The Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee, in partnership with the Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment and IPAA SA, are honoured to have hosted a forum for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed within the South Australian government.


The forum provided a unique opportunity to unite our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public sector community.


  • Participants heard firsthand about the government’s priorities for Aboriginal Affairs, employment, and retention
  • Created networks with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander public sector employees

Learn about our speakers

Nerida Saunders PSM

Co-Chair Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee, Executive Director, Executive Director, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation
Department of the Premier and Cabinet

Nerida Saunders is a Murri woman from the Kamilaroi Nation, born in Moree in Northern New South Wales (NSW).

Nerida has worked in the Public Sector for the past 31 years; commencing in 1988 and has worked in NSW, Qld and SA.

Nerida’s extensive career has encompassed important senior roles in various areas of complex social policy and service delivery including families and communities, child protection, housing, and Aboriginal Affairs.

Since arriving in South Australia Nerida has held the positions of Director Children, Youth and Family Services, General Manager for the Aboriginal Housing Authority SA, and since 2009 the Executive Director, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation within Department for the Premier and Cabinet.

Nerida was awarded the Public Service Medal as part of the Australia Day Honours in 2016 for outstanding public service in the provision of leadership and advocacy in the area of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.

Nerida sits on a range of boards and committees, including the Premier’s Council for Women, Child Protection Reform Portfolio Management Board Issues group on Suicide Prevention, and Exceptional Needs Executive Committee, to name a few.

In her spare time Nerida enjoys playing Golf and reading.

David Brown

Co-Chair Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee, Chief Executive
Department for Correctional Services

Across the public and private sectors, David Brown has extensive corrections experience spanning two decades.

Prior to joining the South Australian Department for Correctional Services David work for G4S, a multi-national security, care and justice company. Based in Canberra he had responsibility for leading the operation of immigration detention services across Australia. David worked as both the General Manager of Maryborough Correctional Centre in Queensland and as the Assistant General Manager of Acacia Prison in Western Australia.

He has successfully commissioned four new correctional facilities totalling more than 1,300 high security beds.

David joined DCS as Executive Director, Custodial Services in 2009. Since then he has played a key role in strengthening security and emergency management standards across the system; placing a renewed focus on offender rehabilitation, education and vocation training; and building community partnerships to improve reintegration of offender back into society once they leave prison.

David is passionate about creating an integrated approach to offender management that involves meaningful activity combined with targeted rehabilitation.

Appointed as Chief Executive in September 2012, David has overseen a critical period of growth across the Department for Correctional Services. He has led the commissioning of 1,280 beds and critical support facilities across the correctional system.

The South Australian Department for Correctional Services is pursuing the ambitious goal of reducing re-offending by 10 % by 2020. David is focussed on implementing strategies that drive down the rate of re-offending including increased investment in rehabilitation programs, strengthening alternatives to custody such as Home Detention and building better prison services.

Leadership development and succession planning has been a key focus for David with the Department for Correctional Services well positioned with an experienced Executive and Senior Management group.

Loretta Romeo

Co-Chair Economic Participation Working Group, Strategic Policy, Projects and Partnerships
Department for Correctional Services

Loretta Romeo is a proud descendant of the Kaurna, Narungga and Ramindjeri people. Loretta has a diverse professional background, having worked in the private and public sector, in industries including correctional services, education, housing, urban development and renewal, banking and professional services and agriculture and aviation across geographical and international markets.

Loretta is a values-based leader with a commitment to unlocking potential, attracting, and retaining talent, and increasing workforce participation of women and young people; specifically, First Nations people. Loretta takes a lead role in driving cultural change to influence the development of policy, programs, and operational environments to create greater economic and social outcomes for First Nations people.

Loretta is a strong advocate for corporate responsibility and contributes her knowledge and experience to various committees, organisations, and boards in the areas of Aboriginal engagement, cultural safety, diversity and inclusion, Reconciliation Action Plans and building Aboriginal capacity and capability to empower self-determination.

Since July 2020, Loretta has co-chaired the Economic Participation Working Group, part of the South Australian Governments Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee which oversees a whole of government strategic approach and implementation striving to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people through employment and procurement opportunities.

Outside of work, Loretta is a mum to Mitchell who is 16 and Isabelle 11.

Cathy Taylor FIPAA

Co-Chair Economic Participation Working Group, Chief Executive
Department for Child Protection

Cathy commenced as Chief Executive to lead the new Department for Child Protection (DCP) in South Australia in October 2016.

Cathy joined the department from Queensland, where she was Deputy DirectorGeneral, Child Family and Community Services, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services from 2013 to 2016.

Cathy brings more than 15 years of experience as a senior public servant in Queensland, working in and across strategic policy, legislative reform, planning and service delivery roles in the areas of child protection, youth justice, disability services and domestic violence.

Cathy has undergraduate qualifications in law and postgraduate qualifications in law and public administration, including an Executive Masters of Public Administration (EMPA), ANZSOG.

She has previously been a Director of ANROWS - Australia’s National Research Organisation on Women’s Safety and is currently Chair of, National Forum for Protecting Australia’s Children.

In 2018 Cathy was appointed to the ANZSOG Alumni Advisory Council.

Damien Walker

Chief Executive
Department of the Premier and Cabinet

Damien Walker was appointed Chief Executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in April 2022.

In leading the South Australian public service, Damien brings to the role his extensive experience in strategic planning, industry development and public policy gained from over a decade of service with the Queensland government.

Damien’s background in infrastructure planning and delivery has been an integral part of his strong public administration focus as Chief Executive and a key driver for vital economic growth projects and events for the state including the delivery and renewal of the AFL Gather Round and Liv Golf.

Damien’s professional background in infrastructure planning and delivery, investment facilitation, contract management and reform implementation has shaped the development of the state’s flagship hospital, the new Royal Adelaide, the Glenside campus redevelopment and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) building.

As the Director-General of the Queensland Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning and in other senior leadership roles held, Damien led critical work to drive state economic growth and job creation including the state’s winning bid for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Damien also led the Queensland Government’s flood recovery efforts in 2021 prior to returning to the South Australian government.

Damien serves as a board member for several organisations on matters of economic development, trade, and investment.

Damien is passionate about gender equity in the workplace and the prevention of domestic and family violence and advocate for reconciliation and the creation of greater equality and opportunities for First Nations people.

Damien holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Planning, and qualifications in property and planning.

He is a proud South Australian, who has returned to the South Australian Public Sector following nearly 12 years living interstate. Damien is married to Tamara and has three young daughters.

Talitha Coulthard

Director, Aboriginal Workforce Partnerships
Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector

Talitha is an Adnyamathanha Woman from the Northern Flinders Ranges of South Australia, born on Barngarla Country, also known as Port Augusta and was raised in her traditional homelands, Iga Warta Community in the heart of the Northern Flinders.

Prior to joining OCPSE, Talitha has held various roles with a particular focus on Learning & Development, Cultural Capability and Aboriginal workforce initiatives. Talitha’s professional career started with the Office for the of Commissioner for Public Employment as an Aboriginal trainee and has since returned to OCPSE in the Director role. Talitha has worked across various State & Federal Government departments building her own capabilities to influence better outcomes for the Aboriginal community.

Until recently, Talitha has held the Principal Aboriginal Workforce Consultant role within DHS, where she designed, developed and delivered the DHS Aboriginal Cultural Footprint – Learning programs, the established of the DHS Nunga Network, DHS Aboriginal Women’s forum and the launch of the DHS Aboriginal Workforce Strategy 2021-23.

As the inaugural Director, Aboriginal Workforce Partnerships, Talitha will oversee a range of engagement strategies and programs that build the capability and capacity of the South Australian Workforce in both the public sector and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) Sector.

It will also provide specialist strategic and cultural leadership and co-ordination to identify, influence and establish a sustainable ad impactful model for professional development and cultural learning exchange between the public sector and ACCOs in South Australia as identified in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to help grow the ACCO sector.

Judith Lovegrove

Co-Chair, Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee, Adviser, Aboriginal Early Years
Department for Education

Judith Lovegrove is a Ngarrindjeri woman with cultural connections across South Australia with Walkandi-Woni, Wirangu, Kaurna and Narungga nations, currently holding the role of Adviser for the Office for the Early Years as well as the Co-Chair role of the Aboriginal Affairs Executive Committee working group ‘Building Capacity for Vulnerable Families’.

Judith has extensive vocational experience working with children, young people and adults in different capacities, including therapeutic counselling and intensive family-based support with a focus on child protection, family preservation and early intervention. With a broad work history, she has held several roles in both government (Department for Education, Department for the Premier and Cabinet, Department for Child Protection, and Department for Health and Wellbeing) and non-government organisations (as Registered Training Organisation Manager, Counsellor, Program Manager).

Over the years, Judith has contributed to many national, state, and local initiatives that work towards closing the gap and largely, empowering Aboriginal people and voices with an emphasis of improving culturally responsive service delivery for organisations and departments.

Judith holds qualifications in psychology and is a Media Spokesperson for the Centre of Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention; therefore, holds a strong passion for mental health and social and emotional well-being. With a dedication to broader social justice issues, she continues to be involved in many different pieces of work, such as a University Lecturer, an Employee Assistance Program Counsellor, an active advocate for Aboriginal Affairs and maintains involvement on several committees that aim to improve the health and wellbeing of families, including initiating the South Australian Whole-of-Government Anti-Racism Strategy and recently appointed Advisor to the Oversight and Advocacy Authority for Aboriginal Children and Young people.

Event brought to you by

Government of South Australia
Office of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment

Tuesday, 22 November

9:00am registration (9:30am - 5.00pm)

Morning Tea
Afternoon Tea
Refreshments available throughout

Panorama Rooms, Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
View map

There are no costs to attend the forum. Employees who live outside metropolitan Adelaide who wish to attend are to discuss their travel and/or accommodation arrangements with their line manager.

We are seeking representation from all departments to support a diverse voice from staff. Therefore there may be limits to how many employees can attend from each department. You will be notified if your department allocation has been exhausted; however, we will keep a waitlist if any openings arise.

An opportunity for the streaming and/or recording of sessions is being explored to enable those who are unable to attend access to the sessions.