In honour of NAIDOC Week, join us for a panel discussion to explore this year’s theme ‘Heal Country, heal our nation’.

‘Country’ is more than a place. It is inherent to Aboriginal identity and sustains lives in every sense - spiritually, physically and culturally. Healing Country means embracing First Nation's cultural knowledge and understanding of Country as part of Australia's national heritage.

Ruth Ambler, Executive Director, Cabinet Office and Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation will be joined by five esteemed panellists, as they discuss and draw on their own experiences.

The event will be screened live from the SA Government Facebook from 2.30pm on Friday, 9 July 2021.

Meet our panellists

Nerida Saunders

Nerida Saunders
Executive Director, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Department of the Premier and Cabinet

Nerida Saunders is the Executive Director of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation within the Department of the Premier and Cabinet. A Murri woman from the Kamilaroi nation, she was born in Moree in northern New South Wales.

Nerida co-chairs the across government Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee, and is a member of the Premier's Council for Women. She has worked extensively in the Public Sector for more than two decades, 14 years of which was in the area of Child Protection, Youth and Juvenile Justice, Adoption in Department of Community Services NSW, as the Regional Director, Department of Families in Cairns QLD, and as Executive Director of Children Youth and Family Services (now Families SA).

In 2005, Nerida was the General Manager of Aboriginal Housing Authority in South Australia. She was also previously a member of the Aboriginal Justice Consultative Committee.

In 2016, Nerida was awarded the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in the provision of leadership and advocacy in the area of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.

She is a prolific and champion golfer, and Port Power supporter.


Kirstie Parker

Kirstie Parker
Director, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Department of the Premier and Cabinet

Kirstie Parker is a Yuwallarai woman from northern New South Wales and the Director of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation in the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

She is a long-time director of Reconciliation Australia, and a member of the Australian Press Council.

Kirstie’s previous roles include as Director of the Tandanya National Arts and Cultural Institute in Adelaide, as Executive Officer of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre in Canberra, Editor and Managing Editor of the national Indigenous newspaper the Koori Mail, elected co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples representative body, and Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern.

Kirstie is co-chair of the Kaurna Smithfield Memorial Project Reference Group and is a member of the Aboriginal Reference Group for the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre planned for Lot Fourteen.

She is also a writer, having won a Queensland Literary Award – the 2018 David Unaipon Award for Unpublished Indigenous Manuscript – which will see her first novel published by University of Queensland Press.


Scharlene Lamont

Scharlene Lamont
Executive Director, Aboriginal Services
Department for Correctional Services

Scharlene Lamont is a Kaurna / Narungga woman and has been Executive Director of Aboriginal Services within the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) since February this year.

In this role, she is responsible for the development of policies, procedures and strategies for working with Aboriginal prisoners and the Aboriginal community – ensuring these are considered in terms of their impact on Aboriginal offenders, their families and the community – and supports Aboriginal staff across the agency.

Scharlene helped lead development of the first DCS Aboriginal Strategic Framework and Action Plan, which was a collaboration between clients, staff and community.

She co-chairs the ‘Over-Representation of Aboriginal South Australians in the Criminal Justice System Working Group’ of the across government Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee.

Scharlene is a former Chair of the SA NAIDOC Committee, and a keen supporter of the Adelaide Crows.


Allan Sumner

Allan Sumner
Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation

Allan Sumner is a Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Yankunytjatjara man, a member of Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation (KYAC).

He is Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Sobriety Group Indigenous Corporation, which strives to promote health, well-being and equality for the whole community, taking a holistic approach in service delivery to clients.

Allan has a Degree in Social work and Aboriginal Studies from the University of Adelaide, and has had extensive experience working in the health sector, including as a team leader with the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network. He also has been integrally involved in the repatriation of Aboriginal ancestors to Country.

Allan is an accomplished and publicly-exhibited visual artist, graphic designer and musician. He paints landscapes and creates sculptural works with wood, metal and glass fibre reinforced cement. He also makes boomerangs, bark shields, didgeridoos, and other cultural artefacts that have been gifted to visiting dignitaries and international sporting teams.

Through the love of his heritage and passion for the transmission of stories from generation to generation, Allan also facilitates cultural tours and is a popular provider of arts and cultural workshops in schools and to community groups.


Jeffrey Newchurch

Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch
Kaurna Elder and Chairperson of Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation

Jeffrey Newchurch is a Narrunga Kaurna man, a respected Elder, and Chair of the Kaurna Yerta Aboriginal Corporation (KYAC), the prescribed body in charge of managing Kaurna’s native title affairs.

Jeffrey was born and raised in Point Pearce and spent some of his early school years in New Zealand after being selected as part of the Point Pearce education program.

He is passionate about forging relationships with the public and private sectors to improve employment outcomes for its younger generations.

For more than a decade, Jeffrey has worked closely with archaeologists, the South Australian Museum and others in state government on the Aboriginal repatriation program, which involves the reburial of Aboriginal remains after burial sites have been disturbed during excavations.

He co-chairs the Kaurna Smithfield Memorial Project Reference Group, leading a project that will see some of the many Kaurna ancestors held within the South Australian Museum re-interred on country from the end of this year.

Jeffrey is actively involved in a range of other forums, including as a Board member of the Nunkunwarrin Yunti Aboriginal community-controlled health service, and the Adelaide City Council’s Reconciliation Committee.

He was also a finalist in the 2021 Premier’s Award, recognising his outstanding contribution to the lives and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in South Australia.