Lesley Podesta, CEO of Alannah & Madeline Foundation

Ms Lesley Podesta joins us, most immediately after five years at The Fred Hollows Foundation as the Director of Global Partnerships, Policy and Advocacy Division.

In her work with The Foundation, Lesley established a range of new key global partnerships to deliver ambitious new 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.

Lesley has also had a long career in State and Commonwealth government, commencing with her role in the Disadvantaged Schools Program in Victoria in 1980. She has 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 the Health Department response to the health crisis in Aceh, Indonesia following the tsunami and developed the National Incident Room and National Medicine Stockpile following the Bali bombings, SARS and H1N1 flu outbreak.

Lesley was promoted to First Assistant Secretary, 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 led the 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 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 a number of key bodies, 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 has regularly represented Australia at the World Health Assembly and UN fora.

Lesley is currently a Commissioner for the Women's National League Basketball and a member of the Melbourne Global Health and Development Alliance. She is the proud parent of one son.

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