Deborra-lee Furness is an internationally acclaimed actress as well as a passionate supporter of children and defender of their human rights across the globe. Deborra-lee’s humanitarian work for children is a driving force in her life.
It is her passion that children all over the world be given every chance to live a fulfilled life and achieve their full potential. As founder of National Adoption Awareness Month (NAAM) and Adopt Change in Australia, Deborra-lee has been a driving force for improving adoption programs, procedures and legislation, and raising awareness and understanding of the issues of vulnerable children.
She is Patron of the Lighthouse Foundation for displaced children in Melbourne Australia; World Vision Ambassador, Patron of the Bone Marrow Donor Institute for children with leukemia; Patron of International Adoptive Families of Queensland; she sits on the board of World Wide Orphans Australia and is newly appointed on the board of the UN Women for Peace Association in New York. Deborra-lee has been honoured extensively both in Australia and internationally for her work to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children.
For her advocacy work she has been honoured by World Wide Orphans in New York, The Joint Council USA and in 2013 was given the prestigious award of Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in Washington DC. Harlem Village Academies honoured Deborra-lee and her husband Hugh for their philanthropy work in 2012. She was presented with 2014 International Humanitarian Award in Utah by Mentors International. She was named NSW Australian of the Year 2015. Also in 2015, Deborra-lee was honoured in Washington as Advocate of the Year by Kidsave.
Deborra-lee is the co-founder of the newly launched Hopeland organisation which is a US-based platform driving awareness around the issue of vulnerable children. The mission of Hopeland is to ensure children belong in loving families. Hopeland is about family strengthening and community empowerment and driving creative solutions for vulnerable and abandoned children globally.
Hailing from the Central Coast in NSW, Nicole Warne is considered one of the world’s leading digital influencers, with over 2.3 million followers. Beginning her journey with an online store and blog, Nicole has gone on to collaborate with luxury brands as a creative director, social media consultant, digital strategist and ambassador. She has been recognised in the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ and Business of Fashion’s ‘The 500 People Shaping the Global Industry’ lists, and won awards from Instyle and Elle Australia.
Nicole is a key player in the Australian fashion community and believes in supporting the next generation, serving as a guest judge for The International Woolmark Prize Australia, The Australian Fashion Film Awards and The Australian BT Emerging Designer Award.
Nicole is an adoptee and was adopted by her parents Robyn and Ian from South Korea when she was 3 months old. She has a younger sister Caitlin who is also adopted from South Korea and an older brother who is her parent’s biological son.
Adoption has always been an integral part of Nicole’s family and upbringing. Two of her cousins were adopted from the Philippines and Thailand, so growing up surrounded by a multicultural family made it easy for her to understand and appreciate what adoption meant.
Nicole cherishes her upbringing and knows she wouldn’t be in this fortunate position if it wasn’t for her parents, so she truly hopes by sharing her influence she can help raise awareness, education, funds, and ultimately help create change for the thousands of Australian kids who need permanent homes.
One of Australia’s most loved and respected actors Jack Thompson has appeared in numerous Australian and American films. His appearance in Breaker Morant (1980) won him an Australian Film Institute award for Best Actor, and an award for Best Supporting Actor at the Cannes International Film Festival. In 1994, Jack was awarded the ‘Raymond Longford Award’ by the Australian Film Institute for his outstanding contribution to Australian cinema, and in 2009 was awarded the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for services to Australian Film and Television.
When Jack was four years old his mother tragically died from an illness. His father, while loving his sons, was unable to care for them. Jack’s aunt arranged for the brothers to board at a school in Narabeen called Lake House. It was while he was at Lake House that he met a boy called Peter Thompson. Jack was adopted by the Thompson family. The boys grew up ‘joined at the hip’ and to this day, Peter is both Jack’s brother and closest friend. 42 years later, Jack again met his biological father. (Photo credit: Steve Bacon)
Lisa’s Australian parents found her abandoned in a hospital in Poona, 170km from Mumbai, India. It took them until she was 2 years of age to adopt her. Lisa has an older, adopted sister, Caprini.
Lisa is a former Australian cricketer, the first player in women’s history to score 1,000 runs and take 100 wickets. Lisa is an accomplished cricket commentator, having covered two Indian Premier League seasons, World T20 (women’s and men’s) and U19 men’s world cup and Channel Ten’s BBL and WBBL. She is currently covering the Tokyo 2020 Olympics for Channel Seven.
John O’Neill is an adoptee who has reunited with his birth mother Anne. John also has a wonderful son, Joo Sang, adopted from South Korea.
He currently runs Sydney-based digital marketing agency Komosion and sits on a number of not-for-profit Boards including Surfing NSW. He is a former Managing Director of Tourism NSW, was Ticketing Communications Manager for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, and served as an adviser to the former Treasurer of NSW, the Hon Michael Egan. Prior to that, he had an award-winning career in the media, including working at the Sydney Morning Herald, ABC TV, Network 10 and regional newspapers.
Brad Murphy is a former AFL player for the Western Bulldogs, 2002-2006, and now coaches and plays for semi-professional Aussie Rules club, Melton.
Brad was born to drug addicted parents and grew up in foster care in Victoria from 16 months. Young Brad was never going back to his birth parents — his mum “did a runner” to Western Australia soon after a previous overdose, while his dad spent most of Brad’s childhood in Pentridge prison. “The thing that chewed me up was not being able to be adopted. I felt I didn’t belong to anyone,” he says. He wanted to be adopted; his foster carers wanted to adopt him, but his dad wouldn’t provide consent. Brad was adopted by his long-time foster parents at the age of 18.
Mark is a Partner with professional service EY and has a passion to assist those most vulnerable in our community. His passion comes from his public sector experience being in the Senior Executive Service but primarily from his time as a NSW Police Officer. He saw first hand the impacts of child abuse and poorer life outcomes for those who have suffered from abuse.
He is committed to improving the life outcomes of children and young people and has been working in the sector for the past 15 years. He knows that every child deserves a stable home and is to be loved and cherished.
He joined the board of Adopt Change because his sees this organisation as making a difference to the lives of children and young people through educating parents and advocacy, but above all providing a home for life. It is the fundamental tenent of safety and security for a child’s wellbeing.
Mark is married to Sarah and has two young daughters who keep him busy. He also spends time with his two older boys by playing water polo with them. “It’s one of life’s great pleasures playing sport with your kids.”
Shellie is a singer, songwriter and musician, and the NT Australian of the Year in 2014. Adopted into a Sydney based family as a baby, Shellie remains very close to her adoptive family, who encouraged her to seek out her biological family more than two decades ago. Her journey took her, via Link Up, to the Northern Territory and on a continuous learning of her Wardaman and Yanyuwa heritage and in to more than 70 remote communities of this country.
A favourite and celebrated vocalist, Shellie has spent the past 25 years creating and engaging in music as a healing tool. She imparts the importance of having a voice and that each individual is important. While she has been in the spotlight over the years for her involvement with Black Arm Band, Deadly awards, ARIA nominations, Music Australia award, NAIDOC Award, G.R. Burarrawanga Memorial Award and Australian of the Year award; by and large, she works on the ground empowering and gently effecting change. Shellie creates music and sings in around 17 Aboriginal languages, many considered “sleeping”. Since discovering her family, she has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, especially in the Northern Territory.
Hugh Jackman is an Academy Award® nominated, Golden Globe and Tony Award winning actor, who has made an impression on audiences of all ages with his multi-career persona, proving that he is as successful on stage in front of live crowds as he is on a film set.
Jackman is also an active humanitarian and philanthropist. On a trip to Ethiopia with World Vision, Hugh and his wife Deborra-lee Furness visited Dukale, an Ethiopian coffee farmer. They were so moved by his infectious spirit and incredible coffee they promised they would help him. Hugh went on to fulfill his promise by launching Laughing Man Worldwide, an organisation that imports fair trade coffee right from Dukale’s farm in Ethiopia to be served in its New York City cafes. Laughing Man Worldwide’s total revenue goes back to education, community development and new business development. Hugh supports Deborra-lee whole-heartedly in her mission to ensure that all children have a safe and loving family, and a place to call home. Hugh and Deb live in New York with their two adopted children, Oscar and Ava.
Catherine has been practising media and entertainment law for over 25 years and has actively served on the Board of various not-for-profit organisations for over eight years. Catherine brings significant corporate governance experience to the Board of Adopt Change and joined the Board to use her skills to improve the future for children needing families.
Emily Hikaiti is a valued member of the CREATE community. Emily has been shortlisted for the ACYP Youth Advisory Council three years running and is an esteemed member of her local Youth and well-being Council. She has led our FACS Caseworker training and spoken at our Western NSW OOHC and Mental Health Interagency. Emily has been an MC at CREATE’s National Survey Launch and at the Their Futures Matter 2019 conference.
She is also an incredible parent to an adorable six year old and a successful entrepreneur with her two businesses including a photography business. Emily is passionate about reducing youth homelessness by extending the leaving care age in NSW and providing young people in care with better support networks, this has recently been executed through her newest business; providing advocacy and consultation on an individual, group, and systematic level around Australia.
Ellia Green OAM is a proud Fijian, retired professional rugby sevens player who was a part of the Olympic gold winning team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Ellia also competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Rugby Sevens world cup in San Francisco. Ellia has competed in the International HSBC World Rugby Sevens circuit from 2012 through to 2021 debuting in Texas, Houston.
Prior to rugby, Ellia was a track and field sprinter, specialising in the 100M and 200M and made their first international meet in Doha Qatar in the World Juniors for the 100M and the 200M relay.
Ellia retired from rugby in August 2021 and is currently in their second year studying International Security Studies at Macquarie University and working Full Time at the International container terminal. Ellia is an national champion for change ambassador for the united nations Australia, a Raise Ambassador and an Adopt Change ambassador.
Since retiring from professional sport, Ellia has found liberation in his identity and sense of self along with the greatest achievement yet, becoming a Dad to daughter Waitui and fiancé to Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts. Whilst being an internationally successful athlete Ellia continues a strong commitment off the field for the rights of racial gender diversity and the wellbeing of marginalised individuals and groups.
Sandra’s passion for news has fortified her position as one of the finest newsreaders in the country, delivering TEN Eyewitness News First At Five bulletins with integrity and credibility. She has been part of the TEN News team since 1990 and has hosted major Network news events.
A highly respected journalist, Sandra and has had exclusive interviews with the former US Vice President and producer of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, Australian of the Year Tim Flannery and secured a world-first exclusive interview with Douglas Wood, the Australian hostage freed from his kidnappers in Iraq. Her career highlights include being the first Australian journalist to break the news of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, and covering the Thredbo landslide, including the week long and emotional rescue of Stuart Diver .
With her engaging warmth, style and versatility Sandra has established a mass following on various social media platforms, and is now one of the nation’s news leaders online. Sandra is on the Walkley Advisory Board and is an ambassador for Adopt Change, as well as being committed to several charity organisations, including her position as Co-Patron of Spinal Cure and Ambassador for the NSW Crime Stoppers. She is also a National Ambassador for Do Something, which encourages social change.
Follow @Sandra_Sully on Twitter.
Tom became the Chairman of Deloitte Australia in May 2017 after serving as Managing Partner for Deloitte Victoria from March 2015 until May 2017. He is also a member of the Deloitte Asia Pacific Board and the Deloitte Global Board. Tom has 35 years’ experience in auditing, both in Australia and in the USA and he has been a partner for 23 years. Tom specialises in the provision of assurance and advisory services to large ASX listed companies and is currently Lead Audit Partner for ASX listed Woolworths Limited and IRESS Limited.
Tom also served on the Board of the Reach Foundation and was Chair of their Audit Committee.
Phoebe was adopted from an orphanage in war torn Vietnam at just ten days old. When they returned to Australia, Phoebe’s parents found out she was cross-eyed and she required several operations over many years under the late Fred Hollows to correct her eyesight. Phoebe is still in contact with Gabi Hollows today.
Phoebe is also an Ambassador of Shake It Up, an Australian NFP in partnership with the Michael J Fox Foundation to promote and fund Parkinson’s Disease research. Phoebe’s business Garland & Garland is well known in the Australian Fashion industry, and she is on the Advisory board for the TAFE NSW Fashion Design Studio.
Louise Ransome is a Sports Presenter with Fox Sports. Beginning her career at the ABC in Brisbane she moved to Launceston to work for WIN TV, before landing a female sports broadcaster internship at the ABC in Sydney. After her allocated year, she freelanced for the ABC and Channel 7, before landing her dream fulltime job with Fox Sports News.
Louise’s Dad Les is adopted – he didn’t find this out until he was 54 years old. Adopted at six weeks, he grew up in a family as one of four children. He is the only one who was adopted – hence the secrecy around his adoption. Although it definitely was a shock, and fairly life-changing, he looks back on it now as being very lucky to have such a loving and stable home to grow up in. He has also formed lovely relationships with two of his biological half siblings who were the ones searching for him, which lead him to find out about his adoption later in life.
Zufi Emerson is a 21 year-old young woman from Canberra, Australia. She was born in Ethiopia, and adopted to Australian parents when she 5 months old. She has 2 younger brothers who were also adopted from Ethiopia. Zufi’s adoption story is a happy one – something she is grateful for. Speaking from personal experience, Zufi believes that adoption truly follows the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – that it is the best interest of children to be a part of a loving family. She believes that every child deserves to feel loved, and feel like they have a home where they feel safe and belong.
Zufi is currently studying at the Actors Centre of Australia in Sydney. She is so grateful and happy to have the opportunity to spend every day doing what she loves – learning from and with people she admires. She is looking forward to contributing to the industry of her passion. She believes that every child, regardless of who they are, should also have the chance to be educated, feel safe, happy and most of all empowered to make a difference by doing what they love. Zufi is excited to continue her involvement with Adopt Change and is looking forward to contributing to changing adoption systems in Australia – from a frustrating process laden with bureaucratic red tape and confusion, to a supportive process that gives children in need the best possible chance to be part of loving families who want to care for them.
Daniella is an entrepreneur, TV personality, baking & lifestyle expert with influence who is passionate about inspiring people to creatively and simply enjoy food and each other’s company. She wholeheartedly believes that food is an expression of love and “kitchen therapy” is sharing more than just food in the heart of the home. She is passionate about sharing ways to make fancy simple. Having overcome her own personal struggles with dyslexia, Daniella is an advocate for doing what you love no matter the circumstances and motivates others by sharing her powerful story. She gives back and practices this mission through helping children find homes as an ambassador for Adopt Change. Daniella appears regularly on international TV, podcasts and social media bringing fun and sweetness to audiences across the globe.
Sallianne Deckert started writing articles for newspapers from the family farm in Victoria when she was 12 years old. Her television career began straight out of school and has taken her around the world. A member of the original Talk to the Animals series in 1997, Sallianne’s other credits include reporter/producer roles with Postcards (Victoria), Today, Mornings with Kerri-Anne, A Current Affair, Getaway and Our House, all on the Nine Network. After 11 years in the Australian adoption process, Sallianne and her husband Steve are proud parents to two Ethiopian born daughters – Kuleni (adopted 2005) and Tsegamareyam (adopted 2011).
A passion for Ethiopia’s children and future prompted the family to recently move to Addis Ababa and commit to volunteering at The School of St Yared for two years. The school takes the most severely disadvantaged students with a motivation to learn and provides an excellent education, meals, health support and nurturing environment for free. The family is enjoying their time in Ethiopia exploring Kuleni and Tsegamareyam’s birth culture as they use their skills to impact Ethiopian lives and futures through education. If you’d like to read more, visit The School of St Yared, Ethiopia on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helen McCabe is an established journalist and former magazine editor, who founded multi-media brand Future Women in 2018.
Professor Paul Chandler, a proud Bidjigal man, was born into poverty in 1962. His Nanna and Aunty instilled a love of learning from an early age and Paul was the first person in his family to finish primary school. Through working as a paperboy, blacksmith and catching fish and seafood he paid his way through School and then Sydney University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science with 1st class Honours in Psychology and Masters in Education at Sydney University in 1987. Now working in a surf shop and teaching in a local high school, he completed a Masters of Science (in Psychology) and PhD in cognition and learning at UNSW. In 1993, he became the first Aboriginal to receive a PhD from UNSW. He was immediately offered by the Federal government an Australian Research Council upon completion of his PhD which won every award available in NSW, Australia and overseas. As a teaching academic, he was one of the Faculty’s most popular lecturers and was invited around Australia and overseas to provide many teaching and research engagements. Paul went on to serve two terms as Head of the School of Education at UNSW. He remains one of the highly cited educational researchers in the world. Paul was formally recognised as one of the top 10 Scientists in Australia in 2007 by the Australian Research Council.
Paul joined the University of Wollongong (UOW) as Dean of Education in 2007, becoming the first Aboriginal Faculty Dean in Australia (sadly for Australia there has never been a second Aboriginal Faculty Dean). Paul completed two terms as Dean and transformed the Faculty into a teaching and research powerhouse that is now rated first in the country. During this time Paul and Michelle, became foster carers for two siblings, aged 2 and 6 weeks, which they describe as the most joyous moment of their lives. The Chandler family went from 4 to 6 overnight, and the two young children became immersed in community, family and University life.
Inspired by the power of the early years of life, Professor Chandler was the intellectual architect and visionary behind the $44 million Early Start Project and moved into the role of Executive Director of Early Start throughout the planning stages until the project was formally established. He remains the Foundation Chair of Early Start which sees 250,000 families come through its doors each year. He also remains on the Advisory Board of the $300 million Digital Child Project.
Paul was then appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor (Inclusion and Outreach) at UOW where he oversaw their Aboriginal Centre (WIC), their Inaugural Aboriginal Strategy and Reconciliation Action Plan.
Today, life for Professor Chandler has come full circle. Paul retired from UOW in 2020 and moved into semi-retirement. Now semi-retired Professor Paul Chandler is back at UNSW and works on numerous Government and private boards where he feels he can bring about positive social change. He Chaired the My Forever Family NSW Advisory Committee (a program operated by Adopt Change) for 3 years and now is a Board member of Adopt Change.
Joel is a renowned film maker and world-class storyteller. CEO & Chief Storyteller at Stories In Motion, he makes beautifully crafted stories that touch the heart and fill the soul. Joel is a sought after keynote speaker combines film, music and photography into his unique talks. He shares this remarkable life-changing story. As featured recently on Channel 9’s 60 minutes and GMA’s Kapuso Mo – Jessica Soho, his story has reached over 22 million people around the planet.
Joel was born in the Philippines but was separated from his family and found in a busy marketplace at age five. Nearly 31 years on, having been adopted and raised by an Australian family, Joel embarked on what seemed like an impossible mission to track down his birth mother. With virtually nothing to go on except knowing the date and location he was found, Joel undertook a journey that shows how sheer grit and determination can overcome even the most insurmountable odds. His skills as a film maker and producer, along with millions of filipino’s, aided him to the reunification of his long lost parents.
Joe Hildebrand is a columnist at The Daily Telegraph and News.com.au and a commentator on 2GB and Sky News.
He was raised in Dandenong by a single mum and has had a longstanding interest in child welfare and disadvantage, including as an advocate for a number of children’s and homelessness charities. He lives in Sydney with his wife Tara and three children. He would adopt more if Tara would let him.
Dr. Tom Bourdon is an organizational leader and consultant who has worked at the helm of multiple Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), social justice, LGBTQI, and education-focused organizations. Over the past two decades, Tom has served as Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Staples, Executive Director of Greater Boston PFLAG, and Director of LGBT Centers at UCLA, NYU and Tufts University (where he also led Tufts’ Social Justice Leadership Initiative).
Tom has coached, trained and consulted with thousands of individuals at countless organizations in the corporate, non-profit, education and government sectors. He has also been an Adjunct Professor at Merrimack College since 2013, where he teaches graduate-level courses on diversity, social justice and identity development. Most importantly to Tom, he holds the title of “out and proud gay husband and father” and he enjoys nothing more than spending time with his husband Jimmy and their children, Lukas and Maya. Tom and Jimmy became parents through an open adoption process in the United States and have been fortunate to know countless other parents and children who have gone through a similar journey. Having relocated to Australia in 2019, it is Tom’s hope to increase education and awareness in Australia around the many positive aspects of adoption.
Tom hopes to help create a cultural shift where adoption is seen as a loving and viable option, particularly for birth parents who find themselves in a situation where they are unable to raise their child(ren). Tom received his Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Northeastern University, his Masters of Education from UCLA, and his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Babson College. He also holds a certification in Life Coaching from New York University.
Latika Bourke is a well-known Australian political journalist and author. She is currently a national political journalist for Fairfax Media, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times and Brisbane Times. Previously Latika worked for the ABC and 2UE Radio. In 2010 Latika’s excellence in her profession was acknowledge when she won the Walkley Award for Young Australian Journalist of the Year. Latika began her journalism career working on local radio in Bathurst, Central West New South Wales where she grew up as one of eight children.
Born in Bihar in India, Latika was taken to a Catholic orphanage when she was only one day old. At eight months old she arrived in Australia to join her adoptive parents, Penny and John. Latika is a proud adoptee. Growing up she felt a deep connection to her Australian home and family. Over time however she became more and more curious about her heritage and what it meant to be born in India and raised in Australia. In 2012 she travelled to India to see her home state and the orphanage she was from for the first time and has continued to travel India each year. She has chronicled her personal journey in her book From India with Love published by Allen & Unwin.
Adopted from the Philippines, Helen is a passionate and determined advocate for adoption and believes all children have the right to grow up in a loving and permanent home. Helen brings her professional and personal adoption experience to the Board. With a background in legal and professional services, previously a Lead Client Service Director at Deloitte as well as owning and operating a legal recruitment company for over ten years, Helen is a highly motivated and driven individual. Helen is the founder and CEO of Spill the Beans, a social enterprise empowering young people to voice their ideas, stories and inspiration. When Helen is not running around after her three children, she is running marathons; the Great Wall of China marathon being the highlight so far. Helen is currently in the process of searching for her birth family in the Philippines.
Bianca is an experienced broadcaster, with an unforgetable personality!
Three time winner of Australia’s Best Radio Personality, Bianca Dye is a warm and cheeky voice, with a wit and style that endears her to the many celebrities she’s interviewed!
Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Michael Bublé, Justin Timberlake, Robbie Williams, Pink, and Kylie Minogue are just a few of the stars that have opened up and shared their stories with Bianca.
Bianca has worked in Sydney on NOVA96.9, had a successful stint as #1 Breakfast show at i98fm in NSW and is currently back in her home state of Queensland, where it all began at the Gold Coast’s GOLD FM Drive show.
In January 2017, Bianca joined the 97.3 FM Breakfast Show with co-hosts Terry Hansen and Bob Gallagher. By July 2017 the team were celebrating being the #1FM Breakfast show in the market.
Bianca is not just a radio personality, having anchored her own show “Access All Areas” on Foxtel’s Arena and appearing regularly on A Current Affair, 20 to 1, and Thank God You’re Here. She is also a regular guest, known for her honest opinions and playful personality on Ten’s Studio 10 and The Project as well as 9’s TODAY Show and 7’s The Morning Show.
Bianca has also to co-written a book called “Playing Hard To Get” and is in the process of writing her second book on living with anxiety.
Bianca is a passionate national voice for mental health awareness and has a huge following on her Instagram page @anxietyfree. She is also an ambassador for many animal-based charities including the Orangutan project (TOP) & the RSPCA.
You can follow Bianca on Instagram & Twitter @BiancaDye & also on Facebook.
Born in Cairns and immediately placed in foster care, Jonah grew up with his adoptive family in Brisbane. Growing up in a Caucasian Australian family, Jonah felt disconnected from his Papua New Guinea heritage and culture.
At the age of 22, Jonah embarked on a journey to reunite with his birth family, reconnect with his heritage and unearth his self-identity. He launched an award-winning podcast, Led By A Heartstring, to invite the world to follow his journey and delve into the world of adoption. Jonah’s podcast has featured Adopt Change CEO Renee Carter as well as fellow Ambassador and inter-country adoptee Phoebe Garland as guests. Led By A Heartstring also received the bronze award for Best Indigenous Podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards.
Through his life and his podcast, Jonah has been able to learn more about himself and to garner a better understanding around his emotions towards being adopted. “It really has been a tool for me to express all those feelings that I felt growing up and you know, get it all out because it’s heavy. It had been bottled up inside and it’s a healing process in that way,” he says.
Led By A Heartstring is also a way to connect and be there for other adoptees. Jonah says: “I hope to help other adoptees find who they are and feel comfortable with their feelings. Being that voice for adoptees through my podcast and sharing my experience.”
For Jonah, his adoption has played a huge part in shaping who he is. “Being adopted, you don’t really lack that part of self-identity because you find it wherever you are, and whoever you’re exposed to and whoever you live with” he says.
Adoption and permanency are already issues close to Jonah’s heart, and ones he believes to be incredibly important for allowing those in vulnerable situations to experience family and stability in a safe environment.
Eric’s passion to help others grew out of his own hardships as a child. At birth, Eric was diagnosed with a congenital deformity of the knee joint and due to his biological parents being unable to raise a disabled child, he was given up for adoption. Eric chose to create an inspired vision for his life and carry that vision out through planning, action, and undeniable persistence. Despite being told by doctors that he would never be able to play sports due to his knee, Eric was determined to play basketball. After much hard work, Eric excelled and eventually went on to play in the NBL in Australia.
Eric went on to forge a career in sales in addition to pursuing charitable work, most notably hosting celebrity basketball tournaments with Michael Jordan and Jamie Foxx. Eric’s desire to give back led him to sharing his story of hardship and success through what Eric calls ‘Activational’ speaking. Sheer talent and endless dedication has helped Eric create a lasting change in the minds and hearts of over 2 million people around the world. In June 2014 Eric was appointed National Sales Manager for Market Australia, Australia’s premier online shopping web portal au.shop.com. Eric was recently voted number 22 of the ‘Top 60 Motivational Speakers in the World’ by the initiative Hunger 2 Succeed.
Melissa is one of the most popular media personalities in Australia. A multiple Silver Logie nominee as Most Popular Television Presenter, Melissa was voted one of the “most real celebrity mums”; and regularly polls in the Top 50 of Reader’s Digest‘s annual list of Most Trusted Australians. Formerly co-host of Sunrise, Melissa formed one of televisions most charismatic and popular partnerships with Kochie (David Koch). Mel began her career as a television news reporter in Canberra before joining the Seven Network in 1995. In a varied career, she has covered major news stories from around Australia and the world. She has interviewed some of the world’s most famous faces, from Jane Fonda, Katy Perry and Stevie Nicks to Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Jerry Lewis and Justin Bieber. Mel is devoted to her many charities.
She is the National Patron for Make A Wish and an ambassador for Westmead Children’s Hospital, World Vision, Children’s Cancer Institute, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and for the Federal Government’s National Road Safety Council. She is also the Chairperson for the GIANTS Foundation Charity. Melissa is currently a News Presenter and Journalist with Seven News Australia as well as hosting the weekend breakfast program for radio station smoothfm. She is married to John and the very proud mother of Nicholas and Talia.
As Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Nine Network Australia, Victoria Buchan has extensive experience in the corporate communications sector. Previously Victoria owned and operated The Lantern Group and still retains a role as Director of the company that specialises in publicity and media relations in the entertainment industry.
Victoria began her career as a journalist on the Daily Mirror before joining Network 10 as a publicist during the booming production years in the late 1980s. She has worked with some of Australia’s most influential media groups, including Fairfax, Fox Studios Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Commission where she was Director Of Corporate Affairs.
Victoria’s journey with the adoption community began whilst working with Deborra-lee Furness and discovering the injustices families encountered via media stories on the issue. Inspired by those who have the courage to fight for change and the rights of children around the world to have a loving family, she and Deborah-lee have continued along this path together. Since beginning this work she has been touched by so many people, including her own family and friends who have some experience with adoption.
Dr. Jane Aronson was born in Brooklyn in 1951 and grew up on Long Island. She attended Hunter College in New York City and taught school for ten years.
At thirty-one, she fulfilled her life’s dream to become a physician and entered medical school. She graduated from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in 1986 and did a pediatric residency and chief residency in New Jersey, followed by a fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Columbia Presbyterian /Babies Hospital in New York City. Between 1992 and 2000, she was the Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Director of the International Adoption Medical Consultation Services at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York.
Since July 2000, Dr. Aronson has been in private practice as Director of International Pediatric Health Services, in New York City. She is Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and has evaluated well over 4,000 children adopted from abroad as an adoption medicine specialist; she has traveled to orphanages in Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, China, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Latin America.
Since 1997, she has conducted research and provided education in orphanages abroad through her 501(3) (c) foundation, Worldwide Orphans Foundation (WWO). WWO documents the medical and developmental conditions of children living in orphanages abroad in order to identify their immediate healthcare needs and to advocate for their well-being through the Orphan Ranger Program. This program acts as a “peace corps” for orphanages by commissioning university students and healthcare professionals to live and work in orphanages. They are proficient in the native tongue and work in conjunction with staff to improve the nutritional and emotional health of abandoned children. Since 1997, Dr. Aronson has funded Orphan Rangers in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, India, Ecuador, Viet Nam, China, Serbia, Montenegro, and Ethiopia. WWO has been granted NGO status in Viet Nam and Ethiopia and has embarked on training programs for physicians in both countries to care for HIV-infected orphans.WWO currently treats orphans with HIV/AIDS in both countries.
She has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, such as The New Yorker on July 17, 2000, People on November 12, 2001, May 2, 2005, August 1, 2005, and most recently, November 7, 2005; other features were in The NewYork Times in Jane Brody’s Science Times/Personal Health column on July 22, 2003 and then Jill Brooke’s feature on adoption and home design on July 22, 2004. She is a recipient of the Congressional Angel of Adoption Award in September 2000. She is the adoptive mom of two sweet boys, Ben, from Viet Nam and Desalegn, from Ethiopia.
Celebrating over three decades at the network, Network 10’s Entertainment Editor Angela Bishop, has established herself as a prominent identity within the Australian and international entertainment media.
Angela’s reputation and credibility is such that she is often called upon by international broadcasters to report on events happening within Australia. Angela has reported on Michael Jackson’s Sydney wedding to Debbie Rowe, the wedding of Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban and covered Princess Diana’s 1996 tour of Australia where she was invited to interview the Princess.
Her biggest interview to date was with Oprah Winfrey during her Ultimate Australian Adventure. She also scored a rare interview with Borat, the alter ego of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, that went viral.
In 2014, Angela wrote and presented a behind the scenes look at hit comedy show Modern Family who were filming down under for a special holiday episode and in 2018, she was invited to The Bold and The Beautiful Los Angeles studios to reprise her role as JJ, who she first played when the show filmed in Australia.
Angela’s renowned work ethic, integrity and professionalism sees her regularly invited to interview the stars and creators of music, film and television all over the world. Her extensive list of celebrity interviews includes Audrey Hepburn, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Elton John, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Mick Jagger.
Angela can be seen covering the major red carpet events around the world including the Academy Awards, Golden Globes and Emmy Awards. She is also called upon by movie companies to host Australian premieres and media conferences.
Angela joined Network 10 as a general news reporter in 1989 and in 1994, she was appointed 10’s Entertainment Reporter. As well as filing stories for 10 News First, Angela regularly reported on Good Morning Australia with TV legend Bert Newton, and in 1998 became one of the founding cast members of The Panel.