Meet Our Speakers

Dr. Dinesh Palipana OAM

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Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM is a doctor, lawyer, disability advocate, and researcher. Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the second person to graduate medical school with quadriplegia in Australia. 

Halfway through medical school, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. 

As a result of his injury and experiences, Dinesh has been an advocate for inclusion. . 

Dinesh works in the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital and is a founding member of Doctors with Disabilities Australia. He is a senior lecturer at the Griffith University and an ambassador to the Human Rights Commission’s Includability program. 

Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM was the 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year and the author of Stronger, how losing everything set me free, published in 2022.

Don Elgin

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Don Elgin is a Paralympian who is well known and much loved for his larrikin, down-to-earth nature and highly respected for his many achievements on and off the field. He represented Australia in the athletics at four World Championships, three Paralympic Games, two World Cups and a Commonwealth Games. A country boy from Victoria, Don was born without the lower half of his left leg but this didn’t stop him from developing a passion for sport. He first represented his country at the age of 18 then spent twenty years as an elite athlete, coming out of retirement to compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and making the final in the Discus.

These days Don travels the world as a sought-after motivational and after-dinner speaker whose positive approach to life appeals to all audiences and ages. Don takes his audiences behind the scenes of his extraordinary journey from little bush battler to world-beater and shares his real-life practical strategies to get the most from every day. 

Seamus Evans

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Seamus Evans is a TV host, Radio personality, Stand up comedian, public speaker and Ambassador for Tourette Syndrome Association Australia. Seamus was faced with adversity when he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Depression, anxiety at a young age which led to failing school.  He overcome these things to have an amazing career in television, radio and stand up.

Seamus made a conscious decision to break the stigma through revealing his battles in the hope that others will follow. Using powerful storytelling, humour and vulnerability, he will help relinquish ‘imposter syndrome’ from your working life and propel your career.

Seamus will open the conference leaving you motivated and empowered by is energetic and hilarious keynote.

 Professor Jeffery Chan

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Jeffrey Chan commenced as the Senior Practitioner, Behaviour Support on 9 July 2018. Mr Chan has worked in disability and health services for nearly 30 years in government, non-government and statutory roles.

He was the inaugural Victorian Senior Practitioner with the responsibility of protecting the rights of people with disability subject to restrictive interventions and compulsory detention. Dr Chan was also Queensland’s inaugural Chief Practitioner and Director of Forensic Disability (a Governor-in-Council appointment) where he was responsible for protecting the rights of people with cognitive impairment subject to restrictive practices and those in the forensic disability setting.

 Professor Karen Nankervis

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Professor Nankervis combines her health clinician background with her work as an academic, researcher, and policy leader. She has a clinical background and training in disability and mental health.

From 2009 to 2019 Professor Nankervis held a joint Professorial Chair between the University of Queensland and the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services, as the Executive Director of the Centre of Excellence for Clinical Innovation and Behaviour Support (formerly the Centre of Excellence for Behaviour Support). In this role Professor Nankervis led research, teaching and policy responses to people with complex disability support needs.

The Centre of Excellence was established as a joint initiative between the Queensland Government and the University of Queensland to improve the lives of Queenslanders with severely challenging behaviour. It was founded in direct response to recommendations contained in the Hon WJ Carter’s 2006 report, Challenging Behaviours and Disability: A Targeted Response, which called for cross sectoral practice improvements in positive behaviour supports.

As the Executive Director of the Centre of Excellence, Professor Nankervis has led research and practice improvement in positive behaviour supports, reductions in the use of restrictive practices, clinical innovation and governance, forensic disability, and supports for people with high and complex disability support needs, staff and families.

Professor Nankervis was also responsible for overseeing and implementing the legislative provisions for the authorisation and monitoring of the use of restrictive practices under the provisions of the Disability Services Act (Qld), 2006). She also has extensive experience in policy development in this area as well as cross-sector collaborations to support the implementation of positive behaviour supports and reductions in the use of restrictive practices outside of the disability sector.

Professor Nankervis has also been the President of the Australasian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability, and Executive member of the Mental Health and Challenging Behaviour Special Interest Research Group of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disability (IASSIDD).

 Dr Maria Vassos

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Dr Maria is an experienced disability researcher who is currently working as a Research Fellow at the University of Queensland. Before this, Maria was the Senior Researcher at Endeavour Foundation and most recently, was the Director of Behaviour Support Research and Data Analytics for the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission. As a registered psychologist, Maria aims to conduct research that positively impacts people with disability, their families, and the services that support them. In collaboration with service providers and policy makers, she has been involved in research examining voluntary out-of-home care (relinquishment) of young people with disability and service responses to improve the identification of families in crisis. She has also led research examining disability work-related issues such as job burnout in the disability support worker population and defining the role of a support worker. She has also worked on projects evaluating behaviour support plan quality at an organisation, state, and national level.

Tracy Mackey

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Tracy Mackey is the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner. Tracy has extensive professional experience in policy, programs and regulation across a number of portfolios including town planning, housing, environment and social services.

She has deep experience in government having spent time in all three tiers and comes to the NDIS Commission most recently from the NSW public sector. Tracy was most recently the Chief Executive Officer at the Environment Protection Authority, leading the organization through a period of transformation. During her time with the Commonwealth, Tracy held senior executive positions in immigration, health and ageing, community and emergency services.

Tracy has also spent time at the executive level at a large not for profit provider, at a multi-national consulting firm and leading her own consulting practice. Complementing her executive roles Tracy brings experience as a non-executive director on a number of Boards.