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Community Control or Controlled Communities: Taking back control to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Community controlled organisations were created more than 50 years ago, acknowledging the right of Indigenous Australians to deliver services that build strength and empowerment in communities, where government run services had been failing. They were designed by community, for community.

But are these services still responding to the community today?

With the impending 50th anniversary of Brisbane Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service to occur in 2023, join our panel of experts as they reflect on this journey of community controlled organisations and consider if the government needs to do more to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

Our Expert Panel

Mr Selwyn Button, Director, The Lowitja Institute

Mr Selwyn Button is a Gungarri man from South West Queensland who was raised in Cherbourg. He is currently Registrar of the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations, Director of the Lowitja Institute and Director of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health.

Mr Button has extensive executive leadership experience in the health and education sectors. From 2014-18 he was the Assistant Director-General, State Schools - Indigenous Education, at the Department of Education Queensland where he oversaw significant improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Prior to that he was CEO of the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC); chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane Limited and director of the Indigenous health policy branch within Queensland Health.

Professor James Ward

Professor James Ward is a Pitjantjatjara and Nukunu man, an infectious diseases epidemiologist and a national leader in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander research. He is currently the Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health at The University of Queensland.

Holding various roles over the last 25 years in Aboriginal public health policy for both government and non-government organisations, in urban regional and remote communities he has built a national program of research in the epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases, with a particular focus on STIs, HIV and viral hepatitis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Professor Ward has previously worked at the Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Baker IDI in Alice Springs and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute.

Mr Adrian Carson

Adrian Carson has over 28 years’ experience in the Indigenous Health sector, working within government and non-government organisations.

As CEO of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Ltd, he leads the development and integration of health and wellbeing services to Australia’s largest and fastest growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in South East Queensland.

He has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and on numerous other Aboriginal health organisations.

Ms Jody Currie

Queensland born, Jody is a proud Yugambeh woman with traditional ties to the country between the Logan and Tweed Rivers. She has held Senior Executive roles in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged care, health, and human service delivery, and is an advocate for improving service accessibility to vulnerable communities. Since attaining her Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Gender Studies in her twenties, Ms Currie embarked on her career in health and human service delivery, working in several Senior Executive positions in both the community and government sector and holds various Board Directorships.  

Jody is currently the Chief Executive Officer at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service Brisbane (ATSICHS Brisbane). ATSICHS Brisbane is a large diverse community-controlled organisation that delivers community focused services and solutions that improve the health, wellbeing, housing, education and connectedness of urban Indigenous communities in the Brisbane and Logan region. 

About Aunty Pamela Mam Née Bligh-AhKee

31 March 1983 to 17 January 2020

A fearless and trailblazing leader, Aunty Pamela Mam dedicated her life to her family, community and improving health and wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s. A descendent of the Kuku-Yalanji people (in the Cooktown area) Aunty Pam was born in Richmond, North-Western Queensland in 1938. Growing up on Palm Island, Aunty Pam started working as a Nurse Aid in Palm Island Hospital and continued to work there for four years. She completed her general training at Townsville Hospital between the years 1954 and 1959 – and was one of Queensland’s first Aboriginal nurses when she graduated – and then went on to Midwifery at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

During her lifetime, Aunty Pam was instrumental in establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane in 1973 and supported the establishment and expansion of other Community Controlled Health Services across South East Queensland; inspiring the establishment of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health in 2009. In 2008, Aunty Pam was inducted into the QAIHC Hall of Fame as recognition for her leadership and commitment to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. She also played a key role in supporting the operation of Jimbelunga Nursing Home at Eagleby operated by ATSICHS Brisbane. Her vision was to establish a “home” for the elderly, a place of friendship, with all the support needed, rather than a “nursing home”. 

In 2018, Aunty Pamela was awarded an honorary doctorate from Griffith University for her service to her people in health services and to the community. She was also named as a life member of the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and ATSICHS Brisbane. Aunty Pamela Mam was an inspirational figure who created an ongoing legacy of compassion and commitment for health care for First Nations Queenslanders.

About Health Matters Lecture Series

Launched in 2017, Health Matters is a series of dynamic public lectures featuring renowned researchers and clinicians. Attendees enjoy fine food and beverages while hearing directly from subject matter experts in an environment that encourages discussion about matters that impact the health of you and your loved ones.

About Alumni events

UQ alumni and community events take place in-person and online, across the globe, throughout the year. UQ alumni are invited to join the UQ ChangeMakers platform to access early event registrations, benefits and discounts.

Join UQ ChangeMakers

Tickets cost $20 per person (includes pre and post canapes and drinks)


The Long Room, Customs House, Brisbane City