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/Culture Squad
A proud Wemba Wemba, Mutti Mutti and Yorta Yorta woman, 21 year old Jedda was born and raised in Melbourne with a strong sense of culture and community. Jedda is currently in her third year of a Bachelor of Journalism and graduates at the end of 2018.
Jedda is a founding member of Culture is Life’s ‘Culture Squad’ - a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who give voice to the views and cultural expressions of our young people. Jedda is currently the Student Representative of RMIT’s Ngarara Willim centre and she is also the first ever appointed Indigenous officer for RMIT’s student union (RUSU).
Passionate about Aboriginal affairs, human rights and the environment Jedda plans to travel the world as a journalist and writer to shift the negative stigmas perpetuated about First Nations peoples in Australia.
Louis Mokak - Communications Officer/Culture Squad
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.
Louis is a representative of Culture is Life’s ‘Culture Squad’ - a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who give voice to the views and cultural expressions of our young people.
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.
Alex Splitt – Director – National Programs
Alex is a proud Gubbi Gubbi man born in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. He has worked both in strategic social policy development within government, including with the Victorian Government’s Aboriginal Affairs Taskforce, and in the operational management and leadership of not-for-profits at Aboriginal Housing Victoria, the Foundation for Young Australians and the Korin Gamadji Institute, Richmond Football Club. He has also worked closely with several of Australia’s leading universities.
Most recently Alex was accepted as a Fellow of the Atlantic Fellows for Social Equity. This program is designed to empower a new generation of leaders committed to tackling social disadvantage in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific. He has also been a recipient of the US State Department’s International Visitors Leadership Program, the Victorian Government’s Department of Community Planning and Development Secretary’s Award, and the Victorian Public Service Graduate Program.
Alex has experienced first-hand the strong cultural identity that First Nations peoples share. He knows that the capabilities and capacity of young people within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have the potential to influence lasting generational change and end the social disadvantage and exclusion experienced by many of our communities across Australia. For him, Culture is Life represents a rare opportunity to play a significant role in creating generational change, as we strive for an equitable future for all our Peoples.