Marni Tuala is a proud Bundjalung and Wonnarua woman who grew up in far northern NSW and comes from a long line of healers. A mother of five jarjums, Marni brings a unique perspective to her roles at CATSINaM, having studied both midwifery and the law.
Marni works clinically as the Aboriginal liaison midwife at The Tweed Hospital and is passionate about improving the cultural safety of the health system. Marni says her own experiences of health services as a young pregnant woman were not ideal, and inform her drive to improve the cultural safety of services.
Throughout studying a law degree, Marni decided to become a midwife to develop the expertise and credibility to drive system-wide reform of healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. Marni holds a Masters in Primary Maternity Care and is currently completing a Masters of Law. Marni says that having background legal knowledge is helpful for her work in governance and policy, both with CATSINaM and wider work.
Marni is passionate about her responsibility to her community to provide role modelling and mentoring, and enjoys contributing to the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander midwifery workforce through nurturing the next generations and developing a safe system for them to work in. Marni has been an active member of CATSINaM since 2013, and also sits on multiple committees and advisory groups, including the Australian College of Midwives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee and The Commonwealth Breastfeeding expert referencing group. She is excited about the future for CATSINaM, as it builds from a solid foundation.
Queensland Director and Deputy President
Venessa is Ait Keodal, Sumu Torres Strait Islander who also has family lines to Keith South Australia. Venessa is currently the Director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Management Unit at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. She has over 21 years of extensive experience in metropolitan, rural and remote areas throughout Australia. Working in national and Queensland state-wide industry development; management; service delivery; sustainable community development; and clinical practice. She specialises in adapting Western management systems and sector development to incorporate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Knowledges and practices. Her work experience includes 9 years of strategic industry development at the national level and prior to this an additional 7 years’ experience in Queensland state-wide development. She started initially as a practitioner, going on to management, training, mentoring, consultancy, research, lobbying, governance and development. Some highlights from her career include: lobbying for 12 years for the National Remote and Indigenous Services resource allocation for aged care service which is currently in place today; development and implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Dementia Strategy; and advocating for Indigenous languages recognition and revitalisation which has recently had an increase resource allocation and commitment from government. She’s currently a board member with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, Committee Member on the Queensland Premier’s Social Cohesion Committee, and former national board member on the Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency.
She has a passion for national and local sustainable holistic development in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Countries.
Australian Capital Territory Director
Roxanne is a Palawa woman who was born and raised on Gubbi Gubbi land in southeast Queensland. She completed a double degree in Nursing and Health Science (Paramedics) from the Queensland University of Technology. Roxanne completed her graduate nursing year on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. She then undertook further training in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. She relocated to Canberra in 2017 to commence postgraduate study in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. Roxanne is passionate about child and infant health, with a particular interest in the epidemiology and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children admitted to PICUs in Australia.
Special Appointment by the Board Director
Renee is a Gubbi Gubbi woman from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. She is CEO of Gidgee Healing, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service that provides services to about 7,000 Aboriginal people living across a vast area of north-west Queensland, from Mt Isa to the Gulf.
This role is the culmination of more than 20 years of experience as a clinician and working in senior management roles in metropolitan and remote areas. Renee became interested in health as a young girl, growing up with grandparents who regularly attended health services because of chronic illnesses. Renee felt comfortable with the world of healthcare, and so was interested when family members who were Aboriginal Health Workers suggested she might also like to consider taking on the role. During her eight years as an Aboriginal Health Worker, Renee came to understand the importance of quality healthcare in preventing the sort of chronic conditions that her family members experienced. She then studied to become a nurse, wanting to extend her clinical practice and knowledge, and worked at Mt Isa Hospital as a nurse for five years.
She was drawn back to primary healthcare because of its potential for prevention and early intervention, working in service planning and management roles at the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health and the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane. In 2018, Renee was delighted to return to Mt Isa and take up her current position. She joined the board of CATSINaM in order to help represent the needs of Aboriginal communities in north-west Queensland, and also to pursue her interest in developing the cultural safety of services and healthcare professionals. Renee says that taking on this role with CATSINaM has been helpful for her professional and personal development.
South Australian Board Director
Jason Coombes is a proud Gunaikurnai man from Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust at Lake Tyers in Victoria. Jason works as an RN at Oak Valley, a remote Aboriginal community in the far west of South Australia, on Maralinga Tjarutja Lands.
He loves the wide-ranging scope of practice in his front-line role, and the connections to the local community and culture. Jason has wide-ranging experience, having previously worked as a clinical nurse consultant at Aurukun in far north Queensland, and as an educator of Aboriginal Health Workers at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS).
He is proud to have encouraged many Aboriginal Health Workers to consider developing their careers as nurse and midwives. Jason was a mature-age entrant to nursing after a 15-year career travelling the world as one of the first Aboriginal long haul flight attendants with Qantas. He began his second career in nursing ten years ago because he wanted to give back to his community, and found that many of the skills developed while working at Qantas assisted his bedside manner as a nurse. As well, his life experience as a mature-age nurse graduate gave him a deep understanding of the circumstances affecting patients’ health and wellbeing. His ambition is to work widely across remote communities, spending at least a few years in each one, and to undertake further education.
Jason brings his experience as a frontline nurse to his role as a CATSINaM director, and has a vision for every community in Australia to have an Aboriginal nurse and midwife. His motto is: “I’m keepin’ it real and I’m keepin’ it black.”
Ben was born in Melbourne and has lived there his whole life. His family originates from the Kurnai/Gunai people of East Gippsland. Ben is a Registered Nurse and since 2005 has experience working in education, critical care, mental health, pre-hospital and primary health care. As a youngster Ben dreamt of becoming a pilot but he was too tall and the training was too expensive. Instead, he fell into nursing and says he has never looked back, enjoying the diversity of opportunities that a career in nursing brings.
Ben prefers working in clinical practice because he “absolutely loves” the contact with patients and their families. He is proud to be a director of CATSINaM, an organisation that he joined in his first year at university and that he says has given so much to him and his fellow nurses and midwives. Ben is pleased that his role with CATSINaM enables him to be involved with wider issues affecting the profession, including education, training and recruitment. He also enjoys the opportunities for role modelling and networking. Ben’s vision for CATSINaM includes ensuring that the right people are receiving the right healthcare at the right time, regardless of their location or culture.
Tasmania Board Director
Joshua is a Torres Strait Islander man and has been a member of CATSINaM since he was a student in 2004 at Australia Catholic University. He is also the recipient of the inaugural Sally Goold Award.
Joshua has always wanted to contribute to our people's health and assist in building our nursing workforce. This has led him to be a lecturer, tutor and mentor to other aspiring nurses.
Joshua's career as a nurse started at St Vincent's Private Hospital where he gained experience working in cardiac care.
Joshua has worked as a nurse with RAHC in remote Indigenous communities including Mutijulu, Areyonga and Tennant Creek.
Joshua worked as a volunteer for Volunteers in Community Engagement (VOICE) in the Indigenous Youth Leadership Program. I was the Indigenous Australian youth leadership field staff/supervisor. Myself and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Youth were in Vanuatu for a cross cultural exchange, where we built a first aid post with Ni-Van Youth for a remote community.
While in Vanuatu Joshua was able gain a insight into the health issue that the Vanuatu people are experiencing and also see the similarities with our own people.