Leilani is a Torres Strait islander. She is CEO of the Torres Strait Regional Authority. She grew up in Cairns before attending university in Rockhampton. Her great- grandfathers were from Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Jamaica and Niue, and her great-grandmothers from various islands of the Torres Strait.
As Australia’s first Torres Strait Islander appointed to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Torres Strait Treaty Liaison Office, Leilani managed a range of highly sensitive issues relating to Australia’s proximity to Papua New Guinea, including biosecurity risks and health security matters, illegal activities such as people and drug smuggling, fisheries, and community expectations about shared management of the environmental and marine resources. She was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2019.
Leilani has been an active proponent and champion of Australia’s Indigenous heritage both domestically and internationally. She has provided service as a curator at the National Museum; as Manager of the Cultural Program at the Australian Pavilion at Shanghai World Expo in 2010, as an adviser on economic governance in the Solomon Islands, and as a diplomat promoting gender and sports diplomacy in Papua New Guinea.