Our People

by Matthew Vierboom

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. 

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 asses opportunities for revenue growth and diversification.

Michael Collins
Manager, Support Co-0rdination, Support Coordinator

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.

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, having taken part in and completed many events, including the Oxfam Trail Walker (100 km) the Long Walk Home (30 km) and The Bloody Long Walk (35 km). Sanaa is currently undertaking a Masters in Criminology.

Erika Aravena
Executive Manager, Community Liaison

Erica has been working in the disability field for the past 16 years and is passionate about what she does.  Erica came into the disability field through her studies, where she was required to complete 280 hours practice work in disability, never knowing that it would become her profession and passion.

Lorraine Baldacchino
Manager, Corporate Services
MBA (IR), Diploma HR, Grad Cert OHS

Lorraine commenced with Participate Australia in August 2015. She has been delivering human resource outcomes for over 28 years in various organisations, including the State Government, the not for profit sector  (since 2004) and commercial organisations. Lorraine is a Board member of a community organisation supporting women, providing valuable experience she brings to her  role at Participate Australia.  She hails from Scotland originally and and is also a member of the Central Coast Highland Dancing Committee. 

Emily Lucas
Coordinator, Corporate Services 

Emily joined Participate Australia in December 2016 as a Coordinator of Corporate Services. You will often find her at reception when you come into the office. She has studied at the University of Wollongong in a Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Commerce.

Kelly Grasso
Manager, Community Engagement

Kelly has been with Participate Australia since February 2008, while completing a Diploma of Welfare. She started as a support worker, working across various programs. and  developing the skills to become a coordinator. She has worked on many different programs throughout her time with Participate Australia, in particular the Day Options. She has a passion for Motor Sports, adventure and reading books.

Matthew Vierboom
Senior Coordinator, Projects and Operational Development

Matthew joined Participate Australia in May 2014 after previous positions in the arts and not-for-profit sector. With a degree in Political Science and International Relations from UNSW, he has a large penchant for all things music, politics and sport. Matthew has assisted our Participate Australia families through the transition towards the NDIS, ensuring it is as smooth as possible.

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. 

Thom Calma
Executive Manager, Support

Thom is a proud Aboriginal Australian, hailing from the Northern Territory and a member of the Kungarakan tribe. He joined Participate Australia in 2009 as a support person, and has been working in the support coordination team since 2010. With a strong interest in social justice and human rights, Thom has worked with the Participate Australia Self-Advocacy Committee since 2013. Thom currently sits on the Board of Management for the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre in Darlington and enjoys travel, cooking, staying active and rearing his pet geckos

Damon Collum
Assistant Manager, Activities

Damon joined Participate Australia in 2010 and in his current role as Assistant Manager he helps develop and deliver our community engagement programs. Damon’s work entails the oversight of program delivery, staff retention and training and the development of future initiatives to drive our activities into the future.

Joanna Kazzi
Senior Activities Coordinator

Joanna joined Participate Australia as a support worker in July 2012 during her first year of university studying a Bachelor of Inclusive Education and Disability Studies. She has worked across all programs and her primary focus is School Holidays and the Life Skills programs. Joanna has a passion for travelling and has spent some time volunteering abroad. She is currently completing a Masters in Human Services.

Gabriella Antelmi
Activities Coordinator

Gabriella joined Participate Australia in 2016 as a support worker, after completing a Certificate IV in Community Services. She has worked as a Team Leader in adult group activities, school holiday activities and individual support, becoming an Activities Coordinator in October 2017, focusing on individual support. She 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 at a community garden called Street Growth. In her spare time she loves spending time with friends, going to dog parks without a dog and eating copious amounts of pasta.

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.

Enrica Irene
Manager, Support

Erica joined Participate Australia in December 2011 as a support worker after completing a Community Service course. She has worked mainly in after school care, vacation care, and supported living areas. Since November, 2013 she has been working with the community access team focusing on life skills programs. She has a big passion for travelling and I love to try new foods from all over the world.

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 I\she gained experience with the NDIS.  Jodie has a background and qualifications in Art Therapy and Counselling and enjoys making all types of art, in particular painting, in my spare time.

Donette Ashok Kumar
Support Facilitator

A teacher by profession, Donette has 15 years experience in the education sector. She began at Participate Australia in 2011 as a Support worker, working across all programs and in March 2017 started as a Support Facilitator. She is passionate about supporting people with disabilities and their families and dedicated to ensure the best opportunities and best outcomes. She is an athletic person and love playing sport. . In my spare time I love to spend time with my family watching movies, baking amazing cakes and desserts with my children and listening to instrumental music. 

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. Helen loves travel and outdoor activities.

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 my Bachelor of Arts majoring in Politics and International Relations. I have a passion for dance and I train Odissi and the Brazilian Samba.

Luke Palmer
Support Facilitator

Since joining Participate Australia as a support worker in 2016 Luke jhas 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 build 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. In his spare time he plays music, takes photos and plays badminton.

Nicolas Fodor
Support Facilitator

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. He has a BA with a Major in English, and is currently moonlighting as a wannabe successful artist. He loves going to the movies, sleeping on the beach, trying strange new food, and visiting weird parts of the world.