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.


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 leading an initiative called Lead and Grow via the Australian National University which supports female health professionals in training. 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 - 09:20

Welcome and Acknowledgement of Country

Program Director, Women & Leadership Australia

Dr Janet Smith

09:20 - 09:50

Keynote Address

Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, Australian Government Department of Health

Professor (Practice) Alison McMillan PSM



09:50 - 10:20

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

13:00 - 13:30


Dr Janet Smith

15:30 - 15:40

Closing Comments

Program Director, Women & Leadership Australia

Dr Marrwah Ahmadzai

Obstetrics and Gynecology Registrar; Freelance Writer; Equality Advocate

13:30 - 14:00

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

15:00 - 15:30

Keynote Address

President, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners

Dr Karen Price was awarded the 2016 RACGP FMCER grant to undertake her part time PhD with the Monash Department of General Practice. Her research builds on her lifetime expertise as a GP. Karen began her general practice in a large procedural practice which included providing medical assistance to the local district police surgeon. She has also been a successful practice owner growing a languishing practice into a thriving community practice. She is published on women’s medical leadership and received a 2011 Monash University award for medical student teaching. Karen continues to develop evidence-based medicine, leadership, advocacy, and peer support, in both research and her ongoing clinical general practice. Most recently her advocacy, research, and lifetime experience have coalesced into running for RACGP President, and she was elected to the position in the 2020 national election. She commenced her two-year term on 30 November 2020.

Dr Karen Price

10:20 - 10:30     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

11:30 - 13:00​

11:20 - 11:30     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.

14:00 - 14:50

Development Session

14:50 - 15:00     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

10:30 - 11:20

Development Session

Samantha Tomkinson