A leading researcher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, Professor Toombs is a proud Euralayie/Kooma woman from North-Western NSW, and a distinguished researcher with a depth of experience in leadership roles. Working across research, health and education, Professor Toombs has a track record of impactful work, improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Scientia Professor Head of School Rebecca Ivers AM congratulated Professor Toombs on her appointment.

Professor Ivers said, “We are thrilled Professor Toombs is joining the School of Population Health. Professor Toombs is an outstanding researcher, who has made an invaluable contribution to improving the mental health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people nationally.”

“Professor Toombs’s real world impact is remarkable – in particular her codesign of the first Indigenous social enterprise suicide intervention training program, which has received significant recognition in Australia and internationally in the United States, Canada, Ireland and African countries.”

Professor Toombs is highly recognised for her work, and in 2023 she was awarded the prestigious Australian Mental Health Prize. As a leader in the field of Indigenous health, Professor Toombs was invited to join a 2023 Australian Mission delegation to the United Nations, in New York.

Partnering locally and internationally, Professor Toombs’s expertise in codesign and culturally safe practices is foundational to her global impact. She has developed models of care with over 94 different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

As a former Churchill Fellowship recipient, Professor Toombs worked with Canadian universities on retention rates for Indigenous students, and has developed partnerships with First Nations peoples across Canada. Her research on social and emotional well-being of Indigenous students has also led to significant improvements in the completion rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander university students.

In collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine & Health’s Aboriginal Sovereign Strategy Group, Professor Toombs will establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Wellbeing Unit, that will have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education, research and community at the forefront to ensure UNSW Medicine and Health create a culturally safe environment.

“UNSW Medicine & Health and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sovereign Strategy Group is excited to welcome Professor Toombs to the faculty, and we look forward to working with her” said Associate Professor Brett Biles – Associate Dean Indigenous.

“I am really looking forward to joining the UNSW community. I am passionate about improving the outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly in the areas of mental health and well-being” said Professor Toombs.

“Education and research will be my focus in these areas, and building a community of practice that encompasses widening the pipeline in Indigenous health and education. This includes working more broadly with the UNSW community and sharing the gift of my beautiful culture, the oldest surviving civilisation in the world, Aboriginal Australia.”

Professor Toombs will commence the role on 15 January 2024. Professor Leanne Holt, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Indigenous said, “Professor Toombs will be an asset to both scholarship and leadership at UNSW. Her commitment to Indigenous education and health has been unwavering and I look forward to her joining our wonderful community at UNSW.”