2021 INVITED SPEAKERS


Adjunct Professor (Practice) Alison J McMillan commenced as the Australian Government Department of Health’s Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer in November 2019. Alison is a Registered Nurse with a Critical Care Nursing Certificate, a Bachelor Degree in Education, a Master of Business Administration and was awarded a National Emergency Medal in recognition of service following the 2009 Victorian Bushfires. She is an experienced executive manager with more than 30 years’ experience across the public health system. Alison has held senior executive roles in government and health services within Victoria including the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and Director of Quality, Safety and Patient Experience. Alison is a member of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee contributing to key advice provided to the National Cabinet during the COVID-19 pandemic and, as a member of the Infection Control Expert Group providing advice and information on best practice on infection prevention and control in the community, hospitals, aged care, schools and community sport. Alison has been a part of a team providing communication to the community, which is clear, honest, and compassionate. In mid-February, Alison was the nurse team leader for an Australian Medical Assistance Team (AUSMAT) deployed to repatriate Australian’s from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship in Japan. Alison has collaborated with state and territory Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers and other key stakeholders including the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, Australian College of Nursing, Australian College of Midwives and Australian College of Critical Care Nurses to ensure sufficient nursing and midwifery capability and capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Professor Christine Duffield
is a Professor of Nursing and Health Services Management in the Faculty of Health at UTS; and is the President of the Australian College of Nursing. Her research focuses on nurse staffing and the use of nurses, nursing leadership and a range of current issues facing the nursing workforce. She led the first study in Australia which examined the relationship between nursing numbers, the mix of staff and patient and staff outcomes. Other funded research projects include defining advanced practice in a range of clinical facilities, the impact of adding nursing support workers, the costs and consequences of nursing turnover, factors impacting on nurse’s health and the role of nurse managers and leaders in ensuring positive patient and staff outcomes.

Dr Karen Walker, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney, and the Global Women’s Health Program Manager for Australia at The George Institute for Global Health and a Consultant in Neonatal Health with the World Health Organisation.  She is the current President of the Council of International Neonatal Nurses (COINN), a board member of WHO Partnership for Maternal Newborn Child and Adolescent Health (PMNCH); is working on the revision of the WHO/UNICEF Every Newborn Action Plan and with the WHO on the development of a new Road map - Human Resources for Health: strategies for improving neonatal care capacity in facility settings in low- and middle-income countries. Karen is also passionate about the role of parents and is a board member of the new Global Alliance for Newborn Care (GLANCE) an organisation that aims to create, empower and support a global patient voice in each region of the world.


Associate Professor Jennifer Weller–Newton,
FACN is the Director of the Rural Health Academic Network, University Department of Rural Health, Melbourne University. Jennifer is Chair, Australian College of Nursing Victoria Network. She has been recipient of ARC project funding which focused on workplace learning in healthcare where she led the development of new conceptual model of workplace learning and a survey tool to measure the clinical workplace learning culture. She also has interests in interprofessional learning, professional practice knowledge, work readiness, reflective practice, curriculum, and pedagogical innovations. She is an Associate Editor for The Clinical Teacher and Editor for Collegian, and holds a visiting appointment with McMaster University, Canada.

Dr Margaret Broom, RN, RM, PhD, is the Neonatal Research Nurse at the Canberra Neonatal Intensive Care, and an Adj Associate Professor at the University of Canberra. She is the Chair of the Australian College of Neonatal Nurses Research Special Interest Group. Over the past 10 years Marg has been involved in several research projects aimed to improve parental experience during their baby’s admission to the Canberra Unit. These have include creating a developmentally appropriate family centred NICU design, parental presence at clinical bedside rounds, providing a culturally appropriate environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Families. Over the past 2 years Marg has been leading an Experience Based Co-Design Study exploring family and staff experiences to improve the Canberra Hospital palliative care service.

Clinical Professor Adrienne Gordon is a senior staff specialist Neonatologist in the RPA Centre for newborn care and Clinical Professor in Obstetrics, Gynecology and Neonatology at the University of Sydney. She trained in paediatrics prior to specialising in neonatal/perinatal medicine and is passionate about the public health impact of a healthy start to life and preventing adverse pregnancy outcome, especially stillbirth.  She completed a Master of Public Health and a PhD on risk factors for stillbirth and is a Chief Investigator on the NHMRC Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence. Adrienne currently leads the Public Awareness work within the Stillbirth Centre of Research Excellence which includes campaign design and evaluation and customisation of a mobile health application for an Australian setting. She is a key member of the Safer Baby Bundle initiative which aims to reduce late pregnancy stillbirth in Australia by 20%.


Doctor Nicole Highet is the Founder and Executive Director of COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence. Nicole has a background in clinical psychology, marketing, campaign development, and advocacy.  Following over thirteen years at Beyond Blue, Nicole founded COPE in 2013 in response to the growth and success of Australia’s National Perinatal Depression Initiative (NPDI).   

COPE has a dedicated focus on the specific issues faced by women, men and their families during pregnancy and the year following birth, in order to reduce the known personal, social and economic costs associated with undiagnosed and untreated perinatal mental health conditions. COPE’s work includes electronic approaches to psycho-education, e-screening platforms, online training, an e-COPE Directory and e-health promotion initiatives, amongst others.