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Janine Mohamed to stand down as Lowitja Institute CEO

Dechlan Brennan -

Janine Mohamed has announced she will stand down as chief executive of the Lowitja Institute after five years in the role.

The Narrunga Kaurna woman is standing down from Australia's only national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health research institute, with her last day to be on March 8, coinciding with the state funeral of the institute's namesake, Dr Lowitja O'Donoghue.

In 2022, the Lowitja Institute launched the Lowitja O'Donoghue Foundation in honour of Dr O'Donoghue.

"Dr O'Donoghue has been such an inspiration and moral compass for me at Lowitja Institute," Adjunct Professor Mohamed said.

"I could not have had a better role model, and have judged all our work by the challenge she set for us, to work fearlessly for change and improvement in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

After initially being appointed in an interim role in 2018, Adjunct Professor Mohamed led the institute through the tumultuous time of the Covid-19 pandemic and was able to provide leadership both nationally and globally concerning the devastating impact of climate change on Indigenous people, speaking at both the United Nations in New York and COP-28 in Dubai.

"To our patron, Board, members, staff and partners across the sector, I want to thank you for your support and for the amazing work you do to improve outcomes for our peoples," she said.

"The work doesn't end here – I will continue to uphold the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples now and into the future."

Achievements for the institute under Adjunct Professor Mohamed's tenure included the bringing together of the Australian health ministers for a roundtable on Kaurna Country, as well as being part of a partnership with the University of Newcastle that resulted in almost $3 million to establish the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Medical Research Ethics Committee (NAHREC).

Furthermore, during her time as leader, the institute hosted two sold-out international Indigenous health and wellbeing conferences, bringing together leading global and national Indigenous voices; played a key role in establishing the Partnership for Justice and Health; and established a partnership with the Medical Journal of Australia.

She also served on the National Health Leadership Forum and the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee and championed systematic reform to dismantle racism in health.

Adjunct Professor Mohamed was announced as the 2024 Victorian Australian of the year for her work in highlighting racism in the health system, and advocating for cultural safety.

Chair Mr Selwyn Button thanked Adjunct Professor Mohamed for steering the organisation through challenging times whilst continuing to strive for excellence in improving Indigenous wellbeing.

"Adjunct Professor Mohamed has provided strong and inspiring leadership for the organisation," Mr Button said.

He noted this included the success of meeting the institute's goal of becoming both community controlled, and "ensuring that 100 per cent of our research is now led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers and communities."

"Self-determination, community, and a passion for justice and equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at the heart of her work," he said.

Mr Button announced the Lowitja board have appointed deputy chief executive Paul Stewart as interim chief executive, and the search for a successor for Adjunct Professor Mohamed has commenced.

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