Team

ROBERT DE CASTELLA (DEEK)
– DIRECTOR

“I’ve run against people from every race and culture, and whilst we have seen a wonderful representation of Indigenous athletes in the explosive sports such as AFL, league, boxing and sprinting, I’ve been surprised by the lack of Indigenous representation in distance running or the marathon.

“With research we have discovered that there are no avenues or opportunities for Indigenous long distance runners. I believe that we need to explore the possibilities and beg the question: How do we create champions without opportunity?

“At the moment, there’s no real culture of distance running among Indigenous Australians, but I believe there is potential given the history of endurance evidenced by a nomadic existence, traditional hunting and recorded history of an extraordinary ability to cover vast distances.

“The overwhelming response we’ve had demonstrates this latent interest in marathon running. I think we have the potential of identifying some real talent New York takes front stage when it comes to hosting and delivering a truly spectacular marathon. It is a 42.195 kilometer, river of mankind and everything good about our human spirit.

“What better event than this to take our Indigenous running team to, to highlight their potential on an international stage.”

World champion marathon runner

Robert de Castella is Australia’s greatest ever marathon runner.

He set the world record in 1981, became Australia’s first Track and Field World Champion in 1983, won two Commonwealth Games marathons in 1982 and 1986 and dominated the event worldwide for most of the 1980’s.

While he represented Australia at four Olympic Games, finishing 5th, 8th, 10th and 26th, Robert is probably best remembered for the Brisbane Commonwealth Games when he came from over a minute back to catch, and eventually run away from, duel Tanzanian champion JumaIkanga.

Robert’s dominance resulted in him being voted World Best Marathoner of the 1980’s decade.

In 1983, he was voted Australian of the Year and honoured with an MBE. In 1986 he was inducted into the Australian Sporting Hall of Fame and in 1990 he was named World Marathon Runner of the Decade by Track and Field News.

As Director of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) for five years in the early 1990s, Robert re-positioned the AIS as a centre of excellence after the drugs in sport debacle of the late 80’s.  He was also involved in establishing the elite sports system being used today by our Olympic athletes and teams.

In 1995 Robert established his own not for profit company, SmartStart for Kids. SmartStart works through schools to encourage children to be healthy and active. It especially targets escalating obesity, poor nutrition and inactivity and has resulted in large improvements in child fitness and health. The SmartStart longitudinal database of children’s health and fitness statistics has enabled valuable reports to be generated and a range of follow up services for students, parents, schools and government.

FUNDRAISING AND PARTNERSHIPS MANAGER

Peta MacKinnon comes to the IMF with an extensive and impressive sports background. A former Olympic Hockeyroo, Peta has plenty of experience in taking on challenges at the highest level.

“I’m passionate about contributing to the great work and positive impact the foundation is having on Indigenous communities. I love being part of a team environment and working alongside people who are motivated, committed and dedicated to achieving something special. Working at the IMF provides just that!

“Sport and keeping fit and healthy have always been a big part of my life, so having the opportunity to work in an organisation that uses marathon running and health promotion to help drive social change and to make a real difference is very rewarding.”

Peta also plans to complete a full marathon one day.

“I’m one of the only people in the office not to have run a marathon, so the challenge has been set!”

Peta remains actively involved in local hockey as a club player, coach and committee member, and has two young sons who help keep her fit.

Peta holds a Bachelor of Sports Science in Sports Coaching and a Certificate III in Fitness. She has previously worked in University Sport, as a development officer for Hockey ACT and has run her own hockey coaching business.

 

 

DILANI ABEYSUIRYA – FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION MANAGER

Dilani has extensive accounting, finance and administration experience.

She has over 15 years’ experience as a diverse corporate front-runner in Australia and overseas. She commenced her career with Ernest & Young in Sri Lanka and expanded her career through Delmege Forsyth and Deloitte in Sri Lanka.

When she moved to Australia she first joined Deusburys Nexia, a leading chartered accountancy firm in Canberra.

Dilani’s expertise includes success in cash flow and budget management, improving debtor days, various finance functions including accounts payable and receivable management, financial and management accounting, payroll and human resources activities, external reporting for government grants, annual audit, and corporate governance.

Dilani’s role involves working closely with the Board of Directors and all our important partners including lawyers, bankers, advisors and government officials.

Dilani’s intellect and experience, coupled with her warm and engaging personal style will see as an excellent advocate for IMF externally and within our organisation.

Dilani is an Associate of the Institute of Public Accountants and the Institute of Financial Accountants. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting.

AMANDA DENT – I-CAN PROJECT OFFICER

Amanda Dent has an extensive career with Rob de Castella, initially working in children’s health in 2008 under Rob’s SmartStart for Kids program.

The program focussed on addressing childhood obesity through encouraging children to adopt active and healthy lifestyles. Amanda delivered the program into a number of schools which included beep test, fitness and flexibility testing and educating children on correct nutrition.

In 2014, Amanda transitioned to IMF and is currently the Project Officer of one of IMF’s core programs, – Indigenous Communities for Activity and Nutrition (I-CAN). I-CAN is a program that delivers fitness equipment and running tracks to Indigenous communities across the country to address school attendance and inactivity.

The program, which after installation is owned, managed and maintained by members of the community, has seen an increase in school attendance and fitness levels in children of all ages.

Amanda also assists with the general running of the IMF office.

Amanda holds a Diploma of Sport and Certificate IV in Fitness and Administration. She has also previously worked in the fitness industry through Sport Development with Hockey New South Wales.

CARA SMITH – DEADLY RUNNING AUSTRALIA MANAGER

Cara Smith is a proud Aboriginal woman from Githebal country in northern NSW. She is a mother to a two-year-old boy, Zachariah, and comes from a family of five children, with a larger, extended family spread across northern NSW, southern Queensland and Sydney.

Cara’s parents instilled the importance of education in their children from an early age, and all were encouraged to pursue university studies.

After completing a Bachelor of Business at Griffith University, Cara worked in a variety of hospitality and marketing roles in Queensland and New Zealand, before settling in Canberra seven years ago. More recently she has worked in marketing/ communications and project management roles at Aboriginal Hostels Limited, the Australian Federal Police and the Canberra Institute of Technology.

In 2015, Cara joined the Queanbeyan Deadly Runners, and changed her life.

“Growing up, I never made my health a priority as I focused instead on studying and family. Since joining the Deadly Runners, it has taught me that my health matters. Being a Deadly Runner means so much more than just that, though.

“It means family and connecting with other Indigenous people through running, and it has changed my life for the better.

“In 2017 I was selected to represent my community, family and country as a member of the Indigenous Marathon Project – and successfully completed the New York City Marathon.”

Cara went on to complete the Canberra marathon in April 2018, and plans to run Berlin in September. Clearly not one to turn down a challenge, Cara says growing Deadly Running groups across Australia is something she will relish.

ADRIAN DODSON-SHAW – HEAD COACH/PROGRAM MANAGER

Adrian is a 2014 IMP graduate and became the first Australian Aboriginal man in history to not only land at the North Pole, but also endure the North Pole Marathon, the coldest in the event’s history. Adrian battled -40C temperatures; a stark contrast to his hometown of Broome, WA, where he trained over the summer of 2014 using sand to simulate snow.

The North Pole adventure was also the first time Adrian had seen snow. The entire trip was one that changed his life.

Adrian has relocated from Broome to Canberra to take on the position as IMP Head Coach and Program Manager, and he’s excited about transitioning from a graduate to coach.

“It’s a privilege and honour to be given the opportunity to take up the role of head coach of the IMP. I came through the program in 2014 after missing selection in 2012, then went on to complete the New York City Marathon in 2014, the North Pole Marathon in 2015, and the Volcano Marathon in Chile in 2017.

“Being an IMP graduate and the first Indigenous coach puts me in good stead for the position because I know firsthand what the program is about and how important it is to empower these young leaders and drivers in their communities.

“It was a tough decision to get outside my comfort zone and leave home and move my family to Canberra. But I strongly believe in the vision and direction in which the project and foundation are going, so I’m proud to be a part of it.”

ELSIE SERIAT – FRONTRUNNERS MANAGER

Elsie is a proud Torres Strait Island woman whose connection comes from Mabuiag Island (Besi) Wagadagum tribe from Migi Buai in the western islands of the Torres Strait and a Kaurareg descent from Kaiwalagal inner islands of the Torres Straits.

Elsie moved from Thursday Island to Canberra to take up a managerial position with IMF in 2016.

Elsie realised the importance of bringing positive change to her community when she was one of 12 Indigenous men and women selected for the 2014 Indigenous Marathon Project, a feat which saw her lose 20kg in seven months and run the world-famous New York City Marathon.

Since then, Elsie has introduced running and walking groups to Thursday Island, and watched participation grow from 12 to 80.

She is passionate about providing people with the tools to promote, change and celebrate Indigenous achievement through physical challenges.

“I never thought I’d move away from home, let alone to Canberra to work for Rob de Castella but when I got the opportunity I grabbed it with both hands and took up this challenge. I’m so grateful that I can give something back to the foundation and be able to lead the IMF FrontRunners,” she said.

Elsie holds a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health as well as a Certificate III in Fitness and Community Recreation, Austswim Teacher of Swimming & Water Safety (TSW) Life Saving Australia, Pool Lifeguard, she is also a qualified Level 2 Recreational Running and IAAF Kids Coach with Athletics Australia.

Since running her first marathon in 2014, she has run the Gold Coast Half Marathon, 10km in Honolulu in 2015 and trekked Kokoda in April 2015.

LUCY CAMPBELL – COMMUNICATIONS AND MEDIA MANAGER

The opportunity to work for the IMF was too good to resist for journalist Lucy Campbell, who, after 20 years working in newspapers, magazines and books, welcomed the career change.

“I’d watched the ABC documentary Running to America in 2010 and thought then what a fabulous project it was, so to be able to be a part of a great team working on real life-changing projects was too good to be true. The achievements of the runners involved with the IMP are truly inspiring.’’

Lucy holds an honours degree in English Literature from James Cook University and balances family life with a love of distance running.

‘’It’s a great time to get involved with the IMF as projects develop and opportunities grow across Australia. I’m really looking forward to doing what I can to get our message out there. I’m also hoping to improve my own running – no excuses now when I see what other people are doing!”