Symposium Presenters

We were amazed and inspired by the stellar line-up of presenters who contributed their wisdom and practices throughout the series of 5 online Symposium events held in June 2020.

Below are just some of the incredible 20 presenters who prepared videos of their work and ideas to share with the 600-strong audience. 

If you are sad to have missed the Symposium you might be pleased to know that videos of all presentations and webinars are available for a flat fee of $20. Register here for access to the whole package. 

We are already working to include more speakers at future online events and an in-person Symposium in Tasmania earmarked for November 2020.

Aunty Verna Nicholls


Aunty Verna Nicholls is a Tasmanian Aboriginal Elder who was born on Flinders Island where she spent her early years.  She has been teaching traditional and contemporary aboriginal cultural art and craft for much of her adult life and has exhibited her own work in many places including the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Her work with her own people in connecting to culture, country and community has also occurred during this time.  In 2003 she began participating and facilitating programs that created healing for her mob through connecting culture, country and community significantly helping to develop a style of Bush Adventure Therapy that would meet the needs of her community. In 2009 Aunty Verna presented at the 5IATC sharing her experience and wisdom of an ancient peoples connection to country for healing and wellbeing. She still continues to be involved with teaching art and craft and on country healing opportunities for the local community but has retired from facilitating adventure based programs.

Judy Atkinson


Emeritus Professor Judy Atkinson PhD OA retired from formal academic work at the end of 2010. She co-researched and co-authored the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence Report for the Queensland government. Her book, ‘Trauma Trails – Recreating Songlines: The transgenerational effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia’, was shortlisted for an Australian Human Rights Award.

In 2006 she won the Carrick Neville Bonner Award for her curriculum development and innovative teaching practice. In 2011 she received the Fritz Redlich Award for Human Rights and Mental Health, from the Harvard University Global Mental Health Trauma and Recovery program, of which she is a graduate.

She is presently Patron of the We Al-li Trust, as she continues to work across Australia and in Papua New Guinea on community based violence – trauma specific recovery programs. She works with the University of Wollongong in the development of specialized postgraduate programs such as the Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Trauma Care and Recovery Practice designed specifically to build an Indigenous trauma skilled workforce.

She also serves on a number of International advisory bodies: The board of Independent Academic Research Studies on Restorative Justice (IARS -RJ) based in London; a member of the international advisory group for Humanity United, an US Philanthropic Foundation supported by the Omidyar family, dedicated to building peace and advancing human freedom; and a member of a group of scholars involved in a 5 year project on ‘Historical Trauma and Memory: Postcolonial Legacies and the Meaning of Being Human’, based at the Centre for Historical Trauma and Transformation Studies based at Stellenbosch University South Africa.

View Judy’s TEDx Talk

Dr Gregory P Smith


Dr Gregory P. Smith is a Forgotten Australian born in Tamworth, NSW in 1955. He and four of his siblings were surrendered to an orphanage in 1966. He was considered a problem child (‘uncontrollable’), diagnosed as a ‘sociopath’ with mid-range intelligence, and was in and out of institutions until 1974. Following his release from ‘care’ Gregory searched in vain for the skills to live a fruitful and rewarding life but became increasingly disillusioned with society and lived on the fringe as a recluse in a Northern NSW rain forest where he spent his time reflecting and reading important authors such as Douglas Adams. In 2000, through catharsis and serendipity, Gregory decided to give society one more chance, walked out of the forest and began to explore life from a different perspective. His life was transformed. In 2007 he completed a degree in Social Science, obtaining an honours (1st Class). Gregory completed his PhD in 2015, and has since written a book, ‘Out of the Forest’.

Costa Georgiadis


A qualified landscape architect, many know Costa as the infectiously enthusiastic, bearded face of the ABC’s Gardening Australia. While sustainability and gardening are at the core of Costa’s work, he is also passionate about community involvement, environmental education, and food and nutrition as it relates to gardening. Presentations with Costa promise to be immersive, highly entertaining, and hands-on. He’ll get people thinking differently about the way they interact with the environment, their gardens and the world their actions influence…

Luke Mabb


Luke is a wakka wakka man, and currently as a Recreational Officer for Parks and Wildlife Tasmania. His relationship with nature began under the wings of his mother, aunty and grandmother, a woman born on Cherbourg Mission, who held strength and knowledge in her Aboriginal heritage.

His relationship with Bush Adventure Therapy began as a 14-year-old young man when he experienced a life-changing program and wanted more BAT in his life.

Luke’s background is working as a n aboriginal ranger with Parks and Wildlife Tasmania, and previously worked as a aboriginal community ranger for over 10 years.

Luke has been involved with the wukalina walk, the first Tasmania aboriginal cultural tourism walk in the state for the past 5 years, connecting people to country through cultural tourism at larapuna (Bay of Fires)

With subsequent training in Conservation and Land Management, Public safety in Firefighting, Outdoor Guiding, Wilderness Therapy and Bush Adventure Therapy, Luke has traversed roles of Aboriginal Ranger, Mentor, Cultural leader and Facilitator within a range of services and organisations.

Luke’s passion is caring for country while also caring for people, which strengthens community.

“When you are healing and connected to country, you are healing yourself, connecting to past and elders to strengthening our future generations”

Caroline (Carlie) Atkinson


Dadirri - The Ancient Aboriginal Mindfulness Practice.
When: Tues 16th June (90mins) 12-1.30pm

Dr Caroline (Carlie) Atkinson BSW (Hon), PhD, MAASW (Acc) is an accredited Social Worker who has focused her career on the interplay between trauma and violence in Aboriginal peoples in Australia.  She developed the first culturally sensitive, reliable and valid psychometric measure in Australia that determines PTSD in Australian Aboriginal peoples which also highlights complex trauma symptoms.   She has worked in a variety of community-based positions and participated on a number of research projects and program developments for government and non-government organisations that focus on social justice issues, family violence, post-graduate course development in the area of trauma, humanitarian aid, community development and empowerment and PTSD and trauma based disorders including intergenerational trauma.  She holds a PhD specialising in trauma, particularly intergenerational trauma and community and family violence, which extends to the aftermath of war-based trauma on an international level.  Carlie is considered a leader in the area of intergenerational trauma in Aboriginal peoples in Australia.  She currently works as the CEO for her family organisation, We Al-li, designing and co-ordinating the delivery of culturally responsive trauma integrated care training to Aboriginal organisations and communities across Australia.

Dr Christine Lynn Norton


Outdoor Therapy in North America: A US Perspective on Nature and Health

Dr Christine Lynn Norton received her PhD in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago. She has a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science in Experiential Education from Minnesota State University-Mankato.  She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Board Approved Supervisor in the State of Texas. She is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and Certified Experiential Therapist. She has over 20 years of experience working with youth and young adults in a variety of settings including therapeutic wilderness programs, juvenile justice, schools, mentoring and campus support programs. She has taught as adjunct faculty at The University of Denver, Prescott College, and Naropa University. Her areas of practice and research interest and expertise are in positive youth development; innovative interventions in child and adolescent mental health; adventure therapy; outdoor behavioural healthcare; nature and wellbeing; experiential education; foster care support in higher education; and international social work. Dr. Norton is a Research Scientist with the Outdoor Behavioural Healthcare Centre and she helped launch Foster Care Alumni Creating Educational Success (FACES) at Texas State. She is the Foster Care Liaison Officer to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and is the founder of the Foster Care Adventure Therapy Network, an international group of programs and practitioners who utilise adventure therapy with current and former foster care youth and young adults.  Dr. Norton has over 35 peer-reviewed journal articles, has edited three books, and has authored over ten book chapters, and is a leading social work scholar who has presented her research nationally and internationally. Dr. Norton is active in international education and is also a Fulbright Scholar, having taught adventure therapy in the Department of Civic Education and Leadership at National Taiwan Normal University.



Dr Robert Zarr


Dr Robert Zarr, Founder & Medical Director of Park Rx America, is a board-certified paediatrician at Unity Health Care, located in Washington, DC, where he cares for low-income and immigrant populations. He previously served on the national park prescription steering committee and as an advisor to the National Park Service on park prescriptions. Robert received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Baylor College of Medicine and Master of Public Health degree from the University of Texas School of Public Health.

Tony Varcoe


Tony Varcoe is the Director of Community Programs for Parks Victoria. Tony has many years experience in park management working in areas as diverse as park planning, research and evaluation, environmental management, visitor services, heritage management, volunteering, as well as senior operational roles. Tony has a strong interest in how people and nature interact, hopefully for mutual benefit.

Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis


Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis is co-author of Nature Heals: An introduction to Nature Based Therapy in Australia and New Zealand, launched in 2019. She is an EcoArt and Ecoherapist, and founding facilitator of the Online Diploma of Ecotherapy. She has a Masters in Social Ecology from Western Sydney University. She has worked and taught in Community Services for many years and lately, clinical mental health as a group facilitator of Eco and Art Therapy. She teaches and develops courses for the Nan Tien Buddhist Institute Graduate Health and Social Wellbeing program.

Ruth Langford


As a Song woman and Story Teller, Ruth draws upon the cultural knowledge of her Yorta Yorta mother and the Tasmanian Aboriginal community where she was born and continues to live.

Combining over twenty years traveling the world sitting with Indigenous Elders, Senior Knowledge Keepers and World Wisdom Teachers with conscious research, Ruth Langford’s vision is to connect people to the ancient wisdom of Indigenous teachings in a contemporary and relevant context through the expression of cultural arts, ceremony and ritual.

Founding director of Nayri Niara, a Centre for the Arts of Healing, and Creative Director of Nayri Niara good spirit Festival, Ruth has gained a reputation as a capable facilitator and coordinator of effective capacity building programs, which have as their guiding principles, Connection to Country, Culture and to the Sacred.

Kylie Peters


Kylie Peters is a registered psychologist. She believes in facilitating others to achieve their fullest potential and move forward to where they would like to be heading.  She utilizes a holistic strengths-based approach to assist in developing skills and helping people find skills and capabilities that they already had but couldn’t see yet.

Kylie is passionate about helping people improve their relationships with themselves, she has a very practical and applied approach to therapy. Currently working with young people, families and adults: addressing a range of issues specializing in family therapy, eating disorders, trauma and equine therapy. Kylie also offers training and supervision for equine therapy internationally. Kylie has been running equine facilitated therapy and personal development workshops both as a trainer and practitioner for over ten years across Australia. Kylie has developed the invitational framework model for equine therapy and is a leader in her field. Barbara Rector has endorsed Kylie to run the training programs in Australia.

Kylie is excited and privileged to be presenting at AABAT forums for her ninth year in a row in forums across Australia with her four-legged cofacilitators

Tony Capon


Tony Capon directs the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and holds a chair in planetary health in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. A public health physician and authority in environmental health and health promotion, his research focuses on urbanisation, sustainable development and human health. Tony is a former director of the International Institute for Global Health at United Nations University (UNU-IIGH), and has previously held professorial appointments at the University of Sydney and Australian National University. He is a member of the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission on Planetary Health that published its report Safeguarding human health in the Anthropocene epoch in 2015, and the International Advisory Board for The Lancet Planetary Health.

Pauline Marsh


Pauline is a social researcher with the UTAS Centre for Rural Health. She is particularly interested in the benefits of gardens and the outdoors for people with cognitive, emotional and physical health challenges. Utilising a therapeutic landscapes theoretical framework, Pauline’s research explores how being in nature impacts on people’s quality of life. She has an academic and practice background in nursing, film theory, Aboriginal studies and social policy. These multi-disciplinary skills coalesce in her current work with the UTAS Healthy Landscapes Research Group and Therapeutic Landscapes Research Collective, as well as with DIGnity Supported Community Gardening and on Therapeutic Horticulture Australia’s national committee.

Samantha Strong


Social Ecological Recovery. Our bushfire reality: Exploring sense-making myths
When: Fri 26th June (whole-day) 9.30am-4.30pm

Sam Strong has been influenced by nature experiences on the family farm, shaped by living among granite boulders, creeks and remoteness of the landscape near Ruffy, Victoria. She has worked as a project coordinator for volunteer and natural resource management programs, including the Parks Victoria Bushfire recovery Program in 2010-11. In 2013, she decided to explore questions that arose from experiences following the Black Saturday bushfires in a PhD at Charles Sturt University. Sam now works for the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) in Ballarat with the biodiversity team, while volunteering with Gardens for Wildlife Ballarat.