AJ Williams-Tchen

Emerging Leader 2015 - 2016

AJ Williams-Tchen is of Wiradjuri background. He is a mental health accredited social worker who for the past 30 years has been working at providing awareness of mental illness within the Aboriginal community and increasing mental health literacy among all Australians. His vision is that the community should not be afraid of recognising mental illness for what it is – common and with the appropriate skills, knowledge and support they will not be scared to help their loved one, family member or friend. He also envisions that Victorian Aboriginal people with mental illness won’t be scared to seek or ask for help for they will know that others understand their signs and symptoms, and are willing, able and competent in assisting.  

AJ’s experience and involvement includes:  

  • Completion of a number of academic courses such as Nursing (maternal health & mental health), Social Work, Youth Work, Career Education, Community Development, Community Services Coordination and Aboriginal Leadership and Business Management. 
  • As of January 2024, has delivered 810 MHFA courses, having trained nearly over 9000 people to become Mental Health First Aiders. 
  • Delivery of over 600 cultural appreciation workshops to over 200 Victorian community, health and hospital settings, training non-Indigenous people about culture and working with individuals, families and communities since 2005. 
  • Owner and Director of Girraway Ganyi Consultancy: www.girrawayganyi.com 
  • Formation and implementation of cultural mentoring programs for Aboriginal young people at 5 Independent schools across Melbourne. 
  • Delivery of Deadly Thinking Youth and Deadly Thinking Adult programs. 
  • Cultural Consultant for the Association of Graduates in Early Childhood Studies (AGECS), Independent Schools Victoria (ISV), beyondblue, Australian & New Zealand Academy of Eating Disorders (ANZAED), National Eating Disorder Collaboration (NDEC), and the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).  
  • Development of professionally endorsed national AboriginalCultural Awareness & Cultural Competence programs. 
  • Assisting a number of mainstream organisations to develop Reconciliation Action Plans, Employment Strategies and cultural audit tools for the advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  
  • 5 years management experience as the National Coordinator of the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid Program at Newcastle University, Orygen Youth Health and Mental Health First Aid Australia. This role involved training and supporting all AMHFA Instructors across Australia. 
  • 3 years experience as Senior Educator at VACCHO, training Aboriginal Health Workers in Certificate III & Certificate IV in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care, and Certificate IV in Mothers and Babies.  
  • 2 years experience as an Aboriginal Health Worker at the Western Suburbs Indigenous Gathering Place.  
  • During the COVID-19 outbreak, AJ developed a YouTube channel to provide a culturally safe space for Aboriginal voices and allies to share stories of Elders, Young People, Aboriginal Workers and Allies. 
  • AJ Williams-Tchen, launched his project “Mudigang dhulyarra – Elders speaking truthfully” short films at Nairm Marr Djambana in Frankston in March 2020. There were 60+ guests attending who were inspired by the Elders and AJ’s work.  To view the Mudigang dhulyarr short films: 


  • Launched podcasts series YarninBlak Series 1(2023) and Series 2 (2024) exploring the diversity of First Nations people across Australia, BlackChatz (2024) talking to Aboriginal Social Workers and Deadly Definitions (2024).   

AJ has won a number of awards for his dedicated work in raising social awareness around eating disorders, mental health, Stolen Generations and working with Aboriginal people in numerous settings.  He was recognised for the:  

  • 2021 Hart Awards in the Community Category – Girraway Ganyi Consultancy were ‘Highly Commended’ for their YouTube Channel.  

He was also awarded the:  

  • 2021 AASW Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander Social Worker of the Year.  
  • 2022 Allied Health Awards ‘COVID Champion’ for changing his business practices throughout COVID19 and subsequent lockdowns.  
  • 2022 George & Ethel Swinburne University Social Impact Alumni Award.   
  • 2022 Victoria University Alumni ‘Professional Achievement’ Award.  
  • 2022 Victoria University ‘Spirit of VU’ Alumni Award.
  • 2023 Allied Health Awards ‘Social Worker of the Year’.
  • 2024 Australian of the Year – Victoria Nominee.