Lesley Podesta, CEO of Alannah & Madeline Foundation

Ms Lesley Podesta joined the Alannah & Madeline Foundation in 2016 after five years at The Fred Hollows Foundation as the Director of Global Partnerships, Policy and Advocacy Division.

In her work with The Fred Hollows Foundation, Lesley established a range of key global partnerships to deliver ambitious public health goals; led the development and adoption of a new Global Action Plan to Reduce Avoidable Blindness with the World Health Organization; supported the development of low cost technologies to reduce the cost of delivering health care in developing countries and developed, in partnership with the Conrad Hilton Foundation, D. Capital and others, the world’s first Development Impact Bond to finance affordable healthcare. In collaboration with leading developers, the new technology supported through her work at The Fred Hollows Foundation won the Google Impact Challenge in 2014.

Prior to joining the not-for-profit sector, Lesley had a long career in State and Commonwealth government, commencing with her role in the Disadvantaged Schools Program in Victoria in 1980. She worked extensively across the Commonwealth in a number of senior executive roles including employment, labour market reform, population health, aged care, biosecurity and emergency response in the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Education, Employment and Training.

Lesley led a number of major national population health strategies including the National HIV Strategy; the National Immunisation Strategy and the national Blood Born Virus Strategy.  She then coordinated the Health Department response to the health crisis in Aceh, Indonesia following the 2004 tsunami and helped developed the National Incident Room and National Medicine Stockpile following the Bali bombings, SARS and H1N1 flu outbreak.

Lesley led Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) where she played a major role in the reforms of Indigenous health at a time of great change. She was responsible for the national policy response to the Close The Gap campaign and initiated significant changes in primary health care funding in community based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.

She cites as her proudest achievement the introduction of the Australian Nurse Family Partnership to Australia. This innovative evidence-based program, delivered with leading researcher Professor David Olds, is based on a strengths-based approach to improving and deepening attachment and protective behaviour within families. It is now operating successfully within a number of Aboriginal primary health care services across Australia with significant, measurable benefits to parents and children.

Lesley has served on various key Boards including the Board of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health; the Council of Victoria University; the Lowitja Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research; the Board of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the Victorian AIDs Council. She also regularly represented Australia at the World Health Assembly and UN fora.

Lesley is currently a Director of Phoenix Australia Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health. She was a Commissioner for the Women's National League Basketball for the past eight years and remains a member of the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame Commission.

She is the proud parent of one son.

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