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Changing young lives

RWAV was instrumental in changing the lives of nine Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from Mildura and Echuca. They were able to undergo ENT surgery after being on wait lists for years. The children were operated on in January 2017 by renowned ENT surgeon, Professor Stephen O’Leary at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. RWAV worked closely with Professor Stephen O’Leary, The Victorian Royal Eye and Ear Hospital and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations- Njernda Aboriginal Cooperative, Echuca, Mallee District Aboriginal Services, Mildura and Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Fitzroy  to ensure these children received much needed ENT surgery.

Prior to surgery, RWAV was able to talk with the children and their carers about the impact this program would have on their lives.


Keith dad_landscapeBright young Darius has had ongoing hearing problems over the past five years and has been “struggling in school” said his dedicated father, Keith. Darius excels in math and reading but due to his hearing difficulties, his speech and education have suffered significantly. He has ongoing ear aches and has had to miss school at times. “He has been receiving speech therapy for 2 years and still his pronunciation isn’t clear” says Keith.  A beaming Keith says RWAV has been a “God send” and looks on to his youngest son saying “his life is going to be so different for the rest of his life”.  The single father who lost his wife two years ago, said he “couldn’t believe” that they were “able to get help for his son so soon, knowing waiting lists for surgery were well over 3 years”. They both look forward to a speedy recovery and enjoying their time together.


Bobbi MomThough a bit hungry having to prepare for surgery, little Armani decided to colour while in the waiting room “in the big city”. Her concerned mum says she can’t wait for Armani to be a “kid again” as she is always sick and feeling tired due to complications with her tonsils. She is constantly on pain medicine and antibiotics. This surgery will “make all the difference to the entire family”.  Bobbi-Jean, Armani’s mother couldn’t hide her emotions saying she is “so happy, lucky and grateful and can’t wait to see her daughter “growing up with no complications and just enjoying life”.


Broadie mom16 year old Brodie has been on the waiting list in Mildura for surgery for over 3 years and hadn’t been able to access surgery until RWAV intervened.  She has missed so many days of school due to illness and infections quickly escalating to glandular fever. Her mum Sarah , is so grateful that her daughter can now commence year 10 and be able to attend school regularly and not fall back on her studies.  In the past year, Brodie has had to access a specialist tutor to enable her to keep up with her missed school work. Brodie couldn’t wait for her surgery to “just get them out” and go to school and “stop the tutoring”.  Her mum says “hopefully she can be livelier and be herself” rather than  being “so sick, lethargic and tired for the past 3 years”. They look forward to a brighter and healthy year ahead for Brodie .


kellie mom 2After a long drive down from Echuca, Kellie looked relaxed while Durant was busy playing with the toys in the waiting room at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.  Kellie was so glad to see Durant receive surgery in Melbourne and to see the positive effects on him after the surgery.  She found the coordination was done very smoothly by Njernda Medical Centre and was “so thankful” to RWAV for initiating the program which will make an immense difference in the life of little Durant. Kellie was grateful that they didn’t have to bear the cost of surgery, accommodation and travel to Melbourne, which was very “helpful as well” she said.  She looks forward to him recovering soon and continue his explorations.


EricEric has been suffering with bad ear aches for years now and can’t wait for the operation to “stop the pain”.  His mother Sally, says she even got “private health cover this year to try to have Eric have the surgery faster”.  Even with private health cover the waiting list is over a year away. Eric and his mum are delighted to be in Melbourne to have his surgery and return home.  Eric says he is not looking forward to “putting stuff in his ear when he goes swimming” but understands that after the operation, he will have to protect his ears. He looks forward to his ears not bothering him as they “hurt too much”.


Bubbly little Brandon was busy playing with a truck at the waiting room where his parents looked on, waiting for their son’s surgery. Brandon has had 7 severe tonsil infections over the last year which he has had to be hospitalized for and is constantly on steroids, antibiotics and hydrolytes.  He would be sick for over 2 weeks at a time and caring mum, Sage says he would not eat or drink as he is feeling so unwell. She says he hasn’t gained any weight in the past 6 months which was very worrying for them.  They can’t wait to see Brandon “feel well, speak more and gain weight” after surgery.  They are so grateful for their son to be able to undergo surgery so soon and looks forward to much happier times for all of them soon.


NoahLittle Noah loves playing peek-a-boo, even while feeling hungry, as he was fasting in preparation for adenoid surgery.  His supportive mother Kim says “he only has 4 hours of sleep a night and wakes every 20 minutes”. Noah has already had 4 hospital stays with pneumonia and Kim is positive that the surgery will “help Noah so much”. Kim is so thankful to “everyone who helped to organise everything for us” and is excited to see how Noah will feel after his surgery. Noah was one of the first clients to be referred into the Eye and Ear Surgical Support service program at just 4 months of age. It hasn’t been until know that he has been able to access support.


Every couple of weeks Marika has  painful ear infections and has to visit the local hospital every few months when it becomes too painful. They have to then drain her ears for fluid buildup. She is hoping the surgery will help her “breathe easier and that the ear aches will  go away”. After surgery she plans to eat “lots of ice cream” and is looking forward to not having to eat “soups and noodles” which is what she can eat when she is feeling sick. Marika’s mum, Tatum says she is “really glad to have had this opportunity for Marika to have surgery in Melbourne”.  Marika can’t wait to enjoy this summer joining her brothers in the pool, free from her ear infections after her surgery.


CloeyCloey is “irritated” with her constant sore throat, which gets worse at night time and she finds it hard to have a good night’s sleep.  Carrying her “build-a bear” she is ready to go in for surgery and she hopes it will help her to not feel “so tired and sleepy all the time”.  Cloey’s mum, Kathy is “very grateful” for being able see her daughter receive surgery and the support they have received to “get flights and accommodation in Melbourne”. She wants Cloey to finally be able to enjoy playing sport, as she has not been able to before because she was always “over-tired”.  After being on the waiting list for 3 years, she is thankful to the organisations who helped “arrange this opportunity”.


Dr. Oleary1 landscapeRWAV had a quick word with Professor Stephen O’leary on his way to the operating theatre. Professor O’leary was delighted to be involved with RWAV to provide this life changing procedures to the 9 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from Mildura and Echuca.  He said “he was only doing his job” and is “glad that this service could be provided at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital’. He is pleased that the children can return home with enough time to recover before they start the new school year.  Professor Stephen O’Leary has been providing ENT outreach services for RWAV under the Healthy Ears program at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Fitzroy and Aboriginal Communities in Gippsland.


Snezana is a Human Resources leader with more than 15 years of experience in management, playing a pivotal role in driving team transformations across diverse industries, including FMCG, automotive, government, and non-profit sectors.

With a curiosity for business and its associated complexities, Snezana fosters collaborative partnerships to cultivate a highly motivated workforce that effectively executes strategic plans.

Msc (Fin), FCCA, FGIA, CA

Shay brings over 20 years of financial
management experience in commercial and not-for-profit organizations. He has a
rich and varied experience in multiple finance and leadership roles in the
United Kingdom and Australia, including CFO, GM Finance & IT, Commercial
Manager Operations, Finance Manager and Accountant.

His extensive leadership experience is
augmented by an FGIA, FCCA, CA, a Masters in Finance and an undergraduate degree in
accounting and finance.

RN, GradDip(Health Promotion), PRINCE2, Mini MBA

Kate is a Registered Nurse highly experienced in health promotion and project management. Her people and program management skills enable her to be agile and adaptable while maintaining an outcomes focus on improving quality access to primary healthcare.

Kate’s extensive experience working with all levels of government, the community and stakeholders across the sector have provided her with insights into the challenges rural communities and health professionals face. Kate has led the design and delivery of many innovative and strategic health promotion and grants programs, supporting better access to health services, health information and activities across communities. Whilst at RWAV, Kate has led the transformation of the RWAV grants program, enhanced the administration of a number of programs and developed the RWAV allied health portfolio. She has also led the development of the RWAV research program of activities.

Having worked at RWAV since 2020, Kate will continue positively influencing the rural healthcare workforce and access to services.

Social Work (BA Hons), DipSW

With a background in social work and a proven record in recruitment, project management, and business development, Jo brings strategic leadership and a wealth of experience in driving positive outcomes within the health, human services, and State Government sectors.

Jo specialises in managing health professional recruitment and outreach programs, including the More Doctors for Rural Australia and 3GA programs. Her focus is on implementing innovative workforce strategies and clinical governance to bolster RWAV’s mission of enhancing healthcare accessibility in rural and regional Victoria.

Having previously excelled at RWAV, Jo spearheaded successful internal change initiatives while fostering strong relationships with external stakeholders. Her efforts consistently align with RWAV’s strategic direction, ensuring a cohesive approach to driving impactful change.

Beyond her professional expertise, Jo’s passion lies in uniting communities and championing positive transformations in rural healthcare in Victoria.

Martin is a governance professional and lawyer with experience in private practice and in-house legal roles. He has been a company secretary for public and private sector organisations across a range of industries including VicTrack, Regis Healthcare Limited and Dairy Australia Limited. He holds Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Commerce degrees from the University of Melbourne, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Corporate Governance from the Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) and is a fellow of the GIA.

With a rich background of consulting and in-house people and culture roles with the corporate, government and community sectors, Andrea is responsible for leading the implementation of RWAV’s People and Culture strategy, policies, processes, functions and team.

Andrea has significant experience in leading teams across culture, capability, diversity, equity, leadership, organisational development and learning programs as well as core human resources partnering.

With a strong focus on building and maintaining psychologically safe organisations, Andrea’s team is dedicated to ensuring that RWAV is a place where people can work well and be well at work.


Rosemary has had a varied career as an academic teaching economics, public policy and industrial relations, and as a consultant, advocate, health union official and as a director.

She brings strong governance and strategic skills to the Board, as well as knowledge and depth of experience in health policy, economics and investment.

Rosemary was a Director of Aware Super for nine years, and Chair of the Investment Committee for three years. She was also a member of the Audit, Risk and Compliance Committee, the Governance Committee and the REM and HR Committee. Rosemary is currently a member of the Investment Committee of Cbus.

She was the Secretary of the Victorian Psychologists Association Inc for 20 years and knows first-hand the difficulties in attracting and retaining health professionals in rural and regional Victoria.

Dr Louise Manning is a rural GP Obstetrics trainee practising in Central Victoria where she delivers general practice, obstetric and sexual health services. Growing up in a small town she has lived experience of the difficulties accessing healthcare in rural and regional areas, and is dedicated to advocating for equitable health outcomes regardless of geography.

Louise is also a Board Director of the Rural Doctors’ Association of Victoria.

BAppSci GradDipBus MBus GAICD FIML

John Biviano is an experienced senior executive who has held many senior roles in government (Health Dept) and also in professional associations related to healthcare. Until recently, John was the CEO of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, where he oversaw the digitisation of a range of Member offerings, including aspects of training. 

BA (Politics/Philosophy) BEc GDipBus MBA GAICD FGIA

Roger is an accomplished CEO, Non-Executive Director and Chair with experience in the health, human services, law enforcement, education, transport, and environmental industries – across private, public sector and not-for-profit organisations

.He brings strong governance experience, commercial acumen, risk management and strategy skills combined with a passion for innovation and business development having also been Chair of numerous Finance, Audit, Risk, Investment and Community Advisory Committees.


Assoc Prof Phelps has practiced as a Gastroenterologist and Acute Physician in regional Victoria for more than 20 years.

He trained in safety and quality at Dr Brent James’ Institute at Intermountain Healthcare in the US and has held management and leadership roles in Victoria and Tasmania. More recently he completed a two-year project as Director of Clinical Governance for Central Adelaide Local Health Network.

Grant currently works as an independent consultant providing advice to hospitals and organisations on clinical leadership and safety and quality

LLB BSc MMgt (Strategic Foresight) GAICD

As a lawyer and business consultant Jane has worked with company boards and senior management across a range of areas including IP commercialisation, internet-based businesses, healthcare products/services, privacy and data/IT security. Jane is currently general counsel for .id Consulting – population demographers, economists and forecasters.

Jane served as a director of BreastScreen Victoria for 10 years, is a current director of Ballarat Health Services and chairs RWAV’s Governance Committee.

BMed MMedSci FRACGP FARGP FACRRM DipPractDerm DipMedHyp DipFP DipBusAdmin GAICD

Assoc Prof Rawlin is an experienced General Practitioner and medical educator. He is currently in clinical general practice in suburban Melbourne and previously practiced in rural Victoria for 10 years.

Assoc Prof Rawlin is Chair of the General Practice Mental Health Standards Collaborative and a past Chair of the Mental Health Professionals Association and is a board member of the Mental Health Professionals Network. He is also the Medical Director of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Victoria.
He is a member of the RACGP Victoria Council.

Albert Giorgini is the Senior Advisor to CEO at RWAV.

As an experienced finance executive, with an extensive career in public transport and in the automotive and industrial gas sectors, Albert has honed his skills in driving financial performance improvements with a commercial and business transformation focus.

Through his strategic financial skills, Albert has demonstrated an exceptional capacity to lead and develop large teams in complex and changing environments to achieve the financial and regulatory requirements of the business. His extensive experience has given him a deep understanding of the industry and its challenges, equipping him with the expertise to drive impactful change.

Albert has highly developed communication and stakeholder management skills to support his strong planning, analytical and financial performance improvement acumen, always striving to create innovative solutions that drive growth and success.


Lauren commenced in the role of Manager People and Culture in August 2018 and is responsible for leading the implementation of RWAV’s People and Culture strategy, policies, processes, functions and team.

Lauren’s team is committed to implementing activities and initiatives to support the achievement of RWAV’s strategies and strengthen RWAV’s position as an ‘Employer of Choice’.

Lauren is an experienced Manager and HR professional, with a career spanning the professional services, automotive, defence, and not-for-profit sectors.

BHlthSci(Hons) MPH PostGradDipMgt GAICD AFCHSM

Lauren Cordwell commenced in the role of Chief Executive Officer in August 2023. She took on the role of Acting CEO in April 2023 and previously served as the General Manager since February 2020.
Lauren has leadership responsibilities for strategy, communications, data, stakeholder engagement and program delivery.

Lauren’s team is committed to supporting communities in rural and regional Victoria to have timely access to affordable and safe health care.

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