My TedX Interview

In June 2017, Helena was one of seven finalists in the TEDxSydney Fast Ideas competition. In preparation for the event, the delightful emcee Sinead McDevitt asked her the following questions:

Where did you grow up, go to school and study medicine?
  • I was born in the former Yugoslavia
  • migrated to Australia at the age of 4 years
  • went to school in Sydney
  • spent a year in Japan as a Rotary Exchange student
  • studied medicine at the University of Sydney
  • spent 4 months doing a medical elective term in Bombay, India
  • worked as a family planning doctor in Auckland, New Zealand for one year
  • did volunteer Lifeline counselling for one year
  • worked as a medical translator in Germany for one year
  • worked as a family planning doctor and vasectomist in Sydney and then Brisbane for several years
  • developed a passion for brain science and neuroplasticity after meeting Dr Norman Doidge
  • now speak at conferences and run NeuroSlimming retreats throughout Australia and overseas
Where are you living at the moment?

On the edge.

What’s one thing you love to do outside work?

Climb mountains (not with complicated equipment, just with a good pair of hiking boots) and bush walk – nature nurtures us.

What are some of your core beliefs?
  • I believe that health is not a distant destination, it’s a daily choice.
  • I believe our decisions are more powerful than our DNA.
  • I believe the key to good health is feeding our spirit, not starving our body.
  • I believe in slow ageing despite fast living.
  • I believe that adventure feeds the spirit, strengthens the mind, boosts the brain and energises the body.
What are some adventures you’ve had in your life?

I’m privileged in that I regard my work as an ongoing adventure.
Other adventures I’ve experienced include:

  • climbing Mt Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo
  • walking the Great Wall of China to raise money for the Clown Doctor charity
  • living with hill tribes in Thailand
  • getting mugged in Johannesburg, South Africa
  • bungy jumping over the Zambezi River
  • crossing the road in Saigon (I clung to a local woman’s skirt for safety)
  • riding a camel in the Pushkar desert, India (I couldn’t sit down for about a week afterwards)
  • trekking across the French Pyrenees
  • sky diving and parasailing over Mission Beach, Queensland
  • assembling an Ikea bookshelf
When was the first time you appeared on stage?

In primary school. I played Minnie Mouse in an Eisteddfod.

Who's your hero?

My Dad – he has had dementia for over 12 years and we lost Mum (his wife of 40 years) 7 years ago but he still leads a fulfilling life and he continues to teach me what’s truly important.

What are the top four things you want to do before you kick the bucket?
  1. Laugh more
  2. Learn more
  3. Listen to more TED talks
  4. Share the above three with others
What’s your greatest fear?

That I won’t have enough time to implement all my ideas about how to make the world a healthier, happier place.

What’s the driving force behind what you do?

To make a positive difference – and to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint.

Do you have children?

I sponsor two children.

Rouern is a young Cambodian girl who was abandoned by her family and now lives in the Charitable Centre in Baggambang. The Centre was built by an Australian non-government, not-for-profit organisation called Hope for Cambodian Children Foundation Inc. HfCC aims to give a future to children whose lives have been affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Cambodia. HfCC provides each child with a loving, caring, safe home environment, nutritious food and comprehensive health care as well as education and vocational training.


Chikita is an orphaned baby orangutan at the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo. The centre opened in 1964 as the first official orangutan rehabilitation project for orphaned baby orangutans rescued from logging sites, plantations and illegal hunting. The orphaned orangutans are trained to survive again in the wild and are released when they are ready.

Watch Helena’s TedX talk

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