Inspiring Forums



An integral part of each year’s program is the forum which offers a series of engaging and insightful presentations from guest speakers highlighting t he theme for the year. In 2016 Bill Gammage, Bruce Pascoe and Damien Bell each spoke on aspects of aboriginal land management.   Other forums have focused on grasslands, volcanoes, return to country, migration – of people, plants and animals, biodiversity of indigenous grasslands, climate, energy and the future.


In 2018 we present two forums on our theme ‘Care for Country, Care for Community’.


Saturday Forum and Q&A:  following Welcome to Country at 12:30 pm

Theme: ‘Caring for Community’ - How does traditional knowledge and wisdom take its place in the modern world.



 Dr Greg Phillips (Chair) – from the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, is a leading change maker, thought leader and medical anthropologist and an Associate Professor and Research Fellow at The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.  As CEO of ABSTARR he is producing a strong definition and rationale for self-determination in Korin Korin Balit-Djak – the new Victorian Aboriginal Health, Wellbeing and Safety Strategy


Aunty Beverly Hand – is a proud Kabi Kabi woman (SE QLD) and a conservationist and land management educator. She re-established the traditional bunya festival calling it Bunya Dreaming in 2007, bringing together Indigenous groups with the wider community celebrating and connecting with the sacred bunya tree, art, weaving, dance, song, and Bunya challenges.


Jamie Thomas – is a Gunnai Man and Peek Whuurrung descendant and co-founder and ED of Wayapa Wuurrk. He has worked extensively in community health education and tourism and holds a post-graduate Certificate in Family Therapy from Latrobe University


Vicki Couzens – is a Keerray Wurrong Gunditjmara woman, is an artist, consultant and community cultural development facilitator/teacher. Passionate about reclamation, regeneration and revitalisation of cultural knowledge and practices, especially language.


John Welford – grew up in Kenya and was a teacher at Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop for 20 years. He is passionate about community based contemporary Rites of Passage and youth mentorship (Pathways Foundation).


Emily Anderson – is EO for Grampians Pyrenees Primary Care Partnership. Her focus is the idea of partnerships and collective impact. She will speak about the Budja Budja indigenous health van project, and CORE – Communities of Respect and Equality (Grampians alliance of community groups, businesses, clubs, and health and c  ommunity organisations addressing gender equality to prevent violence against women)


Sunday Forum and Q&A:  9:30am

Theme: ‘Caring for Country’– opening with Wotjobaluk Dancers.



Dr Adam Bester (Chair) – newly appointed CEO of Glenelg Hopkins CMA, is an ecologist and has worked with the CMA for eight years, most recently as Waterway and Catchment Health Program Manager. Adam will look at the importance of community engagement, and connecting a broader range of people to water and environment issues.


Dr Michelle Casanova – an Emeritus Robert H T Smith Research Fellow at Federation University Australia. Michelle is a wetlands expert and has been working on water plants for 25 years, mostly in relation to water regime and environmental water requirements. Her presentation to the 2010 Eel Festival Forum on connectivity of wetlands was appreciated by a wide audience.


John Clarke – is a Giraewurrung man and a grandson of respected Gunditjmara Elder, Uncle Henry “Banjo” Clarke. John is a board member of Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and is passionate about cultural heritage management and youth projects, including Meerteeyt Marrang youth at risk program.


Ben Nicholson – grew up at Wickliffe and is now assistant principal at Mildura Primary School. Ben is committed to finding pathways for his students to connect with culture and country alongside mainstream education. He was instrumental in the success of the Djabwurrung Rivertime* project.


* DJABWURRUNG RIVERTIME is a youth song writing project, inspired by the Hopkins River, performed by students from Lake Bolac, Willaura, Maroona, Ararat and Mildura in collaboration with Gunditjmara song writer Lee Morgan and dancer Adeline McDonald.