Our People

LEILANI DARWIN – QUANDAMOOKA

Owner and Founder

Leilani is a Quandamooka woman who lives in Brisbane. She is well known within the sector for her work and leadership in suicide prevention and mental health; this has been built from her own personal lived and living experience of suicide and mental illness as well as losing many loved ones. Her strength in communicating and interacting with diverse communities and stakeholders has seen her reputation and demand as an MC and facilitator grow.

Leilani has extensive networks and experience working within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. She has a Diploma of Counselling and spent five years conducting mediations as a Nationally Accredited mediator. Leilani is a current Lancet Commissioner on an upcoming special edition and sits on numerous National and State based expert advisory groups and committees. She has been deeply involved in developing and delivering the engagement model in communities for suicide prevention and SEWB programs. This expertise spans across communities and through Federal Government and Ministerial advice. Leilani has led and been involved in the development of many Nationally recognised resources within the sector.

Leilani has worked with a broad range of stakeholders and government agencies in suicide prevention, mental health, eating disorders and justice. Of particular note, Leilani has received numerous National and State awards for her leadership and commitment to systems level changes that highlight and preference community perspectives and lived experience. Leilani serves on many governance boards and committees including Mind Australia, The Haven Foundation, One Door Mental Health and the current Chair of the 13YARN Advisory Board. With her commitment to centring lived and living experience, Leilani spearheaded the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience Centre at the Black Dog Institute and continues to work with many universities and innovative research programs.

MARNI TUALA – BUNDJALUNG, GUMBAYNGGIRR, GOMEROI

Chief Executive Officer

Marni Tuala is the CEO of First Nations Co. and former President of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM). Marni is a Bundjalung woman, mother of five jarjums and Registered midwife who grew up on-country in Northern New South Wales.

Marni is a transformational, culturally informed, outcomes focussed leader with demonstrated experience in governance, executive leadership, strategy and policy development and management. Marni has worked across both government and non-government organisations in executive leadership and has clinical expertise in both the tertiary hospital and Aboriginal Community Controlled sectors. Marni is committed to the eradication of racism and ensuring cultural safety across the health and education sectors to improve access and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.
Marni was raised in community and utilises her intrinsic knowledge of cultural frameworks in her ways of working. She owns and operates two businesses on-country within the Northern NSW region and is committed to providing opportunities for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth through employment, mentoring and community connection. Marni is passionate about creating culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share knowledge and story. A combination of her professional experience and cultural ways of knowing, being and doing has resulted in the development of a thriving social enterprise. A space for community to gather, share story and cultural education and find connection and healing through food and yarns.

PETER HONEYMAN – BARKINDJI

Senior Manager

Graduate Diploma in Health Service Management, University of Tasmania

Peter is a highly accomplished and respected consultant, bringing a distinguished background to his role as a Senior Manager at First Nations Co. As a proud Barkindji man, Peter’s expertise in driving transformative organisational reform projects has consistently delivered outstanding results across a wide range of sectors. His exceptional track record speaks volumes about his ability to deliver strategic solutions that create lasting impact.

With a passion for working with people and a deep understanding of their needs as consumers, Peter actively thinks strategically about winning new business, improving, and streamlining operations, and capitalising on business opportunities for rapid scale. His unique blend of creativity and analytical thinking allows him to identify innovative solutions that drive growth and maximise efficiency.

Peter’s strong background in consulting and healthcare, combined with his unwavering commitment to excellence, extensive experience, and unwavering dedication, makes him an invaluable asset in our mission to continue delivering impactful solutions and driving positive change. His deep understanding of the consulting industry, coupled with his ability to navigate complex challenges, positions him as a trusted advisor for our clients.

Peter’s expertise extends beyond his professional achievements. He brings a unique perspective and cultural sensitivity to his work. He is deeply committed to supporting and empowering Indigenous communities, and his work reflects a genuine dedication to fostering positive change and promoting inclusivity.

With Peter as a driving force, First Nations Co. is well-equipped to tackle the most complex challenges and deliver sustainable solutions that make a difference.

Jackie Reilly – Bidjara and Gunggari

Senior Associate

Jackie is a proud Bidjara and Gunggari women who was born and raised in Brisbane.

Jackie has spent her career working with private and not for profit organisations and companies within the infrastructure, recruitment and consulting industries helping them to create and embed culturally safe working practices and environments. Jackies areas of expertise include drafting and implementing Reconciliation Action Plans, cultural safety frameworks, project management, Human Resources and workforce development.

Jackie is passionate about ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities and a safe working environment when it comes to their workplace.

Jackie is currently serving on the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects National Connection to Country Committee as a cultural advisor.

NIC BARKER – MURAWARII, WANGKUMARA

Consultant

Nicola Barker is a Muriwarri and Wangakuma woman from born and raised in Brewarrina and Bourke, far west NSW. Nicola is a qualified Social Worker with 10 years of experience working in mental health (inpatient hospital and community based), education, Aboriginal health and Child, Youth Protection Services. As a co-founder of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC) she has a special interest in health, justice and wellbeing and how this impacts on educational participation with young people. In many of her roles Nic has seen the correlation of how the influence of Indigenous knowledges are promoted and embedded in spaces where young people’s participation impacts of current and future wellbeing. Nicola was invited to the United Nationals Headquaters in 2018 to speak at The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and the Human Rights Council Australian members on the rights of children in detention.

Nicola holds a Bachelor of Social Work (Australian Catholic University), a Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion (University of Sydney) and is currently studying a Masters of Counselling (University of Southern Queensland).

JESS MORRIS – WIRADJURI, WAILWAN

Consultant

Jess Morris is the co-founder of Strong Spirit Aboriginal Services and is a proud descendant of the Wiradjuri & Wailwan Nations from Western NSW. Jess has over 15 years’ experience working across the health sector with tertiary qualifications that include: Bachelor Health Science and Master of Public Health. Jess also has a Certificate IV in Project Management and Certificate III in Fitness.

Jess has worked in health promotion, public Health, mental health, Aboriginal health, management, primary healthcare, commissioning & delivered extensive workplace training. She has extensive experience in project management, grant writing, reporting, financial management, grant management, health management, service and program development, commissioning, project evaluation, community development, staff training, self-care, stakeholder engagement and community development.

In 2006, Jess was awarded with a Deans Award for Academic Excellence and in 2021 Jess received parliamentary recognition for her contribution to the local Aboriginal community.

BRADLEY GORDON – NGEMBA, BARKINDJI

Consultant

Bradley Gordon is a Ngemba and Barkindji man who was born and raised in Brewarrina. Brad has worked in and for community all of his life with a special focus on youth wellbeing, youth justice and diversionary programs on Country. A cultural man, Brad is highly regarded throughout NSW and South East Queensland and has held various roles in the youth wellbeing and justice sectors including Youth With a Mission Australia (YWAM), Queensland Department of Justice and within the Family Wellbeing team with Deadly Choices.

Mark Richards

Consultant

Mark Richards is a proud Wiradjuri man and a devoted father of two boys. He embarked on his career in First Nations health and the community sector at the age of 18, amassing 13 years of invaluable experience in these crucial fields. Over the past seven years, Mark has been at the helm of his own training and consultation business, demonstrating his leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit.

With a deep commitment to community well-being and empowerment, Mark has engaged with and delivered tailored education packages to over 130 communities all over Australia. Through his dedicated efforts, he has upskilled more than 3,800 workers and community members, leaving a lasting impact.

Specialising in key areas such as Domestic and Family Violence, Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Cultural Safety and Education, and Appropriate Community Engagement and Communication Strategies, Mark’s work is at the forefront of social change and community support. His approach is deeply rooted in respect for cultural traditions and customs, ensuring that his conversations are not only effective but always culturally sensitive and inclusive.

Mark’s passion for making a difference in the lives of individuals and communities shines through in every aspect of his work. His extensive experience and dedication to fostering positive change make him a respected figure in the community sector and an inspiration to many of the young people in his community.

First Nations Co. is…

A majority owned, Aboriginal business that is underpinned by the principles of self-determination and is committed to utilising collective knowledges to deliver better outcomes.

A national business, with First Nations consultants located across Australia.

A Certified Business on Supply Nation’s Indigenous Business Direct.

••• connect@firstnationsco.com.au•••

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First Nations Co. acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of these lands never ceded. We acknowledge the continued custodianship and protection of country and culture. We acknowledge the cultural knowledge that sustains country, culture and community. We honour our old people and thank them for their leadership, their guidance and their legacy. This is, was and always will be, Aboriginal land.

ABN 24 656 689 235