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Speakers 2015

Introducing you to some of our special guests at HRAFF 2015.

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Yassmin Abdel-Magied

The 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, Yassmin Abdel-Magied is a mechanical engineer, social advocate, writer, and petrol head.

She advocates for the empowerment of youth, women and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  Yassmin is also deeply passionate about diversifying public voices, connecting people and catalysing change.

At sixteen, Yassmin Abdel-Magied founded Youth Without Borders, an organisation focused on enabling young people to work for positive change in their communities.

In 2012 she was named Young Leader in the Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s inaugural 100 Women of Influence Awards. Born in Sudan and moving to Australia at the age of two, she graduated top of her university year in 2011 with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (First Class Honours), and was a recipient of the University of Queensland’s Dean’s Excellence scholarship. In 2007, Yassmin was named Young Australian Muslim of the Year for her work in the community and in 2010 Young Queenslander of the Year.

She has served on various state and federal councils and currently sits on three NGO Boards as a non-executive director.  For her day job,, she works as a FIFO engineer on oil and gas rigs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, having a yarn, football (Liverpool FC!), Formula 1, boxing and is saving for her first V8.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Women’s Rights and Culture

sarah abo

sarah abo

SBS Journalist Sarah Abo is a Melbourne-based journalist.

Moderating: The Humanitarians and Just Eat It

Mitra Anderson-Oliver

Mitra Anderson-Oliver

Currently senior adviser to Victoria’s
 minister of planning,
 Mitra Anderson-
Oliver specialises in urban planning and creative industries development and has worked in Mumbai and completed study in Europe.

Speaking at: Cities – Slums of Tomorrow – Post-Film Panel

 Geraldine Photo

​​Geraldine Atkinson

Geraldine Atkinson is a Bangerang/Wiradjuri woman who has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available to Koorie people through education. For over 30 years Geraldine has been a significant presence in the Koorie and wider Victorian community, beginning as a Teacher’s Aide in 1976 to her current role as President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) since 1999. Geraldine has an important role to play in contributing her direct experience of what works in community combined with her extensive policy knowledge. Geraldine regards this ability to act as a link between policy and community as her principal function. As a community leader Geraldine has worked hard to ensure that real progress is made for Koorie people. Geraldine has made a significant impact in the area of Early Childhood, and has always regarded education as being the best instrument of progress.
Geraldine represents VAEAI on a number of National and State Committees while maintaining her involvement at the local level.
Dr Jaques Boulet

dr jacques boulet

Founder of Borderlands and Head of School at OASES Graduate School, Dr Jacques Boulet draws on early experiences of working with Congolese communities and the Romani in Germany to teach social work, research and community development at tertiary level.

Speaking at: Cities – Slums of Tomorrow – Post-Film Panel


Associate Professor Michael Brown

Associate Professor Michael Brown is an astronomer at Monash University, with a strong interest in science communication. He is a regular contributor to The Conversation and other media, and has written a number of articles on the origins and tactics of pseudoscience.

Speaking at: Breakfast Session – Climate Change and Human Rights

Staff Portrait

Professor Desmond Cahill

Chair of the Australian Charter of the world’s largest interfaith organisation, Religions for Peace International, Professor Desmond Cahill has been awarded the Order of the Medal of Australia for his contributions to multicultural Australia. He is a world expert in intercultural relations and currently lecturers at RMIT.

Speaking at: Evaporating Borders – Post-Film Panel

Dr Leslie Cannold

Dr Leslie Cannold

Australian Humanist of the Year (2011), writer and ethicist, Dr Leslie Cannold is past President of
 Reproductive Choice Australia and author of The Abortion Myth. Named several times as one of Australia’s top public intellectuals, Dr Cannold is a regular media commentator on ethics and women’s rights.

Speaking at: A Quiet Inquisition – Post-Film Q&A

 Dr Joyce Chia


Joyce Chia was until recently the Senior Research Associate at the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, UNSW. She completed a PhD on the interactions between public law, refugee law and migration law at University College London. She has worked in a wide variety of positions focusing on research, law reform and policy, including at the Australian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne Law School, Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, the Federal Court of Australia and the Victorian Court of Appeal. She is currently teaching at Melbourne Law School and Monash University.

Speaking at: Breakfast Session – Refugees: An International Perspective

Santilla Chingaipe

santilla chingaipe

SBS journalist Santilla Chingaipe is a globetrotter and has broken international stories in South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.

Acting as moderator: Breakfast Sessions – Women’s Rights and Culture

Tasneem Chopra

tasneem chopra

Chairperson of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights and Lentil As Anything, Tasneem Chopra is a writer, influential cross-cultural consultant and passionate advocate for social justice and women’s rights.

Professor Bruce Chapman

Professor Bruce Chapman

One of Australia’s
 most prominent
 economists, Bruce 
Chapman designed
the Higher Education Contributions Scheme (HECS) and was consultant to the Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education on student income support.

Speaking at: Ivory Tower – Post-Film Panel




Reporter for Guardian Australia Melissa Davey has a strong interest in women’s health and equality and has written several articles on domestic violence.

Acting as moderator: Breakfast Session – Domestic Violence


Author of Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture, Dr Isabelle De Solier is interested in the sociology of food and lectures at Victoria University.  

Speaking at: Just Eat It – Post-Film Panel

Jane Dixon

jane dixon qc

Past recipient of a Women’s Lawyers Achievement Award and immediate past-President of Liberty Victoria, Jane Dixon has twenty years experience as a criminal barrister at the Victoria Bar.

Speaking at: Pervert Park – Post-Film Panel

Paul Donegan

Paul Donegan

Co-author of City Limits: Why
 Australia’s Cities Are 
Broken And How We
 Can Fix Them, Paul
 Donegan is a Fellow at the Grattan Institute and has worked at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Victorian Premier’s department.

Speaking at: Cities – Slums of Tomorrow – Post-Film Panel

 Eckard photo

Rebecca Eckard

Rebecca Eckard is the Research Coordinator for the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and leads RCOA’s asylum policy work. Rebecca convenes several policy and advocacy networks, visits onshore detention facilities to meet with people held in detention and gather information about their concerns, drafts submissions and testimony for Parliamentary Inquiries and delivers information and education sessions on Australia’s asylum and refugee policies. Rebecca regularly participates in representative work on behalf of RCOA, including representing Australia at an international human rights forum. Before joining RCOA, Rebecca worked in policy and strategy at the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. She first arrived in Australia on a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship, having spent the previous years working with young people at risk of gang-related violence in the US.

Speaking at: Breakfast Session – Refugees: An International Perspective


Dr. Vivienne Elton

Dr. Vivienne Elton is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. She works in private practice seeing patients in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Her areas of interest and experience include pregnancy, parenthood and psychosomatic illness in clinical practice, and education in psychoanalysis. She has had many years of experience working with patients who have experienced trauma including sexual abuse.
She is interested in cinema, the visual arts and literature.Dr Elton is President and Training Analyst of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society and a member of the International Psychoanalytical Association.

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Diego E Méndez Osorio

Diego currently works in the departments of Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Melbourne and at Deakin University. He also tutors criminology at the University of Melbourne. He has a BA (Hons.) in Criminology from Melbourne, where he is now a PhD candidate at the School of Social and Political Sciences. His interests are in the areas of intercultural linguistics, postcolonial studies, feminism and political resistance.

Moderator for Los Hongos and Marmato post-film panels


Nabila Farhat

As a women’s advocate for Shakti Australia, Nabila provides women’s advocacy and support services for vulnerable women from Asian, African and Middle Eastern women in Australia.

These women are marginalised and isolated through domestic violence and are at risk of oppressive cultural practices such as dowry abuse, under-aged/forced marriage and fatal honour-based violence. The work of Shakti Australia aims to empower women, young people & children to become agents of social change, speaking out against culturally-sanctioned oppression and abuse.

In the work that Nabila does for Shakti Australia, she hopes to create social change through speaking up on behalf of women who are yet to find their voice. Mary Wollstonecraft quoted “I do not wish women to have power over men, but over themselves”. Much of Nabila’s work as a feminist and women’s advocate is based on empowering women to take ownership of themselves and their lives through instilling self-belief, self-love and self-motivation. Nabila believes empowerment is the key to unlocking the potential of women.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Women’s Rights and Culture


Lecturer in Politics and Policy Studies, Dr Peter Ferguson teaches global environmental politics examining the ethical, political and institutional challenges raised by the global environmental crisis and the key policy and institutional responses.  

Speaking at: Breakfast Session – Climate Change and Human Rights

Michael Fikaris


 freelance artist:
 both painter and
 Illustrator. He has
 painted on the 
streets locally and abroad since 2001 and for the last two years working beside East Timorese in their struggle for social justice and human rights in a new democracy through the Animatism art collective. He has also walked over 1000 street art tours of his hometown for Melbourne Street Tours and last year released the graphic novel Art as Life.

Speaking at: Los Hongos – Post-Film Panel


Educator, radio host and personality, Den da Fish runs Aboriginal Heritage walks in the Royal Botanical gardens and is committed to rebuilding relationships with the land.


Clementine Ford

Clementine Ford

Outspoken media commentator and 
the newest buzz
word for all things 
feminist, Clementine Ford is a writer, blogger, broadcaster and women’s rights activist.

Speaking at: Pervert Park – Post-Film Panel

Phil Glendenning


Awarded the 
Sir Ron Wilson
 Award for Human
 Rights in 2011,
 Phil Glendenning is 
Director of Edmund Rice Centre, President of the Refugee Council of Australia and an influential climate advocate.

Speaking at: ThuleTuvalu – Post-Film Panel

Joanna Hayter

joanna hayter

Chief Executive Officer at the International Women’s Development Agency, Joanna Hayter has worked across four continents and 25 countries advocating social justice and women’s rights since 1983.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Domestic Violence



Former Somali refugee and author of A Resilient Life, Mariam Issa is the founder of Resilient, Aspiring Women, a not-for-profit organisation committed to building strong, supportive and connected relationships within the community.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Women’s Rights and Culture



Editor of The Saturday Paper, former journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald and author of The Life and Death of Adam Cullen, Erik Jensen is a regular arts, culture and writing commentator.

Speaking at: Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case – Post-Film Q&A

Kaff - eine


A street artist from 
Melbourne pasting
 and painting 
characters and
 adventures around 
the lanes, alleys, streets, abandos and railways of Melbourne, interstate and overseas in places like Berlin, Manila and the US, “Kaff-eine” began mostly with black and white paste-ups and is now spreading the stories in colour. Kaff-eine has illustrated two children’s books, Vera and The Promise.

Speaking at: Los Hongos – Post-Film Panel

 Ronni Kahn

Ronni Kahn

Ronni Kahn is the CEO and Founder of OzHarvest. As a successful business entrepreneur, Ronni founded OzHarvest in 2004 and transitioned in the role of social entrepreneur becoming a leader and innovator in food rescue and within the charitable sector. Ronni has been recognised as a leader in the fields of entrepreneurship, social impact and innovation and has been awarded numerous achievements for her work and commitment to the community, some of which include:

Australia’s Local Hero, Australian of the Year Awards 2010
Enriched List by American Express in 2010
Veuve Clicquot Award Business Woman Tribute Award for Innovation, Entrepreneurial Skill and Contribution to the Community in 2012.
Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2012
InStyle Woman of Style Award ‐ Community /Charity category 2011
UN partnership on Think.Eat.Save Campaign with the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program)

Speaking at: Just Eat It – Post-Film Panel

 Misha Ketchell

Misha Ketchell

Misha Ketchell is the Managing Editor of The Conversation. Prior to this, he worked as a researcher and producer on ABC TV’s Media Watch. He has also been editor of Crikey and The Big Issue (Australia) and a reporter for The Age.

Speaking at: Pervert Park – Post-Film Panel

Dr Alana Lentin


Writer, blogger, 
researcher and 
academic, Dr Alana 
Lentin is a prolific 
race relations 
theorist, having published several books and articles on racism and multiculturalism in Australia and Europe.

Speaking at: Evaporating Borders – Post-Film Panel


Liam Leonard 

Liam Leonard is Director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria and a Research Fellow at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University. He has lectured on sexuality and gender studies; developed Australian gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (GLBTI) health and wellbeing research, policy and programs; and published widely in the areas of GLBT social policy and queer theory. Liam was lead author on Coming Forward, a research report on GLBT Victorians experiences of heterosexist violence and same-sex partner abuse.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Domestic Violence



Rebecca Lindberg is a mixed methods researcher with both applied and academic research experience. Working across a variety of areas in the food security discipline, including poverty prevention, not-for-profit food programs, government policy, nutrition inequities and the human right to food. Specializing in high-income countries and food insecurity, with a current research project examining food rescue as a response to food insecurity in Australia.

Speaking at: Just Eat It – Post-Film Panel



Dr Fiona McCormack is the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria (DV Vic), the peak body for family violence services for women and children in Victoria. DV Vic provides political advocacy on behalf of, and in partnership with its member organisations for violence prevention, systemic change and enhancement of systems. This includes broader representation on groups including the Ministerial Advisory Group on Addressing Violence against Women, the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Homelessness, and the National Plan Implementation Panel.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Domestic Violence


One of the seven Australian ‘Mars One’ Astronaut candidates for a one-way trip to trip to Mars, Dianne McGrath is an environmental activist and researcher for WatchMyWaste. 

Speaking at: Just Eat It – Post-Film Panel



Reporter for the Guardian Australia, Oliver Milman has a strong interest in environmental affairs.

Moderator at: Thuletuvalu – Post-Film Panel

Angela Mitropoulos


Writer, blogger and 
political theorist, 
Angela Mitropoulos
is involved in
 CrossBorders Operational Matters, has written on migration and borders and was one of the organisers of the Woomera protests in 2002.

Speaking at: Evaporating Borders – Post-Film Panel


Martin Mulligan

martin mulligan

Martin is the Senior Lecturer in Environment and Planning in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, Senior research associate , Globalism Research Centre, RMIT and Senior researcher in the Community Sustainability Program of the Global Cities Institute, RMIT. He was the chief investigator on a major study for AusAID on lessons to be learnt from the post-tsunami recovery effort in Sri Lanka and India and that research resulted in the publication of a book by Routledge, India, 2012. His research interests include sustainability; sense of place and local community resilience; local and social histories; community sustainability and climate change adaptation.

Speaking at: ThuleTuvalu – Post-Film Panel


Dr Mimmie Ngum Chi Watts

Dr Ngum Chi Watts is a Public Health expert and an Academic at Victoria University, Melbourne Australia. Dr Ngum Chi Watts has a PhD (Public Health) from La Trobe University and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr Ngum Chi Watts’ has a diverse range of skills and interests particularly in International Health; Health of Minority and Disadvantaged Women; Gender inequalities, Advocacy, Health Policy; Research and Curriculum Development.  Dr Ngum Chi has presented at many national and international conferences; has served on and continue to serve on several committees and Boards. Dr Ngum Chi has been recognised at local and national level for her research and community engagement activities in Australia. Improving sexual health needs for women, providing better education for girls and disadvantaged persons and increasing opportunities amongst disadvantaged groups remains an area of interest of Mimmie’s. Her areas of expertise include: International Health; Health and Diversity; Social Inclusion; Teenage Pregnancy; Refugee Health; Migrant Women’s Health; Health of minority groups; Adolescent and Child Health; Chronic Diseases management.

Jeannie Rea

Jeannie Rea is the national president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) which represents staff working in higher education across Australia. Jeannie has been involved in education and union activism since her student days. She has been a professional educator and advocate in the postsecondary sector for many years, including working in academic and leadership positions for over two decades at Victoria University. She taught and researched in gender studies, communications and public advocacy. Throughout her life, Jeannie has worked for access, equity and quality education for all in Australia and internationally.

Speaking at: Ivory Tower – Post-Film Panel

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Lindsey Ritchie

Current development coordinator at Foodbank Victoria, Lindsey is passionate about food security both domestically and abroad. Before joining Foodbank she had previous experience working in developing communities throughout South-East Asia and the Middle East.

Speaking at: Just Eat It – Post-Film Panel



Former senior journalist and editor at The Age, Denise Ryan has been recognised for her work in human rights features by the UN Media Peace Awards and is currently completing a PhD in journalism and African Australian identity

Speaking at: Evaporating Borders – Post-Film Panel


Tai Sayarath

Tai Sayarath specialises in forced migration, asylum and human rights of Asia and the Middle East.  Her focus intersects political theory and law and has centred on refugee protection in states not signatory to the Refugee Convention. Tai has worked for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, Asylum Access and most recently, for UNHCR in Beirut, Lebanon. She is the founder of the journal, Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration.

Speaking at: Breakfast Session – Refugees: An International Perspective


Conor Serong 

Public Education Officer at University of Melbourne’s student union (UMSU), Conor Serong has been leading UMSU campaign against tertiary fee deregulation.

Speaking at: Ivory Tower – Post-Film Panel

Pallavi Sharda 10

Pallavi Sharda

Pallavi Sharda is Australia’s true blue Aussie-Indian. Born in Perth and brought up in Melbourne, Pallavi is a lawyer by training, classical Indian dancer and international film actress. She spends her time working in either her home town of Melbourne or her adopted home of Mumbai, where she has become one of Bollywood’s leading ladies.


Co-author of Climate Code Red and architect of the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, Philip Sutton is currently the manager of RSTI, a not-for-profit organisation focused on building social change and political commitments to transitioning to a sustainable economy.

Speaking at: Breakfast Sessions – Climate Change and Human Rights

Maria Tiimon Chi-fang


Originating from 
the island nation
 Kiribati, one 
of the Pacific
 islands facing imminent risk from rising sea levels, Maria is a climate advocate and was part of the Australian delegation to Copenhagen in 2012.

Speaking at: ThuleTuvalu – Post-Film Panel


Daniel Webb

Daniel has worked with the HRLC since 2012 and leads much of its work on refugee rights and the rights of people in all forms of detention. Prior to joining the HRLC Daniel was a senior lawyer with Victoria Legal Aid, specialising in mental health and disability advocacy. For 12 months, Daniel was The People’s Lawyer in the Republic of Kiribati. His NGO experience includes internships with the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights in Phnom Penh  and Transparency International in Port Moresby, PNG. Daniel has also worked as a Heritage Officer with Yamatji Land and Sea Council and Pilbara Native Title Service and is on the Policy Committee of Liberty Victoria. In 2010 he was awarded an LIV President’s Award for his outstanding work for human rights and social justice.

Profile photo by Xaris

Dr. Jasmine-Kim Westendorf

Dr. Jasmine-Kim Westendorf is a lecturer in international relations at La Trobe University. Her research focuses on civil wars, negotiated peace processes, international approaches to peacebuilding, the politics of international law and international organisations, and the role of women in peace and war.  Jasmine is a convenor of the Melbourne Free University, which includes a program specifically for asylum seekers.


Christopher Ziguras

Associate Professor Christopher Ziguras is Deputy Dean, International in RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Studies. His research focuses on globalisation processes in education, particularly the regulation of cross-border provision. He oversees a wide range of international projects at RMIT and is Vice President of the International Education Association of Australia. He received the RMIT University Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011 and was Tony Adams Visiting Senior Scholar at the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation at Università Cattolica Del Sacro Cuore, Milan, in 2013. His latest book, Governing Cross-Border Higher Education, was recently published by Routledge.

Speaking at: Ivory Tower – Post-Film Panel

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