Our Team

Our Board

Aboriginal housing portraits

Karen Milward is the Chairperson and joined the Board as one of the founders of MMIGP in 2007. Karen is a Yorta Yorta woman who was born and raisedin Melbourne. Karen is a strong advocate for developing culturally- appropriate solutions to the issues confronting Aboriginal people, which empower individuals and communities so that they can confidently and effectively move forward.  

Karen is the current Chairperson of Community First Development and Kinaway Chamber of Commerce Victoria Ltd as well as a Board Director for Yarra Valley Water. Karen has extensive experience in governance, management and leadership as she has served on many formal government committees and working groups, including the Victorian Aboriginal Economic Development Board, the Premier’s Aboriginal Advisory Council and Indigenous Leadership Network Victoria.

Karen owns and operates Karen Milward Consultancy Services (since 2005) and has extensive consulting experience and networks across Australia. She has worked on a range of projects and initiatives with government, corporate and private sectors – especially those targeting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Karen has been involved in Aboriginal affairs all her life – sharing her expertise and experience through senior policy and program management positions held in various organisations, not withholding government. Karen has been consulting in Aboriginal affairs for more than 25 years. She has worked in various areas of Aboriginal Affairs, specialising in community development through education, employment and economic development. Karen is involved in addressing issues concerning Aboriginal communities as well as promoting Aboriginal cultural heritage and competence.

Karen has worked with 35 Aboriginal communities and their organisations in Victoria and more than 100 Aboriginal communities and their organisations nationally across all issues relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Uncle David Farrall is the Deputy Chair, joining the board as one of the founders of MMIGP in 2007. Uncle David is a proud Arrernte man who has lived on Wurundjeri land all his life (Melbourne’s Eastern Metropolitan Region). Uncle David calls this place home but his culture and stories come from Mparntwe, now known as the Alice Springs area.

He is a retired career firefighter and is now enjoying using his time to live and engage with the local community. Uncle David is an Elder under the Elders and Respected Persons program in three Koori Court jurisdictions (Children’s, Magistrates and County courts).

He has held leadership roles in the EMR since the mid-90s, and is currently on several committees and boards of management for local community organisations where he is pleased to be a strong advocate for community needs and aspirations. He said being part of the MMIGP community has  rewarded him with cultural and social connections to the EMR Aboriginal community, which has become his extended family.

Aunty Janet grew up in Portland, Gunditjmara country. She has family connections to Nunga Country at Old Yalata through her mother. Her Father’s connection is Dja Dja Wurrung Country.

She is a lecturer in Aboriginal Art and Culture at the Faculty of Education at ACU and a High Degree Research Scholar at Australian National University researching human relationships to Country. 

Aunty Janet has worked in training (Cultural Awareness and Certification), working in the Community Sector across Australia. She joined the Jim Baa Yer (Centre for Indigenous Education) at the Australian Catholic University in 2012. Restructures in 2014 to form ‘First Peoples and Equity Pathways Directorate”, whose role is to engage Aboriginal students, families, and school staff, to promote access to Higher Education in the state.

Aunty Janet presented her research based on human relationship with land and waters and briefly analysed the colonial impact on the colony of Port Phillip Bay (now Melbourne). During her presentation, Aunty Janet emphasised how we can learn from our ancient Aboriginal ways of life, which are highly philosophical and religious and are based on a relationship to land and all that is on the land. Aunty Janet strongly feels that people need to become more sensitive and humbler in the way they relate to the land and all the natural resources.

Michael Browne is a proud Barkandji/Wamba Wamba man who grew up in Jerilderie, a small country town in NSW, and moved to the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in 2008. Michael joined the MMIGP Board in June 2019 with a background in Engineering, planning and project management. Michael previously worked at Sydney Water and is now working at Yarra Valley Water and has been for over 12 years. Michael would love to see First Nations people have a greater involvement in the management of the land and waterways. He joined the MMIGP Board because it gives him the opportunity to support the staff in developing programs for community members and also to learn from our Elders who sit on the Board of MMIGP.

Tiana Koehrer is a proud Yorta Yorta, Wurundjeri and Wiradjuri woman from the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Tiana joined the Board of MMIGP in June 2020. She is passionate about justice for Indigenous people in the prison system, and empowering young Indigenous people. Tiana said she is very excited to be a part of the Mullum Mullum board and to be able to connect back into the wonderful community she grew up in.

Ricky Baldwin is a very proud Gunai Kurnai man and joined the Board in June 2020. His mob is from Bung Yarnda (Lake Tyers) and his mum, uncles and aunties are all from the stolen generation. Their stories are very sad and drive his passion to give back to the kids in our community. Rick’s extensive network and experience in basketball allows him to provide our youth with opportunities. 

Rick believes one of the most important things is to allow and provide our youth with opportunities in a culturally safe and welcoming environment. He believes it is important to teach our youth the importance of connection to culture and being proud of who they are.

‘It’s something that burns deep inside of me being able to put smiles on Koorie kids faces. Having the opportunity to be the Head Coach of the Australian National Indigenous Women’s Basketball in 2019 and winning the first ever gold medal for Indigenous basketball at an international tournament is something l truly cherish. I have stepped down as Head Coach as l want to be able to create pathways for my Victorian Koorie kids.’

Rick has been expanding his work and services to complement his basketball career as he wants to get involved in the bigger picture – teaching kids life-long skills and letting them know they are cared for. 

Our Staff

Elke Smirl has been Chief Executive Officer since July 2019. Previously she was an MMIGP Board member for about 10 years. While Elke was born and raised in Victoria, her family came from South Australia. She is a descendant of both the Kaurna and Nurrungga peoples of the Adelaide Plains and Yorke Peninsula. Elke has worked in the Australian and State government public sector for more than 30 years, most recently as Aboriginal Victoria’s Assistant Director. About 20 years of her public sector career has been in Indigenous affairs, with most of her experience in governance and community development for Victorian Aboriginal communities. Elke has co-facilitated governance, community development and accredited and non-accredited cultural heritage training for both the Victorian and Australian governments, working with communities from Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team at MMIGP in my previous role and am excited to join MMIGP in a full-time position. The community at MMIGP have been very warm and welcoming, and I am grateful for the opportunities and learnings I have been provided by everyone. I am learning more about the Victorian Aboriginal everyday and enjoy listening to the wisdom of the Elders, community and staff here at Mullum.

My parents are Vietnamese and migrated to Australia around 30 years ago. I was born in Australia and have lived here my whole life with strong roots to my Vietnamese culture through family. I enjoy learning about different cultures, travelling, camping and being outdoors in my spare time.

I look forward to a busy and eventful 2021 and I hope everyone is keeping well and safe.

Hello my name is Christopher Hume I am a proud Yorta Yorta man from the NSW and VICTORIA border where my people lived hunting and gathering for thousands of years. I was born on Gunai country in 1977 and I live and work on Wurundjeri country. I am the Aboriginal men’s worker at Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place and also a cultural educator and I love my culture.  From when I was a young fella I was lucky to be have my Elders teach me so much of our culture knowledge that I will hold and keep with me for ever. I will pass the cultural knowledge on to the next generation and the next till I have to go back to the dream time. I do love the work I do and I have a big passion to see all Aboriginal people be proud Aboriginal people and strong black and deadly.

Steve Beeby has been MMIGP’s Family Violence Engagement and Prevention Worker for more than two years. Steve is also a volunteer Seafaring Chaplain with European Christian Mission, providing pastoral care to seafarers on ships docked in Melbourne ports. Previously Steve has worked with prisoners, as a Chaplain for the Metropolitan Remand Centre, and as a printer. Steve has a diverse cultural background, with his heritage a mix of Murri, Scottish and Dutch. He and his Vietnamese wife have four children between them. Steve said his drive to serve the community is at the heart of his commitment to his work at MMIGP. 

My name is Marc Williams. I am a proud Yorta Yorta and Gunai man born in Shepparton Victoria. My family come from Cummergunja (Mission) on the border of NSW and Victoria.

I have recently been appointed the position as the planned activities group/social support coordinator at MMIGP. I work closely with our Elders at MMIGP.

I have been apart of MMIGP for close to 15 years in various roles from Health Coordinator and Local Justice Worker to being on the Board of Directors.

I have always looked at MMIGP as one of the most important organisations for our people in the EMR. When my daughter was born in 2008, I was asked by an Elder to get involved with MMIGP as we were living in Burwood. I did not know of MMIGP at the time but since then I have never left this place. I live in Berwick (South/Eastern Suburb of Melbourne).

My background of employment over the last 25years ranges from Tourism/Health and Education and working in the Private Business Sector.

My vision for MMIGP is to build on the ability and capacity to address all the aspects of health and wellbeing for our people of our community. We need to be in a position of strength for significant change to improve outcomes across the whole organisation and community – we are getting there.

Finally, to note is that MMIGP community has rewarded my family with cultural and social connections to the EMR Aboriginal community, which has become an extended family.

I joined the MMIGP team at the end of January 2021, as the Access and Support worker.

I was born, raised and now live in the Eastern Metropolitan Region (EMR). My family background is Vietnamese and Chinese. We came to Australia around 25 years ago and have lived in the EMR during this time and had a family restaurant in Box Hill.

At University, I studied as a Dietitian. After finishing my studies, I relocated to work in remote NSW and remote NT with Aboriginal communities. I recently came back to Melbourne and worked as an Aboriginal Access and Support Worker for Peninsula Health before starting my role at MMIGP as an Access and Support worker as well.

My passion is in taking a holistic approach in health (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional) and focusing on a person’s own goals and needs.

Kelsey is a proud Palawa woman who grew up in East Gippsland and moved to Melbourne early 2020. Kelsey has worked for the Aboriginal community mostly in Gippsland for the last 9 years and has a nursing background covering areas such as youth, drug and alcohol, and mental health. She also has great experience in project management and will be focusing on implementing our COVID safe practices here at MMIGP as we enter in to a COVID normal life.
In Kelsey’s words “I am passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of our community, and after such a challenging 2020, I look forward to putting my skills and knowledge into this role as the Health Coordinator and being part of the MMIGP team, promoting good health and addressing the needs of our community.”
Please don’t hesitate to contact Kelsey on 0408 979 346.

My name is Marilou and I am so excited to be part of the team at MMIGP as their newly appointed youth worker. I am inspired to assist our youth to thrive and be the best that they can be! I am looking forward to 2021 being a year of growth and moving forward from the events of this year.

My intention is to have a strong youth support base at MMIGP for the next 12 months and beyond.

Here is a little bit about me:

I have a degree in social science (Psychology & Sociology) and since then numerous training in personal development modalities. I am a fierce mumma to 2 young boys

I speak Arabic and English fluently, I understand French, Spanish and Portuguese

I have lived in 5 different countries and continents, all before the age of 30

I love travelling and immersing myself in various cultures

I look forward to connecting with many of you.

If you have an idea or feedback regarding to better support our young Indigenous people, please feel free to reach out on youthworker@MMIGP.com.au

Wishing you a brilliant day… Marilou Coombe

Hi I’m James and I am a proud Aboriginal man from Milikapiti, Tiwi Islands. I have been a part of Mullum Mullum since the beginning and I am an active and long term community member and volunteer. I recently joined the MMIGP team in February as the Community Driver & Foodbank Assistant to help our community access our Mullum Pantry and to support community participation in Mullum programs. 

Mullum is like family to me and always has been. I have seen my own children grow up here and I enjoy learning new things and learn more about my culture. It is very rewarding and enjoyable for me to watch my children learn more about their culture.