ACOSS Board

Peter McNamara, President

Peter has over 20 years of Executive and Director experience in the civil and corporate sectors, including as Chief Executive Officer, Good Shepherd Microfinance (GSM) and General Manager, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC). Peter has studied finances and strategy at Harvard Business School, Stanford and Melbourne Business School, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has been a previous Board Director of four entities including Co-Chair of Community Sector Banking.

Peter has been a Board Director of ACOSS since 2015. He previously served in the role of Treasurer, before stepping into the position of President in June 2020.


Connie Digolis, Deputy President

Connie Digolis is the CEO of the Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT). Prior to that, Connie was Executive Officer for the National Stroke Foundation in Tasmania. Connie brings to her role a wealth of experience in community sector management, advocacy, health promotion and policy.

 The Mental Health Council of Tasmania (MHCT) is a member based peak body, representing and promoting the interests of community managed mental health services. MHCT has a strong commitment to enabling better access and outcomes for individuals, families and carers and our communities.

Connie would like to see a Tasmania that is forward thinking and innovative in the mental health sector. Connie looks forward to a time when we can refer to our mental health system as an excellent example of person-centred, integrated care that provides the best mental health outcomes for all Tasmanians.


Matt Gardiner, Treasurer

Matt is the Executive Director of Australian Services at Save the Children Australia. He has significant sector experience across the areas of child protection, family therapy, relationship counselling, mediation, sexual assault and violence prevention. Passionate about social justice, improving systems and therapeutic practice, Matt is an experienced practitioner and has held senior executive roles in some of Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisations in a career spanning nearly two decades.


Hayden Patterson

Hayden was the National President of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, and is a very active campaigner fighting punitive measures facing unemployed and underemployed Australians such as Work for the Dole, Compulsory Income Management, Mutual Obligations etc., and continues to campaign for a Raise to the Rate of Newstart. Hayden sits on both the ‘Reference Group’, and ‘Working Group’ with the New Employment Services Trial representing the jobseeker experience and voices to the Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business.  He is also PLSA (Positive Life South Australia) representative within the NAPWHA (National Association for People with HIV & AIDS) community.

An active volunteer, lobbyist, campaigner and advocate within the community and social services sector, Hayden volunteers and facilitates training and events with the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, SameshSA/ShineSA, was the ‘Raise the Rate’ Campaign Coordinator for the Anti-Poverty Network SA, and continues working with the Anti-Poverty Networks of Australia. Hayden is a speaker, facilitator and Coordinator with the People’s Health Movement Oz, and is also a member of the Accountable Income Management Network, and recently founded the Worldwide Coalition of Unemployed Workers’ Unions.

Through his many roles, Hayden presents and voices the lived experiences at events and conferences on local, State, National and International levels encompassing the lived experiences of the many members of the many organisations he continues to represent.

During this year, Hayden will also be a participant in the Centre for Australian Progress 2020 Fellowship.


Mary Sayers

Mary Sayers – Chief Executive Officer
BA, Grad Dip HR, MCom, GAICD

Mary Sayers joined Children and Young People with Disability (CYDA) as Chief Executive Officer in July 2019. Over her career she has worked across policy and research, advocacy and service delivery to progress positive outcomes for children and young people, and the broader determinants of social wellbeing. She has family experience of disability as a parent, and is a passionate advocate for the rights of children and young people.

Her previous roles have been Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) for almost five years, Manager, Children, Young People and Families at the City of Whittlesea and Associate Director of translational research, policy and service development and the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

She was on the Board of Management of QEC Early Parenting Centre for eight years including two years as chair of the board. She is a current board member of the Australian Council of Social Service.


Violet Roumeliotis

Violet Roumeliotis AM is a social entrepreneur who champions the strengths of our diverse communities. Through her C-suite and board roles, Violet uses innovation and collective impact to promote social justice and inclusion.

She is the CEO of Settlement Services International, a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other vulnerable individuals to achieve their full potential. During her eight years as CEO, Violet has taken SSI from a Sydney-based organisation with 68 staff to an 800-plus workforce that supports more than 37,600 people nationally each year.

Violet is committed to achieving equity, and advancing diversity and inclusion in all forms. In 2020, she was made a member of the Order of Australia for outstanding service to the community. Violet is also a former Telstra Australia Business Woman of the Year, has been named one of AFR’s Top 100 Women of Influence for 2018 in the category of Diversity & Inclusion and was awarded the title of Community Fellow from Western Sydney University for outstanding service to the community.

Violet sits on the board of the Australian Council of Social Service, Family Planning NSW and the NSW Domestic and Family Violence, and Sexual Assault Council. Her other appointments include the SBS Community Advisory Committee, the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity, the UTS Business MBA Advisory Group, the Council on Economic Participation for Refugees, the International Metropolis Steering Committee, the Australian Defence Force’s Chiefs of Service Committee’s diversity and inclusion panel, and the NSW government’s join partnership working group overseeing refugee resettlement.


Petra Hilton

Petra became a single mother in 1997 and experienced firsthand the degradation of single mothers by family law courts, the child support agency and Centrelink. In 2006, she became involved with the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC), first as a NSW delegate, then as a member of the National Advisory Committee – and, since August 2016, as a board member. She has witnessed and participated in NCSMC’s resurgence, which she attributes to its attention and adherence to good governance.

In 2012, Petra became founding vice president of Friends of Sole Parents (FOSP), helping with initial fundraising and achievement of DGR status for the organisation. FOSP provides sole parents with specialist support.

Realising that single mothers and their children aren’t the only marginalised people in Australian society, Petra joined the ACOSS Board and has participated in events such as the ACOSS day of advocacy in Canberra, the video rejecting the welfare reform bill, and post-budget sessions with the Federal Treasurer of the day.

Since 2013, Petra has re-established her career in the finance industry, with attention to compliance and legislation. She is delighted to contribute her professional skills to NCSMC as Treasurer and to ACOSS as a member of its Board.


David Panter

David originally trained as a psychologist and has been a Chief Executive in health and social care services for almost 30 years. In the UK he initially worked in the NHS in London and more latterly local government, where he was CE of Brighton & Hove City Council for a number of years before moving to Australia. In 2004 he was recruited to the SA public health system where for over 10 years he led reforms including the development of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. Currently the CE of profit-for-purpose ECH Inc, SA’s biggest provider of housing and support services for older people, David is passionate about enabling people to live well until death in their own home. David is a past President of the Australian Hospitals & Healthcare Association, holds academic appointments with Adelaide University and the University of South Australia, is currently the Chair of the SA Council of Social Service, a Director of ACOSS and a Director of Leading Age Services Australia.