2020 Keynote Speakers

About The Keynotes


Dr Gabrielle O’Kane, CEO National Rural Health Alliance

Gabrielle has been immersed in rural communities for over 30 years, working as a rural allied health academic and practitioner, before moving to her current role as CEO of the National Rural Health Alliance, where she has been for over 12 months. She has extensive experience in the private and public health sector, which has contributed to her deep understanding of the need for collaborative partnerships across the health system and beyond, to address the social determinants of health, support the rural health workforce, provide integrated care and achieve positive health outcomes for rural communities. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the University of Canberra (UC) and with Charles Sturt University (CSU). Gabrielle’s research interests include food culture, food citizenship ad food system sustainability, particularly from a social perspective. More recently, she has been forming partnerships with several universities to advance rural health research, which is high on the agenda for the Alliance’s strategic direction.

Hon Greg Hunt MP, Minister for Health, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Cabinet, Federal Member for Flinders (Via Video)

In January 2017, Greg was appointed Minister for Health. Greg has always had a strong connection with the medical profession. His mother was a nurse and his wife is a nurse.

Mental health is an issue that is particularly important to Greg. He wants to be a strong advocate for greater understanding and community awareness, and to ensure we have the necessary resources to help deal with this particularly important issue.

Greg uses his background in the Industry, Innovation and Science portfolio to build on Australia’s track record for medical breakthroughs, turning what is done in the laboratory into better healthcare for patients.

Dr Denise Riordan, Chief Psychiatrist, ACT Health Directorate

Dr Denise Riordan is the Chief Psychiatrist for ACT. She has over thirty years experience as a psychiatrist working in public health systems, both in the UK where she was trained, and in Australia, including her work as Chief Psychiatrist of Northern Territory, where she continues to do some work and is very familiar with the challenges as well as exciting opportunities of delivering health care in rural and remote areas.

Her clinical areas of expertise include child and adolescent mental health. She is passionate about working collaboratively with systems to develop and deliver high quality, accessible and evidence based health care. In addition to her medical qualifications she has qualifications and experience in medical and clinical education, and health services management, and uses these, along with her clinical expertise to contribute to developing contemporary integrated mental health services.

Dr Daniel Rock, Principal Advisor & Research Director, WA Primary Health Alliance

Dr Daniel Rock is the Principal Adviser and Research Director at the WA Primary Health Alliance who have the contract to operate the three WA Primary Health Networks.

He is an epidemiologist, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and an Adjunct Professor at the Disciple of Psychiatry, the University of Western Australia.

Prior to joining WAPHA he was both Deputy Executive Director at North Metropolitan Health Service Mental Health and Director of Clinical Research in Perth, where he was responsible for state-wide specialist mental health services, and mental health service planning at regional and state level.

During his time at North Metro he was also co-jointly a Clinical Professor in the School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences and the School of Population Health, the University of Western Australia and Co-Director of the UWA Centre for Clinical Research in Neuropsychiatry.

Ms Caro Swanson, Principal Advisor, Mental Health & Service User Lead

Caro has worked in mental health for more than 20 years in roles that are informed and supplemented by her own living experiences. For the last 14 years she has worked in a national role co-leading seclusion and restraint elimination projects, leading national peer workforce development and supporting the Equally Well collaborative work. She has developed multiple workshops, resources and frameworks that support changes in the way services and the workforce respond to people experiencing mental health and addiction needs. She is driven by the passionate belief that our responses to people must include compassion and more holistic and joined up options. In 2018 she faced and survived the most serious of physical health challenges and now weaves this also into her work.

Prof Stephen King, Commissioner, Australian Productivity Commission

Stephen King is a Commissioner at the Australian Productivity Commission and presided on the Commission’s recent review of Australia’s mental health system. Before joining the Commission in 2016, Stephen was a professor of economics at Monash University, a Member of the National Competition Council and a Member of the Economic Regulation Authority of WA. He was Member of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission from 2004-09 where he chaired the mergers review committee.
During his time at the Productivity Commission, Stephen has been involved with Inquiries into human services, the financial system and airports. Stephen is a specialist in competition economics and industrial organization. He has a PhD from Harvard University and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Mr Tim Heffernan, Deputy Commissioner, Mental Health Commission of New South Wales

Tim Heffernan is an experienced consumer peer worker and Mental Health Peer Coordinator at COORDINARE. Tim is currently NSW Deputy Mental Health Commissioner. He is also the Deputy Co-Chair for the National Mental Health Commission’s Peer Workforce Development Guidelines Steering Committee. Tim is an executive member of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative and a volunteer Rural and Regional Ambassador and Community Presenter for Black Dog Institute.

In 2013 he was awarded a scholarship for Boston University’s Global Leadership Institute to develop a co-designed project, Safety for All, which involved peer workers training mental health nurses working on acute mental health wards. Tim identifies as a person with lived experience of mental illness and recovery.

Mr Tom Brideson, Chief Executive Officer of Gayaa Dhuwi

Tom is a Kamilaroi/Gomeroi man born in Gunnedah north-west NSW. Tom is the Chief Executive Officer of Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia.

Since the early 1990’s Tom has worked in Indigenous mental health and health policy; social and emotional wellbeing; clinical mental health care; suicide prevention; education and mental health leadership. Between 2007 and 2020, Tom was the State-wide Coordinator for the NSW Aboriginal Mental Health Workforce Program, a ground-breaking program that has embedded a new discipline into the mental health space in NSW.

Tom sits on multiple committees to improve the health and mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Tom has many published articles regarding the mental health and related area workforces and advocates for the broad emerging mental health professional workforces across all health and human services

Hon Chris Bowen, Shadow Minister for Health, Australian Government

Chris Bowen entered Parliament in 2004 and has held a wide range of portfolios including serving as Treasurer, Minister for Human Services, Minister for Immigration, Minister for Financial Services, Assistant Treasurer, Minister for Competition Policy, Minister for Small Business and Minister for Tertiary Education. Chris has been responsible for a range of significant policy reform programs in these portfolios.

He served as Interim Leader of the Labor Party and Acting Leader of the Opposition following the 2013 Federal election and served as Shadow Treasurer. He is now the Shadow Minister for Health.

Chris served on Fairfield Council for nine years, was a former Mayor of Fairfield Council, and former President of the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC).

He has a Bachelor of Economics, a Master’s Degree in International Relations and a Diploma in Modern Languages (Bahasa Indonesia).
He lives in Smithfield with his wife Rebecca, children Grace and Max and his Labradors Ollie and Toby.

Keynote Plenary Panel

Dr Alison Schafer, Mental Health Expert, WHO

Trained in Clinical Psychology, Alison works for World Health Organization’s (WHO) Headquarters; Department of Mental Health and Substance Use.

Based in Amman, Jordan, Alison is leading two multi-year programs to increase access to and promote the scale up of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, including in emergency-affected countries (Ukraine, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Jordan, Lebanon).  She has been part of WHOs global response to MHPSS in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previously, Alison spent 17+ years working with World Vision, responding to MHPSS needs following major crises, including South Sudan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza (conflict and displacement), Haiti (earthquake), Sri Lanka (tsunami), Horn of Africa (drought), and Sierra Leone (Ebola), among others.

Alison has contributed to developing globally-recognised MHPSS in Emergencies resources, such as Psychological First Aid, Problem Management Plus (PM+) and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Common Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for MHPSS in Emergencies.

Professor Phil Batterham, Professor at the Centre for Mental Health Research, Australian National University

Phil Batterham is a Professor at the Centre for Mental Health Research, The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He is currently supported by a prestigious Career Development Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council. Phil is a research leader in developing and implementing online programs to prevent suicide and mental health problems, developing efficient and precise scales to assess suicidality and mental health, and reducing barriers to help seeking, particularly in rural areas. Phil has published 170 journal articles related to mental health.

Dr Ruth Vine, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Mental Health, Department of Health

Dr Ruth Vine is Australia’s first Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health. Ruth provides policy advice on critical mental health issues impacting the Australian community due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and champions Commonwealth policy development and implementation activities to better integrate the Australian mental health system.

Ruth is a consultant psychiatrist and has more than 25 years’ experience. Ruth has worked for the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, and has held positions of Deputy Chief Psychiatrist, Chief Psychiatrist and Director of Mental Health. She has chaired the AHMAC National Mental Health Standing Committee, the National Mental Health Workforce Committee, and National Safety and Quality Committee.

Previously, Ruth was the Executive Director of NorthWestern Mental Health, a division of Melbourne Health from 2013 to 2019. NorthWestern Mental Health is the largest mental health service in Victoria, covering a population of approximately 1.4 million people across a number of growth corridors.

Ruth is a member of the Board of Forensicare, the Board of Mind, and the Medical Practitioners Board (Victoria).

Ruth holds a Bachelor of Medicine from Melbourne University, a Bachelor of Laws from La Trobe University, and is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.

Professor David Forbes, Director, Phoenix Australia

David Forbes is the Director of Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health and Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne.

He has over twenty five years’ experience in the assessment and treatment of mental health problems in trauma survivors, with a speciality in military, veteran and emergency services mental health and disaster mental health.

He led the development of the inaugural Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2007, co-chaired the steering committee for the revised PTSD Guidelines in 2013 and was on the Guideline development group for the recently released 2020 Guidelines. David was also Vice Chair of the International (ISTSS) PTSD Guidelines.

He has a strong track record in the conduct of research across the lifespan the provision of policy and service development advice to government and agencies responsible for the care of those occupationally exposed to trauma, the community members exposed to trauma and disaster and the provision of training in evidence based treatments for PTSD and related disorders.

He has published over 180 scientific papers and invited book chapters in the international literature and sits on many Commonwealth government policy and scientific advisory panels and academic journal editorial boards.