Our people

Our Team

Our diverse team is made up of dedicated and passionate people who are committed to achieving our Vision – a community where all people with disability are involved equally in all aspects of social, economic, political and cultural life.

Ross Joyce, our Chief Executive Officer (CEO) leads our team which is made up of people with disability, family members and supporters, each with their own unique skills and experience to complement each other.  More information on our team is below.

Interested in joining our team? Find employment opportunities here

Ross Joyce – Chief Executive Officer

Ross Joyce's photoRoss brings significant expertise to the Chief Executive Officer role at AFDO. His past experience includes:

  • Co-Founder and former Executive Director of the charity UrCommunity – aimed at alleviating poverty, providing food security and promoting inclusion.
  • Executive Director of UrCommunity Initiatives.
  • Principal and Founder of Verve – Empowering Solutions – providing management consultancy to not-for-profit, community service, and small-to-medium-sized enterprises.
  • Director at annecto – a national service provider focused on inclusion in disability, aged, veteran’s and carers services.
  • Chief Executive Officer at PivotWest – a division of general practice (primary health care).
  • Chief Executive Officer at the Macedon Ranges & North Western Melbourne Medicare Local (primary health care).
  • Chief Executive Officer at the Hume-Moonee Valley Regional Library Corporation.

Ross serves on the following committees and forums:

  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) CEO Forum
  • NDIS Independent Advisory Council (IAC)
  • Victorian Government NDIS Implementation Taskforce Working Group
  • Ageing, Disability & Mental Health Collaborative Panel
  • Innovative Workforce Fund – Independent Advisory Group (IAG)

Ross is also highly qualified, with credentials including a:

  • Post Graduate Diploma in Management
  • Bachelor of Business
  • Certificates in ISO Standard Quality Assurance Implementation and Internal Auditing
  • Fellow of Leadership Victoria’s Williamson Leadership Program
  • Certified Professional of the Australian Human Resources Institute
  • Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Helen Cameron - Personal & Executive Assistant

Helen is the Personal & Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer at AFDO.

With over 16 years of experience in a professional Executive Assistant role and with a track record of strong performance in a high-volume, high-pressure environment, Helen skillfully manages the AFDO office and supports the Chief Executive Officer to ensure that all operational areas function efficiently, effectively and in accordance with AFDO policies, procedures and reporting requirements.

Helen provides high level executive support to the CEO, as well as supporting the AFDO Management team, diary management, and event coordination.  Helen is  team player equipped with exceptional interpersonal and communication skills.

Out of the office, Helen volunteers at the Royal Childrens Hospital as a Family Support Volunteer, looking after patients or their siblings and providing support to parents and carers.    .

 

Patrick McGee - National Manager - Systemic Advocacy, Insight & Research

Patrick Mcgee's photoPatrick has been working with people with intellectual disability for 32 years. He began as a nurse at Janefield Training Centre in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. While he has worked in a range of different sectors, such as homelessness and HIV, Patrick has always kept his passion for social justice issues for people with an intellectual disability. Patrick also has a strong commitment to Indigenous Australians with disability, as he has lived and worked in Central Australia.

Patrick began working as an advocate/guardian with the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate in 2004. Here, he developed an insight into the civil and political issues for people with cognitive impairments through the lens of guardianship. In 2007, Patrick became the guardian for a young Indigenous man from a remote community. This man was detained in a maximum-security prison in the Northern Territory after killing a family member.

As this young man’s advocate and decision maker, Patrick came into contact with the criminal justice issues faced by people with cognitive impairments, particularly Indigenous Australians. As a result of this experience, he founded a national advocacy campaign called the Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign – now called Australians for Disability Justice.

Patrick joined AFDO in July 2017 and has undertaken extensive work on policy development, government and sector submissions, systemic advocacy, on several major issues including; Transport Act Review, Access to the Disability Support Pension, AFDO Federal Budget Pre-Submission, Children with Disability in Out of Home Care, Access to NDIS Supports for people with disability in detention or remand, etc.

Tracylee Arestides - Interim National Manager - Policy, Sustainability, Initiatives & Projects

Tracylee is an experienced senior manager with strong communication and project management skills in the disability sector. She is also the primary carer for her adult daughter with disability and complex medical needs. 

Tracylee has previously worked for the NSW Commissioner for Disability, Accessible Arts, Down Syndrome NSW and for eight years served on the Board of the NSW Council for Intellectual Disability.  She is a passionate advocate for inclusion with a solid commitment to access and empowerment through information and advocacy.

Jim Valavanis - Manager - Business Development & Sustainability
Jim has a diverse range of work experience and qualifications that has bridged over two and a half decades for a number of industries in the corporate sector, including sales, customer service, account management, new business development, and implementation.
 
He has lived experience of disability with a son who has a vision impairment. Jim has had an association and involvement with a variety of charitable organizations such as Beyond Sight Auxiliary, Vision Australia, Guide Dogs Victoria, Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Camp Quality, Challenge, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Cancer Council.
 
This has contributed greatly to his appreciation of charities and not-for-profit organisations, their structure along with their services. He has experienced first-hand the essential help and support that these organisations offer to families during difficult and challenging times. The funds raised are essential for these services and many other areas such as research, training, raising awareness, technology and equipment.
Aaron Holt - Communications Officer

Aaron is our Communications Officer who creates and produces all of our external communications through various digital mediums. Coming from a digital communications background, Aaron completed his undergraduate degree in Journalism at RMIT University in 2019 and is currently completing his Master of Communication qualification at Deakin University, specialising in Public Relations. 

Aaron currently works for The Rights Information And Advocacy Centre in regional Victoria as their Digital Marketing Coordinator as well as concurrently for EMDR Academy, a specialised trauma training program that up skills mental health professionals. He has previously worked at RMIT University as a Research Administrator at The School of Graduate Research for several years, supporting the management of Higher Degree by Research Admissions and Scholarships applications as well as their marketing activities. 

As a person with lived experience of disability as well as a carer, Aaron is passionate about being the voice for those who can’t advocate for themselves. He is passionate about mental health, social justice and an advocate that supports young people in reducing stigma by encouraging open dialogue and conversations within the wider community. 

Kirra Jackson - Coordinator - Volunteers, Students & Interns

Kirra is our Co-Ordinator: Volunteers, Students and Interns, who is working on our volunteer and internship program within AFDO. Coming from an organising background, Kirra worked at the Public Service Association in NSW, and completed then a Cert IV in Organising and Industrial Relations in 2019, as well as a Bachelors Degree in Communications and International Studies at the University of Technology Sydney.

Kirra has also had experience in Disability Advocacy being the Disabilities officer for the National Union of Students (The peak student body representative organisation in Australia), organising countrywideactions and connecting students with disabilities across the country. They also ran the second Disability and Accessibility conference for NUS in its history.

As a person with a variety of disabilities, Kirra is strongly passionate about ensuring that people with disabilities have a voice and are listened to. Kirra is particularly passionate about support for people with learning disabilities past the age of schooling – knowing all to well that it affects every aspect of one’s life. Kirra is also extremely passionate about better access to education for people with disabilities in general and is an advocate for better support in these institutions.

As someone who is LGBTQI+, Kirra is also passionate about ensuring that the intersections of being LGBTQI+ and being disabled are recognised and accounted for when advocacy is involved. In their spare time, Kirra plays a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, watches 2000 era tv shows, and must always have an iced coffee in their hand.

Duncan Steward – Coordinator - Business Sustainability

Duncan is our Business Sustainability Coordinator with a diverse range of education, work experience and qualifications that he has undertaken over several decades, He has worked in multiple industries and roles in the corporate sector, including chartered and corporate accounting, sales and business development, product management and marketing.

He has lived experience of disability having had a vision impairment since birth. Duncan has had an association and involvement with a variety of charitable organizations such Vision Australia, and other organisations as a volunteer and board member. He has experienced first-hand the essential help and support that these organisations offer to individuals with disabilities and the challenges they face every day.

Duncan also has been working with music artists and talent in the creative industries, who identify with a disability, since completing a Bachelor in Entertainment Business Management back in 2016. He has greatly contributed to their individual success and is passionate about helping them realise their goals and dreams. Duncan brings a wealth of experience to AFDO, not only form a lived experience perspective but also a genuine desire to help others in our community where he can.

Ainslie Whitburn - Coordinator - ILC ICB Projects & BIDS Support

Ainslie is coordinating an ILC funded project, where she works with some of our members to implement an effective customer relationship management system and deliver peer led and designed information and training sessions. She also provides support to the Business Inclusion and Diversity Scheme.

Ainslie has completed a Bachelor Arts (Psychology) and a Graduate Diploma in Education at the University of Newcastle, NSW. Recently, Ainslie worked as the Projects Coordinator for Community Disability Alliance Hunter, a peer-led organization developing peer networks and mentoring for people with disability across the Hunter Valley region of NSW. Ainslie worked for St Vincent de Paul NSW, promoting the accessibility of local businesses.

Ainslie has worked for local government on the Central Coast, NSW, where she lives. She implemented their Disability Inclusion Action Plan and led their community development team, who worked to increase the capacity of diverse community groups to organize community activities, events and campaigns.

As a person with disability Ainslie has always been a strong advocate for providing meaningful opportunities for people with disability to participate in and contribute to their communities. She wants people with a disability to not only share their stories but to be active citizens in all areas of social, economic and political life.

Rebecca Rudd – Coordinator - Policy & Submissions

Bec is our Coordinator of Policy and Submissions. Her role involves working closely with the National Managers to develop AFDO policy positions in consultation with our members, promoting these positions, and undertaking submissions on key issues as they arise.

In 2020, Bec completed her Master of Social Policy at the University of Melbourne, with a strong focus on disability policy and qualitative research. She interned with the Research and Policy Centre at the Brotherhood of St Laurence as part of her studies and continues to work there casually as a Research Assistant.

She has worked across a number of policy areas, including domestic violence, youth unemployment, child and family services, and disability employment initiatives. Her interest lies in the nexus between research, policy, and practice, and she is committed to translating research insights into meaningful policy and effective service provision.

Bec lives with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI), and as a person living with a psychosocial disability, she is deeply committed to the work that AFDO does in representing and advocating for all people with disabilities.

Steve Schreck - Coordinator – Disability Projects & BIDS

Steve has significant experience working in Disability Employment Services (DES) in Adelaide and Geelong and brings to the AFDO team highly respected skills and knowledge in the areas of educating and supporting businesses to create inclusive workplaces. Steve holds qualifications in Project Management, Vocational and Educational Training and Employment Services and has a wide range of industry experiences including 15 years in Private and Public hospitals.

Steve’s DES roles have given him a deep insight into the genuine desire businesses have to provide opportunities for individuals with barriers to employment, as well as the support the business requires to make it happen. As the Co-Founder of a small business since 2010, Steve has firsthand experience of the challenges today’s businesses face and knows the value of professional services that seek to fully understand the business and provide support that is matched accordingly.

Steve ultimately brings to this role a passion for helping workplaces to understand the positive impact inclusion practices have not only for a jobseeker with a disability, but for their families, the employees of the business and the wider community.

Nick Wilson – Project Support Officer

Nick joins AFDO with a wealth of disability sector experience in support work, individual advocacy and project support. In particular, Nick co-authored the AFDO Member DRC Advocacy’s resource “DSP and Me” aiming to make it easier for applicants to understand and apply for a disability support pension.

Holding a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Community Development, Nick has worked across WA, South Australia and Victoria and has lived experience with Asperger’s syndrome.

Natalie Wade - AFDO Expert Advisor - Disability Royal Commission

Natalie Wade looking at the camera.Natalie Wade is the Founder and Principal Lawyer of Equality Lawyers, a law firm which provides everyday legal services to people with disabilities, their families and supporters. Prior to founding Equality Lawyers, Natalie was a solicitor within the South Australian Government. In 2015, Natalie was appointed as a solicitor to the South Australian Child Protection Systems Royal Commission. During her time with the Royal Commission, Natalie worked a range of children protection systems issues including those faced by children with disabilities. In 2016, Natalie was awarded Australian Young Lawyer of the Year for her work on the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission.

Outside of work, Natalie has a strong track record as a disability rights advocate and lawyer. As the Founding Chair of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights’ (ALHR) Disability Rights Subcommittee, Natalie has championed key disability rights advocacy work for ALHR including providing a response to the Senate Inquiry into violence, abuse and neglect of people with disabilities (2015), assisting on international complaints for a person with cognitive impairment who is indefinitely detained in an Australian prison and providing media commentary on the rights of migrants with disabilities. The combination of Natalie’s lived experience of disability and professional skills gives her expertise a clear focus on the human rights of people with disabilities.

Jody Barney - AFDO Cultural Consultant

Jody Barney smiling at camera

I am a Birri-Gubba / Urangan woman from Queensland and have resided on Yorta Yorta Country since 1999. I work as a Deaf Indigenous Community Consultant and have been working with AFDO since 2007 on and off when required on various projects surrounding the inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities.

Most of my roles have been and continue to be to ensure that consultations, mentoring, relationships, and cultural governance practices are provided.

Since this time AFDO has engaged my services on numerous important pieces of work including many Victoria State Disability Plans, Workshops, Forums, and consultations Aboriginal Engagement Strategies and working with Traditional Owners, Elders, and Community to raise the profile of AFDO’s work at a national level.

My roles include:

  • Engagement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with Disabilities
  • Providing Cultural advise, evidence and supports to the staff at AFDO when on country, going to communities and participating in discussions impacting community
  • Assisting AFDO on meeting with Traditional Owners, Elders and communities when required and necessary
  • Providing supports to AFDO to increase and provide cultural frameworks to their policies and practice
  • Assist AFDO in the development of their National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement Strategies
  • Support Members of AFDO on increasing their participation and partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisation, and services.

This work is not done in isolation.  It is supported and continuously reviewed by a network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander supports aligned with the ethos “Nothing About Us, Without Us”.

Natasha Thomson - AFDO Social Security Consultant - Techincal Experts Social Security (TESS) Working Group

Natasha has built strong self advocacy skills through her personal health journey with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and a motor vehicle accident. Her experiences of feeling like she wasn’t being heard in regard to her own health lead to her learning that she had to trust that she knew her own body, and to back herself in situations when things weren’t right. These experiences were traumatic and lead to significant delays in accessing the appropriate treatments and management. Pivoting from being a passive patient to an assertive manager of her own health lead her to finally getting the answers she sought, and put her on the path to appropriate management of these conditions.

Natasha actively amplifies the voices of people who have similar experiences in the hope that it can bring widespread, and much needed, change to structures and systems. Natasha became involved with AFDO in 2019 bringing with her the voice of a person with lived experience of being disabled and navigating the social security system. In sharing her experiences and journey, Natasha hopes that others won’t have to experience the same trauma in accessing the help that they not only deserve, but are entitled to.

Natasha has a passion for working with newborns and has volunteered at the Royal Children’s Hospital as a family support volunteer for the past 4 years. In 2018 she completed her Bachelor of Education, Early Childhood & Primary, followed by a Level 4 qualification in Maternity Nursing whilst in the UK. Natasha uses her free time to foster kittens, focusing on hand raising vulnerable neonatal kittens who can require intensive and around the clock care. One of her previous fosters has become her own emotional support animal, and is a wonderful source of comfort.

Geoff Trappett - AFDO Transport Consultant - National Inclusive Transport Advocacy Network (NITAN) Chairperson

Geoff Trappett sitting in wheelchair and facing camera.Geoff is a former Paralympic Athlete. Competing in two world championships, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Paralympics. Winning Gold in Sydney, being the first person to dip under the 14 second mark for the 100m wheelchair sprint, holding this world record through his retirement in 2005.

Following on from sport Geoff has transitioned to working professionally in multiple senior executive roles in the disability sector, both within disability service providers and disabled peoples advocacy organisations.  Geoff’s roles range from Client Engagement Manager for a large (3500 customers) service organisation to workforce development within the peak body for human service organisations.

Geoff currently runs his own social policy change organisation “Inclusion Moves” and now speaks out on human rights and disability issues.

Geoff represents AFDO on the National Transport Review, and his role at AFDO is Chairperson of the National Inclusive Transport Advocacy Network (NITAN) – A cross-sector advocacy group bringing together peak bodies, customers, and service organisations to push for inclusive transport.

Eva Sifis - AFDO Expert Consultant to Inclusion in the Arts


Woman standing with short auburn hairEva Sifis’ expertise illustrates her life long calling to the Arts. As a professional performer, she danced around Australia. This led to life and Cabaret work in Japan. In 1999 Eva was on her way to stardom in China however when she sustained severe brain injury as a pedestrian, that reality was abruptly stopped.

Her drawn out and continuing recovery is led arm in arm with the disability arts sector, enabling a view that straddles life before and after acquired disability. This perspective gives a richness to her experience and depth to her view. Eva still manages to be a performative artist and producer but her main drive has shifted to that of training and advocacy.

By Accident™️ was developed in order to fill a gap in what is on offer to survivors of brain injury in Australia. Hearing the voice and creativity of her peers, the space Eva forms gives credence to the authority lived experience brings.

Arts Access Victoria gains from her crafting of training together with her facilitation of the program.

Consultations for AFDO are carried out alongside a similar position with Women with Disabilities Victoria. As developer and trainer for ‘Voice At The Table’, Eva champions the inclusion of those with cognitive disabilities being present when decisions and policies are being made that concern them.

Eva is a born connector and takes great pleasure in endorsing a more equitable world.

 

Finance Team

Chief Financial Officer:  Nunzio Giunta

AFDO engages Giuntabell to provide financial services to AFDO.  Nunzio Giunta is the principal and founder of Guintabell and is AFDO’s Chief Finance Officer (CFO).  Nunzio’s areas of expertise include financial reporting, systems implementation, revenue recognition, charity compliance, risk management, budgeting, and forecasting.   As a CPA qualified not-for-profit expert, Nunzio strongly believes that not-for-profits that do good should be successful, and he works hard to help our organisation to succeed.  Nunzio is passionate about enhancing the financial performance of AFDO, and the non-profit sector.

Accountants: Ian Scarborough CPA, and Malcolm Godber CPA

Ian and Malcolm both work part-time as AFDO’s Accountants.  They are both passionate about enhancing AFDO’s financial performance, and specialise in financial, risk management and strategic support, to ensure that we make the best financial decisions.  They both ensure that our financial records are accurate, and they always act with integrity.

When not in the office, Ian enjoys ballroom dancing, gardening and watching musicals, and Malcolm enjoys spending time with his family, and travelling.

 

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