“We can thrive, because we can walk with each other.”

Have truer words ever been spoken about our profession, at this moment in time?

This spot-on quote came from Matthew Ames, our opening speaker at Dietitians Unite 2018 — and he had a capacity-crowd roomful of nutrition leaders nodding their heads in agreement.


But let’s back up a bit, and set the stage. Our expectations were exceeded in every regard at this year’s DU’18, held on 2 March in Brisbane. In our fifth year, we had more attendees than ever, topping the 300 mark. Attendees not only from across Australia, but also from Singapore and New Zealand [we are global!]. High-calibre sponsors, showcasing their groundbreaking products [and sharing lots of samples to take home!]. Three separate tracks, so that attendees could choose to hear from business leaders, innovative clinicians or foodservice leaders. More opportunities to network and collaborate than ever before, from pre-event brekky to multiple meal breaks, and after-event drinks.


And we haven’t even mentioned our speakers yet. The two presentations that bookended the day for us – Matthew Ames and Hummingbird House’s founders – humbled us, while imparting incredible [and so useful] words of inspiration.

Matthew, a quadruple amputee who’s moved beyond physical challenges to discover his talent for motivating others, used an analogy of climbing a mountain. If we find an obstacle in our path, we just need to learn how to overcome it by surviving and then thriving. He outlined four key steps to doing this:

1. Know, and accept, where you are at this junction – realise “it is what it is”.
2. Know where you are going – and don’t just have a task you need to complete, have a purpose.
3. Find a way around the obstacle. There’s always an opportunity; you just need to adapt to find it.
4. Remember you’re never alone. Stay open to the help of others and call on your relationships. We need other people to get to where we want to go – hence, the quote that opens this story.

Photo courtesy of Peter Collins (Clinical Dietetics)

On the heels of this inspiration from Matthew, we honoured the recipient of the first annual Holly Butcher award, Katie Benton, clinical oncology dietitian. Katie was chosen for exemplifying the traits showcased by Holly, a young dietitian who died on 4 January this year of Ewing’s sarcoma. before she passed away, Holly authored a refreshing reminder — that eventually reached the world — about seizing the day, and so much more. Holly’s family was in attendance to see Katie receive the award, and chose Katie specifically from a pool of incredible nominations.

As we broke out into three streams for the day, we heard from a myriad of incredible speakers. The beauty of the business-stream speakers is that they all came from different walks of life, with wildly divergent approaches – but all have found success in their own ways. Speaker Jason Smith ignored conventional wisdom that urges us to say yes to every opportunity that comes along. “Say no, so you can say yes,” he explained. Focus on your purpose, he means, and don’t dilute yourself. Dean Merlo, of coffee and cafe fame, shared his philosophy on the value of exceptional customer service – especially in an age of social media, when everyone’s a critic. Dietitian Kate Wengier, director of Foost and successful Kickstarter campaigner, urged us to be clear on our purpose – but to be open to feedback constantly, especially if you feel your plans going astray. Bestselling author Rachael Bermingham of the Four Ingredients book empire, cautioned us not to stop ourselves from having a go – to be prepared to “change lanes” and find ways to achieve the success we seek.


In the clinical track, Hannah Brown got us up-to-speed on the latest tools — such as smartphone apps – that can positively impact client behaviour. Tara  MacGregor walked us through a reflection on our current challenges, an affirmation of our progress with developing such skills – and how to find opportunities for further development. Shane Jeffrey shared the benefits of gaining skills in supporting behaviour change, and sharing resources to help us move beyond the traditional role of “information provider”. Then, Glenn Mackintosh reminded us “We Are All in This Together!”, and shared his ideas on how dietitians and psychologists working at the forefront of health behaviour change can make important mindset shifts to improve outcomes.


In our foodservices stream, Dr Karen Abbey shared her vast knowledge of innovation in aged-care foodservices, and walked us through four topics with lots of key takeaways: getting your foot in the door, kitchen and dining room equipment and service ideas, technology, and doing more for less.

The day concluded with remarks from the founders of Queensland’s first and only children’s hospice, Hummingbird House. Paul and Gabrielle Quilliam spoke of the obstacles they faced in bringing their [much-needed] dream to life, and how they collaborated with partners from government to not-for-profits and private corporations to raise the necessary funding. We left in awe of their motivation and commitment to “birthing” this labour of love.


Add in our beloved wonderful Dr Joanna McMillan, back as our emcee and keeping us all on time with good humour, and our famous goodie bags, chockablock with samples and literature, and we can make it official:  DU18 was incredibly successful.

Thank you to every one who attended! And a big thank you to our sponsors, without you, the day would not be possible.

Now, to catch up on a bit of sleep as we are already planning how to top this next year at DU’19.

See you in Sydney in March 2019!


Click here to view the photos – If you want to relive the event all over again – and really, we can’t blame you!