National Indigenous Network Initiative

The Leadership Team

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Robert Leidig

Robert
Leidig

Founder,
Director & CEO

Robert, a Ramindjeri man from South Australia, serves as the founder and CEO of NINI. With a profound sense of pride, he expresses deep gratitude for the opportunity to walk alongside and learn from its members, particularly the proud Indigenous women within the organization.

Robert’s extensive career spans over 25 years of dedicated service to Indigenous communities in South Australia, the Northern Territory, and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands. His expertise covers various areas, including criminal justice, housing, homelessness, supported accommodation, and the delivery of culturally safe therapeutic services.

Throughout his professional journey, Robert has held significant roles such as the SA/NT Regional Manager for Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, to Senior Aboriginal Consultant and Operational Manager at the SA Housing Authority in Western Adelaide where he managed his team overseeing 3700 tenancies, additionally, he managed the customer service division in Port Adelaide and lived and worked for two years in the APY lands managing over 400 tenancies across the APY communities under the Remote Indigenous Housing agreement.

In addition to his extensive career, Robert has been a steadfast advocate for the well-being of prisoners, offenders and victim survivors. For over 25 years, he has actively worked, championed and delivered services within all South Australian prisons including Community Legal Education Officer and Counsellor with the Custody Notification Service for Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement and DFSV and AOD counsellor for OARS CT delivering and facilitating Narrative Therapy and counselling services to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of his people. His commitment to providing these crucial services highlights a long-standing dedication to supporting individuals and families within the justice system and contributing to their rehabilitation and healing. Through his sustained efforts, Robert has played a significant role in promoting therapeutic interventions that address the multiple and complex needs of those in prison, emphasizing the importance of understanding and reshaping personal narratives for positive change. Robert has served on numerous committees, working groups and boards.

He was also highly active in sport namely tennis, soccer, and cross-country running and used sport and education to overcome much of his own lived experience with racism, grief, loss and trauma.

Throughout his life Robert has come to realise the importance of social and emotional wellbeing for Indigenous people as the effects of grief, loss and trauma have a direct impact on the social determinants of health for Indigenous people, their families, and communities. He is enthusiastic about real solutions for Indigenous people and their communities. He is a champion of self-determination and collaboration through co-designing safe and supported interventions that are culturally safe, inclusive, and appropriate for Indigenous self and their mob.

This requires in some cases a blank canvass and an equal and importantly an equitable approach to problem solving through the active use of empowering frameworks that support Indigenous self-determination.

Implementing practices that lead with Indigenous people to ensure the targets of Closing the Gap are delivered in a culturally safe and sensitive approach.

Robert has qualifications in Management, Training and Assessment, Governance, and Narrative Therapy and respects the Cultural Diversity and Authority of all Indigenous peoples.

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Rechelle McFarland

Rechelle
McFarland

Chair &
Director

Rechelle is a proud Aboriginal Noongar woman from Western Australia and a qualified Narrative Therapist. She is an experienced dedicated professional with over 15 years of invaluable experience working in the Aboriginal community-controlled organisations sector. With a passion for making a positive impact on individuals and communities, Rechelle has worked extensively in various settings, including schools, health organisations, and private corporations.

Rechelle has a deep understanding of the unique challenges faced by Aboriginal communities and has actively contributed to creating positive change. Her expertise lies in providing culturally sensitive counselling and coaching services, empowering individuals to overcome personal obstacles to achieve their full potential.

With a compassionate and client-centered approach, Rechelle has successfully supported countless individuals on their journey towards personal growth and well-being. By using a range of evidence-based therapeutic techniques and coaching methodologies, she has effectively helped clients navigate through issues such as trauma, mental health concerns, relationship challenges, and personal development goals.

As a respected professional in the field, Rechelle has also collaborated closely with various stakeholders, including community leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, and corporate executives. They have played an instrumental role in developing and implementing programs that address the unique needs of Aboriginal communities, fostering healing, resilience, and empowerment.

In addition to her counselling and coaching expertise, she is an advocate for all Aboriginal people. She has delivered workshops, training sessions, and presentations on topics related to mental health, cultural competency, and community engagement. With a strong commitment to social justice and equality, Rechelle strives to make a lasting difference in the lives of Aboriginal individuals and communities. Her work embodies the values of respect, cultural humility, and empowerment, creating a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.

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Lauren Hill

Lauren
Hill

Director

Lauren is a proud Aboriginal Noongar woman from Western Australia, although grew up and lives in Adelaide, South Australia on Kaurna Country.

Lauren is well connected in the Indigenous communities with extensive knowledge and understanding working throughout SA and QLD over the past 15 plus years.

Lauren’s career background has been mainly across Aboriginal health, working in Aboriginal Medical Services in SA and QLD, qualifications in Narrative Therapy, Training and Assessment, Aboriginal Mentoring and Aboriginal Primary Health Care and extensive knowledge and understanding of Social and Emotional Wellbeing, sexual health and mental health.

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Angela
Giles

Director

Angela is a young, Ngarrindjeri woman living in Tarntanyangga (Adelaide). Currently working as an Aboriginal Program Officer within Department for Correctional Services (DCS), Angela empowers Aboriginal people through connecting to language and culture, understanding health and well-being, and improving education.

Angela is a certified Ngarrindjeri language trainer and plans on returning to university to complete a Bachelor of Psychological Science.

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Michal Ellul

Michael
Ellul

Director

Michael is a proud Ngarrindjeri man from South Australia.

Michael commenced work as a Field Officer with the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in 1993 in the criminal justice division.

In 1999 Michael moved to the South Australian Native Title Services as a Project Officer and has since transitioned to Corporate and Community Development Officer.

Whilst working in both of these positions Michael has collaborated with Aboriginal communities extensively over many years, first in the criminal arena then onto helping clients achieve successful native title outcomes.

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Kristy Acres

Kristy
Acres

Director

Kristy is an Adnyamathanha woman from South Australia.

A Registered Nurse with academic qualifications in Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drugs and leadership, Kristy’s early career saw her working as the State Program manager for Aboriginal Carers with Carers SA. Later she became the Program Manager for Tira Appendi with Kura Yerlo working in social justice and inclusion with SAPOL and The Attorney General’s Department. 

Kristy was a board member for Kalaya Children’s centre in 2007-2010 holding the position of treasurer. One of the highlights during this time was the successful collaboration and publishing of a children’s educational book in Kaurna language. She has extensive experience within the Alcohol and Other drug sector, homelessness and mental health, and is passionate about trauma informed practice which is collaborative working for and with people.

Kristy had held senior nursing management positions within a hospital and community setting. Combining a social justice lense with a clinical lens, Kristy enjoys working from a framework of multiple lenses.

Passionate about collaborative and co-design practices which are trauma informed, Kristy is currently a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia. Her research focuses on collaborative and co-design brief interventions for and with people who live with borderline personality disorder.

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Leigh Garrett

Leigh
Garrett

Non-Executive Director

Leigh is the Chief Executive Officer of OARS Community Transitions and CEO of the Centre for Restorative Justice.

Leigh commenced work with OARS SA in January 1994 and has had extensive experience in the criminal justice arena.  

As well as his leadership role with OARS Community Transitions, he is currently CEO of the Centre for Restorative Justice and Chair of the Board of Unity Housing Company. 

Leigh has been a member of the Correctional Services Ministerial Advisory Council, President and Executive Member of the SA Crime Prevention Council, and a Board member of SACOSS. He was also previously a Member of the Minister’s Strategic Housing Advisory Committee, advising the Hon Jennifer Rankine MP on matters relating to housing and homelessness in South Australia.  During his work at OARS, Leigh was honoured to receive a National Award as Not-For-Profit CEO of the Year in 2002.

Leigh has a degree in Education, a Post Graduate degree in Occupational Health & Safety Management and a Master of Business Administration degree from the International Graduate School of Management, University of SA.  Leigh is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management and a Certified Practicing Manager.   He has also been awarded Fellowship status with the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a Life Member of SACOSS.

Leigh has previously worked in the Department for Correctional Services as Chief Management Analyst, responsible for the systematic review, planning and evaluation of the Department’s services. This period was preceded by various roles managing research projects in the Department for Correctional Services. He has also worked in the Dept of Recreation and Sport and Dept of Road Transport.

His professional career began at Minda Inc where he was responsible for the development of Physical Education and Leisure Services for people with intellectual disabilities.  He was a pioneer in the development of leisure services and developmental physical education for people with intellectual disabilities in Australia.

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