Leadership Fellows in Tkaronto

For Module II of the Melbourne Poche Indigenous Health Leadership Program, the cohort journeyed to Tkaronto, Turtle Island


Tkaronto, Turtle Island (Toronto, Canada) and the University of Toronto sits on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.

During the week, we were fortunate to be hosted by the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health. The theme for this module was ‘place’ so it was fitting to have traditional knowledge keeper Clayton Shirt welcome and ground us for the program.

Our Fellows were encouraged to think about how their leadership is influenced by place and how they enact leadership in the different places they occupy. To help assist with some of the conversations on health leadership, brave spaces, and authorising environments, the group heard from inspirational Indigenous leaders working in Indigenous health.


Some of the highlights of the program included Professor Janet Smylie, who cared for the group and shared her wisdom at different times throughout the week, facilitating a conversation about stepping into authority. We had the privilege of visiting the Seventh Generations Midwives Toronto (SGMT) service that provides maternity care for babies and mothers using an Indigenous philosophical framework. This visit helped the group understand the challenges of leadership for change and alternative ways of delivering culturally appropriate health care in our communities.

Leadership Fellows standing around an open indoor space with the Seventh Generations Midwives Toronto

Leadership Fellows visiting the Seventh Generations Midwives Toronto

Listening to Dr Miranda Lesperance, Vice President, Indigenous Collaboration, Equity and Inclusion at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC) piqued the Fellow's interest as she spoke about her role. She elaborated on the unique opportunities and challenges faced when delivering care to Indigenous populations in North-western Ontario and how she enacts her Indigenous leadership to secure good health outcomes for the communities in the area.

Dr. Miranda Lesperance with the Leadership Fellows at the Askaakamigokwewigamig (Mother Earth Learning Lodge)

Dr. Miranda Lesperance with the Leadership Fellows at the Askaakamigokwewigamig (Mother Earth Learning Lodge), University of Toronto

Lastly, the Fellows themselves fostered important conversations about leadership through their research and presentation of a political movement assigned to them; refusal, recognition, resurgence, reclamation, resistance and revolution.


There were many learnings to take away from the week but for me, the visit reignited the importance of understanding the power of connecting to Country and each other before every gathering so that our visions and spirits are aligned.

I was inspired by observing the way Indigenous people in Canada are seizing small opportunities and making significant impacts because they're determined to see improvement.

Finally, although our cultures are vastly different here in Australia and Canada, there is an overwhelming theme of enacting and authorising our own sovereignty in our endeavours to disrupt colonisation and improve the livelihoods of our communities.

Pictures L-R: Ceremonial items, at the Indigenous Unity Garden at Thorold, Niagara and group dinner in Tkaronto/Toronto


We look forward to Module III which will explore the theme of Relationships on Yorta Yorta Country.

Find out more about the Melbourne Poche Indigenous Health Leadership program.

This article was written by Indigenous Health Leadership Program Coordinator, Josh Cubillo.