theme: 'Celebrating African Women, Their Voices'
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Biographies

Passion. Experience. Diligence.

 
 

Keynote Speakers

 
 
 

FETIEN ABAY

Professor Fetien Abay Abera was born in Wukro town of Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. She is the last (twin) daughter to a family of 12 and is now married and a mother of three. Saved by her mother from an arranged marriage at a very young age (12) to a much older man (36), she was able to continue her schooling and complete her high school education in Eastern part of Tigray. Professor Fetien then attended Awassa College of Agriculture in southern Ethiopia, where she graduated with a Diploma in Plant Science. She worked from 1985 to 1988 as a development agent in rural areas of Oromia, and Amhara Regions. She took the opportunity to continue her studies for a BSc in Plant Science from Alamaya University, Ethiopia.

After graduating in 1991, she worked as a researcher with the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) and then joined the newly established Mekelle University in 1993, as the first female lecturer. She continued her studies at the University of Wales (Bangor) and gained her MSc in Rural Resource Management in 1995. After several more years of teaching and development-oriented research with Mekelle University, she went on to study for her PhD in Plant and Seed Sciences and graduated in 2007 from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Professor Fetien is currently the director of IEGDS (Institute of Environment, Gender, and Development Studies), a tenured Professor in Plant Breeding & Seed, an associate editor for the Journal of Dryland Agriculture, a coordinator of the Graduate Programme in Dryland Crop Science, a core team member of the Agro-Ecology in Practice Curriculum and a member of the Agricultural College Council, and is heavily involved in curriculum development for Plant Breeding and Food Science at Mekelle University. She is the first woman in Ethiopia who has reached the rank of Professor in plant breeding & Seed (agriculture) and the third woman professor of the country.

As a senior-level woman scientist, Professor Fetien has been quite outspoken on issues of gender equality in science. She has over 45 published articles/ peer reviewed proceedings and booklets, which incorporate the knowledge and wisdom of farmers she works closely with.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Juanita Agard

Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH), USA

A sought-after cybersecurity expert, Juanita Agard is a Senior Consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the world’s leading information technology consulting firms. Her expertise spans the corporate and government sectors, and she has shaped cybersecurity policies and governance for some of the most innovative and significant organizations today, including FDA and NASA. As a speaker and panelist, Juanita lends her insight to discussions on the current state, trends, and evolution of the cybersecurity industry.

Juanita launched her career in information technology at IBM as an IT Specialist in 2005. An avid learner, Juanita seized the opportunity to expand her role and explore other professional paths on the cutting edge of the industry. It was during that discovery that she was introduced to the world of cybersecurity, and a fresh passion and interest was immediately ignited. A relatively new industry with few women at its helm, Juanita was committed to charting her own course to success. Where others would see obstacles, Juanita saw opportunity. She independently researched the emerging educational paths that would allow her to combine her experience in IT engineering with technology law, and in doing so, she learned of a cyber education partnership between the renowned Booz Allen Hamilton and local universities. Seizing her chance, she applied and accepted a position within the firm as a Software Requirement Engineer and, within a few months, earned a spot in the company’s coveted Cyber Cohort program. While studying for her master’s in cybersecurity technology, Juanita simultaneously completed the rigorous EC- Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) boot camp and CompTIA Security + curriculums to earn her cyber certifications. 

Deeply devoted to the diversification of the industry and lifting other women as she climbs, Juanita brings her voice and vision to platforms and stages across the globe. She was recently featured as a contributing author in the book, Women In Security, a collection of transparent and powerful stories from success-seeking women in the field who continue to break down barriers in the male-dominated world of cybersecurity. Juanita is also a founding member of The Sister Circle, a ground-breaking professional mentoring program created for minority women at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Juanita holds a Bachelor of Science degree in System and Computer Science, with a minor in Mathematics, from Howard University, a Masters in Cybersecurity Technology from University of Maryland University College, and a Cybersecurity Technology Graduate Certificate. A Seattle, Washington native, she currently resides in the Washington Metro area with her two sons.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Peter Dawkins, Prof.

Victoria University, President & Vice Chancellor

Peter Dawkins became the third Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University in January 2011.

This followed six years in high level leadership roles for the Victorian Government, and twenty eight years in the university sector, of which almost a decade was as the Ronald Henderson Professor and Director of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, at the University of Melbourne.

Peter was Deputy Secretary of the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance (2005-2006) and Secretary of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2006-2010)

His research, publications and advice to government have covered such areas as labour markets, unemployment, taxation and welfare, education and health. Since being Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, his contributions to policy debates has largely been in the area of education, especially tertiary education.      

In 2015, the University Council extended his appointment as Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University for a further five years, and he released a strategic plan which leads Victoria University into the 21st Century as the ‘University of Opportunity and Success’, building on the core promise to deliver learning opportunities for students from diverse countries, cultures, socioeconomic and educational backgrounds; and ensure they find their own personalised success as measured by their employability, entrepreneurial mindset, and contributions to industry and community.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Habiba Cheikh

Former Director of Information and Communication
African Union Commission, Addis Abeba Ethiopia

Full Bio coming soon...

 
 

 
 
 
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(E-man Kh-air)

Eiman Kheir

Policy Officer- Middle East, Asia and Oceania
Directorate of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations
African Union Commission

Ms. Kheir is a Diaspora Policy Officer with the Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO) responsible for the Middle East, Asia and Oceania regions. With a focus on Diaspora and development (D4D), Ms Kheir aims to establish, enable and grow a network of diaspora partnerships capable of effecting change in addition to supporting African Member States in establishing, enhancing and implementing effective Diaspora Policies and Engagement Strategies.

Ms Kheir comes with over ten years of international experience working with various UN Agencies and Peace keeping operations (DPKO) in Electoral Assistance, Conflict Resolution, Disarmament, Demobilization & Reintegration (DDR), Research and International Development.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Nelly Yoa

 

 
 
 

 
 

(Ah- Maad El Ba-Sheer)

Ahmed El Basheer

Acting Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Organization
Directorate of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations
African Union Commission

Mr. Elbasheer is the African Union Commission's Acting Director of Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO), he is also the Head of the Diaspora Division and doubles as the Acting head of the Secretariat of the African Union's Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC). He has served as the Head of the Diaspora Division for over 9 years with a goal to invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our continent.

Mr. El Basheer, a law degree holders, is also a Civil Activist and founder of the grassroots organization Al Neeema Foundation which focuses on Community Development. Prior to joining CIDO Mr. El Basheer was the Assistant Registrar for the Office of registration of Political parties in Sudan.

 
 
 

 
 
 
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(Chee-ree- tw-iee Os-ei)

Kyeretwie Osei

Policy Officer – Americas and Caribbean
Directorate of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations
African Union Commission

Mr. Kyeretwie Osei is the Policy Officer at the African Union Commission’s Directorate of Citizens and Diaspora Organizations (CIDO); with responsibility for the Americas and the Caribbean. He also has interim responsibility for the Europe Region. His career background is in international development and project management; with expertise in the development of diaspora partnerships, design and management of diaspora-for- development (D4D) projects, and diaspora mapping. He has also advised governmental and other development partners in the areas of diaspora policy and program development.

Prior to joining the African Union Commission, Mr. Osei 7 years with the Canadian development organization Cuso International including several years overseeing the African Diaspora Program.

 
 

 
 
 

Helen Kapalos

Chairperson Of the Victorian Multicultural Commission

I began my career as a reporter on ABC Radio in Newcastle in 1994. It began a long career in broadcast news which also included a rewarding period at multicultural broadcaster SBS after winning a national scholarship.

I also spent several years in commercial radio and TV, including the Nine Network’s regional affiliate NBN, where I wrote, directed and produced an award-winning documentary on the closure of BHP, in 1998.

In 2001, I joined the Nine Network as a reporter on National Nine News where I covered breaking news events such as the Waterfall train disaster and the historic Sydney Gang rape trial. I played a key role in the 2004 Athens Olympics coverage and I was appointed host of the Late News program Nightline. 

In 2006, I joined Network Ten, as a co-anchor on the five pm News at Five. I anchored several live broadcasts in that time such as the devastating 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires, and the Christchurch earthquake.

I have been fortunate enough to work for all three commercial networks in Australia and our two public broadcasters and recently completed a rewarding career period with the Seven Network,  hosting Today Tonight throughout 2013 in Sydney and Melbourne and joining the flagship Current Affairs program Sunday Night as a Senior Reporter.

I have recently returned to my first love, film-making and documentary work. I am the Executive Producer of A Life Of Its Own a documentary that examines the truth about medical marijuana. The Film will be released in June, 2015.

I am a keen ambassador for the state of Victoria where I am based and served two terms on the state government appointed board of Federation Square. I am also an Ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, An Advisory Committee member of the Big Issue, A Hawks Fan, and Liverpool in the EPL. I am a proud Greek Australian who spends a month each year visiting my dad in Northern Greece.

I am also doing my Masters in Journalism because I believe we never stop learning, and that we learn from everything. I make a discipline of staying positive, and love to collaborate with like-minded creatives who are drawn to humanitarian causes. I am enthusiastic and passionate about all of my endeavours. I believe journalism should value above all else the principles of truth and integrity and advocate causes where others are unable to have their voice heard.

 
 
 

 
 

Paul Iji

Professor of Animal Science at the University of New England

Paul Iji is a Professor of Animal Science at the University of New England (UNE), Armidale, Australia.  He studied in Nigeria, Scotland and Australia and has been involved in research and tertiary teaching since 1987, working first in Nigeria, then South Africa and currently Australia.  His main area of research is poultry nutrition, with specialization in gastrointestinal physiology although he has previously been involved in research and teaching on other animal species, including sheep, goats, pigs, cattle and ostriches.  He has graduated 20 PhD, 9 Masters and 2 Honours students and currently supervises 5 PhD students, at various stages of their programmes.  He has also supervised 5 post-doctoral research fellows and hosted a number of visitors in his group.  Prof Iji is on the editorial board of 8 scientific journals and regularly reviews for other journals.  He has published 121 journal papers, and presented 161 conference papers, 24 of them on invitation.  He is also the author of two books, A guide for young Africans growing up overseas and Writing and publishing your research, and writes a regular blog on LinkedIn (LinkedIn - Paul Iji).  He is the founder of the African-Australian Academic and Research Network, African Association in New England, and Director of the Tropican Animal Research Services.  He will be speaking on Rising to the top – Lessons for the African academics. 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Catherine Cumming

Mayor of Maribyrnong City Council
Stony Creek Ward Councillor

Catherine Cumming has extensive local government experience gained through over 20 years as a Councillor. This is her seventh term as a Stony Creek Ward Councillor for Maribyrnong City Council and her second time as Mayor, having previously held this position in 2013. She has also held the position of Deputy Mayor twice since her first term in 1997.

She is passionate about advocating on behalf of residents in the City of Maribyrnong on issues such as the removal of graffiti, dumped rubbish, greening and improving parks, increasing safety by working with local police, increasing the number of childcare and kindergarten places and redeveloping sports pavilions and facilities.

In the current Rate Capping environment the issue of cost shifting – whether through reduced or obviated funding or increased legislative compliance – is one of her highest concerns, as it impacts directly on the level of service Councils are able to provide to our diverse communities.

She also has a keen interest in affordable, sustainable housing, particularly in Braybrook, and in growing local festivals to increase opportunities for the community to engage.

Her commitment to community engagement has resulted in representation on a range of local committees and advisory groups.

This includes the Western Region Waste Management Group, on which she was Director in 2012; the Metropolitan Local Government Waste Forum from 2006-2009; the Metropolitan Waste Management Group Board from 2008–2012 and 2008–2012 Association of Victorian Regional Waste Management Group.

She has also been on Council committees including the Disability Advisory Committee, the Audit Committee and the Inner Melbourne Action Plan.

This exposure provides her with a well-rounded understanding of the many issues facing local government.

A Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Cr Cumming has spent her entire life in the City of Maribyrnong and has run her own businesses in Footscray, including a café and her medical practice.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Melanie Eagle

Chief Executive Officer, Hepatitis Victoria

Melanie Eagle has qualifications in Arts, Social Work, the Law, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. 

She is employed as the Chief Executive Officer at Hepatitis Victoria – the peak organisation providing advocacy, awareness raising, information, support and health promotion for people living with or affected by viral hepatitis.

Her professional work has included the public sector (city strategic planning, social policy, women’s policy including in relation to family violence and sexual assault, law reform, and equal opportunity); the private sector (a solicitor); and the union movement. 

Her diverse non-professional activities have included being Mayor and Councillor of the City of St Kilda, local heritage initiatives, and Boards of a wide range of organisations (Hanover Welfare, Prahran Mission, St Kilda Skillshare, the St Kilda Community Development Advisory Committee, Community Child Care Victoria, and more). 

Currently she is a Director of Alfred Health, and on the Inner South Community Health Centre, a Committee Member of the Chronic Illness Alliance of Victoria, a Patron of the Epilepsy Foundation, and on the Board of Hepatitis Australia.

Recently she has volunteered on international aid assignments in Timor-Leste, Zambia and Cambodia.

Over time, in addition to her legal and social work skills, she has developed expertise in community and stakeholder engagement, strategic planning, policy development and program design and evaluation. 

Melanie is passionate about collectively working to improve broader community well-being.

 
 
 

 
 
 

cassandra szoeke

Prof. Cassandra Szoeke is the Director of the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP).  She led the research program in Neuro-degenerative Diseases, Mental Disorders and Brain Health at the Australian Commonwealth Science and Industry Organisation (CSIRO) and then became a Clinical Consultant to CSIRO.   She has been involved as chief investigator on large Australian longitudinal studies including Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle (AIBL) study of ageing, ASPREE, MOVE and AIBLACTIVE and was the Inaugural chair of the Vascular Stream in AIBL.


Casssandra is a practising neurologist with an honours degree in Genetics and Pharmacology, MBBS and FRACP with specialisation in Neurology and sub-specialisation in Epileptology. She completed her PhD thesis in Epidemiology examining women’s healthy ageing and her post doctoral studies conducted between Stanford University and the University of Melbourne focused on cognition.


She has been in clinical research for over a decade with over 50 peer-reviewed publications, is a reviewer for national and international journals and funding bodies. She has been the recipient of numerous national and international awards for her research work. She brings together management skills with a scientific background in genetics, pharmacology, epidemiology, neurology and neuro-degenerative disorders. She is a member of the board of executive directors for the Western Health Service Network in Melbourne and Chair of the Quality and Safety and the Education, Research and Training committees.  

 
 
 

 
 

Plenary Speakers

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Morley Muse

I am a doctorate researcher studying at Victoria University, Werribee Campus. My expertise and background is centred on generating sustainable energy forms with keen interest in biofuel energy generation.

I began my journey as an engineer at The University of Nottingham where I studied Chemical with Environmental Engineering. Been drawn more towards Environmental engineering due to my passion for the environment, I decided to pursue a Masters in Sustainable energy technology where I was exposed to various means of generating clean and sustainable energy at The University of Glamorgan (now South Wales). Upon completion of my thesis in the United Kingdom, my husband and I decided to relocate to Australia. My interest in Australia grew from the reading and researching about Australia as a whole and realising that most of its land is arid, which may be useful in generating sustainable energy forms. In reading more towards these lines, I found a new passion in biomass energy particularly anaerobic digestion using microalgae. Further Investigations into its use brought me to the realisation of the amount of energy that can be generated from microalgae via anaerobic digestion suppose the drawbacks of the technology such as cell wall disruption and bacteria species for the process can be resolved. So, I decided to investigate this further by applying for a PhD in Victoria University under the supervision of Prof. Stephen Gray and Dr. Thomas Yeager.

Beginning my PhD was a dream come true, however not without a price as I had just given birth to my first child. It was an exciting moment in my life but very challenging. Almost every PhD student will admit to the isolation they feel from the rest of the student body as they almost do not have any commonality with the rest of the students in terms of class attendance and interactions. Being a girl in engineering is even more isolating as the ratio of females to males in engineering may perhaps be 1:10. I decided that rather than feeling isolated, I can do something for myself and others. So, I approached Dr. Juan Shi, who is currently the Co-ordinator of Women in Science and Engineering at Victoria University. After speaking with her, we both saw the need for a student club to bring girls in engineering together and end the isolation and fear of not succeeding as a female in science and engineering. Hence, the club Women in Science &b Engineering (WISE) Club @VU was created.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
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Nkandu Beltz

Author, International Speaker and Social Pioneer.
Founder and Managing Director: Centre for Leadership and Management. 

Nkandu Beltz is an award-winning leader and Social Pioneer. With a background in Journalism and News Writing, Nkandu loves to have inspired conversations with thought leaders, from interviewing his Holiness the Dalai Lama to running youth workshops in Schools, Universities and Corporate Companies. She teaches young people to unleash their potential and live a balanced life. She will challenge your perception of leadership and communication.

Nkandu is the founder and managing Director of the Centre for Leadership and Management. 
 

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Tinashe Dune

ACA - MPH & MHSc,
Health Science (SoSH)

Senior Lecturer in Interprofessional Health Sciences,
Health Science (SoSH)

Dr Tinashe Dune is a multi-award winning academic in the areas of health sociology and public health. Her research, teaching and practice focus on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in the context of marginalisation. This includes the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse people, those living with disability, ageing populations, LGBTIQ-identifying people and Indigenous populations. Dr Dune utilises mixed-methods approaches and interdisciplinary perspectives which support multidimensional understandings of the lived experience, health outcomes and ways to improve wellbeing. 

Her work is supported by several years of hands-on community and NGO outreach work across Australia and internationally. She worked at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland with the Violence, Injury and Disability and Reproductive Health Research Units. She has had roles as Honorary Research Fellows at the University of Sydney and the University of New England. In her role as Director, Research and Development for African Women Australia she actively engages with academic, industry and community stakeholders to conduct and implement translational research. Dr Dune also advocates and engages with national and international stakeholders in her role as co-Convenor of the Public Health Association Australia' Women's Health Group.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
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Berhan M. Ahmed

 

CEO of the African Australian Multicultural Employment and Youth Services;
Board member of Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre; and
White Ribbon Ambassador
 

Dr Berhan M. Ahmed (Shiday) is the current ex-Chairperson of the African Think Tank (ATT); ex-chief editor of the ATT focus E-magazine; CEO of the African Australian Multicultural Employment and Youth Services; Board member of Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre; and White Ribbon Ambassador and well-known to many African residing in Australia, through his commitment to numerous community issues via main stream media and community media and community activities. First African Australian Senate Candidate for federal election 2004 for Victoria. Dr. Ahmed is a Adjunct Professor at the University of Melbourne for over 18 years.

Dr Ahmed is motivated by five core principles - social justice, sustainability development, Aboriginal reconciliation, building stronger and dynamic communities and applying democracy in action. His current leadership role will explore new ways of engaging women and youth in participation, decision and eliminate the culture of cover up and continued hostility and lack of co-operation among community members. The African communities will also engage with other communities to create harmony and good image of the youth in Australia.

Dr Ahmed first priority is to make Victorian diverse multicultural society a strong, dynamic and a show case “yard stake” society in Australia and around the world. A community that values its heritage while embracing multiculturalism, tolerance, respects and cares for each other. The challenges are enormous and will be faced with happiness, community member’s consultation, talents and team work of the leadership.  This stems from my own life experience; my memories of being a refugee as a teen age (1978), discriminated, entrenched in poverty and treated as enemy before I knew what an enemy mean; this stand in sharp contrast to the dignity and love that I got from my family and from my adopted country Australia.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Virginia Mapedzahama

Casual Academic,
School of Medicine

Casual Academic SSH - 1H/Autumn 2017 - JN,
Dean's Unit - School of Science and Health

Dr Mapedzahama's research focuses on understanding the social construction of all categories of difference: the meanings attached to this difference, how it is signified, lived and its implications for those assigned difference. She explores this interest in the context of migration, diaspora, race, racism and ethnicity. Her expertise includes new African diaspora in Australia, race and ethnic studies, cross-cultural identities, hybrid and non-white subjectivity. She is therefore building on years of researching diversity and lived experiences of diversity in Australia. Her research publications are interdisciplinary, having been published in journals and edited collections in sociology, migration, race and ethnic studies, African studies, sexuality studies and work and family studies. Her publications are increasingly being recognised for their contribution to the fields of research. For example, her publication: "Black nurse in white space? Rethinking the in/visibility of race within the Australian nursing workplace" has been cited 22 times since its publication 3 years ago. Dr Mapedzahama also has extensive experience in social research methods and methodology (including survey research and various qualitative research methods).

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Nombasa Williams

Nombasa is currently an Honorary Adjunct Lecturer in the School of Education. She is an academic researcher and lecturer in Psychology, Sociology and Education with a background in refugee education; refugee parenting; child protection, psychosocial wellbeing and practice; international education and development; masculinities and constructed parenting identities.

She is interested in the post in postcolonial education; Fanon, Freire and Critical Race Theory; and transformative research methodologies. She is an educator, trainer and consultant. She has published in refereed journals, delivered public lectures, has a book chapter and conference papers.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Kwachas Luka

Kwacha Luka a confident Malawian born young woman, migrated to Australia from Malawi with her mum Selba Luka, in February 1998.

Kwacha’s relationship with her mother (Selba) was not always smooth. With the struggles of her mother and the difficulty of wanting to be accepted for her own decisions, she rebelled and lost her way.

Her journey of self-reflection and positive action, with the support of her mother and her own learning experiences, she found her niche in fashion. Kwacha was always inspired by her mum, the way she used to coordinate colours when dressing up for work every morning, clothes matching with shoes. She accredits this as the inspiration toward becoming a fashion designer.

From a rebellious young woman to a dedicated fashion design and technology student at Kangan Institute, Kwacha has carved a path toward realizing her dreams. Her dedication and talents have been noticed by international fashion company DonBella, and in her spare time she assists and supports her mother at Afri-Aus Care.

 
 
 

 
 

Jamy Alex

Jamy Alex, born in Sudan 1988, migrated to Australia 2002 at the age of 14. He attended school at Cleeland Secondary College completing his VCE diploma. During his younger years he faced difficulties in maintaining a living due to conflict within his family and struggled to integrate into Australian society. As a result of heated altercations with family members and collegues, peer pressure from friends he made decisions that put him on the wrong side of the law. The struggles he faced taught him that,

‘Trouble doesn’t get you anywhere, I didn’t want to go back there.’

Realising that support and help in his most difficult years could have been the difference between a bad and good decision he decided that he could be there for others. Together with Selba (Founder of Afri-Aus Care) he avoided going to jail and turned his life around. He now assists AAC as the founder of the Black Rhinos basketball club and helps many youth turn their lives around.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Desiree Ashitei

Desiree is a proud woman of the Ga people of Ghana and takes pride in being an African woman. On track to becoming a world-renowned health expert and policy maker, Desiree describes herself as a pioneer and a woman who is not afraid of challenging conventional stereotypes about Africans, and African women in particular. She is not one who follows the crowd and describes herself as one who always likes to live a positive impression.

Desiree has a Master’s degree in Public Health and a Bachelor’s degree with Honours in Biomedical Science from La Trobe University. She has a genuine interest in people and has a keen interest in Health Promotion and Health Policy, particularly in the areas of non-communicable disease prevention and management, migrant youth health, environmental health and its influences on health and the effects of migration on the health of Africans in the Diaspora. Recently she conducted a research project to investigate the factors which influenced the knowledge, perceptions and attitudes held by sub-Saharan African women residing in Melbourne towards vitamin D. Desiree also has an interest in how policy can be used to shape healthcare and health education to be culturally appropriate for African migrants in Australia.

Aside from her interest in health, Desiree has a passion for cooking West African food, a passion which begun in her grandmother’s kitchen in Teshie, a bustling fishing town on the coast of Ghana. Desiree is the founder of Awo's Kitchen, an African food company, which specialises in bringing “the authentic taste of West Africa” to the Australian culinary scene. Through her cooking classes and catering, Desiree showcases the richness of African culture and the entrepreneurial spirit of Africans in the Diaspora.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Mayase Jere

Mayase is a Senior Consultant Business Analyst for ThoughtWorks a global technology consultancy. She has a passion for making education accessible to every child and increasing the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses.

She won the 2013 Young Business and Professional Women award which recognises a woman who is achieving success in her chosen path and who is committed to raising the status of women. As the Young BPW Award winner, she focused on the education of girl's in developing countries through the Days for Girls project.  Days for Girls raises awareness to obstacles faced by girls during their menstrual period if they do have sanitary materials to use. Many girls are kept out of school either permanently or every month due to the unavailability of sustainable feminine hygiene kits.

She is the founder of Kwesu Foundation which works with non-governmental organisations in Zambia to provide educational resources for primary and secondary schools in rural areas.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Sarah Agboola

Sarah Agboola is an entrepreneur passionate about the facilitation of ideas and opportunities. She is the co-founder of m-Time, a start-up dedicated to supporting busy parents, and speaks regularly about diversity in business and career pathways for young people. Sarah fell into entrepreneurship after attending a start-up bootcamp held by The University of Melbourne and never looked back. Since then, she declined her offer for law school, has been awarded over $40k in scholarships and grants to support her study of entrepreneurial practice, and has led two youth engagement initiatives which reached more than 2000 young people on a daily basis. Sarah currently serves as the Australian Sherpa for the G20 Young Entrepreneurs Alliance and is on the board of directors at the Foundation for Young Australians.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Lorraine Ngwenya

Lorraine Ngwenya is a speaker, advocate and entrepreneur, being the proud founder of Useful Link. Useful Link is an organisation that seeks to empower young people in areas of employment, personal development and leadership. Lorraine believes young people have many challenges that face them and it is her goal to help as many young people as she can to realise their potential.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Khatija Halabi

Khatija Halabi is a qualified and independent audiologist and Dangerous Decibel Educator. She has 18 years experience as an audiologist working both in South Africa and Australia. Khatija worked as a language therapist and audiologist for 5 years at a school for the Deaf in South Africa and has worked as an audiologist in a private practice in Gippsland for the past 13 years and in an ENT audiology clinic for 3 years. She has recently opened her own audiology business in Lakeside, Pakenham delivering health care services to those residing and/or working in the Casey-Cardinia region.

Having worked in schools, with families and as part of multidisciplinary teams, she has an understanding of patients outside the clinic walls. She provides a holistic approach looking at them as individuals living in unique environments.

Outside of audiology, Khatija founded the United Muslim Sisters of Latrobe Valley (UMSLV), a women's not‐for‐profit voluntary organisation based in regional Victoria. 

Khatija developed an empathy for children and families living in a bilingual‐bicultural environment when facilitating a support group for parents of Deaf children in South Africa. She noticed that migrants living in Latrobe Valley faced similar issues of trying to preserve their home culture and language while adopting to and learning the culture of the wider community. She founded the United Muslim Sisters of Latrobe Valley(UMSLV), a women's organisation formed in April 2013 to address the concerns of the muslim community. She was President of the organisation for the first 2 ½ years and has served as Vice President from October 2015.

The mission of this organisation is to Create an environment where children can grow up confidently and to Integrate the women living in Gippsland so they feel connected and empowered. The activities of the organisation revolve around fostering social cohesion. A project that Khatija is passionately working on currently involves creating young cultural ambassadors so that they can carry the messages of respect and understanding to their homes, classrooms and social circles in attempt to demystify stereotypes.

 
 

 
 

David Reynolds

Bachelor of Arts (La Trobe)
Diploma of Education (Rusden State College) 
Diploma in Professional Studies (University of Melbourne)
Masters in School Leadership (Monash)

David has worked in the government education system for nearly 30 years as a classroom teacher and school leader. In the first part of his career, David led a series of middle schooling reforms across a cluster of schools in the inner city area of Princes Hill and in 2002 he was awarded the Lindsay Thompson Award for Teaching Excellence. As an Assistant Principal and Principal, David has held leadership positions in several schools in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne. He is currently principal of Melton Secondary College where he leads an amazing team of staff dedicated to making sure every student flourishes and achieves great things.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Rabecca Mphande

Born in Malawi, Ms. Rabecca Mphande is an educator for 30 years, an expert in Literacy, Adult Education, English, English as an Additional Language (EAL) and History. Operating in various leadership and coordinating positions during her long teaching experience, she is currently the EAL Coordinator at Hampton Park Secondary College, Melbourne, Victoria, where she has been teaching for 13 years. For over 17 years, she taught in Malawi, in Government public secondary schools. Both overseas and in Australia, she has a track record of outstanding impact teaching, leadership and advocacy.

Driven by her passion to supporting African women and youth in diaspora and Victoria’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities, Rabecca also currently serves as a member of not only the Pan African Australasian Diaspora (PAADN) - the Interim Chair of the Women and Gender Committee, but also the African Ministerial Working Group (AMWG) and African Australian Community Leadership Forum (AACLF).

Her interests include teaching, personal and professional advancement in areas of speciality. She is in the process of engaging in Graduate Research – PhD studies. Furthermore, Rabecca likes working with female youths and adults from diverse language backgrounds, including mainstream, drawing from her passionate for sustainable local and global development which is being realised through her commitment to making a difference among emerging African Communities in Australia so that they can contribute positively within the context of the African Union Renaissance.

 
 
 

More Speakers and Bio's Coming Soon...