for Population Health from 2002-2017.  She is Head of Hepatitis Services in the Infectious Diseases Unit, The Alfred Hospital. Margaret’s work has led to major new insights in several areas including: The feasibility of eliminating hepatitis C as a global health by 2030; Understanding the transmission and management of hepatitis C virus in people who inject drugs; The use of new technologies in health promotion, a program that is leading the way internationally on how such tools can be used in community-based settings and; Understanding and reducing the impact of COVID-19 in Australia. Her work has had a strong influence on improved health practice through better clinical care and more targeted and informed prevention programs both within Australia and globally.

Lucy is a speaker, project manager, mentor, workshop facilitator, non-executive board director, and provides strategic advice to a variety of clients from governments, to not for profits and community organisations, to educational institutions and the corporate sector. Lucy has been published in peer reviewed literature and presented her research at international conferences and represents community on numerous boards and across the community and health sectors. She is the Managing Director and powerhouse of project management company based in Tasmania. Healthy Tasmania works with its partners on a wide range of projects to improve the individual, social, and economic outcomes of communities and their motivation is to make communities and organisations thrive.

Marrwah Ahmadzai is a medical doctor. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Medical Studies, Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health from The University of New South Wales. She currently works as a trainee in obstetrics and gynaecology. Marrwah represents the junior doctor body on the Canberra Region Medical Education Council and Council of Doctors in training. She is part of an initiative called Link and Grow via the Australian National University, which aims to support female health professionals through mentoring, leadership and amplifying diverse voices. Marrwah has written on social and health issues for ABC, The Guardian and SBS. She is a speaker and delivered a TEDx talk on the power of storytelling in breaking down barriers. She was the recipient of the Individual Champion Award at the 2021 ACT Multicultural Awards. She was also a finalist of the 2021 ACT Australian of the Year awards.

Dr Christine Lai is a medical graduate from The University of Adelaide who undertook specialist training in the field of General Surgery.  After obtaining her specialist qualifications with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) she undertook subspecialty training in the fields of Breast Cancer Surgery and Endocrine Surgery.  She is a Senior Staff Specialist at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a Visiting Surgeon at Breastscreen SA and Senior Lecturer at The University of Adelaide.  Dr Lai has held numerous executive leadership positions within RACS and on the board of directors, the Chair of Fellowship Services and Chair of the Women in Surgery Group. She has multiple interests including surgical outcomes and gender equity research, in addition to have had a long-standing interest in mentoring of medical students, junior doctors and newly qualified surgeons.

09:00 - 09:30

Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country

Program Director, Women & Leadership Australia

Dr Janet Smith

09:30 - 10:00

Keynote Address

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Australian Government Department of Health

Professor (Practice) Alison McMillan PSM

Professor Margaret Hellard AM

Deputy Director (Programs), Burnet Institute; Head, Hepatitis Services, Department of Infectious Diseases The Alfred Hospital; Adjunct Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University; Adjunct Professor, Doherty Institute and School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

10:00 - 10:30

Keynote Address

Managing Director, Healthy Tasmania

Lucy Byrne

Dr Mellissa Naidoo

Chief Health Officer, Viridis Consultants; Clinical Reference Lead, Australian Digital Health Agency; Non-Executive Director, Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators

13:10 - 13:40


Dr Janet Smith

16:20 - 16:30

Closing Comments

Program Director, Women & Leadership Australia

Dr Marrwah Ahmadzai

Obstetrics and Gynecology Registrar; Freelance Writer; Equality Advocate

13:40 - 14:10

Keynote Address

Surgeon and Senior Staff Specialist, Breast and Endocrine Surgical Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital; Chair, Women in Surgery and Fellowship Services, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons

Dr Christine Lai

Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach, Women & Leadership Australia

Samantha Tomkinson

Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach, Women & Leadership Australia

Samantha Tomkinson

With over twenty years of leadership development experience, Suzi brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as Women & Leadership Australia’s Chief Executive Officer. Over an exceptional career, Suzi has established herself as a proven executive leader. She has built a powerful reputation for success and become an influential role model for female leaders everywhere. Passionate about nurturing talent in others, Suzi is deeply committed to helping to improve the quality of leadership and management across all facets of the workforce and broader community. Suzi has worked across all levels of leadership and management in partnership with many of Australia's leading organisations to increase gender equity and support the advancement of female leaders. Working one-on-one with many thousands of individual female leaders, Suzi has developed a unique insight and awareness into the challenges women continue to face in the workforce today.

CEO, Women & Leadership Australia

Suzi Finkelstein

15:10 - 15:40

South Australia Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership

Chief Public Health Officer, SA Health

Professor Nicola Spurrier is the Chief Public Health Officer for the Department for Health and Wellbeing, being appointed in 2019. The Chief Public Health Officer is responsible for public health and communicable disease issues. Professor Spurrier’s role also includes advising the Minister and the Chief Executive of SA Health about proposed legislative or administrative changes in relation to public health. Nicola is a dual qualified Medical Specialist, Public Health Physician and Paediatrician, with 30 years’ experience within SA Health including 10 years in the Department for Health and Wellbeing. Nicola has specialised in developing and implementing policies and programs across child health, obesity prevention and Aboriginal health. 

Professor Nicola Spurrier PSM

10:30 - 10:40     Break

Guiding our organisations through the coronavirus pandemic and continuing to prioritise patient care has placed extraordinary demands on health sector leaders across Australia and the world. The world as we knew it has changed, and for many, some level of ambiguity and change will remain. This critical juncture presents a timely opportunity to reflect and learn from our recent experience and rethink the way we have done things in the past. How do we capture the gravitas of what we've been through and at the same time capitalise on the unique opportunity we have been given to co-design a better future? In this interactive session our panel of experts will reflect on their learnings from this time of challenge and complexity – and consider what we can let go of and what we can take forward, as we lead our teams through recovery and into the future.

Where to from Here? Learning from challenge, complexity, and uncertainty

Panel Discussion

11:40 - 13:10​

11:30 - 11:40     Break

Dr Janet Smith

Program Director, Women & Leadership Australia

A Closer Look: Where to from Here?

Following on from the Panel Discussion, this Development Session will explore more deeply how we can effectively lead our teams through recovery. We will discuss practical tools for reflecting on and letting go of the practices that have not served us in the past, and carefully considering those which will serve us moving forward.

14:10 - 15:00

Development Session

15:00 - 15:10     Break

Workers in the health sector are the people called on right now to keep all of us going but who cares for us? How do you put the boundaries in place and understand your own limit of tolerance? And what tools and techniques can you draw on to top up your own batteries when they are continually being drained? This session will help you understand your own limit of tolerance, replenish yourself, and create sustainable strategies to look after yourself and others into the future.

Replenishment and Sustainability for Women in Health

Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach, Women & Leadership Australia

10:40 - 11:30

Development Session

Samantha Tomkinson

Esha Oberoi is the founder and CEO of Afea, which was recently named one of Australia’s fastest growing companies by the Australian Financial Review. She is an award-winning entrepreneur and mental health advocate who credits much of her success to being a heart-centred leader. Arriving in Australia as a seven-year-old migrant, crippling mental health challenges saw her struggle to find purpose for years until she began work as a carer in 2007. The experience inspired Esha to launch and from humble beginnings, Afea now supports 1,000+ families every week. Her uncommon leadership approach has led to many accolades, including: 2021 Women’s Agenda Leadership Award in the Health Sector and 2021 AFR 3rd Best Place to Work (Health). Propelled by her years of success and passion for psychological safety in the workplace, Esha is on the cusp of launching an exciting new business venture in the mental health space.

Growing up in Freetown in civil war-ravaged Sierra Leone, Aminata enjoyed a relatively charmed childhood until 1999 when a devastating consequence of the civil war changed things forever. Rebel forces from the Revolutionary United Front stormed Freetown and the Contehs’ home, kidnapping 18-year-old Aminata. Held captive for months, Aminata was finally freed as part of a negotiated prisoner exchange. However, not long after her release, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognised that one of Amanita’s captors posed a continued and serious threat to her safety. With the support of the UNHCR, Aminata became one of the very first Sierra Leonean refugee women to be settled in Australia. After the difficult birth of her daughter Sarafina, Aminata started the Aminata Maternal Foundation (AMF). Her goal is to increase the Australian public’s awareness of Sierra Leone, its challenges and its extraordinary beauty, and boost fundraising to expand a maternity hospital in Sierra Leone in 2021.

15:40 - 16:20

Keynote Address

Aminata Conteh-Biger

Founder & CEO, Aminata Maternal Foundation

Dr Christina Igasto is a Digital Healthcare Transformation professional with 20 years of experience. Christina started her healthcare career as an assistant nurse, but being very interested in healthcare and technology, she decided to study computer science and pursue a PhD in computing science in healthcare. Christina has held numerous senior executive positions over the years with the accountability for Healthcare ICT, as an academic research executive as well as in start-ups and public healthcare. She is a true innovator and strong executive leader with a proven track record of building and managing high-performing multidisciplinary teams. Christina has an international reputation for expertise in Digital Health/MedTech and is a Certified Health Informatician Australasia. She was honoured in her native Sweden as one of Medtech’s 100 ‘Most powerful people in the nation’ in 2016 and 2017.

Dr Christina Igasto

Chief Digital Health Officer and CIO, Western Sydney Local Health District

Esha Oberoi

Founder and CEO, Afea Care Services