Our people

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.
Tracylee Arestides - 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.

Lauren Henley – Senior Systemic Advocate

Lauren is a passionate professional who is dedicated to eliminating barriers to the full and equal participation of people with disability. Losing her sight in a car accident at age 20 gave Lauren a direct insight into the level of injustice that is experienced by people with disability in Australia. Lauren has gone on to hold a range of roles in government and the community sector since this time, which has allowed her to develop experience in:

  • Systemic advocacy and campaigning
  • Government relations
  • Policy research and writing
  • Group facilitation and training.

Lauren has previously worked as Advisor to Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner and has also represented the rights, needs and interests of people with disability at the United Nations. These opportunities have given Lauren a comprehensive understanding of disability rights issues both locally and globally.

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.
Amy Simmons - Manager - Operations

Amy joined AFDO in July 2023 as Manger – Operations.

Amy has over 15 years’ experience in the Community (NFP) Sector working in a variety of roles spanning executive leadership, business development, financial management, people, and culture, legal, risk and compliance, governance and event and project management.

Most recently Amy worked as Director of Development and Operations at ACOSS.

Amy is passionately committed to the principles of social justice and the work of the community sector, recognising the critical role it plays in delivering essential services, advocated for systemic change, and bringing people and communities together.

 

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 CEO, National Manager & Systemic Advocacy Team 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.

Kirra Jackson - Coordinator - Volunteers, Students & Interns

Kirra is our Project Support Officer for multiple projects that AFDO is implementing. 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.

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.

Tanya Huppatz - Administration Officer

Having over twenty years of experience in office management, Tanya is well equipped with customer service, communication and organisational skills to support the AFDO Team.  Tanya is someone you can simply rely upon to “get the job done”.

Tanya has lived experience of disability with 2 beautiful daughters who have ASD.

In her spare time, Tanya enjoys travelling, socialising with friends and competing in Masters Calisthenics competitions.

Nicci Richman - Project Coordinator - BIDS Hunter

Nicci joined AFDO as Project Coordinator, Business Inclusion and Diversity Service (BIDS) Hunter Region, NSW, in February 2023.  She brings extensive experience as a neurodivergent Organisational Development professional and has worked across a range of sectors, including professional services, education, tech, allied health, manufacturing and community services.

Nicci brings strengths in supporting businesses to embrace inclusive design; training and development; and streamlining processes to optimise performance, productivity and belonging. She’s proud to be supporting local Hunter businesses to build their disability confidence, which is an extension of her advocacy work in Neurodiversity.

She holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Sociology and Political Science), and accredited certificates in Mindfulness, Human Resources, Training and Education, and Business. Nicci is an accredited REACH Facilitator and a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI).

Jo-Ann Mitchell - Project Coordinator - BIDS Hunter

Jo joined the Business Inclusion and Diversity Services (BIDS) Hunter team in May 2023 as project co-ordinator.  She comes to the role with a varied career – starting as a trade apprenticeship, to mining crews, community service work, retail, administration and management.

Throughout her career, Jo’s number one focus has always been ‘people’. Her care for her customers has resulted in service levels where all stakeholders feel seen, understood, and energized.

An experienced multitasker, Jo is a great communicator and prioritises clear communication and openness in her dealing with people at all levels. ‘Without communication we cannot begin to understand the tapestry of people around us,’ says Jo. ‘Everyone has a story and without asking questions and being open to learning about people, we rob ourselves of learning new things and seeing the world from another’s perspective.’

Melissa Morgan - Project Coordinator - BIDS Hunter

Lives in fabulous Newcastle after relocating from the Upper Hunter Valley in the idyllic township of Denman.

Melissa Morgan

Joining AFDO in February 2023 as Project Coordinator – Business Inclusion & Diversity (BIDS) Hunter. Melissa has a passion for “being the change in the world that you want to see”. With a background in Disability Employment Services and Recruitment, Melissa sees the need for Businesses to gain the confidence to employ from the disability sector. Creating opportunities though conversations and connections is how Melissa sees the world. Holding a diploma in Community Services and much experience with the tourism and hospitality sector. Melissa’s varied background is perfectly match to the BIDS Project. A passionate member of the HDIC and a regular volunteer at the Soul Hub this keeps Melissa in touch with the local issues at hand.

Siming Chen - Project Officer BIDS, ACT, Canberra Region

Siming is the Business Inclusion and Diversity Services project officer in ACT and Canberra region, working with SMEs in Canberra, Yass and Goulburn to build their confidence and capacity to create a more just, diverse and inclusive workplace.

She has ten years of experience in managing international programmes and building trust and understanding across cultures and communities. Before joining AFDO, she was a senior arts manager in cultural relations, working on a range of arts and culture programmes mainstreaming diversity and inclusion with people with disabilities.

Currently, she is also completing a Master of Public Policy degree at Crawford School at the Australian National University with specialisations in social policy and economic policy.

Mark Sarosi - Project Support Officer - BIDS ACT, Canberra Region

Mark holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing and a Breadth Major in Events and Tourism and is currently studying Commercial Cookery to pursue his passion for culinary arts. With a Hungarian background and having lived in multiple countries, he has developed a unique appreciation for a diversity of needs, values, and cultures, which is reflected in his work and studies.

Finance Team

Chief Financial Officer:  Nunzio Giunta CPA

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.

 

Natalie Wade – AFDO Disability Royal Commission Consultant

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.

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.

Mary Henley-Collopy - AFDO National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Consultant

Mary Henley-Collopy joined Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) as a Director on the AFDO Board in 2019. Since leaving the Board, she has now taken on the role of AFDO Expert Consultant on National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) where she brings a wealth of professional and personal knowledge as a person with disability and an NDIS participant herself. She has over 35 years’ experience working as a Social Worker in both the public and private sectors. Mary has a Bachelor of Social Work; Bereavement Counselling qualifications; and a Certificate IV in Workplace Assessment and Training. Mary is currently undertaking a 'Diploma of Governance' through the Institute of Community Directors Australia. Mary was born with a permanent disability stemming from Thalidomide damage - resulting in four limb foreshortening.Mary Henley-Collopy joined Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) as a Director on the AFDO Board in 2019.

Since leaving the Board, she has now taken on the role of AFDO Expert Consultant on National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) where she brings a wealth of professional and personal knowledge as a person with a disability and an NDIS participant herself. She has over 35 years’ experience working as a Social Worker in both the public and private sectors.

Mary has a Bachelor of Social Work; Bereavement Counselling qualifications; and a Certificate IV in Workplace Assessment and Training. Mary is currently undertaking a ‘Diploma of Governance’ through the Institute of Community Directors Australia. Mary was born with a permanent disability stemming from Thalidomide damage – resulting in four limb foreshortening.

Eva Sifis - AFDO Inclusion in the Arts Consultant


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.

 

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