Confirmed Keynote Speakers so far

Youth Health Conference - AAAH

Peter Azzopardi

Peter Azzopardi has over 10 years of experience in adolescent health programming, clinical medicine and research. He is an adolescent physician by training and has worked across many settings in the Western Pacific region. Pete was the lead researcher in a major study describing the health and wellbeing of Indigenous adolescents living in Australia using national survey data, hospital data and mortality data, a collaborative project between the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Adolescent Health and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law is a journalist, columnist, TV screenwriter, ABC radio presenter and author of The Family Law (2010), Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) and Quarterly Essay 67: Moral Panic 101 (2017). The Family Law is now an AACTA-nominated TV series for SBS which he created and co-writes.


Preston Campbell

Preston Campbell was once a shy little boy from a small country town but refused to hear that he couldn’t achieve grand things in life. He came from Tingha, population less than 900, about 30km from Inverell in northern NSW. Preston started playing rugby league with the Inverell Hawks and made his NRL debut with the Gold Coast Chargers in 1998 as a diminutive winger. Since then he has played for the Cronulla Sharks, Penrith Panthers and the Gold Coast Titans.

Preston retired in 2011 after playing a staggering 267 NRL first grade games. Throughout his football years, he has been part of Premiership winning team, was awarded the Dally M Player of the Year but it is what he has achieved off the field which is just as inspiring. He received the Ken Stephen Medal in 2008, an annual award given to the NRL player to have contributed most significantly to the community.

Since retiring Preston has become one of Australia’s most influential sporting ambassadors, working tirelessly in the community as an Ambassador, with a huge focus on improving wellbeing.

Born from that is the Preston Campbell Foundation where Preston works full-time in a mentoring and ambassadorial role, his passion for achievement is as great as it was when he was thrilling crowds on the field.

Dr Tara Purcell

Public Health Registrar, Burnet Institute Medical Research

Tara is a Taungurung woman and a public health registrar at the Burnet Institute in Melbourne. Tara’s work focuses on community based hepatitis C care and Indigenous adolescent health. Previous to her role at the Burnet, Tara worked as a junior doctor at Austin and Monash Health.

Joanna Williams

Strategy Director, Bits and Bods

Joanna Williams is a passionate public health advocate who uses lived experience to create more empathy in the world. Her career in public health started by accident, when she co-founded Highschoolers Against Homophobia at 16 so that her parents would let her go the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Twelve years on, she has worked with ACON, Cohealth, the International AIDS Society, International Planned Parenthood Federation and various government departments. She has also completed a Master of Public Health at the University of Melbourne, where she coordinates the Public Health Leadership and Management subject.

In between speaking candidly about her experience of living with mental ill health, being queer and surviving sexual assault, she co-runs Bits and Bods, an upcoming web series that talks to teens about sex, bodies, relationships and all the awkward bits in between.

Prof Susan Sawyer

President, International Association for Adolescent Health

Professor Susan Sawyer holds the Geoff and Helen Handbury Chair of Adolescent Health at The University of Melbourne. A paediatrician by training, she is Director of the Centre for Adolescent Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital, a World Health Organization collaborating centre for adolescent health. Professor Sawyer is president of the International Association for Adolescent Health (2017-2021). From 2011-16, she chaired the WHO Technical Steering Committee for Maternal Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. Having co-led two series on adolescent health for the Lancet, she was a lead commissioner for the 2016 Lancet Commission for Adolescent Health and Wellbeing. She has published over 250 peer review publications and 40 book chapters on adolescent health.


Associate Professor James Ward

Head, Aboriginal Infectious Diseases at SAHMRI

Associate Prof James Ward has over 20 years’ experience working within Aboriginal health and communities in Australia. He is a descendent of the Pitjantjatjara and Narrunga clans of central and South Australia and is current Head of Infection and Immunity- Aboriginal Health at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in South Australia. Much of James’s work is in the area of sexually transmissible infections, blood borne viruses, alcohol and other drugs in the disciplines of health services research, population health and prevention. He has published over 100 peer reviewed articles, and is currently lead investigator on research in Aboriginal communities, addressing methamphetamine use, hepatitis C elimination, establishment of a national sentinel surveillance system in STI and BBV in 40 primary health care services as well as STI prevention work in over 25 remote communities.

A/Prof Lena Sanci

GP/Head of Department, Family Planning Victoria/ University of Melbourne

For the past 20 years, Associate Professor Sanci has been researching the potential of primary care to improve the health of young people through systems based interventions, and through training using evidence based strategies for learning and change in clinicians. She is a GP with a commitment to improving the health and well-being of children and young people through primary care, and its integration with other parts of the health, education, and welfare sectors. Her research focus includes the potential of technology to assist young people navigate their way to appropriate services.