First Nations academics bring wealth of cultural knowledge and lived experience into our curricula

Smoking Ceremony | Torrens University

Torrens University Australia is proud to announce the addition of newly created Indigenous identified academic roles in our Health Sciences team.

Lesli Kirwan has been appointed as Senior Learning Facilitator - First Nations Curriculum, and Ren Perkins as Learning Facilitator - First Nations Curriculum.

The roles support our academics to build the understanding and capability of future health professionals in relation to unique Australian First Nations health issues and build the capability to develop understanding and cultural responsiveness to provide appropriate health services to Australian First Nations people.

“These identified academic roles are the first of their kind at our university and an exciting step towards our Reconciliation Action Plan,” said Rochelle Morris, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer.

“They have contributed to our commitment to employ and ensure Torrens University Australia is a desirable place for First Nations peoples to work and study.”

Embedding First Nations knowledge into our curricula

These roles ensure First Nations perspectives are authentically considered from the inception of our courses and throughout our curriculum development, within our research agenda, within governance structures, and ultimately enabling the strengthening of our ties with community.

“The creation of these identified academic roles is a significant first step in ensuring we are equipped to enable the sharing of the lived experience of First Nations people within our classrooms. It will have a profound impact in enriching our students’ experience and understanding of First Nations peoples,” said Ashley Hillsley, Program Director Health Sciences.

“We are delighted to welcome Lesli and Ren to our team.”

The new roles will lead, and teach, subjects including ‘First Peoples Culture, History and Healthcare’ and ‘Social and Emotional Well-being in Australian Indigenous Populations’ within our postgraduate and undergraduate programs. These programs produce healthcare practitioners such as Registered Nurses, Counsellors, Nutritionists, Naturopaths, Chinese Medicine practitioners and more.

Another important component of the roles is that Lesli and Ren come to the position with strong connections to industry and community, especially those providing health and social support to Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.

Kath Curry, General Manager Health and Education, echoed Ashley’s sentiments.

“Lesli and Ren will both provide an authentic lived-experience delivery into our classes. Their perspectives will also ensure community relevance to the curriculum and inform the practices of the Health & Education vertical staff. It’s fantastic to have Lesli and Ren as part of the Health Sciences team.”

Lesli Kirwan and Ren Perkins have been appointed Identified Academic Roles for First Nations curriculum at Torrens University Australia

Lesli Kirwan and Ren Perkins have been appointed new Identified Academic Roles for Health Sciences First Nations curriculum . 

An incredible wealth of cultural knowledge and experience for our students

Lesli Kirwan has lived and worked on country her entire life. She is a proud Ngarabal Yugambal woman from the far north of NSW with close cultural ties to the Durak people of the Eora nation and the Wandi Wandi people from the south coast of NSW.

Lesli said she's excited to be here at Torrens University Australia, so she can share her knowledge of the unique health needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


“I feel engaging two Aboriginal academic staff in the Health Vertical to share knowledge and culture with staff and students is an exceptional move in the right direction when seeking excellence in the delivery of education and educational outcomes for our students,” said Lesli.


She also believes it's a step in the right direction to 'closing the gap'.


“The students have an amazing opportunity to work in a safe space with an Aboriginal person and ask all the questions they need to build their confidence to work more effectively with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in Australia.

“I am always happy to have a yarn, so if you see me at the Surry Hills campus stop and say Jinggi! (Hello, Ngarabal / Yugambal language),” said Lesli, whose background includes developing transitional educational programs to assist Aboriginal people to access study at university.

For the past two years Lesli has been working closely with Aboriginal communities in NSW and their Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) in health and suicide prevention, as well as working with the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW (AHMRC).

Having previously studied courses in Arts, Business and Project Management, she is currently completing her second and third masters both due for completion this year - one in Mental Health, and the other in Disaster and Emergency Response. She also aspires to return to a PhD.

Ren Perkins has over twenty years’ experience working in Indigenous education. He is a Quandamooka man with connections to the Wakka Wakka Nation.

“It is great that Torrens University is committed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. This is really exciting for me, as an Aboriginal person, to be able to share my culture and experience with students and staff at Torrens,” said Ren.

“I am most looking forward to working with the team at Torrens University to help promote the university as a place which embraces and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.”

He is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Queensland with the research topic ‘Learning from the lived experiences of Indigenous teachers who have remained in the profession’.

Prior to this, he worked at the University of Southern Queensland as an Indigenous Academic Advisor and as the Deputy Principal at St Joseph’s Flexi School in Alice Springs.

Torrens University Australia and Think Education are committed to bringing First Nations culture, perspectives, and awareness into the classroom through our curriculum, and throughout our organisation creating a more inclusive, respectful and knowledgeable student and staff base. 

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