Health Ambassador Work

Health Ambassador Work thumbnail.

Inclusive Communication: Improving health outcomes for people with Down syndrome 

Presentations in 2022

HESTA Excellence Awards finalists, 2022 

November 2022

The Health Ambassadors standing together in a group

The Down Syndrome Australia Health Ambassador team is recognised for their tireless efforts to inform and educate healthcare professionals and students on how to include people with Down syndrome and intellectual disability in their own healthcare outcomes.  Find out more on the HESTA website.

Presentation to Tasmanian Department of Health THS Hospitals – North 

October 2022

Caitlin traveled to Launceston to educate the Tasmanian Department of Health THS Hospitals – North, about the benefits of inclusive communication in the health of people with Down syndrome. Caitlin’s message about the positive impact that reasonable adjustments can make to a person’s experience resonated with the audience. 

“I will be patient, make time, get to know them, be kind and remember that they deserve the care that we all do.”

“Enjoyable and relevant to my practice.”

Presentation to the Nursing students at Queensland University of Technology 

September 2022

Gillian presents at QUT

The Nursing students at Queensland University of Technology listened intently to Gillian’s presentation on Inclusive Communication. After the presentation they commented that they learnt:   

“… how important it is to use inclusive language and how easy it is to make reasonable adjustments to make sure everyone feels supported and included.”

Presentation at the Australian Nurses and Midwives conference

September 2022

Naomi in a red cardigan in front of a painting

The Victorian Branch of the Australian Nurses and Midwives invited the Health Ambassador program to present at their 2022 virtual conference. Naomi presented and shared her experience in health, to over 200 nurses about the benefits of Inclusive Communication. The feedback received was fantastic.   

“This should be mandatory in all health professionals’ undergraduate courses.”

“Loved the presentation, the honesty, openness and being real. It has broadened my understanding immensely.”

Presentation to the Charles Darwin Occupational Therapy Students  

September 2022

Alishia standing outdoors, smiling

Alishia presented to the Charles Darwin Occupational Therapy Students in September. She shared her stories in health and some tips and tools that they may be able to use to include people with Down syndrome in their own health outcomes. Alishia reminded the students that “… it is my body, my life, my choice and it is all about good communication.”   

“Health treatment from the perspective of people with a disability …”

“Alishia is a great advocate, answered questions so well, and was very insightful.”

Presentations to the Central Queensland, Wide Bay, and Sunshine Coast PHN 

August 2022

In late August, Gillian presented two of three presentations to the Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN (the third in early September). The PHN staff believes that to educate health professionals about how to improve health outcomes for people with Down syndrome and intellectual disability, they need to understand also.   

“All of us are responsible for the better approach to inclusive communication.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your stories and thank you for sharing your valuable knowledge.”

Presentation to the Occupational Therapy students at Deakin University

August 2022

Amelia and Emily also hit the road and presented face to face to the 2022 second-year Occupational Therapy students at Deakin University. They were invited back after the success of last year’s online presentation to the 2021 2nd year OT students. 

“Thank you. I genuinely appreciate Em and Amelia’s honest and insightful experiences.”

“Communication is essential to meaningful engagement. Everyone has capacity to communicate.”  

Presentation at the University of New England

August 2022

Olivia traveled to rural Armidale NSW, to deliver a presentation about how inclusive communication in health makes a difference to people with Down syndrome and their health outcomes.  Olivia spoke to almost 200 medical and pharmacy students at the University of New England. When asked how they perceived the presentation may affect their future practice, attendees said: 

“I will more consciously check in with people with intellectual disabilities to confirm that they understand what I’m saying.”

“Incorporate different ways of sharing information and check in more frequently.”

Compass Conference, Northern Territory 

August 2022

On August 12th the NT PHN held the Compass Conference NT – Navigating the Way Forward. Alishia spoke to the attendees on Day 2 of the conference. She shared her experiences and how to practice inclusive communication. When asked what they learned from the presentation, many commented: 

“Communication strategies for working with people with an intellectual disability.”

“Such important messaging – thank you.”

Presentation at Darwin Hospital to health practitioners

August 2022

Alishia presented at the Diversity Grand Round at Darwin Hospital to health practitioners. Alishia’s presentation highlighted to many listeners that inclusive communication really does make a difference. 

“Reinforcement of good principles to communicate with all clients.” 

“Everyone should have access to a presentation of this quality.”

Presentation at Flinders University to the Remote and Rural Interprofessional Placement & Learning students

August 2022

Alishia presented about the benefits of inclusive communication in health and the inclusion of people with Down syndrome and intellectual disability in their own health

“I am so grateful for the powerful message you and Alishia are sending to health students and health professionals, and I’m sure you gave our students some important things to consider about how they work.”

Reproduction in Society seminar series hosted by Monash Bioethics Centre

August 2022

Naomi and Emily spoke for the seminar series Reproduction in Society, which was hosted by the Monash Bioethics Centre. ‘In Conversation with Emily Porter & Naomi Lake’ the Ambassadors shared their views on prenatal testing. 

“It was such a great and insightful conversation and we’ve had really wonderful feedback.” – Monash Bioethics Centre

Presentation to the University of Canberra, Faculty of Health 

July 2022

Kimberley presented to the University of Canberra‘s Faculty of Health staff and students about how inclusive communication makes a difference to the experience and health outcomes of people with Down syndrome and intellectual disability. 

One attendee said, “Thanks very much for spreading awareness and working hard to improve the lives of those with Down syndrome or other intellectual disabilities in the future.”

Professional Association of Nurses in Developmental Disability Australia (PANNDA) 

May 2022

Naomi presented virtually to the Professional Association of Nurses in Developmental Disability Australia Inc. about the importance of having a person-centred approach to healthcare, sharing her personal story of what it is like to navigate the healthcare system as a person with Down syndrome.

“Thank you for sharing your lived experience, it was a great presentation,” shared one attendee from the Association.  

Presentation to the Health Sciences students, Deakin University

May 2022

Health ambassadors present to university students

Emily and Amelia teamed up in Melbourne to present to two groups of Deakin University Health Sciences students in online and face-to-face presentations.

The two Ambassadors taught the students the importance of improving the communication between people with intellectual disability and health workers in the environment by eliminating communication barriers as much as possible such as the use of medical terminology.

“I am a grown woman and I should be a part of making decisions that affect me,” Emily told the students.

Presentation to the Eastern Sydney Mental Health Professionals’ Network  

May 2022

Olivia and Rohan delivered their first face-to-face presentation to the Eastern Sydney Mental Health Professionals’ Network. They talked about how including people with Down syndrome in their own health conversation can make a difference to health outcomes.

They both received positive feedback for their presentation: “I will be aware of my own forms of communication when working in both clinical settings and when in the community.”

Presentation to Speech Therapy students at Charles Darwin University

May 2022

Alishia presented virtually to Charles Darwin University speech therapy students, and told them they should be talking “to the person [with intellectual disability] in words they will understand.”

When asked what they would do differently in their own health practices now, one student answered: 

“Hearing her experiences and what helped break down the barriers she faced really put into perspective changes I can make going forward in my practice.” 

Presentation to Nursing students at Melbourne University

May 2022

Emily and Amelia presented at an online forum to the Melbourne University nursing students. They received fantastic feedback and have been invited back next year.   

“I really enjoyed hearing from both Emily and Amelia! They both provided such a great insight to their healthcare experiences so thank you!” 

Presentation to Tasmanian TAFE Community Services Students

May 2022

Naomi and Kylie presented to an online group of students studying Community Services at TAFE. Naomi shared her experience and tips on inclusive communication in improving the health outcomes for people with Down syndrome and why this is important.

“Thank you both so much for a fantastic presentation. Very engaging and informative. The students and teachers really got a lot out of it.” 

Caroline Van Riet, Ageing, Disability & Health Specialities Statewide | TasTAFE

Health Direct Australia

April 2022

A DSA health Ambassador delivers a speech

Read the Health Direct article here.

Information Partner Newsletter Autumn 2022

Caitlin speaks in Parliament on the importance of inclusion

March 2022

We are so proud of the work our Health Ambassador Caitlin Woolley does and are thankful to Andrew Wilkie MP – Independent Member for Clark for sharing her speech in Parliament on the importance of inclusion.

“I want to be included and respected, not left out because of my disability.”

Inclusive Communication – Improving health outcomes for people with Down syndrome, Webinar to the Central and Eastern Sydney Primary Health Network (CESPHN).

March 2022

Starting slide of the CESPHN Presentation

Rohan and Olivia presented and shared their experiences to the online forum about the importance of inclusive communication.

To view the webinar, click the link here.
Inclusive Communication – Improving Health Outcomes for people with Down syndrome – 29 March 2022

“Thanks so much Rohan and Olivia for sharing your experiences and wisdom. I hope that the health system can better meet the needs of people with Down syndrome through the fantastic advocacy that you are doing.”- Allied Health Practitioner

Alishia’s story is featured by the NDIS

March 2022

During March Alishia was featured by the NDIS in a story on the work she does at Northern Territory NDIS provider Carpentaria about two years ago and as a Health Ambassador for Down Syndrome Australia. You can read about Alishia’s story here:

Alishia helps spread the word about inclusive communication to health professionals

Down Syndrome International 11th World Down Syndrome Day Conference

March 2022

At Down Syndrome International’s 11th World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations in New York, a video featuring Rohan Fullwood and the other health ambassadors was featured showcasing the importance of inclusive communication and self-advocacy.

Inclusive Communication.

Gillian Gerke’s video on Inclusive Health – My diagnosis does not define me, was also featured.

Inclusive Health – My diagnosis does not define me.

Presentation to the Nursing students, University of Adelaide

March 2022

Hugo Taheny

Hugo and Natalie presented at the University of Adelaide to over 200 2nd Year nursing students on inclusive communication. This was Hugo’s first face-to-face presentation as a health ambassador and the feedback was sensational.

“Standing up and sharing information in front of lots of people is scary and daunting so well done to Hugo.” – 2nd Year nursing student

The nursing students obtained a better understanding of the skills of communication and the need for inclusive communication in health.

Presentation to the Occupational Therapy students, University of the Sunshine Coast

March 2022


Gillian and Natalie delivered an online presentation on inclusive communication, to the Occupational Therapy students at the University of the Sunshine Coast. The students acquired more knowledge about Down syndrome and how inclusive communication can lead to people with Down syndrome achieving better health outcomes. When asked what they found most interesting they said:

“Learning about the human rights of people with an intellectual disability. It was very interesting and I would like to find out more so I can advocate for my future clients.” – occupational therapy student

Presentation to the University of Tasmania, Faculty of Nursing

February 2022

Caitlin presents to the Faculty of Nursing

Caitlin and Natalie presented at the University of Tasmania, Faculty of Nursing. Caitlin spoke of her experience in health and the benefits of inclusive communication in improving the health outcomes for people with Down syndrome.

The audience gained knowledge and skills from Caitlin’s experience.

“Recap on how persons with Down syndrome learn, strengths and how I could better adapt my communication techniques” – Registered Nurse

“Caitlin was amazing and really gave insight into lived experience” – Student Nurse

Advocacy work in 2021

  • Member of the NZ/AUS Inclusion International Consultation on Being Included in the Community and Deinstitutionalisation
  • Member of the expert advisory group on the National Centre of Excellence in Intellectual Disability Health
  • Advisor to COVID Disability Advisory Committee Meeting
  • Member of ‘We Need to Talk’ Project Advisory Group – University of Queensland
  • Member of the Disability and Health Sector Consultation Committee (DHSCC) meeting
  • Member of the Roadmap Implementation Governance Group (RIGG)
  • Advisor to National Safety and Quality Health Service (NSQHS) Standards – Intellectual Disability Consultation
  • Co-design of resources with Council for Intellectual Disability

Presentations in 2021

Presentation at CESPHN GROW Project launch

December 2021

Health Ambassador Rohan presented at the Central and Eastern Sydney PHN GROW Project launch. Rohan shared his personal experience about navigating the healthcare system, and told everyone how important inclusive communication is for people with intellectual disability.

Project GROW is helping GPs and Allied Health practices become more accessible, and training GPs and Allied Health staff to better look after the health needs of people with intellectual disability.

Presentation at ASID conference

November 2021

Caitlin and Natalie presented at the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) conference and Olivia and Natalie presented at the WDSC to audiences spanning around the world. Both presentations were online and informed the audience about the Health Ambassador Program. The presentations were titled: Inclusive communication – Improving health outcomes for people with Down syndrome – A discussion on the research, the development and the delivery of the Health Ambassador program.

World Down Syndrome Congress Dubai

November 2021

Olivia and Natalie presented at the 2022 World Down Syndrome Congress. The theme for this year’s congress was ‘Unlocking Hidden Potentials’, and they did a presentation on the importance of inclusive communication.

“…it was very informative, along the real life story and very interesting. I listen twice.”

The Health Ambassadors also made a presentation poster on the Inclusive Communication program for the Congress and shared their insights on how healthcare professionals can communicate better.

Disability Health Sector Consultation Committee

November 2021

Hugo shared his experience of receiving the COVID-19 vaccination with the Disability Health Sector Consultation Committee.

Hugo told the committee that he got the vaccination because he wants to keep his family safe and to have a good life. He shared that he had a reaction after receiving his second shot, but received the right support from the healthcare system to recover and get better.

Presentation to Charles Darwin University

October 2021

DSA Health Ambassador Alishia Lindsay presented to a group of Allied Health and Clinical Science students from Charles Darwin University in Darwin. The group felt that they all improved their knowledge about Down syndrome. The group thought that Alishia’s presentation on ‘Inclusive Communication’ was “very engaging”.

 “Allowed me to see a greater view on the perspectives of people with Down Syndrome. Also the importance of inclusive communication.”

Speak Out Advocacy Conference

September 2021

DSA Health Ambassador Caitlin Woolley presented at the 39th Speak Out Conference in Tasmania. Caitlin presented to an audience of people with disability and their supports, about the important work she and the other Health Ambassadors are doing.  

 “Very impressive thank you” – conference participant 

Presentation to Deakin University Occupational Therapy students

September 2021

Two women presenting a speech

DSA Health Ambassadors Emily Porter and Amelia Sloan along with project manager, Natalie Graham, presented to second-year Deakin University Occupational Therapy students about Inclusive Communication. The Health Ambassadors spoke to the students over Zoom of their experiences within the health system. Over 71% of participants said that Emily and Amelia’s presentation changed their knowledge about communication styles. 

“I will make sure I take more time to get to know the person and make a point to adapt my communication style to meet the individual’s needs”.

Inclusive Communication

August, 2021

DSA Health Ambassador Amelia Sloan and Natalie presented to Kyneton District Health Hospital & Community Care via Zoom.

Amelia’s core message is to ‘have patience, be calm and give me time to process what you are saying to me’. 

“You’re both amazing people!!! keep making a change to the communities” … “I think we all need to be aware of the different ways we can communicate to ensure understanding.” – the Kyneton staff

Launch of National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability

August, 2021

The Health Ambassador Program is included in the Roadmap. DSA Health Ambassador Caitlin Woolley and CEO of Down Syndrome Australia Ellen Skladzien spoke at the launch of the National Roadmap for Improving the Health of People with Intellectual Disability.

Caitlin spoke about the importance of being a Health Ambassador for DSA and also said “All people deserve the same healthcare and this roadmap gives everyone the vision and actions to make that happen so … thank you.” 

Presentation to Leaps and Bounds Disability Service

August, 2021

DSA Health Ambassador Gillian Gehrke and Early Years Officer at Down Syndrome Queensland Tanya McConnell, presented to Leaps and Bounds Disability Service, a multidisciplinary allied health provider.

They received enthusiastic feedback, including “Such a great presentation that started more in-depth discussions. Both Gillian and Tanya were so lovely and kind as well as very knowledgeable”.

Breaking down the communication barriers

June, 2021

DSA Health Ambassador Emily Porter and Health Program Manager Natalie Graham presented at The University of Melbourne MD Student Conference.

‘Take 5’ Presentation for Health professionals

June, 2021

View 5 slides in just over 5 minutes to improve your knowledge and awareness of Down syndrome and how better to communicate with someone with Down syndrome.

Involving children and young people in health decision making

DSA Health Ambassador Hugo presented to the Health Literacy Network in the ACT about involving children and young people in health decision-making.

May, 2021

Hugo Taheny

View the PowerPoint slides to the presentation here.

You can find a recording of the Involving children and young people in health decision making webinar on YouTube here.

DSA Health Ambassadors talk to Professor Richards about the COVID-19 vaccines

March, 2021

Health Ambassadors Emily and Amelia discuss the COVID-19 vaccines with infectious diseases specialist Professor Michael Richards.