Chief Operating Officer
Program Manager - Projects & Partnerships
Chief Executive Officer
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Program Manager - Scholarships
Chief Operating Officer
As a proud Kunarakan Warramungu and a recognised Traditional Owner of the Finniss River and Little Wagait Land Trusts in the Northern Territory, Merinda is passionate about ‘big picture’ goals that drive positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Her journey with Jilya started in 2022 as the Program Manager where she developed and facilitated the program for our scholarship recipients. Now in the Chief Operating Officer role, Merinda is responsible for overseeing every aspect the Westerman Jilya Institute’s operations.
Throughout her career, Merinda has worked in managerial roles in varying industries, her extensive experience in business development, project management and community services has given her a diverse skillset and developed a strong network of wonderful people across the country. Merinda brings a strategy focused work ethic and determination to make an impact for the good of Indigenous Australia.
Program Manager – Projects & Partnerships
Babu hails from Chennai, which is in southern India famous for its coastline, temples, and spices. His mother tongue is Tamil which is considered a classical language. He is also proficient in Hindi and other south Indian languages.
Babu is a seasoned public health professional with a comprehensive background in clinical practice, project management, and economics. He is passionate about Aboriginal health and excels in designing and executing projects within the health and disability sectors that aim to enhance the well-being of participants. With over 5 years of dedicated service in the Wheatbelt region, he understands the unique challenges that exist in rural healthcare.
His extensive expertise in strategic planning and growth initiatives, his innovative approach, and adept problem-solving abilities make him an absolute asset to in the Project & Partnerships role and to our growing team.
Dr Leanne Holt
Dr Tracy Westerman AM
Linda Lim, FCA
Dr Samantha Cooms
Dr Leanne Holt - Chair
Dr Leanne Holt is a Worimi/Biripai woman with over twenty-five years of experience in the higher education sector.
Dr Leanne Holt is is the inaugural Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Strategy) and Adjunct Academic Fellow, Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University. Recently she was the President of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC) and currently the Chair of the Board of Yhada Muru Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation; Deputy Chair, World Indigenous Higher Education Consortium; and Director Bara Barang community development and training organisation. She has served on a range of community and professional local, national and international boards, committees and government expert panels, focusing on the advancement of Indigenous education, employment and community development, She is currently a Chief Investigator on a number of national research projects related to Indigenous education and health. After undertaking a Masters in Business and Management, she completed her PhD (Education) in 2016 going on to author a book ‘Talking Strong’ about the development of Aboriginal education policy in Australia through the voices of the National Aboriginal Education Committee. In 2020 she was awarded the CEW Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation Scholarship to attend an executive program at Harvard University in 2022 and was also a State finalist in the Telstra Women’s Business Awards in 2019.
Dr Tracy Westerman AM - Director
Tracy is a proud Nyamal woman from the Pilbara region of Western Australia
Dr Tracy Westerman is a trailblazer in Aboriginal mental health, having been named the 2018 Australian of the Year (WA); Inducted into the 2018 WA Women’s Hall of Fame and awarded the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award, Curtin University amongst many other accolades. She holds a Post Grad Dip (Psychology), and was the first Aboriginal person in Australia to complete a combined Master’s and PhD in Clinical Psychology. Despite having to undertake her university subjects mostly by distance education, she is a recognized leader in Aboriginal mental health, cultural competence and suicide prevention, achieving national and international recognition. Dr Westerman is a widely sought-after keynote speaker having delivered to 80+ national conferences and internationally in Canada (2003); the USA (2004), Auckland (2006 & 2007) and Wellington (2009). In 2005 the Canadian government sent a delegation to Australia to explore Dr Westerman’s work, resulting in recommendations that the same approaches be adopted for Canadian Aboriginal people (Nunuvut Taskforce, 2006). She was recognized by Canadian Health, 2009 for her substantial contribution to Aboriginal youth mental health & her work has been cited in numerous reports. She has developed seven unique psychometric tests enabling the identification of Aboriginal people at suicide and mental health risk. Having trained 25,000+ clinicians in these tools makes her arguably the most in-demand trainer in Australia. It also means these clinicians have been able to reach many thousands more Aboriginal people at risk. Her most notable awards include:
- 2022 APS Almetrics Award for largest reach for published paper on “Culture Bound Syndromes in Aboriginal Australian Populations”
- 2020 Telstra Business Award, Small Business
- WA Australian of the Year 2018 & Finalist in the Australian of the Year
- Curtin University Lifetime Achievement Award 2018
- Inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame 2018
- 40 under 40 Business Leaders Strategic Alliance Award (2009)
- Suicide Prevention Australia Award for Emerging Researcher (2006)
- NAIDOC National Scholar of the Year (2002)
- Mark Liveris Award, Curtin University, Health Sciences for best Presentation of PhD (2002)
Linda Lim, FCA - Treasurer
Linda brings a wealth of financial expertise to the Jilya Board. She is a chartered accountant and business professional with over 25 years industry expertise and practice.
Linda has been with Woodside Energy since 2005 and has fulfilled a significant business development and financial management role in the business operations. In 2022, Linda attended an executive cultural program in the Kimberley region and immediately felt a significant connection with Aboriginal culture. The stark reality of a lack of access to basic services that were driving the escalating rates of mental ill health in those communities was shocking to her and she felt compelled to do all she could. The vision of the Jilya Institute are a natural fit to that long term end goal. Linda was born in Norseman on Malpa country, she was raised and lives in Perth on Wadjak Noongar country.
Dr Samantha Cooms
Dr Samantha Cooms is a Noonuccal woman who is a lecturer in the business school at the University of Queensland. Samantha has a Bachelor of Psychology with honours majoring in Indigenous studies and a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Research and Leadership.
Her PhD is in business and sought to decolonise knowledges in the disability sector by incorporating Quandamooka ways of knowing, being and doing in relation to disability and care provision. Samantha’s work focuses on decolonising and Indigenising hegemonic knowledges with a special interest in equity, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.
Devon Cuimara is the founder and CEO of Aboriginal Males Healing Centre. Born into a lineage where three consecutive generations have grappled with violence, Devon recognises the prevalence of this issue within his family.
In his familial context, aggressive behaviour has been an unfortunate norm, deeply ingrained through upbringing. He confronts this cycle of abuse head-on, a battle that has encompassed instances of sexual abuse as well.
He founded the Aboriginal Males Healing Centre in response to a failed attempt to rehabilitate through mainstream services and to provide a service that offers an avenue to facilitate the removal of women and children from potentially harmful environments and communities, while also promoting lasting behavioural transformation in First Nations men who are either using or are susceptible to using violence. Devon’s dedication underscores the necessity for greater accountability and responsibility among First Nations men towards women and children.
“I don’t smoke, I don’t use drugs. It’s not our way. We weren’t born like that. I learnt it – So If I could learn it, I could un-learn it.”
Devon’s ancestral roots trace back to the First Nation People of the Southwest of Western Australia through his maternal grandfather’s lineage. His matrilineal kin groups are the Manitjimat (white cockatoo) and the Wardongmat (crow). The term ‘mat’ signifies family, stock, and leg. Devon’s broader moort (family) connections encompass the Wadjuk, Balardong, Wilman, and Pibilman mob, with their emblematic totem being the frog. His ngank (mother’s) lineage extends from the Northwest.
Today, Devon stands as a guest on Nyiyaparli Parna (Land) in WA’s Pilbara region, representing the Martu yirna (Aboriginal men) who seek to address issues of violence. He has yuwajula (permission) granted by yatilykata (elders) from pitjikala and manyjilyjarra, martu (Aboriginal people), where he undertakes the important task of fostering healing and well-being within yirna.
In the realm of black masculinity, Devon highlights its crucial role in shaping identity, self-determination, and political empowerment. With a steadfast commitment to healing and transformation, Devon stands as a testament to overcoming generational challenges, shaping a brighter future for black communities.
David McGinlay is the Chief Executive Officer of Disability Rights Advocacy Service in South Australia. With two years of dedicated leadership in this capacity, he brings a wealth of experience from his prior role at the Darwin Community Legal Service.
David’s professional trajectory is firmly rooted in his ardent commitment to equal rights for individuals with disabilities, and his career is defined by his unwavering advocacy for disability rights.
During his tenure at the Darwin Community Legal Service, David played a pivotal role in championing the interests of individuals with disabilities within the NDIS Appeals domain. His impactful efforts reverberated across East Arnhem and Katherine, where he fervently advocated for Aboriginal clients navigating the intricate landscape of NDIS legislation. Recognising the skewed balance of decision-making power positioned far away from local contexts, David ardently campaigned for the empowerment of local decision-making authority. Beyond his legal advocacy, he also embraced roles as Player Advocate and Deputy President for the Darwin Buffaloes Football Club, maintaining a steadfast connection to the club.
David’s legal background is a cornerstone of his expertise. He is admitted to practice in both the Northern Territory and South Australia. His multifaceted journey, combined with his unyielding commitment, underscores his aspiration to uplift marginalised communities. Through his dedicated efforts, he actively cultivates positive change and strives for equitable outcomes for individuals with disabilities.
Above: Our patron Kim Beazley with Adjunct Professor Tracy Westerman
A message from our patron Kim Beazley: