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For out of hours media enquiries contact Rachel Murphy, Acting Communications Manager, on 0435 761 732.

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Media Enquiries related to coronavirus (COVID-19)

VicHealth spokespeople are available for media interviews on managing health and wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic, including how to stay active, eat a healthy diet and look after your mental health. To arrange an interview call 0435 761 732.

VicHealth cannot speak to:
• Number of cases and deaths
• Australia vs international response
• Medical treatment / vaccine for coronavirus
• Impact on health services.

For comment on the above contact DHHS media: (03) 9096 8840 (24-hour media phone) or email [email protected]



Dr Sandro Demaio

Dr Sandro Demaio

Dr Sandro Demaio is a medical doctor and globally-renowned public health expert and advocate. 

Having held the role of Medical Officer for non-communicable conditions and nutrition with the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization, Dr Demaio was previously the CEO of the EAT Foundation, the science-based, global platform for food systems transformation.

In his pro bono work, Dr Demaio co-founded NCDFREE, a global social movement against chronic disease which reached more than 2.5 million people in its first 18 months. In 2015, he founded festival21, assembling and leading a team of experts in staging an unprecedented free celebration of community, food, culture and future in his hometown of Melbourne. In 2018, he also established an independent, not-for-profit foundation focused on improving the health and nutrition of Australians.

He has published 30 scientific papers and more than 90 articles. He is also the author of the Doctor’s Diet, a cookbook based on science and inspired by a love of good food.

Besides his role as VicHealth CEO, Dr Demaio also co-hosts the ABC television show Ask the Doctor – an innovative and exploratory factual medical series broadcasting across Australia and around the world. 

Dr Demaio originally trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. He holds a Masters degree in public health, a PhD in non-communicable diseases and has held fellowships at both Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Kirstan Corben portrait

Kirstan Corben

Executive Manager, Programs Group

Kirstan is widely recognised for her expertise in health promotion and her sector leadership as demonstrated by her twenty-year contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of all Victorians.  At VicHealth, Kirstan leads a broad agenda spanning sport and physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellbeing, alcohol and tobacco.  She is genuinely committed to putting equity at the heart of VicHealth’s work.  Kirstan’s achievements have influenced practice across health, sport, education and community settings within Australia and internationally.  Kirstan has a background in physiotherapy and masters degrees in health promotion and organisational leadership.

Mel Fineberg

Melanie Fineberg

Executive Manager, Social Marketing and Communications, and Head of This Girl Can – Victoria

Melanie is a passionate marketing communications professional with almost 20 years' experience in the government and not-for-profit sectors in Australia (Sydney, Perth and Melbourne) and in London.

Melanie has spent her career leading teams to deliver a range of high-profile behaviour change campaigns. From encouraging people to be safer on the roads and at work, to supporting people to make healthier choices and raising funds for life-saving research, Melanie’s goal has always been to have a positive impact on people’s lives.

During her time at VicHealth, Melanie has been responsible for leading the team to create the highly successful This Girl Can – Victoria campaign which inspired more than 400,000 women to get active in its first two years.

Melanie has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Technology Sydney.


Mel Chisholm

Melanie Chisholm

Manager, Physical Activity, Sport and Healthy Eating

Melanie is a qualified Health Professional and Manager, having worked for over 15 years in the health sector.

She has worked across a range of areas including community organisations, NGOs and Government both here in Australia and in the UK, spending several years as a health commissioner in London.

She is passionate about driving improvements in population health and reducing health inequities, particularly through designing and implementing policies and programs that support healthy eating and physical activity.

Most recently Melanie has worked as National Manager for Nutrition and Active Living at the Heart Foundation and as Director of Data, Research and Evaluation at North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.

Melanie holds a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics from Deakin University and an undergraduate degree in Human Movement Science from RMIT.

Maya Rivis

Maya Rivis

Manager, Health Promotion Operations

Maya Rivis has over 15 years of experience working in health promotion and public health. Maya has led the development, implementation and evaluation of a range of tobacco control, public housing, perinatal mental health, diabetes prevention and population level health promotion policy and programs.

Maya is responsible for supporting effective health promotion program delivery, organisational strategy implementation and continuous improvements at VicHealth.  

Emma Saleeba

Emma Saleeba

Manager, Alcohol and Tobacco

Emma has spent six years working specifically in tobacco and alcohol policy in government, and a further ten years in statutory agencies and the non-government sector across a range of public health roles.

Holding a Masters degree in Public Health, Emma’s experience spans health promotion policy and program development, project implementation and advocacy. Emma is responsible for VicHealth’s programs and investments in relation to preventing tobacco use and harm from alcohol.

Irene Verins

Irene Verins

Manager, Mental Wellbeing

Irene Verins has a 20-year background in the program design and management of community based initiatives within education, local government, the arts, health  and workplace.

Irene is also responsible for the workforce development program at VicHealth which has designed and delivered training across Australia and internationally.

Irene has presented and published in the areas of mental health promotion,  social determinants of health and workforce development.

Irene is a member of the Asia-Australia Mental Health Advisory Council and supports the activity of a range of state committees and working parties.

Mel Backhouse portrait

Melissa Backhouse

Principal Program Officer, Physical Activity, Sport and Healthy Communities

Melissa joined VicHealth in 2017 with more than 15 years’ experience working in the sport and physical activity industry at all levels, from grass roots to national.  

Melissa has a passion for providing sport and fitness participation opportunities that encourage all people to lead active lives. Through various roles, including seven years at the Australian Sports Commission and as Board Director for state sporting organisations, she introduced new participation opportunities, focussed on customer-centric approaches, influenced participation and high performance strategy and led governance change.  Most recently, she led the development and implementation of Swimming Australia’s first national junior program Optus Junior Dolphins and drove a shift in strategy towards an increased focus on recreational swimming.

Melissa also has a BA Commerce and Information Technology, is a member of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, and worked as a consultant to government with KPMG for seven years.

Renee Imbesi

Renee Imbesi

Principal Program Officer, Mental Wellbeing

Renee Imbesi has worked in the area of mental wellbeing for over 15 years with a focus on prevention of violence against women through research and programming to address gender inequities.

Renee has led major initiatives in gender equality and preventing violence against women in the areas of shifting community attitudes, improving knowledge translation and communications, and strengthening research and evaluation. At VicHealth she also leads the design and delivery of mental wellbeing programs for young people.

Renee has presented and published in the areas of respectful relationships education, cultural change and organisational development. She supports the activity of a range of state and national bodies in the area of research, policy and practice development.

Sean O'Rouke

Sean O'Rourke

Principal Program Officer, Alcohol and Tobacco

Sean has worked in public health for the last 10 years, focusing on alcohol and gambling harm reduction and tobacco control.

Working with a number of agencies and through a consultancy, Sean has worked with community groups, local and state government and not for profit organisations to reduce the burden of harm from alcohol, tobacco and gambling products.

Sean holds a Masters in Policy and Human Service (RMIT) and a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Latrobe University.

Natalie Russell headshot

Natalie Russell

Principal Program Officer, Mental Wellbeing

Natalie has over 15 years’ experience nationally and internationally in public health and health promotion, managing a range of initiatives aimed at supporting children and young people to develop healthy behaviours.

Natalie provides leadership and expertise in preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality, including managing the world-first program Generating Equality and Respect and delivering the VicHealth Gender Equality, Health and Wellbeing Strategy. She is also a member of the Ministerial Taskforce - Prevention of family violence and other forms of violence against women, and has a Masters of Public Health. 

Annemarie wright

Dr Annemarie Wright

Principal Program Officer, Knowledge and Health Equity

Annemarie is the content lead for research, evidence and evaluation, advising on projects across a range of illness prevention and health promotion programs. This work includes large population surveys, and development and design of population intervention programs.  

She has particular expertise in the fields of health promotion and youth mental health having worked as a clinician, clinical trainer, health promotion program manager and population health researcher. Her research has published in a range of highly cited journals. Annemarie holds a PhD in in Public Health and Mental Health in addition to a Masters degree in Medical Science (Health Promotion).