Our People

by Matthew Vierboom


 Disability support Participate Australia

Jerry McNamara
Chief Executive Officer
BSC (Genetics); MBA

Jerry has been the CEO of Participate Australia for 17.5 years, joining us in October 2003. Originally from Canada, Jerry worked in the corporate sector before moving to Australia in 1995. At this time he decided to change careers and joined the non-profit sector, where he has held senior management positions with the Institute for Sustainable Futures, Carnivale (NSW Multicultural Arts Festival) and The Bobby Goldsmith Foundation. Throughout his adult life Jerry has been very involved as an international volunteer in the Arts, HIV and Human Rights. He is the former Vice President of the Board of Koorana and the President of The Australian Heart Lung Transplant Association, the latter as a result of being very fortunate to have had a successful heart transplant in 2007.


Disability support , Individual supports by Participate Australia

David O’Kane
Chief Operating Officer
BA Economics & Public Policy, CIMA, AGIA

David joined Participate Australia in January 2020 as Executive Manager, Special Projects and Finance, prior to being appointed Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer in July 2020. With a strong background in the commercial sector in governance, finance and strategic planning, David also brings to bear his diverse experience in senior roles acquired across the NFP sector. These include FOUR paws; Sisters of Saint Joseph; Financial Services Institute of Australasia (FINSIA) and Medecins Sans Frontieres. David has executive responsibility for the Support Coordination, HR, Quality & Safeguarding and Finance teams and is currently leading a project to assess opportunities for revenue growth and diversification.


Thom Calma
Executive Manager, Support
Bachelor of Arts (Psychology & Performance Studies)

Thom is a proud First Nations Australian, a member of Kungarakan people from Darwin, NT.  After moving to Sydney in 2005 and completing his studies at the University of Sydney, he joined Participate Australia in 2009 as a support worker and quickly found a passion for the sector.  Thom and the Support team aspire to a world focused on ability, inclusion and achievement, where people with disabilities feel they belong, are inspired and feel supported to make choices and live their best lives. They strive to maximize opportunities aligning with the goals and aspirations for people with disability in an innovative, empathic, person-centred and rights-based approach.  Thom has a strong interest in human rights, with a particular focus on the rights of First Nations people; people with disability; the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and LGBTQI+ rights. He supports these areas through various philanthropic work and advisory boards.


Erika Aravena
Executive Manager, Community Liaison;
Ryde Area Supported Accommodation for Intellectually Disabled

Erika worked with the community to establish Ryde Area Supported Accommodation for Intellectually Disabled people five years ago. Since that time she has been responsible for providing support to the15 residents who live here. Erika has been working in the disability field for the past 16 years and is passionate about it, having come  into the disability field through her studies, where she was required to complete 280 hours practice work in disabilities. The sector has now become her profession and passion.


SUPPORT COORDINATION TEAM


Michael Collins
Manager, Support Coordination, Support Coordinator
Cert IV Disabilities

Michael has been in the disability sector for over 12 years and has worked in a variety of roles including supported living/accommodation, complex behaviours and intellectual disabilities. He has experience as a Local Area Coordinator and Local Area Team Leader prior to joining Participate Australia, where he built first plans in partnership with the NDIS. Michael supports participants directly and provides training and guidance for a team of Support Coordinators in the ever changing world of the NDIS. 


Sanaa
A/Assistant Manager, Senior/Specialist Support Coordinator
Bachelor of International Studies (Child Rights and Child Protection)

Sanaa joined Participate Australia in 2018, with a professional background in banking, mental health, aged care and community health. Sanaa has a number of areas of expertise, including working with people connected to the criminal justice system. A fluent Hindi speaker, Sanaa is passionate about helping people. She is a keen community sportsperson  and is currently undertaking a Masters in Criminology.


Kelly Vella (currently on maternity leave)
Senior Support Coordinator

With a background as an NDIS consultant, Kelly also has strong experience in case management from her work in the marketing and advertising context. She has a particular expertise in supporting and managing complex family dynamics, setting expectations and providing transparent communication.


Henry Baldwin
Support Coordinator
Bachelor of Commerce (Human Resources); Bachelor of Psychology (Hons)

Henry has a background in psychology, using Applied Behavioural Analysis to support children with autism and volunteering with the Centre for Emotional Health. He works with participants to connect people with services that make a meaningful life impact.


Shikha Dhangar
Support Coordinator
Bachelor of Education; Masters of Commerce

Shikha has a background in teaching and as a support worker. Her experience helps her to build solid foundations and excellent rapport with participants and their families. Shikha is skilled at connecting participants and their families with a range of services. She is fluent in English and Hindi.


HEELS Declan

Declan Heels
Support Coordinator
Bachelor of International Business

Declan has recently joined the Participate Australia Support Coordination team, with a strong background in business administration and supporting children with disabilities in an education and sport setting.


Tanya 
Support Coordinator
Bachelor of Arts (Psychology & Sociology)

Tanya has experience working with a Developmental Psychologist in private practice in the education context. In her work in schools, she assisted with assessments for learning disabilities and worked to ensure supports were provided correctly. Tanya has a keen interest in working with participants from CALD backgrounds.



Marcela Varsavikova
Support Coordinator
Certificate of Education; Cert IV Assessment & Training; Adv Dip Disability; Adv Dip Community Services Management

Marcela has a background in working with community day programs, accommodation for complex mental health needs and crisis intervention. She primarily supports participants living independently or with their families in the community.



Rickey Wan
Support Coordinator
Bachelor of Commerce (Information Systems); Bachelor of Arts (Psychology)

Rickey has a background in psychology, delivering Applied Behavioural Analysis supports to children with autism. He primarily supports participants within the Young People In Residential Aged Care and Supported Independent Living/Specialist Disability Accommodation cohorts. Rickey has particular experience in transitioning people to more suitable accommodation and a keen interest in working with participants from ATSI backgrounds.


QUALITY AND SAFEGUARDING TEAM


 

 

 

 

Swati Shourie
Manager, Quality & Safeguards
PHD

Swati has recently joined Participate Australia, with a wealth of knowledge and experience in Quality and Safeguards within the disability sector. Most recently, Swati worked with Achieve Australia, where she oversaw the quality and assurance for Supported Independent Living Services, Disability Employment, and Day Programs, supporting over 600 clients across each service. Swati’s role covers Quality & Risk, incident reporting, complaints and feedback, Child Safe, Restrictive Practices, and external SAI Global compliance audits.



CORPORATE SERVICES TEAM


NATOLI Andrea

Andrea Natoli
Manager, Partnerships, Marketing and Diversification
Bachelor Adult Education; Masters of Marketing; Bachelor of Law.

After a 20-year career in corporate sales and marketing, Andrea decided to give back to the community by joining the for-purpose sector. Her experience in this sector spans early childhood and early intervention, medical and home-based nursing, intellectual disability and neighbourhood centres. Her expertise is the growth of organisations through strategic marketing, sales initiatives, and development of strategically aligned and mutually beneficial partnerships. Andrea also sits on the Board of the Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre as its Vice Chair.


FINANCE TEAM


Eric Hong
Manager, Finance
Bachelor of Economics (Accounting)

Eric joined Participate Australia in 2013 as finance coordinator after working in a range of accounting and finance roles in a number of industries. In 2017 I was promoted to Assistant Finance Manager and subsequently Manager, Finance. He enjoys working at Participate Australia, and together with the team, he maintains high ethical standards.  Eric has have a young family and an interest in autosports. 


 

 

 

 

Lucy Lu
Senior Coordinator, Finance
Bachelor Economics; Master of Economics; Postgraduate certificate in Accounting

Lucy joined Participate Australia in January 2021, with strong knowledge and experience in accounting, finance and taxation as well as a background as a Reporting Analyst in various commercial industries.  Lucy’s responsibilities include end to end billing processes across all teams, maintaining accounts receivable, various reporting and analysis tasks and the preparation of annual budgets and forecasts.  


 

 

 

 

Jessica Hong
Payroll, Finance Coordinator
Bachelor of Economics; Cert IV Bookkeeping

Jessica joined Participate Australia in February 2020 with a background in the retail industry.  She controls end to end payroll process, accounts payable and handles the financial records of Participate Australia. 


SUPPORT TEAM


Luke Leonard
Manager, Support

Luke joined Participate Australia in May 2008 starting as a support worker after working in the arts and hospitality. He has worked in a variety of roles and departments. In his role as Manager Support he works with a team dedicated to ensuring the people we support engage in meaningful activities of their choice. Luke is passionate about equality and social justice and enjoys cooking, travelling and arts.


Irene Enrica
Manager, Support
Bachelor of Psychology, Masters of HR Management

Irene oversees the operations of the activity team and has a background in the community services sector, focusing on social engagement and mental health in the multicultural community.  She joined Participate Australia in 2012 as a support worker and moved to the coordination team in 2014.  Irene was the Learning and Development Specialist and Human Resources Coordinator at KPMG Indonesia for 4 years, is fluent in both English and Indonesian and is currently learning to speak Korean.


Damon Collum
Assistant Manager, Activities
Cert IV Disabilities; Cert II Auslan

Damon joined Participate Australia in 2010 . He helps develop and deliver our community engagement programs, overseeing program delivery, staff and the development of future initiatives to drive our activities into the future.  Damon has several family members who have a disability which range from  intellectual through to physical. Reflecting on their needs and challenges provides valuable insights into how best to support our participants and carers.  


Jodie Harmer
Senior Support Facilitator

Jodie has been with Participate Australia since October 2015 as a Coordinator in the Support team, coordinating the Flexible Respite Packages. She has worked in the disability sector in varying capacities for 14 years, including working in the Hunter region where she gained experience with the NDIS.  Jodie has a background and qualifications in Art Therapy and Counselling .


Joanna Kazzi
Senior Activities Coordinator
Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies; Masters of Human Services

Joanna joined Participate Australia in 2012 as a support worker, working across all programs within the organisation before taking on a role within the Activities Team in 2016. In this time Joanna has designed programs that provide valuable and new experiences for participants. She seeks out and maintains partnerships with external organisations, assists with grant applications and  grant implementations. Joanna is passionate about keeping children safe and incorporates this knowledge into the planning and development of programs offered by Participate Australia. Joanna is fluent in English and Arabic.


Helen An
Support Facilitator

Helen joined Participate Australia in November 2016 and worked  as a support worker in disability sector for 4 years. She studied Social Work and Community Services and has a passion for working in the welfare sector. 


Gabriella Antelmi
Activities Coordinator
Cert IV Community Services

Gabriella joined Participate Australia in 2016 as a support worker and has worked as a Team Leader in adult group activities, school holiday activities and individual support. She became an Activities Coordinator in October 2017, focusing on individual support. Gabriella has a strong passion to give back to local communities whether it is setting up a community garden with a fellow support worker or volunteering. 


Donette Ashok Kumar
Support Facilitator
B.A. ( Psychology & Sociology); B.Education, Post Grad Case Management Disability.

A teacher by profession, Donette has 15 years experience in the education sector. She began at Participate Australia in 2011 as a support worker and team leader, working across all programs. During her time here Donette has also worked as a Support Facilitator and Senior Coordinator in Community Liaison.  She is passionate about supporting people with disabilities and their families and dedicated to ensuring the best opportunities and outcomes so participants reach their NDIS goals. In addition to English, Donette is fluent in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.


Reena Ashok Kumar
Support Facilitator

Reena started working at Participate Australia in April 2014 after working in the hospitality and events industry for 2.5 years. She is in the process of completing her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and International Relations.


Lily Djumadi
Activities Coordinator
Bachelor of Computer Science; Certificate of Teaching

Lily joined Participate Australia in 2015 as a support worker. Her many years of teaching overseas  has shaped Lily’s desire to develop and help others. In her current role, she designs and facilitates programs to improve an individual’s social inclusion through goal orientated activities aligned to NDIS plans, working closely with participants and carers to achieve this. It brings Lily  tremendous joy to see participants engage with our activities in a meaningful way.  Lily is fluent in both English and Bahasa Indonesia, and also speaks Hokkien at home.


Nicolas Fodor
Support Facilitator
Bachelor of Arts (English)

Nicolas joined Participate Australia in 2018 as a support facilitator following a decade of customer based, health focused roles. He has worked with families, fitting baby seats to cars; in ergonomics, fitting supportive seats to bad backs, and most recently he supervised a Hearing Clinic in Marrickville.


Luke Palmer
Support Facilitator

Since joining Participate Australia as a support worker in 2016 Luke has developed a deeper understanding and passion to support carers, families and individuals with disabilities. During his time here he has been  involved in supporting a local charity Street Growth which builds community and assists individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds through gardening. Luke has worked school holiday programs in Central Australia with indigenous communities engaging with music, sport and various other recreational activities.