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Our Team

Robert de Castella

AO MBE 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.

Damian Tuck

Head Coach/IMP Manager

Damian joined the IMF team in February 2021 after spending two and half years working and living in Maningrida NT - a small remote community in West Arnhem Land. In this role, Damian designed and implemented AFL football themed health and fitness programs for the school students of Maningrida as well as managing the local Men’s competition and established Women’s football in Maningrida. He found this role particularly rewarding and it is where he was first introduced to the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) through Juan Darwin, one of our first graduates. Juan and Damian worked closely together for AFLNT and have developed a strong friendship.

Before his Maningrida experience, Damian was employed by the Commonwealth Government in Canberra working across various policy, program and corporate roles largely in health and sport.

Damian’s sporting background is mainly in AFL football being a player, coach, administrator as well as recruiting work for the St Kilda Football Club – he sees these skills as being very transferrable to his role as Head Coach of IMP. Damian is very excited about joining the IMF team as he has seen first -hand the wonderful impact the Foundation makes on an individual and the community they are a part of.

Elna Jennings

Fundraising & Partnerships

Elna describes her job at IMF as the dream triangle: people, running, empowerment. “That basically sums up my life-purpose, and I get to do it every day.”
Haling from South Africa, Elna spent her childhood idolising Olympic distance runners and remembers her track coach using the Dick Telford method in the 80s.
“And here I am today, thousands of miles across the ocean, working for the man who was coached to world marathon glory by Mr Telford himself.”
As an avid endurance athlete, Elna’s greatest achievement to date was completing the 90km Virtual Comrades Marathon in 2020 – right here on home soil around Lake Burley Griffin.
“I love setting myself seemingly impossible goals and then through discipline, focus and tenacity achieve them, primarily to inspire others.”

An entrepreneur and business owner for over two decades, Elna has pioneered many social impact programs which delivered significant change in the lives of individuals and communities. As the Fundraising & Partnerships Manager at the IMF, she will tap into this experience to spread the #RUNSWEATINSPIRE word and to cultivate reciprocal relationships with our supporters and funders. “I believe that we are a national organisation with a global message that knows no colour, culture or creed. I look forward to engaging with corporate Australia, government and international bodies to celebrate our collective vision of building a resilient, healthy and inclusive society, be it through running or the shared journey”.

Next on Elna’s sporting list is the long road to Ironman completion with a few ultra runs mixed in for fun.

Kylie Young

Regional Manager

Kylie Young joined the Foundation in June 2022 as the IMF Regional Manager. This is a newly created role will see the establishment of IMF’s first regional office, based in Cairns Queensland. Kylie works across a range of projects to expand the IMF footprint across Australia, with a primary focus on regional and remote communities in Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Kylie has over a decade of experience working in community development and program management across North Queensland with both government and non-government organisations. She has vast experience working with vulnerable communities having managed youth support services, youth suicide prevention programs, early intervention and diversionary programs across Cairns, Cape York, and the Torres Strait Islands.

A strong advocate for promoting holistic health and wellbeing of individuals to make real impact on communities, Kylie has delivered Mental Health First Aid training to service providers and community member since 2016.

Being an active member of Cairns RAW since 2017, Kylie has contributed to the growth of the group through volunteering her time as run leader and assisting in the co-ordination and delivery of numerous fun runs and events. Throughout this time, she has grown on a personal level and has made many strong friendships and connections with IMP Graduates and fellow RAW members from across Australia.

Theresa de Castella

Design & IT Manager

The first order of business is the name. Yes, Theresa and Robert share the same surname, but the similarities between the two begin to diminish from there. Robert is an endurance creature whereas Theresa’s forebears have gifted her with fast twitch fibres, more suited to sprints and efficient endeavours. One other similarity worthy of note is their passion for martial arts. Theresa is a 4th Dan Black Belt in a traditional Okinawan karate style, Goju Ryu. Theresa incorporates her knowledge of dance, yoga and personal study of movement mechanics to teach formal karate classes and private functional movement sessions at their home dojo in Canberra.
Theresa’s skills, qualifications and experience is varied and has worked in both private and government sector in different capacities and roles. Her quest for a depth of knowledge has led her to achieving formal qualifications that include a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, a Bachelor of Design (with Honours), Master of Applied Linguistics Program and Graduate Diploma in IT - Database Management.

What Theresa brings to the Foundation is years of design knowledge, skill and industry experience having achieved Honours in her Bachelor of Design degree and applying her skills in the marketing, advertising and design world with Grey Advertising Australia, The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, The Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of Foreign Affairs and as a freelancer working for clients like The Canberra Casino, Australian Customs and Border Security, Summer National, Fish Sunglasses, Canberra Medical Ecology Centre, SmartStart for Kids Ltd, The Australian National University, Pep Colour, National Institute of Bioenergetic Medicine, and many more.

Theresa often channels her inner nerd, having a passion for gadgets and all things IT. Theresa’s goal is to elevate the status of IT from a “support” role to one that is integral to the Foundation’s corporate strategy and one that serves as a key component in the delivery of its programs and communication to communities.

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