Congratulations to our 2023 WiT Awards Winners
The 2023 WiT Awards recognises and celebrates the impact women are having on driving, creating and shaping digitally driven STEM based solutions, innovations and processes that benefit the people of Queensland and beyond.
This year’s Awards theme We are the Change spotlights the critical role that women across STEM are playing as they push boundaries, advocate for equity and lead both technological advances and societal improvements as individuals and as part of a wider collective – creating ripple effects across science and technology that flow into our communities.
The significant contribution of these passionate women as innovators, changemakers, leaders and mentors is igniting inspiration among their peers and future generations.
2023 Public Sector Excellence Award - Winners
Dr Cynthia Cliff
Growing up in rural Western Australia with limited access to essential services such as health care, gave Dr Cynthia Cliff the appreciation for the need for technology and social change. Growing up in an all-girl “girls-can-do-anything” farming family at a time when government policy actively discriminated against farmers without a son empowered her with the belief that anything was possible.
Dr Cliff’s passion and curiosity in how innovation, technology and social change can play in minimising environmental impact whilst empowering regional development and economic transformation has been the driving force in the design, development and delivery of more than 575 successful projects totalling approximately $350 million over the last 30 years.
Dr Cliff has worked with many industry sectors including agricultural processing and a range of technologies widely used in the agriculture sector including remote sensing and laser technology, mining, engineering, marine technology, space sciences and health to deliver outputs that include a seminal Profile of Science & Technology in Queensland, and the establishment of what is now the Spark Lab (Queensland Museum’s interactive STEM space for 6 – 13 year old’s).
Dr Cliff also derives immense satisfaction from the breadth of significant innovative health solutions successfully realised throughout her career through strategic collaboration with health, creative industries, information technology, science, engineering and business researchers to address government, industry and community challenges. She’s mentored and supervised PhD students studying what sparks innovation in rural health service management to improve the provision of outreach allied health services to rural and remote communities, and help realise the potential for co-created online patient communities to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes.
Enduring legacies including a passion for STEM, respect for Indigenous knowledges, and a desire to tread lightly on the earth, have fuelled a wild and wonderful ride – a boundary-spanning, barrier-breaking career at the interface of technology and social change. Dr Cliff hopes that her story will inspire others to love learning, embrace change, and nurture the future generations of Women in Technology.
Carol has been recognised for her excellence in leadership and outstanding commitment to utilising her strengths and leveraging her project management and technical expertise in service of the Sunshine Coast community.
Throughout her career, Carol has led teams at Sunshine Coast Council to architect and deliver a variety of technical projects and technological innovations that have enhanced the way the Sunshine Coast Council interacts with residents, visitors and businesses across the region. One of these projects was the Sunshine Coast Council Roads Hub, a website leveraging multiple datasets to provide real time traffic updates on all road works, road closures, emergency events and interruptions to traffic in the region – enabling thousands of people each day to plan their routes and get around the region more seamlessly.
Carol was awarded the WIT Technical Woman of the year award in 2001, and is a firm believer in the power of recognizing your own accomplishments to give others permission and encouragement to recognize theirs.
2023 Inspiring Excellence in Research & Education Award - Winners
Dr Ekta Sharma
Dr Ekta Sharma is being recognised for work on leveraging fair, inclusive AI systems to protect our communities against air pollution.
Through her AI-Clean air project, Dr Sharma develops novel artificial intelligence (AI) architecture for effective early warning for the environment using next-generation satellites. This innovation has the potential to minimise the critical effects that extreme air pollution episodes have on the community, including lowering the risk of chronic respiratory illnesses, and in turn, reducing the burden on our healthcare system.
Dr Sharma is being recognised for the ripple effects of leveraging her extensive network – both locally and worldwide – to share her journey of resilience in the face of adversities to inspire others, to extend her advocacy and influence to encourage more girls and women from all walks of life to engage in STEMM, as well as open up or create new pathways and opportunities for women to participate in research or advance into leadership opportunities.
Dr Ekta Sharma is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow for Women in STEMM at the University of Southern Queensland and the Office of National Intelligence.
2023 Excellence in Industry Leadership Award - Winners
Sharon Hunneybell is being recognised for the impact of her work to nurture and grow the Gold Coast startup community, encouraging youth and women to more actively participate in technology as well as being a thought leader in fostering excellence in technology and entrepreneurship.
When Sharon moved to the Gold Coast in 2009 as a technology professional, she was taken aback by the inactive state and lack of connectivity in the city’s technology sector. This realisation ignited a deep calling within her to drive the growth of this important economic pillar for the city.
Driven by a passion for innovation and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, she co-created Australia’s first in-school technology accelerator on the Gold Coast in 2013.
During this time, she also embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey, joining an early-stage technology startup in a key leadership role and scaling the business into 130 countries worldwide. This experience became the driver behind a new initiative: co-founding The Gold Coast Innovation Hub.
Since launching in 2018, Sharon has built over 60 partnerships with various stakeholders, enabling access to resources, expertise, and funding for technology businesses. This has supported more than 10,000 digital and technology business founders in the city to grow their vision, capability and global footprint. Through the power of STEM, they have revolutionised industries, optimised operations, and increased productivity.
She has been recognised by the Australian Financial Review as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence, and in 2020 was invited to join the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Digital Technology Taskforce which led to the development of the Digital Economy Strategy.
Sharon is passionate about continually sharing her knowledge and observations to drive better future outcomes by contributing to advisory boards and committees such as the Gold Coast Angels, Google Women Techmakers and her recent appointment as an Adjunct Industry Fellow for Griffith University’s Inclusive Futures Initiative.
In addition to her role as CEO at Gold Coast Innovation Hub, Sharon volunteers her time to engage in speaking engagements and play an instrumental role in developing workshops and mentoring programs in high schools and universities throughout the Gold Coast.
By inspiring and empowering individuals on both local and global scales, Sharon believes we can shape a future where creativity thrives, challenges are embraced, and transformative ideas reshape the world.
2023 Future Focused Business Achiever Award - Winners
Dr Jeni Wellington
Dr Jeni Wellington is being recognised for her future-focused, large-scale, innovative approach to tackling Australia’s healthcare crisis which has the potential to impact the lives of millions of Australians.
Dr Jeni Wellington never set out to be a software company owner or to build a business. She was a doctor who saw a critical problem that couldn’t be fixed by simply filling the seats in her consultation room. With less than 50,000 specialists and more 11.8 million people in Australia living with chronic diseases, a 12% increase in the last 7 years alone, Dr Wellington could see no feasible way to support the vast amounts of people in the community struggling with one of the biggest burdens on the Australian healthcare system.
Dr Wellington designed Annuo with the vision of it being a digital healthcare platform for doctors, patients and allied health professionals that would ensure truly collaborative care. By providing a mechanism that allows healthcare providers to easily share information and create effective treatment plans that a person can access at any time, Annuo will ensure better management of chronic conditions.
Additionally, the efficiency savings offered by Annuo have the potential impact to eliminate more than $3 billion p.a. of unbudgeted costs to the health system. This means that health care budgets focus on investing more resources into services and initiatives that enable more people who are falling through the current gaps to get access to the care they need.
Annuo provides an avenue to addressing the care gaps that currently exist for Queenslanders in regional and rural areas. By creating digital networks, Annuo aims to connect rural clinicians to a larger ecosystem of healthcare providers, and help to bridge the current workforce gaps that exist in rural and regional Queensland. It will also provide vital support to in-person services, allowing people living in remote areas to stay in contact with specialists, reduce their need for travel to receive support and stay engaged with their treatment plan.
2023 Emerging Tech Star Award - Winners
Dr Kate Quigley
Dr Kate Quigley is being recognised for her impact on pioneering cutting-edge innovations to protect oceans from the critical effects of climate change and her contributions to addressing STEM’s leaky pipeline that leads to women leaving the industry.
The ripple effects of Dr Quigley’s work is being felt by the people, local communities and industries whose wellbeing, cultural connections and livelihood depends on healthy oceans to thrive.
She represents a new wave of conversation scientists and ecologists using big data and innovation to rescue species and fuel demand for data-driven insights to get marine conservation priorities on the agenda for protection of Australia’s unique marine environment.
A scientist at James Cook University and Minderoo Foundation, Dr Quigley is a thought leader in reef conservation and works at the interface of ecology and genetics to translate data for proactive conservation decision-making to protect coral reefs under increasingly uncertain future conditions. Her work has the potential to optimize marine protected management by using novel technologies and AI image classification pipelines to find resilient reefs and restore vulnerable locations.
Alongside her work in science and innovation, Kate is passionate about gender equity and is proactively working to dismantle the obstacles that lead to the “leaky pipeline” that lead to the loss of women in science and hold back women from greater science leadership.
She is currently leading a national Agreement to support greater collaboration and investment in creating inclusive, family friendly marine research stations so field researchers with families don’t have to choose between their research or caregiving commitments. She is also leading the way to secure childcare services at upcoming conferences to enable more female researchers with children the opportunity to attend to present their research and connect or collaborate with the peers.
Dr Ezgi Kaya
Dr Ezgi Kaya is being recognised for her impact as a role model to her peers and aspiring female engineers through her contributions towards enhancing and re-shaping perceptions around sustainability within the mining and metals equipment industry.
It was Ezgi’s childhood dream to become a structural engineer. Fast forward to 2023 and she’s leading a team of engineers and designers at Hatch to design the world’s largest nickel furnace (the source for lithium batteries) and overcome the challenges of moving a furnace structure under extreme thermal loading conditions.
Passionate about sustainability, Ezgi consistently challenges her clients to adopt sustainable practices and low carbon targets on their projects. She is also leading a green concrete initiative at Hatch across Australia and Asia as well as co-leading climate change mandatory training for workers initiative and investment in technologies and IP partnership for climate change business practise initiative.
As a female engineer within the traditionally male dominated mining and metals equipment industry, Ezgi is trying to build an inspirational example of the new generation of technical female leaders who will be critical to solving the complex challenges of transition to new energy sources. In addition to participating mentoring programs and leading initiatives across Hatch that promote knowledge sharing, foster collaboration and connect early career engineers with senior leaders, Ezgi regularly volunteers her time doing public speaking or participating in STEM outreach events through The University of Queensland that inspire more girls and women to engage in STEM.
2023 Lifting Communities Award - Winners
Professor Selena Bartlett
Professor Selena Bartlett is being recognised for her transformative research that has revolutionised our understanding of brain health and the profound impact of her work on empowering millions of people in communities across Australia to take control of their brain health and prioritise their well being.
Professor Bartlett’s vision is to make brain health everyone’s business and a high priority for individuals, organisations and governments alike.
Through podcasts, film, lectures, workshops, programs and multi-agency collaborations Professor Bartlett has shared her expertise to educate government organisations, universities, schools, and various institutions on the critical role of brain health in fostering resilience, happiness, and overall wellbeing. She founded the Thriving Schools programs which embrace change and learning opportunities to advance the skills and careers of students and teachers across Australia by integrating brain health education into the curriculum.
Professor Bartlett is deeply committed to supporting and guiding individuals in their journey towards better brain health. She achieves this by translating the science of brain health and neuroplasticity into widely accessible practical tools and actionable insights. She shares her expertise and digital solutions for brain health via her Thriving Mind Podcast, YouTube channel, Instagram as well as through her contributions to documentaries, films, podcasts, radio interviews and media publications. These transformational activities have empowered Professor Bartlett to reach millions of people from communities across Australia and connect with individuals who may not have otherwise been exposed to the importance of brain health.
By combining the power of technology and neuroscience, Professor Bartlett is driving a shift in how we approach mental fitness and embrace preventative measures – empowering individuals and communities to enhance brain health, cultivate resilience and prioritise wellbeing.
Professor Selena Bartlett is a QUT Professor of neuroscience and a research leader at The Translational Research Institute in Brisbane.
Christine Mudavanhu is being recognised for her impact on socially and economically empowering women of colour by fostering collaborative partnerships, embracing tech innovation and leveraging digital platforms to promote gender equity and social governance across Queensland’s private sector, academia, government and STEM fields.
Christina is passionate about raising and amplifying the voices of women in particular women of colour. She knows first-hand that migrant women don’t need a hand out to succeed, they need fair and equitable opportunities that truly embrace their diversity.
As the Founding Partner of Utano Global a Diversity, Equity and Incision (DEI) consulting company, Christine embraces innovation by integrating virtual reality (VR) in her leadership and training workshops to foster empathy and openness among leaders and managers to engage them in complex conversations around DEI in a safe and supportive learning environment. Christine also used gamification as a tool for creating empathy and vulnerability with leaders and creating a safe environment to have difficult conversations. By using immersive VR experiences as a cornerstone of her workshops, Christina offers leaders the opportunity to ‘walk in the shoes’ of marginalised and unrepresented groups including women of colour, a group significantly underrepresented in leadership positions.
As the Founding Partner and key advisor for Migrant Women in Business (MWIB) – Christine has developed a culturally sensitive small business program which has been backed by the Queensland Government and the Scanlon Foundation – Christine is empowering and inspiring migrant and refugee women to develop the skills and community network needed to start their own business. Through this program, Christine has joined forces at a national level with Luz Restrepo (VIC) and Corrine Kemp (NSW) to create the national network Migrant Women in Business, which is a business networking platform with two commercial arms that has been developed to harnesses the power of e-commerce and social media to sell products and services and build the community through events which allow the women to share success stories and unleash commercial opportunities for migrant women in business.
Christine recently supported the launch of Mushauri, a STEM mentorship program which was founded by Dr Maggy Lord and Dr Ester Onyango for students from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds to expand opportunities for girls interested in STEM. In less than three months more than 400 students from five schools have benefited. This initiative was supported through the African Professionals of Australia Association of which Christine sits on the national board. Christine currently serves as a key strategic advisor for Mushauri and has been working with the two founders on how to expand this opportunity.
As the host of the ‘Sisters in Colour’ podcast, Christine uses this platform to celebrate the successes and achievements of women of colour and to change the face of leadership. Multicultural Women from all walks of life come onto this platform and share their journey to leadership, career and business development. The intention is to help change the narrative for the girl child who looks up to female role models for guidance and inspiration of what the face of leadership looks like. Representation matters, you can’t be what you don’t see.
2023 Raising the Regions Award - Winners
Wonder of Science team
The Wonder of Science team have been recognised for their invaluable impact their program has had on igniting curiosity and passion for STEM through the delivery of engaging and innovative real-world STEM learning initiatives for students across Queensland in years 4-9 and empowering teachers to enact change within their schools.
Since Wonder of Science launched in 2012, the program has reached more than 95,000 people across Queensland – including students, teachers, parents and members from across the community.In 2022, 74% of schools participating in Wonder of Science program were schools from rural and regional communities across Queensland.
The all-female team Dr Kaylene Cooper, Alexandra McKelvey and Lenore Irvine inspire excellence in STEM education by co-ordinating more than 140 young science ambassadors – PhD students in various STEM disciplines – to visit participating schools across Queensland and support students to undertake a term-long, curriculum aligned research project and then present their findings at a conference in their region as part of the Challenge Task initiative. Regional winners then present their findings at a State-wide conference held in Brisbane.
The team are passionate about fostering a STEM culture and recognize the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping students’ STEM education. The team work closely with teachers to develop and refine innovative, engaging and practical curriculum aligned resources for their students, ensuring teachers are equipped with the tools and resources needed to empowering their students to engage and thrive in the challenging nature of STEM in an exciting and engaging environment. Throughout the term teachers from participating schools receive ongoing guidance and support from the team, including specialised professional development opportunities to support and enhance their own learning and growth.
The Wonder of Science team are also finalists in Lifting Communities and Inspiring Excellence in Education and Research Award categories at the 2023 WiT Awards.
Louise Nicholas is being recognised for the impact that her work, advocacy and volunteer efforts is having on helping Queensland ‘grow its own’ agtech experts.
She is a teacher, industry thought-leader and community ambassador who is passionate about the power of agricultural education and the incredible impact it can have on students’ lives. Louise leverages the networks she’s built within education, the Agriculture industry and the local community to create a collaborative environment where knowledge, resources, and experiences can be shared to embrace innovation, strengthen the community and foster a collective effort to support agriculture education and workforce development.
As an Agricultural Science Teacher at Home Hill State High School in Townsville, she is committed to building strong school-to-industry links by fostering collaborations with industry professionals, local farmers, and community organisations to bring real-world experiences into the classroom and create valuable learning opportunities through work placements, mentorship opportunities and industry connections to expand the reach and impact of agricultural education beyond the classroom.
Louise played a pivotal role in the development of the region’s ‘Holiday Harvest Program,’ connecting students with local producers and businesses to gain real-world work experience during their school holidays – inspiring new opportunities and pathways for young people to pursue a career in Agriculture and for the local industry to attract and nurture skilled talent.
She also actively mentors and shares her knowledge and expertise with other teachers in the region and across Queensland through her involvement with the Queensland Agricultural Science Teachers Association (QATA), National Association of Agricultural Educators and initiatives such as the Agribusiness Gateway Industry Schools Program – all with the aim of opening more doors for more students to receive cutting edge education in Agriculture that prepares them for a thriving future in the industry.
2023 Consumer Strength Champion Award - Winners
Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI) in Research Alliance Leadership Team
Katrina Cutler, Jessica Taylor, Alison Bell, Jo Maxwell, Benedette Watson, Nancy Cloake, Anja Christoffersen and Jana Hesketh are female leaders who have been working individually to advance consumer involvement in health research projects throughout their careers.
After meeting at the Health Consumer’s Queensland Forum in October 2022, they were inspired by the difference they could make to amplify Consumer and Community Involvement (CCI) in Queensland’s research if they came together to collaborate.
By the end of 2022, they were united as a leadership team and set the wheels in motion to form a State-wide Consumer and Community Involvement in Research Alliance which includes consumer representatives from the community along with universities, health services and research institutes across the state.
The Alliance is founded on the strength of relationships to build on synergies, foster new partnerships and invite new people, communities and organisations into an environment where consumers and community members work in partnership with researchers across the research cycle, in strategy and policy – as equal decision-makers.
To date, Alliance currently has a membership of 28 people, and 25 of these members are women who are the CCI in Research leads representing 17 of Queensland’s major health care and medical research institutes.
In the six months since the alliance formed, the leadership team have led significant structural and cultural shifts within their respective organisations – vital for uniting key partners and increasing consumer involvement across the research cycle as equal decision makers. They’ve also embarked on four major projects that will positively transform the research landscape for Queensland and move closer towards their goal of ensuring that Queensland’s research reflects the needs of its residents and the priorities of local communities.
Kerri Buttery saw a disconnect in the skills and knowledge required to function in the workplace, and society, that is assumed and not specifically taught.
She also understood that not only does being digitally literate allow an individual to fully participate in society; but it also empowers them to expand their learning and life outcomes.
This led Kerri to draw on her skills and expertise as a digital learning designer to bring to life the Digital Literacy Licence (DLL) – a mirco credential program that focuses on enhancing the base-level foundation skills for everyday Australians.
Kerri is being recognised for the impact she is creating to make a positive difference not only to the 1 in 4 people who are digitally disadvantaged, but also to the 40% of Australians who don’t feel confident in keeping up with the rapid change of technology.
To expand the reach, delivery and recognition of the digital literacy program to date, Kerri has leveraged her professional networks to form flourishing partnerships with organisations such as Energy Skills Queensland, Business Educators’ Association of Queensland (BEAQ) and initiatives such as the Gateway to Industry School Partnerships (GISP) programs.
She’s passionately advocates for the importance of digital literacy in contributing to enhancing digital capability in workplaces but most importantly, the ripple effect this can have on enhancing individual wellbeing.
Kerri volunteers her time on advisory committees, working groups and inputting her expertise into key industry discussions and strategic planning.
2023 Employer of Change Award - Winners
RSL Queensland celebrate and recognise the remarkable women in STEM whose innovation, commitment and leadership empowers the organisation to better the lives of veterans and their families around Australia.
Comprising approximately 64% of our employees, 43% of our STEM workforce and two-thirds of our executive team, women of all backgrounds play a pivotal role across RSL Queensland. Including ensuring their machine learning and AI algorithms are free from gender bias and delivering the analysis, insights and digital capabilities needed to optimise vital fundraising initiatives that make delivering their mission possible.
RSL Queensland are committed to uplifting their people through policies and initiatives that support their personal wellbeing and development. These include flexible schedules, which have allowed staff to pursue volunteering work that’s close to their hearts; a strong Workplace Health, Safety & Wellbeing commitment; and a rich calendar of social and community purpose events that connect staff with each other and raise money/awareness for worthy causes.
Celebrating excellence helps RSL Queensland to inspire excellence – regularly hosting panel discussions (e.g. for International Women’s Day) that showcase women’s achievements, share tips for success, and connect inspiring women with staff from all levels of their organisation. Their leaders instil a culture that regularly highlight staff milestones, promotions and other achievements, enabling all employees to share in those successes and see where their own skills and ambitions can lead.
RSL Queensland are a staunch advocate for women in STEM, taking active steps to challenge the status quo and give women the equal opportunities and recognition they deserve. Their commitment to strategic, inclusive, fair and transparent recruitment practices is fundamental to hiring the best employees who align with our culture, values and purpose.
Griffith University prioritises being values-led, which places diversity and inclusion at the forefront of everything they do.
Griffith was one of the first Australian Universities to achieve an Athena Swan Bronze Award in recognition of their commitment to driving strategic, transformational change to enhance gender equity, diversity and inclusion across the university. This program has led to significant improvement in the representation of academic women including increases from 28% to 34% (+6%) in the Sciences Group; 18% to 33% (+12%) in the School of Engineering and Built Environment; and 5% to 24% (+19%) in the School of ICT since 2018. Additionally, academic Sciences women also saw an improvement in engagement (+4%), wellbeing (+2%) and progress (+8%) in our staff engagement survey between 2021 and 2022.
Griffith recognises that representation and visibility of role models is crucial to inspiring the next generation of leaders. Women are well represented at the highest level of the University and comprise 43% of the Executive Group (EG). Their Academic Equity Development Program provides key academic staff from diverse groups with support and funding to conduct sustained activities to further their development as scholars, researchers, teachers and practitioners.
Griffith have also established their own Gender Equality Research Network, which is a network of academic and higher degree scholars seeking competitive research success for projects dedicated to gender equity.
2023 First Nations Change Maker Award - Winners
Larissa Hale is being recognised for her impact as a First Nations woman leading transformational change bringing together traditional knowledge and practices alongside modern science and technology to improve environmental land and sea management in Queensland – now and into the future.
She is a passionate advocate for women looking after country, and is proactively working towards breaking down barriers that discourage First Nations women from becoming land and sea country managers, scientists and innovators, whilst protecting their culture. In 2018, Larissa established the Queensland Indigenous Rangers Network to open up career pathways for Indigenous Women who share Larissa’s passion for protecting country and culture. The network started with 34 indigenous female rangers in 2018, and in 2023 has grown to 164 indigenous female rangers across Queensland.
By creating opportunities for more First Nations women to participate in environmental protection and empowering them through culturally appropriate on country training and new business enterprise opportunities in digital technologies, geospatial information, and robotics; Larissa’s is empowering First nations women and girls to become leaders in innovation as well as amplify the scale and breadth of their impact on protecting and repairing vital ecosystems in Queensland, around Australia and globally – creating a win-win for nature and for community.
Larissa’s passion for the environment, reef, and culture has seen her take on numerous leadership and advisory roles on national and international committees that empower her to share and advocate for Indigenous people and Indigenous communities at a much larger scale.
As Managing Director of Yuku-Baja-Muliku Landowners & Reserves she leads the co-creation and implementation of vital environmental programs in the Cape York Community, working alongside Elders, land trust members, the local community and government stakeholders. She’s also currently the only Indigenous councillor in the Cook Shire and holds dual positions with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as the Chair of the Traditional Owner Working Group and Board Member for the Partnership Management Committee. This provides a space for her to champion for the Great Barrier Reef and to advocate for the inclusion of Reef Traditional Owners in management and care of their sea country and helps her to share and advocate for our region, our communities our people and the ongoing growth of Indigenous Land & Sea Management.
Let’s Yarn About Sleep
The female-led team behind the Let’s Yarn About Sleep Program are being recognised for their impact on being a catalyst for greater investment in the sleep health of First Nations peoples and incorporating vital sleep health education into mental health and well-being services in 11 rural and remote First Nations communities across Queensland, home to more than 50,000 First Nations peoples in Queensland.
In collaboration with community Elders, parents, carers, First Nations youth and service providers, Program Lead A/Prof Yaqoot Fatima, Project Coordinator Roslyn Von Senden and Karen Chong from the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Queensland, lead a team of researchers from 10 universities in partnership with 12 community partners to deliver a multi-disciplinary Sleep Health Equity Program specifically for First Nations Australians that embeds First Nations perspectives and culturally informed practices to explain the impact of sleep loss and support participants with practical strategies to improve their sleep health.
Unlike existing sleep health programs, Let’s Yarn About Sleep is rooted in community ownership and leadership, and focused on First Nations’ health improvement through the agency of First Nations peoples. Between 2020 and 2023, the team consulted with more than 300 stakeholders from First Nations communities, industry partners, and policymakers which underpinned all aspects of the development and delivery of LYAS programs into communities as well as the creation of training and employment pathways for Indigenous people, especially young women, to become sleep coaches or contribute to improving the sleep health of First Nations peoples. Through investing in capacity building of First Nations people in the community, the team have created local role models to encourage young people to become change-makers in the community.
Starting as a small pilot project in remote Queensland, Let’s Yarn About Sleep has grown into a globally recognised program renown for its leadership, innovation and collaborative approach to transforming the way the sleep health needs of First Nations peoples are assessed and addressed.
Since its inception, the program has been widely recognised by both mainstream and First Nations media outlets nationally, and has contributed to advocacy efforts for greater investment in the sleep health of First Nations peoples. The team formed a national Sleep Health Working Party in 2022 and shared program tools with RACGP for inclusion in the guidebook (2023) for culturally-responsive sleep health care.