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Below are the confirmed Keynote Speakers for the Preventive Health Conference. As speakers are confirmed their information will be added below. 

Dr David Russell-Weisz

Director General, Department of Health

Since his appointment in 2015, Dr Russell-Weisz has steered the WA health system through a significant program of investment and reform, including the commissioning of the Perth Children’s Hospital, which delivers world class specialist paediatric and trauma services to Western Australian children and adolescents.

Recently enacted legislation providing for new governance arrangements have ensured that the state’s hospitals and health services can continue to respond to the needs of their growing and diverse local communities into the future.

Prior to this appointment, Dr Russell-Weisz steered the commissioning of the State’s flagship $2 billion Fiona Stanley Hospital. The state of the art facility features 783-beds, the State Rehabilitation Service and is a leader in clinical care, research and education.

Dr Douglas Bettcher

Director of WHO's Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases

Dr Douglas William Bettcher is the Director the Department for Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization (WHO), Geneva, Switzerland. He was previously the Director of WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative Department, which has now become an integral programme within the new Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases Department.

He has a multidisciplinary background and holds a PhD in International Relations and a Graduate Diploma in World Politics, both from the London School of Economics and Political Science; a Master’s of Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Alberta, Canada. In addition, he sits on the Editorial Board of the scientific journal Bulletin of the World Health Organization and has served as vice-chair of the public health interest group of the American Society of International Law and as a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Global Governance.

Dr Nicholas Watts

Executive Director, Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change

Nick is the Executive Director of the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, an independent and multi-disciplinary research collaboration between academic centres around the world. It is based at University College London’s Institute for Global Health, and is a continuation of the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change. The Countdown tracks and drives progress towards a world which is responding to climate change in a way that protects and promotes public health.


Nick is a medical doctor, having worked in a number of settings in Western Australia, and has trained in population health (UWA) and public policy (University College London). He works to engage the health profession on the links between climate change and public health, having founded both the Global Climate and Health Alliance and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change.

Ms Pat Turner

Chief Executive Officer, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Patricia Turner AM The daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman, Pat was raised in Alice Springs.  As CEO of NACCHO, she is at the forefront of community efforts to Close the Gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Pat has over 40 years’ experience in senior leadership positions in government, business and academia including being the only Aboriginal person, only woman and longest serving CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Commission (ATSIC).  Amongst her many appointments, she also spent 18 months as Monash Chair of Australian Studies, Georgetown University, Washington DC, and was inaugural CEO of NITV.  Pat is the Coalition of Peaks Convenor and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap. Pat holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Canberra where she was awarded the University prize for Development Studies.

Douglas Gordon Orator: Associate Professor Lisa Wood

Associate Professor, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, School of Population and Global Health, The University of Western Australia

Dr Lisa Wood is a tireless advocate for research being relevant and useful to the real world, and the need for academia to go beyond 'the ivory tower'.

Research and teaching roles at UWA are complemented by nearly three decades of experience in public health and health promotion in WA, nationally and internationally. This experience includes work with academic, government and non-government organisations as well as engagement as a public health consultant.

Since completing her PhD in 2006, Lisa has been involved in a range of research relating to the social determinants of health, with a strong focus on reducing health inequalities experienced by vulnerable population groups.

Lisa currently holds a teaching and research position within the School of Population and Global Health, and is also a Senior Research Fellow with the Centre for Social Impact.

Dr Ruth Shean

Chair, National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), President, Cancer Council Western Australia

Dr Ruth Shean is a Western Australian chair and non-executive director on state and national boards, with a special interest in governance, human services and not-for-profit agencies. She is finance and data literate with strengths in understanding performance in complex agencies, comprehensive reporting and managing stakeholders. She develops robust teams and positive workplace cultures. Ruth is a persuasive communicator and excels at collaboration and finding common ground. She has sound judgment, integrity and a reputation for accountability and trustworthiness. She is diligent, logical and results focussed. In over 30 years, Ruth has led many large and multifaceted organisations to achieve excellent outcomes for stakeholders. Ruth has considerable experience in board and committee leadership and participation. Ruth is a proven mentor of high performing women and participates in the Kilfinan Australia Mentor Program to build leadership in the NFP sector.

Ms Jaithri Ananthapavan

Senior Research Fellow, Deakin University

Jaithri Ananthapavan is a Senior Research Fellow in Deakin Health Economics (DHE) and leads the Economics of Obesity Stream within the Global Obesity Centre (GLOBE). Jaithri’s research interest is the economic evaluation of obesity prevention interventions and methods development to better assist decision makers in using economic evidence in priority setting decisions. She led a large economic evaluation work program for the NHMRC funded Centre of Research Excellence (CRE) in Obesity Policy and Food Systems. This priority setting study (ACE-Obesity Policy) evaluated the cost-effectiveness of multiple obesity prevention interventions across several sectors. She is also leading a body of work developing frameworks for the use of cost-benefit analysis methods for the evaluation of prevention interventions with impacts beyond the health care sector. Jaithri has held teaching positions in the Master of Health Economics course as co-chair of the Resource Allocation and Priority Setting unit.

Dr James Muecke AM

2020 Australian of the Year

Since starting his medical career in Kenya, 56-year-old Dr James Muecke AM has been passionate about fighting blindness. His focus now is the leading cause of blindness in adults – type 2 diabetes – a spiralling epidemic that's impacting nearly one-in-ten Australians. It's the fastest growing cause of vision loss in Aboriginal people and the sixth-biggest killer in this country. James wants to challenge our perception of sugar and the impact it has in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Previously, James co-founded Vision Myanmar at the South Australian Institute of Ophthalmology in 2000. The $1 million program has developed and operated eye health and blindness initiatives in Myanmar. Inspired by this program's success, James also co-founded Sight For All, a social impact organisation aiming to create a world where everyone can see. With 80% of world blindness avoidable – and almost 90% in poor countries – James treats blindness as a human rights issue.

Distinguished Professor Jim Macnamara

Deputy Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney

Jim Macnamara PhD is a Distinguished Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), currently serving as Deputy Dean of the UTS Faculty of Science. He is also a Visiting Professor at London School of Economics and Political Science, Media and Communications Department, and a Visiting  Professor at the London College of Communication in the University of the Arts London (UAL). Jim is internationally recognised for his research into evaluation of public communication and for his work on organisational listening. He is the author of 16 books including Organizational Listening: The Missing Essential in Public Communication published by Peter Lang, New York in 2016; Evaluating Public Communication: Exploring New Models, Standards, and Best Practice published by Routledge UK in 2018; and his latest book titled Beyond Post-Communication: Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation will be published by Peter Lang, New York in July this year.

Ms Verity Firth

Executive Director, Social Justice, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, University of Technology, Sydney.

Verity Firth is the Executive Director, Social Justice at UTS and leads the newly established Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is currently spearheading the University’s Social Impact Framework, a first of its kind in the Australian university sector. 

Verity Firth has over fifteen years’ experience at the very highest levels of government and the not for profit sector in Australia. Over the last ten years, she has been working in the Australian education sector, first as Minister for Education and Training in New South Wales (2008-2011) and then as the Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation. As Minister for Education and Training she focussed on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage in low socio economic communities, including rural and remote indigenous communities.


As NSW Minister for Women (2007-2009) Ms Firth implemented sector wide strategies to improve women’s recruitment, development and employment in the NSW public sector. As Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation (2011-2014), Ms Firth led the Foundation's transformation from a fledgling organisation into a major provider of scholarships and support to public education. She also helped the sector negotiate $5 million in seed funding for a new charity for disadvantaged schools.  Ms Firth was the Member for the state seat of Balmain from 2007 - 2011. Before her parliamentary career, Ms Firth worked as a lawyer and was Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. 

Dr Sandro Demaio

Chief Executive Officer, VicHealth

Dr Sandro Demaio is a medical doctor and globally-renowned public health expert and advocate. 

Having held the role of Medical Officer for non-communicable conditions and nutrition with the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization, Dr Demaio was previously the CEO of the EAT Foundation, the science-based, global platform for food systems transformation.

In his pro bono work, Dr Demaio co-founded NCDFREE, a global social movement against chronic disease which reached more than 2.5 million people in its first 18 months. In 2015, he founded festival21, assembling and leading a team of experts in staging an unprecedented free celebration of community, food, culture and future in his hometown of Melbourne. In 2018, he also established an independent, not-for-profit foundation focused on improving the health and nutrition of Australians.

He has published 30 scientific papers and more than 90 articles. He is also the author of the Doctor’s Diet, a cookbook based on science and inspired by a love of good food.

Besides his role as VicHealth CEO, Dr Demaio also co-hosts the ABC television show Ask the Doctor – an innovative and exploratory factual medical series broadcasting across Australia and around the world. 

Dr Demaio originally trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. He holds a Masters degree in public health, a PhD in non-communicable diseases and has held fellowships at both Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Ms Vicki O’Donnell

Chairperson, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia

Bio coming soon

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