Belinda Duarte - CEO
Belinda Duarte (née Jakiel) was born and raised in Ballarat, Victoria and is a descendant of the Wotjobaluk people with Celtic and Polish origins. Most recently, Belinda was the Inaugural Director of the Korin Gamadji Institute at Richmond Football Club, where she led the establishment of the institute’s programs across its industry partners to create pathways that enable young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to excel. In 2012 she was acknowledged for her work in the AFL industry and awarded Football Woman of the Year.
Belinda has a strong track record in cross-sectoral engagement and a depth of experience in senior roles and governance from voluntary, Aboriginal controlled, Not-For-Profit through to statutory bodies. She holds a range of positions including as Co-Chair of Reconciliation Victoria, Advisory Board Member of the Koori Youth Council, Panel Member of the Premier’s Jobs & Investment Panel, Director of Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Director of WasteAid, and Member of the Victorian Regional Churchill Fellowship Committee. As a qualified teacher, Belinda has also worked in education, training and community development.
Belinda has made a lifelong commitment to activating change that will have a sustainable social impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and the broader Australian community.
Katie Symes - General Manager - Marketing and Communications
Katie has worked extensively in marketing and communications, executive and project management roles in the not-for-profit, health, education, art and culture sectors and in campaign environments, most recently at Recognise and prior to this at the University of Melbourne and the Lowitja Institute.
Katie also provides artist management support for singer songwriter Glenn Skuthorpe, and is part of the team at Gidgeeburra that delivers community art and healthy lifestyle workshops to communities throughout Australia.
Katie was raised on the coast in wilderness Victoria and has a passion for surfing, the ocean and wide open spaces. She holds a Bachelor of Dramatic Art in Technical Production from the Victorian College of the Arts.
Katie brings a considerate and creative approach to complex environments and is passionate about seeing social change happen particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples.
Debbie Heeney – Administration
Debbie has worked in the Aboriginal community, health and native title sector for more than 20 years. She has a deep appreciation and respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and an understanding of the challenges that affect them on a daily basis.
Debbie’s experience within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities extends beyond her work history. She is also a member of an Aboriginal family that is well recognised across Victoria, which has given her invaluable insights into the culture and traditions of, and the issues frequently faced by, the Victorian Aboriginal community.
Jedda Costa – Communications Officer (Intern)
Jedda was born and raised in Melbourne and is a proud Wemba Wemba, Yorta Yorta and Mutti Mutti woman. She is currently completing her third year of a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at RMIT. Jedda is passionate about human rights, the environment and changing the media landscape to see and hear more First Nations people in mainstream media.
Jedda has grown up largely within the Melbourne Aboriginal Community and is an active member of various community groups. She undertook a traineeship with the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME), and was awarded AIME’s RMIT Mentor of the Year in 2015. Jedda is currently the Student Representative of the Ngarara Willim Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Students.
Witnessing first hand the impact of intergenerational trauma and learning about the alarming rates of youth suicide in her own community, Jedda wants to extend her knowledge of Aboriginal issues, to give voice to the disparities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and to lead by example for the younger generations.
Louis Mokak - Marketing and Communications Officer
A proud Djugun man from West Kimberley, Louis was born in Sydney and grew up in Canberra before moving to Melbourne for university. He has studied two years of a Bachelor of Communication Design at RMIT and has one year left of a Bachelor of Architectural Design. A recipient of the Carey Lyon Scholarship in 2015 and the Evelyn Boekmann Scholarship at RMIT in 2013, Louis also works for Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria and as a freelance graphic designer.
A strong focus of Louis’ work is to draw upon his cultural background, understandings and knowledge to develop concepts and ideas that will create engaging, challenging and culturally sensitive solutions in our built environment. He expresses his voice and creative output through drawing upon cultural considerations and sensitivities in order to create harmony and connection between the land and the built environment.
Architecture is a powerful locus of change and plays an integral role in the revitalisation of spaces as a means of healing and empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Louis believes that through Culture is Life he can gain more knowledge and understanding on the needs of culture as a protective factor for social and emotional wellbeing.