The Lowitja Institute’s third international Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference focused on Truth, Rights, Response.

The 3rd Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference this week showcased Indigenous excellence in health research from across Australia, as well as from Aotearoa New Zealand, Canada, Hawaii and the United States. The conference was held from 14-17 June 2023 in Cairns, on the lands of the Gimuy Walubara Yidinji and Yirrganydji peoples, under the theme: Truth, Rights, Response.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership was proud to sponsor two Awards for recipients Professor James Ward of The University of Queensland, and Professor Jaquelyne Hughes, of Flinders University. Given in partnership with the Lowitja Institute, the Cranlana Award celebrates excellence in research leadership by an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researcher who has made a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Professor James Ward, of The University of Queensland, receives 2023 Cranlana Award

Prof James Ward is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara and Nurrunga clans of central and southern Australia and currently positioned as the Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at the University of Queensland.

In 2007, Prof Ward began a formal career in research after appointment as Inaugural Program Head of the Aboriginal Program at the Kirby Institute. This move into research represented a key career change for James – one which demonstrated his desire to make a real difference in the lives of Aboriginal
people. In 2016, he completed his PhD on epidemiology of STIs in Aboriginal communities.

Following successive appointments leading high impact infectious disease research programs across Australia, James moved his research program to UQ in 2020. At UQ he has built UQ Poche from a 3-person venture into a thriving research hub with over 60 staff and students. His leadership in infectious disease research and recent expansion into urban Indigenous health, is reflected in the award of ~$30M research funding, including two NHMRC Centres of Excellence and Directorship of an ARC Centre of Excellence in Indigenous Futures.


Professor Jaqui Hughes, of Flinders University, receives 2023 Cranlana Award

Professor Jaqui Hughes is a Gumugul Woman of Wagadagam tribe, Mabuiag Island in Torres Strait, living on Larrakia country. Professor Hughes is a nephrologist and inaugural Clinical Research Professor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Advancement at Flinders University.

Within her own cultural framework, Prof Hughes has advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ kidney health at an individual and health care systems level. She is an internationally recognised and nationally impactful clinician-researcher and change innovator, epitomised in her appointment as Deputy Convenor National Indigenous

Kidney Transplant Taskforce (2020-current). Prof Hughes is a NHMRC recognised Chief Investigator, holds an NHMRC Emerging Leader Fellowship and has over 60 peer-reviewed publications. She received the NHMRC Research Excellence Award Clinical Trial and Cohort Study (2019), and ANZSN Award for Advancing Equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander and Máori Peoples (2022).

Lowitja Institute CEO Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed said there has been huge interest in Lowitja’s three-day event, with close to 1200 people attending the largest gathering of global and national Indigenous health experts in Australia since before the pandemic.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest, with the event sold out a month before,” Adjunct Professor Mohamed said. “It shows such an appetite for sharing innovative ideas and transformational community-led research that is grounded in our ways of knowing, being and doing, disrupting Western research narratives. […] And it was such an awesome opportunity for our mob and Indigenous health research leaders from across the globe to come together after the COVID-19 pandemic kept us apart,” Adjunct Professor Mohamed said. “We hope all our participants have left it with hope, confidence and a commitment to the
reignition of activism”.

The conference took place at a watershed moment in Australia’s history, with the upcoming Referendum on a Voice shaping many of the discussions on the program. Professor Tom Calma AO, former Co-Chair – Senior Advisory Group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice, said it had been important and helpful to hear the perspectives of other nations, “to know we’re on the right trajectory” towards Voice, Treaty and Truth.

“The clear message is we need to learn from our past, to know we can create a better future but it will only happen if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a meaningful input into the design of legislation and implementation of programs,” Professor Calma AO said.

Speakers at the conference included leading global and national Indigenous leaders on Voice, Treaty, Truth-telling, Indigenous data/research sovereignty, decolonisation, nationbuilding, climate and health, genomics and justice. The program featured more than 250 presentations of the latest community-led health and wellbeing research in Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand, Canada, and the US, ranging from important work in cervical cancer screening, kidney care and diabetes, and across the social, cultural and political determinants of health. The evidence and discussions will inform the Lowitja Institute’s future research agenda. The event also featured the presentation of the Lowitja Institute Awards for excellence in research, as well as a rich cultural program, with special guests Thelma Plum, Dan Sultan, Barkaa, and Electric Fields and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.

Original media release was published via Lowitja Institute on June 17th, 2023.

Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership’s programs include the 2-day Executive Ethics, 6-day Executive Colloquium and year-long Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. We also deliver online and customised corporate programs. Explore our upcoming Program dates here. They are all held under the Chatham House Rule to encourage genuine and open debate, and allow participants to candidly discuss sometimes sensitive issues in private while allowing the topic and nature of the debate to be made public, and contribute to a broader conversation. The Alumni program offers ongoing leadership development support and a lifelong connection with Cranlana.

Share This Story

Related articles

The Cranlana Method

We don’t teach leadership skills. Instead, we help leaders apply the skills they already have more wisely – by building clarity of purpose and ethical courage. Drawing on a rich history of philosophical wisdom, they encourage fresh and considered approaches to challenges – offering insights that, for many participants, will fundamentally transform their concept of leadership. Our courses are dialogue-based and immersive, bringing small groups of high-level leaders together for discussions that are wide-ranging and expertly guided. They are rigorous, in-depth and practical, providing high-level learning experiences and understanding to strengthen your capabilities as an effective and ethical leader.

Interested in discovering more?