Our team

SWAMS staff are united by the drive and passion to provide culturally safe, accessible and holistic health care to the Aboriginal people of the South West.

As an organisation, we continue to attract and employ culturally appropriate and professional staff members. SWAMS employs over 200 staff members including specialist Aboriginal Health Practitioners, Dietitians, Nurses, Midwives, Mental Health workers and Social Workers and because of this, we are able to provide a large and diverse range of services to the community.

In addition to this, we strive to create Aboriginal career pathways and opportunities across the sector and maintain a positive percentage of ATSI employees.

Our CEO – Lesley Nelson

Lesley Nelson is a proud Noongar woman from the Balladong and Whadjuk clans and is a mother to three sons and a daughter.

She holds over 25 years’ experience in various Senior Executive leadership roles within the Aboriginal health sector, the most recent being her current role as CEO of the South West Aboriginal Medical Service.

Lesley’s bias for innovation and action is strengthened with post graduate qualifications in Business and Epidemiology. More recently, Lesley completed her Master in Business Administration (MBA). Currently completed her first year of an Industry Doctorate (PhD), with the University of Technology Sydney.  With this unique skill set has seen her champion expansion of accessible primary health services for Aboriginal communities living in the state’s vast South West, Lower wheatbelt and central Great Southern regions.

With a drive to influence, collaborate and engage across the sector, she has directly contributed to greater health outcomes for Aboriginal people living in the region. Lesley brings a passion for the South West community and holds several Board director positions enabling her to consistently advocate for this beautiful region of Australia both nationally and locally.  Lesley has demonstrated that she makes useful contributions to policy and to program development at the national, state and community levels at the same time as she is managing a regional service delivery company with multiple local outlets.

Lesley’s Board positions include -a Ministerial appointment to Outback Stores (Director), she is a Director on Forum for Directors of Indigenous Organisations.  She also chairs the Aboriginal Health Council WA CEO’s Network and the South West Aboriginal Health Planning Forum.  Appointment to the National Indigenous Assessment Advisory Committee in an advisory role on the multifaceted design of Indigenous aged care assessment system.

Lesley’s Ministerial appoints also include- The Sustainable Health Review (SHR) Independent Oversight Committee alongside some of the country’s top Doctors and health professionals including Professor Fiona Wood FRCS, FRACS, AM. The committee reports directly to the Health Minister Hon. Amber-Jade Sanderson and was established to oversee wide-ranging reforms to ensure a sustainable future for health care in Western Australia.

Lesley’s success has not always come easy, and she credits her supportive family and community with helping her to maintain her strength when times were tough.

“I believe success is directly related to how we overcome the barriers that have been put before us. Life has not always been an easy road but, no matter what life throws at you, you must keep moving forward. Get up, dust yourself off and try again. So that is what I have done.’’  Reflected Lesley on her experiences.

Lesley also explained that being a young mum meant she had to rely on her family and the strong male and female role models in her own family.

“Work towards to your goals, believe in yourself and invest in yourself. Sometimes, that means asking for help when you need it.”

Her hard work has paid off and Lesley has proved to be an inspiration to others in many areas of her life.

In 2016, Lesley received the NAIDOC Community Female Award in recognition for her remarkable contribution to improving the lives of people in her community and beyond, promoting Indigenous issues and showing excellence in her field.

“Sharing our achievements and the benefits that come with our achievements is so important in Aboriginal culture and helps us to celebrate and build strong, meaningful and sustainable relationships.”  Explained Lesley

In 2018, Lesley was awarded with a Chief Executive Women (CEW) scholarship to attend the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School. This scholarship enabled Lesley to engage in intellectual dialogue at an international level with leadership experts on issues relating to, Creating Collaborative Solutions. Lesley was also awarded a Roberta Sykes Scholarship to attend a Women’s Executive Leadership Program within the Graduate Business School at Stanford University in San Francisco.

Lesley’s work to date has laid down solid foundations for a strong and sustainable organisation – including growing SWAMS’ capacity at remarkable speed and developing a workforce capable of supporting SWAMS’ strategic goals.

“Sharing our knowledge, surrounding yourself with strong women and encouraging other women is so important. Creating opportunities for Aboriginal women in leadership and education is imperative for the sustainability of not only SWAMS but all industry sectors across Australia. Women should have their voices heard, as we have much to contribute.”

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