Two Legged Staff

Two Legged Staff

At the heart of our Yawardani Jan-ga team area passionate and skilled Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal people, including those with specialisation in equine assisted learning and superior research and horsemanship skills, community engagement and administration expertise. Our team embraces the healing power of horses and acknowledges the pathways of Aboriginal ways of working and people along the story being created. The commitment to supporting Aboriginal children, young people and communities in unwavering to foster positive change through the power of horse and human relationships.

Professor Juli Coffin

The Founder of Yawardani Jan-ga, since 2018, Juli is trained in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy through the Equine Psychotherapy Institute of Australia and holds a Degree in Education, a Masters in Public Health and Tropical Medicine and a PhD contextualising Aboriginal young people’s experiences with Bullying and relationship issues in Western Australia.

A dedicated horseperson since she could walk, Juli has a vision of being able to provide the connectivity of horses to young people all over Australia when and where needed. After spending most of her life in the Pilbara Coffin now resides in Broome where she has been for the last 8 years and heads up this amazing program where over 1000 Aboriginal young people have been engaged and 30 Local Aboriginal people between Broome and Halls creek have been trained in this EAL work of Yawardani Jan-ga.

Juli has shown, bred and started many horses over the years and has run one of the largest pony clubs in WA as well and provided riding tuition for dressage, showing/hacking and EAL work readiness for horses, including handling and temperament assessment.

Renée Wheeler

Renée is the Program Manager at Yawardani Jan-ga and has a Certificate IV in Education Support and Business Administration and had owned and operated two small businesses in Broome. Renée has worked in the Kimberley region for 15+ years. Whilst having a love for horses and working with Aboriginal young people, she really appreciates and enjoys working in such a rewarding community engaged program at Yawardani – Jan-ga.

Sheryl Carter

Sheryl started with Yawarndani Jan-ga as the Community Engagement Manager but has worked in the Research field for the last 6years engaging with Youth Families and services. Sheryl is from Fitzroy Crossing and is from the Gooniyandi/Kija language groups in the Central/East Kimberley but has lived in Broome for the last 15years. Sheryl is looking forward to being apart of this awesome team at Yawarndani Jan-ga and seeing the rewards from this program.

Kiera Ugle

Kiera is a practitioner at Yawardani Jan-ga and has a certificate as an Equine Assisted Learning Practitioner.  Kiera is a Yamatji woman who has grown up in Perth but decided to move to Broome in 2023. She is currently doing her undergrad as a primary school teacher and has been working with children for 4 years. Kiera has always had a passion to work with children.

Sharmila Vas

Dr Sharmila Vaz has a BSc (Occupational Therapy), an MClinSc (Occupational Therapy Major) and a PhD (Occupational Therapy). She holds a Senior Research Fellow position at the Ngangk Yira Institute for Change, Murdoch University. Sharmila works closely with Professor Juli Coffin on the Yawardani Jan-ga Equine Assisted Learning Program – which aims to support the social and emotional wellbeing of Kimberley Aboriginal young people by implementing a place-based, culturally secure interventional approach. Sharmila’s research interests span the fields of child and family studies, mental health and wellbeing, healthy ageing, intervention design and program evaluation. Sharmila has worked as a clinician in hospital, community, and school-based settings in India and Australia. Dr Vaz is experienced in conceptualising and leading large-scale multi-disciplinary multi-sector translational research projects. Sharmila strives to use innovative research designs and analytical techniques to understand consumer-driven research questions – with the translation of research at the core of her work.

Deborah Gordon

Deborah is a Jaru/Gooniyadi woman who grew up on a family cattle station near Halls Creek surrounded by horses. Deborah is passionate in supporting young children and seeing the positive outcomes in every young child.

Danny Vaevae

Danny is the driver/ yards person at Yawardani Jan-ga. He was born in New Zealand and grew up in Perth from the age of 10.  Danny moved to Broome in 2023 for a much quieter scene. As the driver, Danny connects with the kids before and after their session and enjoys seeing their spirits lifted. He has also found a love for horses and loves hanging out with them.

Cassandra Matsumoto

Cassandra (Sandi) is the Senior Aboriginal Research Officer/ EAL Practitioner at Yawardani Jan-ga. Cassandra is a Nimanburru/Walman Yawuru woman who grew up in Broome. She always had a passion for holistic health. Cassandra had worked in the Aboriginal Medical Services’ (AMS) in the Kimberley region for more than 25 years in numerous positions. 2024 is a year of new beginnings and it’s a privileged to start her new journey with the amazing team at Yawardani-Jan-ga and their rewarding program.

Samantha Duinker

Sam is a practitioner with Yawardani Jan-ga. She lives in Derby and is passionate about the EAL program being accessible to the young people of Derby.

Sam’s love of horses is because she has grown up with horses all her life. She has awareness around what it’s like to have special connection and the positive benefits that horses offer.



Rene` is a practitioner at Yawardani Jan-ga.

Rene` is a Whadjuk, Balardong, Yuet and Pirni Man (Perth and Goldfields Region). He has lived in Broome or almost two years and has worked with Youth in Remote regions for many more. Rene` spent some of his childhood with horses in the Goldfields at his Pops property, he looks forward to working alongside of horses as co-workers.