Speaker Profiles

Vanja Joannidis

Vanja is a proud liver mum who takes life by the horns and always tries to see the best in every situation. Typically a control freak, she has had to learn to let things "just be" after the BA diagnosis of her son Charlie. Vanja donated part of her liver to Charlie on the 26th May 2015 and hasn't looked back since. Now three years post transplant both Vanja and Charlie are living life to the full.

Professor Winita Hardikar

Winita Hardikar graduated MBBS from Melbourne University in 1983, completed her paediatrics and clinical gastroenterology training at RCH, Melbourne and was awarded an NHMRC scholarship to complete her PhD at Melbourne University. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to undertake post doctoral studies at Yale University where she spent 3 years studying ontogeny of bile acid transport.

She returned to RCH in 1995 and is currently Head of Liver and Intestinal Transplantation and Director, Department of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition. Her main clinical interests are hepatology and liver transplantation, while her research interests include hepatitis B and C in children as well as coagulation disorders associated with liver disease.

Winita has over 90 peer reviewed publications and book chapters and is an inaugural fellow of AASLD.  She also holds appointments at the Victorian Liver Transplant Unit, Austin Hospital, Melbourne University and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Claire Leonard

Before the experience of their daughter’s liver disease and transplant led to Claire and her husband, John, founding Liver Kids Australia, Claire's career focus was marketing communications in health related areas, including medical indemnity, medico-politics and pharmacy.

For 10 years, Claire led the Marketing Communications and Business Development functions of a national medical indemnity insurer and was a member of the Executive Management Team. She has also worked as a consultant across various projects related to the medical industry and profession. For 5 years Claire managed the Medical Indemnity Industry Association of Australia, where she learnt much about the ins and outs of running an association. She currently holds the role of General Manager of Cystic Fibrosis ACT.

Claire believes that she has been very lucky in her career because it has given her the knowledge and practical experience to establish Liver Kids and start to build it into an entity that can make a real difference to everyone touched by paediatric liver disease.

Dr Judith Locke

Judith is a registered clinical psychologist with experience in adult, child and family therapy with over 20 years of national and international experience in teaching, workplace training and psychology. Currently she provides psychological assistance to individuals, groups and organisations. She is a member of both The Australian Psychological Society (the APS) and the APS College of Clinical Psychologists.

Judith delivers dynamic psychological training sessions in parenting, resilience, staff well-being and related fields to parents and staff in schools, childcare centers, and government and community organizations, as well as private companies.

Judith is also a Visiting Research Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology where she researches modern parenting, child and parent well-being, and how children and parents interact with academic environments. Her psychological commentary has been featured in newspapers, magazines and on television and radio around Australia.

Most recently, Judith has authored The Bonsai Child, a parenting book which details modern parenting trends, and offers practical and realistic strategies for parents, which have worked for hundreds of parents she has helped.

Dr Angela Mackenzie

Dr Angela Mackenzie is a compassionate and dedicated paediatrician with over 25 years experience, and a sought after child pain specialist, hypnotherapist, speaker and author. Her driving force is helping young children learn to cope with medical procedures and the demands of modern healthcare, by educating their parents, caregivers and healthcare providers.

More importantly, her goal is to empower parents, to help them be more involved with the care and support of their child and reduce the trauma often associated with ongoing medical conditions. As a Consultant in Pain Management at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, she created innovative pain management workshops for families of young children who needed recurrent invasive procedures. 

As a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, she has presented at conferences and seminars nationally and internationally, sharing her mindset and successful case studies with elite healthcare professionals.

Her ground breaking book Everybody Stay Calm is a true testament to the passion of her work.

Angela is a vibrant, energetic speaker and strong advocate, when it comes to educating parents and professionals about making medical tests and treatments less threatening and more comfortable for all concerned.

Libby Mutimer

Libby Mutimer received a liver transplant in 1988. She was diagnosed with Biliary Atresia when she was 5 weeks old and after undergoing 2 Kasai operations, Libby’s family was told her only chance of survival was a lifesaving liver transplant. At the age of 2 years, Libby was just the 4th child to receive a cut down liver transplant.   

Since then, Libby has remained healthy with very few minor complications. She still takes anti-rejection medication every day, visits her liver specialist on a regular basis and carries her transplant scar, but other than that, she leads a very normal and happy life.

Libby grew up and attended school in Newcastle NSW. She participated in the World Transplant Games held in Sydney in 1997, winning gold medals for the 800 & 1500m track events. After school, she attended university and received a degree in Marketing and Communications. Libby has been with her husband, Scott for the past 11 years, they live in Newcastle with their gorgeous daughter Ellie and dog, Jet.

This year marks 30 years since her transplant.

Rachel Vance

When Rachel's daughter was diagnosed with liver disease and went through transplantation in 2008, she gained a lot of knowledge and practical experience through the process, so she was very excited to be approached by Claire and John to help with the founding of Liver Kids and has been Chair of the association since 2013.

Rachel has been an English teacher for nearly 20 years and for the last 12 of those has held a pastoral care position at a Canberra secondary school. Although this may seem a long way from involvement in a children's health charity, her skills and experience in dealing with people going through a tough time have contributed significantly to providing help to Liver Kids members and putting in place the member's support network.

Kylie Wilson

Wife to Jason and mum to 4 amazing kids. Kylie will be sharing her journey of having identical twins, Luke and Jesse - born with Alagille Syndrome.

She will be sharing openly about the grief of having children with liver disease and the battle to go through each day as it comes.  Kylie hopes to be able to encourage you as she presents her story of hope and determination to persevere through some of life's toughest challenges.