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First Nations team

About us


First Nations team

Professor Sandra Eades - Chief Medical Advisor, First Nations Health

Professor Sandra Eades (BMed, PhD, FAHMS) is the Heart Foundation’s inaugural Chief Medical Advisor – First Nations Health. Professor Eades is a Noongar woman from Mount Barker, WA. She completed her medical degree in 1990 and after working as a GP, started her career in health research at the Telethon Kids Institute.  

In 2003 she became Australia's first Aboriginal medical doctor to be awarded a PhD. Her PhD investigated the causal pathways and determinants of health among Aboriginal infants in the first year of life.  

As well as being Associate Dean (Indigenous), she is also a Professor at the Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. 

Professor Eades was named NSW Woman of the Year 2006 in recognition of her research contributions to Aboriginal communities and has received a 'Deadly Award' (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Awards) for Outstanding Achievement in Health.  

Vicki Wade - First Nations Heart Health Lead

Noongar Nation
Wilman, Nyunga, Koreng, Minang, Wudjari, Kaneang

The Heart Foundation’s First Nations Heart Health team is led by Vicki Wade – First Nations Heart Health Lead. Vicki is a senior Noongar woman with over 40 years of experience in health at state and national levels.  

Vicki is a recipient of multiple national awards including the 2019 Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) Sidney Sax medal and the Cardiovascular Society of Australia and New Zealand’s (CSANZ) Indigenous Health lifetime award for her contributions to Australian health services policy, delivery and research, particularly in relation to Indigenous heart health.  

Vicki is well known across Australia and is well respected for the work she has done in helping to close the gap. She sits on the National Close the Gap steering committee and is a previous board member of the Congress of Aboriginal Nurses and Midwives. 

Vicki sits on numerous national research projects providing a critical lens to the socio-cultural context with the aim to reduce research and evidence practice gaps. Vicki is a strong advocate for her people following her matriarchal lineage, Vicki’s grandmother was a healer and helped with the Noongar women in birthing on country in the mission and later reserves in south-west of Perth, her mother was one of the first enrolled nurses in Perth and her daughter is carrying on the tradition as a doctor. Vicki hopes that the work she does will see her grandchildren have better opportunities that she and her family were afforded. 

Sandra and Vicki bring to the Heart Foundation their unique and proven expertise and experience in improving cardiovascular health amongst First Nations people across Australia. 

Tennele Shields - First Nations Heart Health, Senior Project Officer


Tennele was born and raised in Darwin on Larrakia country with her father’s family descending from the Nyikina people from the Kimberely region in WA.

She has worked in the not-for-profit sector for the past 10 years, predominantly in health promotion and is passionate about helping people and contributing to positive health outcomes.

With her lived experience of losing a loved one to cardiac arrest in 2020, and her family history of cardiovascular disease from her father’s side, she aligns with the Heart Foundation’s mission and values and hopes to use her life experiences, compassion, empathy, and determination to contribute to better heart health outcomes for First Nations people.

La-Toniya Norris - First Nations Heart Health, Project Officer

La-Toniya is a proud Papuan, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander Women and the current First Nations Heart Health Team Project Officer. With ties that run across the Far North of Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands, La-Toniya’s mob are those of the Kaanju, Kowanyama, Kunggandji and Waibene regions. La-Toniya’s connections also continue through to the village of Hanuabada in Papua New Guinea.

With a background in banking, community engagement and education (specifically focused around First Nations people) La-Toniya looks forward to applying her skills in the health space and helping the drive to ensuring all Australians have healthy hearts.

Jacinta Hegarty - Equity Senior Project Officer | First Nation’s Health Senior Project Officer 

Jacinta was born on Mparntwe lands (Alice Springs) of Arrernte people and raised in Darwin on Larrakia country. Jacinta’s professional background is as a mental health Social Worker, and she has close to 10 years' experience working with young people at risk and supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of their families and supports.

She is motivated by a commitment to social justice, particularly concerning the inequitable health and social outcomes First Nations face across range of areas. Jacinta brings to the team her skills in applying a strengths-based approach to engagement and valuing lived experience in shaping outcomes.

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Last updated26 February 2024