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2024 Summit program and speakers


Keynote Speakers

Ngarra Murray

Co-Chair, First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Opening Keynote Address
Ngarra Murray

Ngarra Murray is a proud Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa and Dja Dja Wurrung woman who grew up in Shepparton, and is Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (the Assembly).

She has significant cultural and familial connections to many parts of Victoria and NSW. Living and working on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country, Ngarra represents the diverse Aboriginal Communities of the Metropolitan region. 

As the elected Co-Chair, Ngarra is a spokesperson for the Assembly. Her role is to elevate the voices and priorities of Community members on the journey to Treaties in Victoria. She is committed to meeting with all Traditional Owner groups and spending time ‘talking Treaty’ with communities to foster nation-building and consensus-building throughout her term. 

Ngarra is passionate about community mobilisation, the inalienable power of sovereignty and lore, and Treaties in our near future.

Before commencing her full-time leadership role at the Assembly, Ngarra was the Executive Lead of the First Peoples’ Program at Oxfam Australia. Oxfam Australia are a global movement of people fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. In her role, Ngarra worked across local, national and global alliances and led a team working across multiple national priorities; including building constituency for change, policy and influencing activities and the Oxfam Straight Talk program. Ngarra played a critical role in the success of the Straight Talk program, supporting hundreds of First Nations women to engage with political systems and forge important connections globally. Ngarra has made immense contributions to Oxfam Australia and devoted more than ten years of service to the organisation.

Ngarra has held a range of positions at The University of Melbourne, City of Melbourne, Co-Health and Museum Victoria. Ngarra was previously a Member of the National NAIDOC Committee and Member of Creative Victoria’s First Peoples Direction Circle. She is an Alumni of the Fellowship for Indigenous Leadership.

Outside of her professional commitments, Ngarra is a mother of four children, and is the second oldest of 12 siblings. She prioritises family, Country, Culture, sport and art. She enjoys visiting Murray River country and her traditional lands around Cummeragunja, Shepparton, and Barmah.

Rueben Berg

Co-Chair, First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Keynote Speaker
Rueben Berg

Rueben Berg is a proud Gunditjmara man, and a Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria (the Assembly). He sits on the Assembly representing the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation – a Traditional Owner group of south-western Victoria. The Country and Waters of the Eastern Maar stretch to Ararat and encompass Warrnambool, Port Fairy and areas of the Great Ocean Road. Rueben has strong connections to Thangang-poonart (Hopkins Falls) and the Framlingham Aboriginal community.

As an elected Co-Chair of the Assembly, Rueben plays a pivotal role in representing the diverse voices and aspirations of First Nations communities in Victoria. With a deep commitment to advancing the rights and interests of First Nations people, Rueben is passionate about ensuring Treaty delivers Aboriginal communities the power and tools to develop and deliver practical solutions at a local level. 

Rueben’s leadership and dedication have earned him widespread recognition and respect within First Nations communities and beyond. He is known for his ability to build bridges between different stakeholders, fostering collaboration and understanding of complex topics. As a Member of the Assembly in its inaugural term, from 2019-2023, Rueben spent a considerable amount of time contributing to the design and negotiation of the Treaty Negotiation Framework, and taking a leading role in the negotiation meetings with the State. 

Rueben was previously an appointed member of the Heritage Council of Victoria; an independent body which advises the government and others on how to protect historically important places and objects for the enjoyment of future generations.

A trained architect, Rueben was a Founder and Director of Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria, Managing Director of RJHB Consulting and was the Chairperson of Westernport Water. Rueben is the first Aboriginal person to be appointed as Chair of a water corporation in Victoria. He was also a Commissioner for the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, before being elected to drive the Assembly’s work as Co-Chair. 

Outside of his professional commitments, Rueben is a father of two and actively engages in cultural activities to ensure the preservation and the celebration of First Nations culture. He is the Chair of the Ultimate Rules Subcommittee of the World Flying Disc Federation and an ultimate frisbee guru on the international scene, including drafting the rules of the game and founding the Indigenous Ultimate Association Association. He is also a 2-time Australian National Disc Golf Champion.

Jamie Lowe

CEO, National Native Title Council, Mabo Lecture 
Jamie Lowe Photo

Jamie Lowe, a proud Gundijtmara Djabwurrung man, first joined the National Native Title Council (NNTC) as Chair in 2017.

Two years later, he was appointed CEO, charged with supporting First Nation’s people’s right to true self-determination in advocating for their right to speak for and manage their own Country; to govern their own communities; to participate fully in decision making and to self-determine their own social and economic development.

In 2021 he was appointed as the Indigenous Specialist Representative for the Australian Heritage Council – the principal adviser to the Australian Government on heritage matters.

In July 2018 he joined the Victorian Heritage Council as an Indigenous Specialist Representative and is a joint council member of the Coalition of the Peaks. Jamie was instrumental in the Closing The Gap Agreement with the Federal Government, that came into effect July 2020.

Prior to joining NNTC Jamie was CEO of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (PBC) in South Western Victoria, awarded Native Title in 2011 and 2023.  He was the Eastern Maar People elected representative on the historic First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the representative elected body tasked with negotiating a Treaty with the Victoria Government.

Jamie firmly believes that creating economic independence and maintaining and growing cultural identity are vital in creating a self-determining nation of First Nations peoples, and will continue to tirelessly advocate for a national Treaty whilst remaining a strong advocate for Traditional Owners and communities across Australia.

Leila Smith

CEO, Aurora Education Foundation, Keynote Speaker
Leila Smith 1

Leila is a Wiradjuri woman and the CEO of Aurora Education Foundation. Aurora is an Indigenous organisation that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to realise their full education and employment potential – whether it is completing Year 12 or achieving a DPhil from Oxford. Leila is leading the design and delivery of Aurora’s RISE Project, an Australian first longitudinal and quasi-experimental study of what works to support 800 Indigenous high school students using both Indigenous and western definitions of success in education. 

Leila is the Chair of the American Australian Association, an Expert Advisor to the Australian Government Taskforce on Strengthening Democracy, and a Board Member of Remote Area Health Corps, the United States Studies Centre, and the Perth USAsia Centre. She is also a member of the Indigenous Data Governance Committee for the National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing. 

Vonda Malone

CEO, Torres Strait Regional Authority, Keynote Speaker
Vonda Malone

Ms Vonda Malone was appointed as the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chief Executive Officer on 6 April 2022 and commenced her five-year term on 1 May 2022. 

A Torres Strait Islander woman with connection to Erub (Darnley Island) and Cape York, Ms Malone brings extensive professional experience including in her role as the first female Mayor of the Torres Shire Council. 

With more than 20 years of experience working across 3 levels of government, specialising in Indigenous Affairs, she brings a unique international perspective to the role through her positions with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commission, Geneva.

Dillon Johnson

Executive Council, Tla'amin Nation Government, Keynote Speaker
Dillon Johnson

Dillon Johnson is a proud member of the Tla’amin (tla-ah-min) Nation, where he is serving his fourth term as an elected member of Executive Council. During this time, he has led many of the efforts to transition from an Indian band to a self-governing modern treaty nation. His Nation, Tla’amin has been implementing a comprehensive land claim and self-governing agreement since April 2016. Dillon has championed many projects that are aimed at maximizing the benefits of the modern treaty, including capital infrastructure, housing, culture and language initiatives, economic development, and getting land and natural resources back to the Tla’amin people. Dillon proudly carries a Tla’amin name, toqʷanən (toh-kwon-non), which is the place name of a former village site of the Tla’amin people. 

Dillon has also been providing community, economic and self-governing advice to other First Nations in Canada for 15 years as a consultant with Temixw Planning, a firm based in North Vancouver. He is an MBA graduate from the Richard Ivey School of Business and has a BCom from the University of Victoria. Dillon also holds the Certified Aboriginal Financial Manager (CAFM) designation from the Aboriginal Financial Officers Association of Canada, and he serves as the Vice-Chair of the First Nations Financial Management Board. 

Nerita Waight

Assembly Treaty Co-Convenor, First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Keynote Speaker
Nerita Waight

Nerita is a proud Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman who has dedicated her career to supporting her community and advocating for the transformational change they have sought for generations.

Nerita is CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and has served on the Boards of several organisations including Elizabeth Morgan House, Bupup Wilam, and the Australia Community Support Organisation.

Nerita was elected as a member of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria earlier this year and was elected by the Assembly as Treaty Co-Convenor.

Nerita has been an active and vocal campaigner for major reforms such as raising the age of criminal responsibility, fixing Victoria’s broken bail laws, and Aboriginal self-determination.

Dr Lynette Riley

Associate Professor, Sydney School of Education & Social Work, The University of Sydney, Keynote Speaker
Dr Lynette Riley

Dr. Lynette Riley, AO, a Wiradjuri & Gamilaroi woman from Dubbo and Moree; is an Associate Professor, in the Sydney School of Education & Social Work, The University of Sydney; and Chair, for Aboriginal Education and Indigenous Studies.

Lynette trained as an infants/primary teacher. She has been a classroom teacher; an Aboriginal Education consultant; worked in TAFE; State Manager for Aboriginal Education; and an academic. Her career focus is improving educational delivery for Aboriginal students and ensuring non-Indigenous students gain accurate information about Aboriginal peoples, their histories, and cultures. Lynette’s PhD was conferred in 2017, looking at ‘Conditions of Academic Success for Aboriginal Students in Schools’.

Lynette has been involved in numerous research projects and in writing numerous chapters and journal articles, her most recent is a series of 7 ‘Wiradjuri Workbooks’ written with her sister Diane Riley-McNaboe.

Alister Thorpe

Member for the Metropolitan Region, First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, Keynote Speaker
Alister Thorpe

Alister Thorpe is a grassroots Aboriginal community member from the Gunai, Yorta Yorta, Gunditjmara, and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung nations.

“I pay respect to all traditional owners across this country, our ancestors, and our elders, past and present.

Through my family I have strong connections to many Aboriginal communities, and I promise to always uphold my cultural and community obligations.

We have an amazing opportunity to negotiate treaties on our terms. We have created a treaty negotiation framework that promises to uphold and respect Aboriginal lore and protocols. Treaties must acknowledge our sovereignty, recognise our inherent rights to lands and waters, and hold Governments accountable for past injustices.

I am committed and accountable and bring my cultural values, experience, and knowledge to the Assembly. I will fight hard to ensure treaties fulfill the aspirations of our nations and benefit every family, community, clan and nation.” – Alister Thorpe

Justin Mohamed

Mr Justin Mohamed, Ambassador for First Nations People, Keynote Speaker
 Mr Justin Mohamed

Mr Justin Mohamed is a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg in Queensland and Australia’s inaugural Ambassador for First Nations People.

Ambassador Mohamed leads the Office for First Nations International Engagement within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The office will work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to identify new areas of cooperation between First Nations communities and our international partners – including in intellectual property and exports, climate change, tourism and development.

Mr Mohamed was previously the Deputy Secretary of Aboriginal Justice in the Victorian Government. He has also held the positions of Chief Executive Officer for Reconciliation Australia and Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and he has represented Indigenous organisations internationally including at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Mr Mohamed holds an Advanced Diploma of Business Management from the University of Ballarat.

Nicholas Reece

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece, Keynote Speaker
DLM Nicholas Reece

Cr Nicholas Reece was elected Deputy Lord Mayor in November 2020, after having previously been elected Councillor in the City of Melbourne in 2016.

Nick is portfolio lead for City Planning and deputy lead for Finance, Governance and Risk and Heritage portfolios.

Nick is also Council’s representative on the following committees and bodies: Committee for Melbourne, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute Advisory Board.

Nick is a senior executive at the University of Melbourne and holds the academic position of principal fellow at the Melbourne School of Government.

Nick has considerable experience in government and policymaking, having worked as a senior adviser to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Victorian premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby. Nick has also served as Secretary of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria.

Nick is a founder and former chairman of global men’s health charity Movember. Founded in Melbourne, almost 10 million people have participated in Movember and raised almost (AUD) $1.5 billion for prostate cancer and men’s mental health. For over 10 years, Nick was a director for the street newspaper The Big Issue, Australia’s most successful social enterprise for homeless and marginalised people.

Dorothy Lippert

Program Manager, Repatriation, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Keynote Speaker
Dorothy Lippert

Dorothy Lippert is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and an archaeologist. She is the Program Manager for the Repatriation Office of the National Museum of Natural History, having previously worked in this office as a tribal liaison. She is the first woman and the first Native American to hold this role.

Lippert’s profession service has included membership on the Boards of Directors for the Society for American Archaeology and the World Archaeological Congress. In 2011, she was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, serving two terms as an expert member and Chair of the Archaeological Subcommittee and Vice Chair of the Committee on Native American Affairs.

Her research interests include the development of Indigenous archaeology, repatriation, archaeological ethics, and the archaeology of the Southeastern United States.

Debbie Mortimer

Native Title Expert Panel facilitated by Chief Justice Mortimer
Chief Justice Debbie Mortimer

In April 2023, Debbie Mortimer was appointed as the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. Chief Justice Mortimer is the fifth Chief Justice and the first female Chief Justice of the Federal Court. She was previously a judge of the Federal Court since 2013. During this time she was a National Co-ordinating Judge in the Court’s Native Title National Practice Area.  Until 2021 she was also a National Co-ordinating Judge in the Administrative and Constitutional Law and Human Rights Practice Area, and a Migration Liaison Judge. 

Prior to her appointments, Chief Justice Mortimer was a member of the Victorian Bar and was appointed Senior Counsel in 2003. Her practice included public law, anti-discrimination law, extradition and environmental law, and in all areas she acted for both applicants and respondents, for and against government, in state and federal jurisdictions including in the High Court. She had a substantial public interest practice and was involved in many ground-breaking cases over her 24 years at the Bar.

Chief Justice Mortimer remains a Senior Fellow at Melbourne Law School, a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies at Melbourne Law School, and a member of Board of Advisers for the Public Law Review.

Last updated: 31 May 2024