We have an energetic and committed team at HCCA who work to support our members and consumer representatives and ensure that there is a strong consumer voice in the planning, delivery, review and monitoring of health services in the ACT.



Darlene Cox

Executive Director

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Twitter: @darlenecox 




Darlene has been involved in the consumer movement since the late 1990s. She is an eminent advocate for health consumers with an excellent knowledge of the health system, both locally and nationally. Darlene has a strong, practical understanding of community engagement principles. She has been the Executive Director of Health Care Consumers’ Association Incorporated since 2008. She is a board member of the Australia Council of Social Services. She is also a member of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (APHRA) Community Reference Group and the Choosing Wisely Advisory Group.



Sandra Avila 

Office Manager

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 Sandra Avila

Sandra joined HCCA in August 2012 as Administration Officer.  Sandra is responsible for managing HCCA’s membership, office administration duties, secretariat to the HCCA Executive Committee.  Sandra has also worked in the Consumer Representatives Program. Sandra is fluent in Spanish. She has a bachelor of Business Administration and is currently doing a Masters in Management at the University of Canberra. Sandra enjoys working at HCCA and learning about the consumers’ health movement in Canberra and the region.




Molly Wilkinson

Administration Officer

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Molly started working at HCCA in February 2017 as an Administration Officer. She is replacing Sandra Avila, Officer Manager, while she is on leave. Molly graduated with a Bachelor of Asia-Pacific Studies from the ANU in July 2016 and speaks Mandarin and some Indonesian. She has held various roles including entry level administrator, ESL teacher, bartender and waitress. She is eager to enter the community services sector and learn about the work HCCA does in the ACT and surrounding regions.


Kathryn Dwan

Manager, Policy and Research

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Kathryn is a sociologist whose study and work have always addressed health and social justice, so she is thrilled to have recently joined HCCA. Her research has centred on the primary health care system, and she would like to see health policy and services better reflect the views of consumers and the available evidence. Kathryn is particularly proud of helping to develop Living Well with Metastatic Breast Cancer: The Palliative Care Toolkit while working with Palliative Care Australia and Breast Cancer Network Australia in 2016.



Sally Deacon 

Manager, Consumer and Community Participation

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Sally has experience in delivering national, regional and local level health care improvement programs in the UK and Australia with a focus on Quality & Safety. As part of these programs she has worked in partnership with consumer advocacy groups. She has particular interests in shared decision making and improving the transparency of health care providers through effective use of data.


Kate Gorman 

Coordinator, Consumer Representatives Program

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Kate started working at HCCA in February 2015 as a Project Officer on the Consumer Representatives Program. Health, and the way we experience health care, is an interest which has developed in recent years as she has supported family members needing treatment and care. Since completing consumer representatives training in 2015, Kate has brought her experiences as a parent to committees relating to children’s health. She is greatly enjoying learning about advocacy and the role of consumer representatives in improving health care.


Kathryn Briant

Policy Officer 

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Kathryn has wide-ranging experience in the health sector including pharmaceutical policy and medication safety, having previously worked with the Department of Health and Ageing, as well as Divisions of General Practice. She has particular interests in the Quality Use of Medicines and consumer participation in health care. Kathryn has a Bachelor of Arts (Policy Studies) and a Graduate Certificate in Public Health, both from the University of NSW. She has been working with HCCA since 2012. She enjoys consulting with members on policy issues, writing submissions and being part of the Policy and Research Team. 


Sarah Spiller

Policy Officer

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Sarah Spiller


Sarah has worked at HCCA since March 2016, in the policy team. She has worked for not-for-profit organisations in policy, research, communications and administrative roles; and holds a PhD in Sociology from the ANU. Most recently she worked at the Consumers’ Health Forum of Australia. As a parent of a young child Sarah has a new appreciation of how important accessible, affordable, safe and high quality health services are to each of us. Sarah is looking forward to working with HCCA and its members.


 Yelin Hung 

Multicultural Liaison Officer

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Yelin is fluent in Spanish and English and moved to Australia in 1997.  She has a Bachelor of Community Education with a major in Community Development from the University of Canberra. Currently, Yelin is the Multicultural Liaison Officer at the Health Care Consumers’ Association of the ACT (HCCA). Yelin has been working at HCCA since 2011, initially in an administrative capacity. In her role as Multicultural Liaison Officer, Yelin fosters networks with multicultural community organisations and diverse communities from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.  Yelin brings her personal experience and knowledge to enrich her work with the multicultural community sector, including her interest in supporting disadvantaged communities and her own understanding of being a migrant to Australia.


Claudia Cresswell

Health Promotions Officer

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Claudia has extensive experience in health promotion and community development, having worked for a number of territory, state and national agencies in Canberra and Sydney, including the Consumer’s Health Forum, the Consumer’s Federation of Australia, BreastScreen ACT and HCCA many moons ago. She has recently returned to Canberra and is keen to get back into the sector and advance health literacy among consumers. She also brings rich personal experience in being a carer, parent and living well with chronic conditions.



Kristal Coe

Patient Care Navigators Project Officer

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 Kristal Coe


Kristal joined the HCCA as a Project Officer in October 2017. She has lived and worked in the UK, Korea, Indonesia, Sth America and Darwin and now calls Canberra home with her partner and young son. A sociologist strongly motivated by matters of equality and social justice, she has experience in designing, teaching and doing social research on a broad range of issues such as natural and cultural resource management, livelihoods, gender equality, international policy, workforce mobility and obesity. Kristal’s role at HCCA is to design a model for patient care navigation in the ACT and she’s looking forward to working together with consumers and health profesionals.




Health Care Consumers' Association was incorporated in 1978.  We are currently in the proces of writing a history of the organisation from the mid-seventies. We are thankful to Janne Graham for documenting her reflections of the organisation back in 2003.  Janne's reflection on Health Care Consumers' can be found below.


The amazing thing about growing old is finding that your memory is other people’s history. So in the absence of an official history of HCCA which is yet to be written I have jotted some memories of the organisation’s early days.


I believe that I attended a meeting of Health Care Consumers some time late in 1979. I had been drawn into the fold by Dawn Chamberlain, a tireless worker and advocate. Among her many skills were two which accounted for the effectiveness and growth of the organisation. Firstly she listened and quickly identified people’s needs. Then she put people with similar needs and experience together (we didn’t use the term networking in those days). These activities spawned a range of self-help groups in the health arena. Certainly I recall an asthma group in those early days and the forerunners of SIDS and KIDS. There was a group for parents with children in hospital. All these came under the auspices and protective wing of the fledgling Health Care Consumer organisation. A second skill she used to effect was to “spot talent”. She drew me in following a disability meeting and had already encouraged Lesley Barkley (later Professor). Later Val Brown drew me into the arcane activities of the National Health and Medical Research Council and was for a time, what we now call, my mentor.


Janne Graham with Health Minister Katy Gallagher, MLA - September 2011

I joined a committee which was putting the last touches to a Constitution and finalising incorporation. Records will show, but I have a sense that, we were about Number 79 to be so registered in the ACT. Of course there was the best of talent already there. The Chair was John McMillan, later a Professor in Constitutional Law at ANU and now Commonwealth Ombudsman and John Braithwaite subsequently Professor of Criminology at ANU and a pioneer of pre-sentence alternatives. The two John’s with Kate Beauchamp had earlier formed Rupert Public Interest Movement achieving high profile and effective community debate on a number of social issues of the day.


 Image: Janne Graham and Former Health Minister

Katy Gallagher, MLA - September 2011


I understood at the time that the committee had come out of a sub-committee on health from the ACT Consumers Association having determined the need for a separate voice on health issues. This was later to be mirrored nationally when Consumers Health Forum was sponsored by Australian Consumers Association and other community and health interest groups.


At about that time there had been a group formed primarily by health workers from the community sector including doctors working in public health, and Wendy Grey, nutritionist. Whether the two groups blended or one was taken over by the other I am not sure. Certainly the constitution was very strong on the proportion of the committee who could be employed in a health service and prevented such a person being the Chairperson. In the early years there was a lot of moral support provided by health workers who were concerned about the dominance of the hospital culture and the medical model. Sound familiar?


Interestingly, later in the mid eighties Health Care Consumer Association sponsored the development of an ACT Community Health Association which catered particularly for this overlapping interest. Erica Fisher has been an ongoing supported of both areas.


In the early days the association developed a “speaker’s kit” and we went around to church and community groups talking about health issues from the perspective of users. We had a slide set of illustrations promoting active consumer engagement in general practice consultations. Reception was mixed. Many thought we should just trust our doctors. Were we ahead of our time or did we contribute to the change in community attitude?


The hay days were in the early 80s when self-government was being threatened and ACT services were being established as entities somewhat separate from their parent federal departments in preparation for a hand-over. In early 1983 we ran a one day conference “Action for Health” which was attended, to our amazement by about 200 people. Our membership reached a peak that year at, if I remember correctly, 143. The conference set up from its attendees a series of committees to address in more detail issues of concern for identified social groups: the young, the old, people with disabilities and aboriginals. We set up task forces to develop a model for community and consumer participation in health management and mechanism for addressing consumer complaints. A follow up meeting to report back six months later was also well attended. Without knowing it we were establishing what is now called “buy-in” from the community. Certainly we had developed an understanding of accountability.


We argued strongly for identified consumer representation on the newly established Health Authority and the Community and Hospital Boards. Representation was not agreed to but we got our nominees up on the Authority (Lynne Grayson) and the Community Health Board (Erica Fisher). The model was later abandoned. With Lynne and Erica we agreed that it was because community representation had been too successful and vested power was reasserting itself.


We helped set up SHOUT. We have had an on-going presence in health debates locally and nationally. I was HCCAs nominee to Consumers Health Forum and Russell has continued this tradition of local support for this national body.


In the 90s people like Sheila Holcombe, a member of our Executive Committee, helped us to set our sights higher, to identify funding and employ our first coordinator, Prue Borrman. Prue was made for the role and has helped to grow and expand the work of the organisation. From so we come from history to the present. The rest is your story.


It will take a deeper analysis than I can give (and a more impartial one) to determine the effectiveness of the association over the years. At the very personal level it, and the people in it, gave me the experience, support and skills to create a role for myself as a health consumer activist, locally, nationally and even, for a brief, heady period, internationally. And I’ve certainly seen some changes along the way!



Janne Graham, 2003.