Panel Discussion

Promoting belonging: Innovations in building community connections

Marginalisation is a complex, multi-faceted beast for which there is not a one-size-fits-all response. Some communities have had many years of experience in developing different and innovative ways to build belonging and to actively negotiate marginalisation.

This plenary panel features speakers with extensive experience in working among different marginalised communities. Speakers will bring their valuable insights, and a sense of humour, to help explore issues relating to practical support, leadership and creative ways of connecting with their communities to address blood borne viruses, sexually transmissible infections and many other aspects of life at the margins.

Our expert facilitator will draw together these diverse stories to examine the underpinning themes. 


Kath Albury
Kath Albury is an Associate Professor in the School of the Arts and Media, UNSW. Her research explores theoretical and applied understandings of mediated sexual self-representation; sexual sub-cultures and alternative sex practices; and young people’s mediated sexual cultures. 




Leah McLeod
Leah McLeod's studies began with anthropology and sociology and her postgraduate qualifications are in visual arts. An installation artist and social commentator for some 30 years, Leah has taught the theory and practice of mass media and design at several institutions. From her earliest works including 'Lying on my bed obsessing about assassinating Joh Bjelke-Peterson', Leah has been politically active and it is no wonder that her employment led her to the health and social welfare sector. A career begun in market and social research sparked her passion for consulting the community. Leah went on to have enormous fun in government and non-government agencies, including project managing for the Ministerial Council on Social Welfare and undertaking various policy development projects and strategic reviews with large public consultations. Five years project-assisting Dr Alex Wodak fuelled her passion to work in harm reduction. In the past decade, she has been actively involved in the NSW User's and AIDS Association (NUAA) including as President of its Board. Leah feels it has all led up to here: her diverse skill set uniquely qualifies her as NUAA's Resources Coordinator which includes delivering flagship magazine User's News to her fantabulous community of people who use drugs and its supporters.

Lana Sandas 
Lana Sandas is the Chief Executive Officer of the Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN). WIPAN are a grassroots organisation that exists to assist women affected by the criminal justice system. Via a unique formulation of mentoring and advocacy, WIPAN provide such women with social, emotional and practical support. This has led to personal growth and empowerment manifested by a greater level of confidence, and vital pathways to more positive lifestyle choices. WIPAN nurture and support our community’s most marginalised and vulnerable group of women. As a result, quality of life is improved and recidivism is significantly reduced.
Lana wears numerous hats. In management, Lana oversees the WIPAN office and team; ensuring its core aims and visions remain at the forefront of any service delivery. WIPAN advocate for women in custody who have lost their voice in the system, run a post-release mentoring program, and are a pathway to resolving housing and family issues. In 2014-2015, 93% of women who engaged in the WIPAN program did not re-offend or return to custody. Lana regularly makes public appearances providing insight and awareness regarding the realities of prison, the complex nature of release, and the social isolation that is often a leading factor in incidents of recidivism. Lana personally takes a stand on isolated issues, one of them being harm minimisation within the prison system. Lana’s capabilities are a combined result of lived experience and relevant qualifications. She battled a drug addiction for many years and encountered the criminal justice system herself. She experienced first-hand what her current clients struggle with. This personal insight, accompanied by a Bachelor of Social Science (Politics) and a Certificate IV in Alcohol & Other Drugs is what gives Lana an edge in this industry.

Phillip Sariago
Phillip Sariago is an Aboriginal descendant of the Gurindji people from the Northern Territory and the Yaru people in the Kimberly’s in Western Australian who also identifies as a gay man. Phillip is a Health Promotion Officer in the 2Spirits Program with the Queensland AIDS Council in Brisbane. The 2Spirits Program is in its 19th year of operation to improve the sexual health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls through a ‘Whole of Community Approach’ in education, prevention and health promotion.
The 2Spirits Program incorporates cultural practices into a health promotion framework to engage with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander gay men and sistergirls in Queensland. Phillip obtains three core attributes that complements his role as health professional and reinforces his connection with communities as the ‘key’ to his connectedness, establishing a rapport to normalise conversations about sexual health, sexuality and identity in his peer based community engagement: 1. Cultural Identity; 2. Community Identity; and 3. Professional Identity.
"As a health promotion officer we are never simply 'culturally appropriate', but instead incorporate a cultural way of working in every aspect of our work. This confirms the importance of having Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health professionals with lived and cultural expertise who can implement cultural protocols and strategies that are relatable to, and engage with, our target group and communities".

Tobin Saunders
Tobin is a freelance performer, MC, writer, choreographer, peer educator, dancer, health promoter, actor, DJ, events coordinator and producer. Combining elements of stand up, observational humour, political activism, contemporary dance, expressive movement, popular culture, social comment and satire, Tobin’s work could be described as Pastiche. Over the past 30 years he has been involved in theatre works, production and performance at Mardi Gras, as well as fashion parades, TV, film and dance variety at Belvoir St Theatre. Tobin is the gay male alter ego of the Vanessa Wagner character. His eclectic experience and skills have enabled Tobin to produce work that is fresh, challenging and innovative. Avoiding the labels of 'Activism', 'Dance', 'Education', 'Theatre' or 'Comedy', he combines all into a vibrant hybrid. Tobin is Community Health Promotion Officer at ACON, is a Positive Speaker for Positive Life NSW and has represented most state, territory and federal HIV/AIDS agencies. Tobin utilises his HIV status to break down stigma, ignorance and discrimination through his public HIV education and put HIV on the national stage when he came out live on the Celebrity Big Brother House in 2002.  

Professor Gracelyn Smallwood
I grew up in a condemned house with a dirt floor, 18 siblings (14 of us in one family, five more when my father re-married) of whom I am the third eldest. My father was one of the Stolen Generation, taken from his family in the North Queensland town of Ayr and banished to the notorious Palm Island dormitories, for the ‘crime’ of having brown skin instead of black skin. Brown babies were proof of the relationships the white men of small towns were having, so the children were removed to spare the white men’s embarrassment. We lived under the threat of the Aboriginal Protection Act in North Queensland. I struggled at school as did many Indigenous kids, because many of us thought sport would pull us through, and we felt disengaged until a dynamic and caring Indigenous teacher made us realise we couldn’t rely on sport as a career move. Back in 1967 there were few options for Aboriginal girls, so I trained to be a nurse.
In 1972, I became a registered nurse and used my qualifications to work in communities such as Alice Springs, Palm Island, remote Western Australia and South Australia. I was a volunteer member of the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health service in 1974, and worked as a volunteer Registered Nurse with two volunteer doctors. Later I became a registered midwife and worked with the Remote Emergency Nursing Services, which took me all over remote Australia delivering babies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with no benefits of modern technology. I have also worked in remote Australia with the late Dr Fred Hollows on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program. I was awarded the Queensland Aboriginal of the Year in 1986 and an Order of Australia in 1992 for service to public health, particularly HIV/AIDS education. 
In 1993, I was the first Indigenous Australian to receive a Masters of Science in Public Health (JCU) for my work on HIV education in North Queensland Indigenous communities. I have been employed as an advisor to the World Health Organisation on HIV/AIDS and Indigenous communities, the Queensland Health Minister Ken McElligot, and Queensland Minister for Family Services Ann Warner, because of my expertise on health and domestic violence inequalities. My representations to the Minister for Families resulted in culturally appropriate domestic and family violence policies and positive development of the Domestic and Family Violence Act 1989 (Qld). In 1994 I became the first woman, first Indigenous person, and first non-paediatrician to receive the Henry Kemp Memorial Award at the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. I completed a Diploma in Indigenous Mental Health, and have worked with acute and chronic psychiatric patients, Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, for many years.
I was invited to be special guest for the then South African President Mr Nelson Mandela in 1997, and used the time speaking with activists (including the sons of the late Steve Biko), and giving HIV/AIDS prevention talks and workshops. I was one of a small group of health practitioners who understood the risk of HIV/AIDS in Indigenous communities, and we devised the now mainstream and famous 'Condoman' to promote safe sex in a culturally appropriate way.
In 2007 I had one of my greatest achievements, the Deadly Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement in Indigenous Health. I was especially delighted with this award, as it is peer- and community judged. 
From 2007-2011 I held a part-time role as Special Advisor to the Vice Chancellor on Indigenous Matters at James Cook University, where I was given the task of improving relationships between the University and the Indigenous community.
In October 2013 I was awarded the United Nations Association of Australia Queensland Community Award - Individual, in recognition of service to public health, in particular HIV/AIDS, contribution to Australian Universities, and consultation to the World Health Organisation. In 2014, I received the prestigious award of NAIDOC Person of the Year. I was also formally recognised for my contribution of 45 years to health and human rights advocacy and became a member of the Queensland Mental Health and Drug Advisory Council. I also received James Cook University Outstanding Alumni Award in 2014.
In 2015 I was appointed member of The Harvard FXB Health and Human Rights Consortium, a member of the North Queensland Primary Healthcare Network (NQPHN) Clinical Council for the Townsville-Mackay region, member of Townsville Hospital and Health Board, and a member of the Federal Ministerial Advisory Committee on Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections. I was also awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).
In 2011, I completed my PhD Thesis on Human Rights and First Australians Well-being. My PhD has been published by Routledge in London as a hardback monograph. The publication is titled Indigenist Critical Realism.
I am a Birrigubba, Kalkadoon and South-Sea Islander woman born in Townsville in 1951. I have been advocating against the racism and violation of human rights against my people for the past 45 years and prior to this my parents for 50 years, and my grandparents for another 50 years before that. I have dealt with almost every disease, both nationally and internationally, however I have never been able to come to terms with the ugly disease of racism.