Dr Russell Roberts, Associate Professor & Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, Charles Sturt University & Sydney University (Symposium Chair)

Dr Russell Roberts is Associate Professor of Leadership at Charles Sturt University, Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Department of Rural Health and the Director of Mental Health Consulting Australia. Living in Orange, NSW has previously served as Director of Mental Health in Western NSW (encompassing an area of over 550,000 square kilometres with over 1,000 staff), on the NSW Mental Health Commission Advisory Council, as Director of Clinical Training at Griffith University, Queensland, as Head of School Health at Flinders University and as a Clinical Psychologist in rural South Australia. He has an Executive Masters of Public Administration, a PhD in research and a Masters of Clinical Psychology. He is a board member of the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association, the Chair of the National Alliance for Rural and Remote Mental Health and incoming Editor in Chief of the Australian Journal of Rural Health. His current research interests are mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, models of primary mental health care, integration and leadership.

Between 2005 and 2012 he led the commissioning of $71 million of mental health capital development, including the workforce planning, recruitment and training of over 400 health staff in rural NSW. He has also led the development of a number of innovative, award winning initiatives such as the Mental Health Emergency Care Rural Access Program, the Mental Health Rural Outreach Service, and the Aboriginal Workforce Development Program. At the national level, Russell has conducted projects for the National Mental Health Commission and the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Dr Angela White, Director of Psychology, Royal Brisbane and Womens Hospital, Metro North Hospital and Health Service

Dr Angela White is a Clinical Psychologist with over 25-year experience in mental health practice and research.  Angela is the Director of Psychology at the Royal Brisbane and Womans Hospital and adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology. Angela has a particular interest in harnessing digital health resources, programs and apps in primary care particularly in regional and remote areas. This interest in the application of technology to optimise health service delivery, access and outcomes is also reflected in Angela’s role as chair of the Australian Psychological Society’s ePsychology interest group. Along with these positions, Angela is also a private practicing Clinical Psychologist working predominantly with serving and ex serving Defence Force personnel and is a consultant supervisor for the University of Queensland postgraduate clinical psychology internship program.

Professor David Perkins, Rural Health Research at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, The University of Newcastle

Professor David Perkins is Professor of Rural Health Research at the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, The University of Newcastle.  Previously, David was Director of the Centre for Remote Health Research at the Broken Hill University Department of Rural Health, University of Sydney.   He completed his doctorate in the UK and worked as a senior manager in the NHS.  He researches primary health care systems in rural and remote settings with a particular interest in mental health services.

His research includes narrative systematic reviews, rapid reviews, controlled trials, service evaluations, and a major rural mental health cohort study examining patterns and predictors of mental disorder in rural and remote settings.

He has held academic positions at the Universities of Kent, Wollongong, New South Wales, and Sydney.

Current research includes the development and evaluation of a new service model for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, analysis of data on utilisation of mental health services by rural and remote residents, research on new models of clinical workforce development in remote settings, and the development of new mental health service models in primary health care.

David is editor in chief of the Australian Journal of Rural Health and an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Integrated Health Care.  He was convener of the second National Rural Scientific Research Symposium held in Brisbane in 2010.

He has published widely in Australia and overseas in peer reviewed articles, reports, edited books and an authored textbook on health economics.

He is currently director of the Australian Rural Health Research Collaboration of Rural Research Centres and Health Services in New South Wales.

He is Chief Investigator C in the Centre of Research Excellence in Rural and Remote Primary Health Care with responsibility for Stream 3 which is developing and evaluating new primary health care services.

Dr Keith Miller, Senior Lecturer, School of Social and Policy Studies, Flinders University

Keith’s adult life has been involved in the human services’ field in varying capacities. Immediately prior to commencing at Flinders University, he was employed by the Murray Mallee General Practice Network as well as being seconded to Country Health SA in the planning and provision of mental health services. Keith commenced as a lecturer in mid-2006 and continues to be deeply committed to the wellbeing of citizens. Keith’s areas of interest include mental health and suicide, Indigenous issues, rural men, and working with practitioners to develop their capacity for research.

Dr Keith Sutton, Lecturer in Rural Mental Health, Department of Rural Health, Monash University

Keith is a registered psychiatric nurse with extensive experience as a clinician, manager and bureaucrat in Australia and England. His PhD investigated the impact of the Gippsland Mental Health Vacation School program upon student participants’ interest in rural mental health work. As the Mental Health Academic, Keith coordinates the mental health program at MUDRH. Keith’s research interests include rural health workforce, rural mental health workforce, and addressing behavioural health issues in rural communities.

Ms Samantha Wild, Director, Awakening Cultural Ways


Samantha is a proud Wakka Wakka and South Sea Islander woman and draws from her own personal experiences of disadvantage health outcomes to influence and inspire change. She is also Director for her consultancy business Awakening Cultural Ways, focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy and program development in relation to social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and cultural healing frameworks.

Samantha is a member of the Queensland Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Advisory Council and Director of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health.  Samantha has a strong interest in improving the health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and advocating for trauma informed and cultural designed mental health care.  She has been committed to working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and affairs for the past decade.

Ms Tanja Hirvonen MAPS MPsych(Clin) Mental Health Academic Centre for Remote Health, a Joint Centre of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University, Flinders Northern Territory

Tanja Hirvonen is a Jaru and Bunuba woman, and grew up in North West Queensland, Mount Isa. Tanja Hirvonen is a clinical psychologist who specialises in social and emotional wellbeing, suicide prevention, health professional’s self-care and trauma. Her Masters dissertation (2015) was based on the stigma of suicide. Tanja works in a balanced role at Flinders University working therapeutically with people and also as an early career researcher. Tanja is passionate about working in an evidence based and culturally sound ways to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of all people. Tanja also works as the Executive Support Officer for the Australian Indigenous Psychology Association.

Connie Digolis, CEO of the Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT)

Connie Digolis is the CEO of the Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT). Connie brings to her role a wealth of experience in community sector management, advocacy, health promotion and policy.

The Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT) is a member based peak body. MHCT represents and promotes the interests of community managed mental health services and have a strong commitment to enabling better mental health and wellbeing outcomes for every Tasmanian.

Connie and her team see their role as being a collective, representative voice to ensure future sustainability of the mental health and suicide prevention sector.  In addition to that role, a specific focus for Connie is to promote the reduction of stigma and champion mental health awareness and the value of good mental health.

Connie would like to see a Tasmania that is forward thinking and innovative in the mental health and suicide prevention sector. Connie looks forward to a time when we can refer to our mental health system as an excellent example of person-centred, integrated care that provides the best mental health outcomes for all Tasmanians.

Mr David Nancarrow, Mental Health Worker and Trainer, OzHelp Tasmania

For the past 15 year David has had a wide variety of counselling and professional experiences. He first started in the Education Department as a counsellor for primary aged children running programs about social awareness and behaviours. As child consultant David has worked extensively with Symbol and Sand Tray Therapy for child who have experienced trauma and family separation.  His work as a Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner involved working with couples who had recently separated and assist them develop workable parenting plans for the betterment of the children. A period of his work focused on assisting fathers improve their relationship with their children and partners. David developed the Core Value Therapeutic model in 2007 that has greatly addressed anger management, domestic violence, mental health issues and relationship breakdowns in clients. He has been a Regional Manager of a Mental Health organisation which utilized the ‘Boston Model’ of mental health recovery. David is now a workplace trainer for government, non-government and business sector.  His passion is to help equip people understand their mental health so they can be emotionally healthy living successfully and having lasting relationships.

Dr Heather Bridgman, Clinical Health Psychologist, Lecturer in Rural Mental Health at the Centre for Rural Health (CRH), University of Tasmania

Dr Heather Bridgman is a Clinical Health Psychologist and Lecturer in Rural Mental Health at the Centre for Rural Health (CRH), University of Tasmania. She is interested in innovative rural mental health service delivery, evaluation, improving rural community mental health service access and interprofessional practice. She currently provides clinical supervision to postgraduate psychology students undertaking placement in Northern Tasmania and remote based clinicians. She has a strong community engagement focus and facilitates Mental Health education opportunities for rural and remote mental health practitioners.

Phil Edmondson, CEO, Primary Health Tasmania

Phil is the CEO of Primary Health Tasmania, a non-government, not-for-profit organisation working to connect care and keep Tasmanians well and out of hospital. It was established on 1 July 2015 under the Australian Government’s Primary Health Networks Program to support and enable a coordinated, primary care focused health system.

Phil has worked in the general practice and primary health care sector for more than 20 years at both program management and organisational leadership levels and is well known to providers and system, policy and organisational administrators across the state.

This work has included leading several transformative organisational reconfigurations and establishment of a number of new and innovative services and solutions supporting primary health providers to improve the health of Tasmanians.

He sees his current role working with providers and communities to build understanding and capacity to influence the changes to our health system that Tasmania needs. Working in complex system environments presents a myriad of challenges for the health system in Tasmania and Phil has enjoyed the opportunities to develop and evolve the type of sustainable system and service partnerships and collaborations that underpin positive outcomes for our health system and state.

As CEO of Primary Health Tasmania, Phil is overseeing the introduction of new approaches to partnership-based health service commissioning and capacity building – a genuine opportunity for the primary health sector to play a stronger role in a more balanced and sustainable health system.