Our People


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.





Dr Cassandra Goldie is CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service, the national peak body for the community sector, and an advocate for tackling poverty and inequality. She has deep public policy expertise in economic and social issues, civil society, social justice and human rights and is a regular media and public commentator and conference presenter. Prior to joining ACOSS, Cassandra held senior roles in both the not-for-profit and public sectors at local, national and international levels, including with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Darwin Community Legal Service, Legal Aid Western Australia and the global Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.

Cassandra is Adjunct Professor with the Law Faculty at the University of New South Wales. She has a PhD from University of New South Wales and a Masters of Law from University College London. She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She serves on the Advisory Committee for the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, the UNSW Law Advisory Committee, the Australian Climate Roundtable, the Pinnacle Foundation Board and the Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel.

Photo by Gavin Jowitt.

CHRYL PERRY, Executive Assistant to the CEO

Chryl joined ACOSS in November 2018, after working for many years in the book publishing industry, where she developed and honed her communication, administration and project management skills. An expat American with a Master of Arts degree in Social Anthropology, Chryl is thoroughly delighted to be supporting Cassandra and the ACOSS team as they work towards a more equitable Australia, in which everyone truly gets a fair go.



Policy & Advocacy

JACQUELINE PHILLIPS, Director of Policy and Deputy CEO

Jacqueline Phillips joined ACOSS as the Director of Policy and Advocacy in August 2013. From 2010-13, she was the National Director of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights and reconciliation advocacy organisation. Jacqueline has a long history of involvement with the COSSes, having previously worked as a Policy Officer at ACOSS and the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS). She has policy expertise across a range of areas including social security, housing and homelessness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy issues, community development, human rights and justice.

Photo by Gavin Jowitt.

KELLIE CAUGHT, Senior Advisor (Climate and Energy)

Kellie strives for a more sustainable and just future where planet and people thrive together. For the past 16 years, Kellie has specialised in international climate negotiations, domestic climate mitigation and adaption policy, community advocacy and campaigning, with a focus on social and environmental outcomes. Kellie has strong skills in policy development, advocacy, and cross sector collaboration, gained from working as a senior political adviser, climate change program manager at WWF and now as Senior Adviser with ACOSS. She has also worked at the United Nations, in government and in academia. Kellie has a Master in International Business and a Bachelor of Science.

CHARMAINE CROWE, Senior Advisor (Social Security)

Charmaine  joined ACOSS in June 2016 and leads ACOSS’s social security policy work. Charmaine gained her expertise in social security policy working for Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), where she was a Senior Policy Advisor and Policy Coordinator. She has also worked as a legislative advisor in the NSW Parliament. Charmaine has a Master’s in International Health and Welfare Policy from Oslo University College and her policy expertise also covers the areas of ageing, health and housing.

DR PETER DAVIDSON, Principal Advisor

A recognised expert in social security, employment and tax policy, Peter’s research and policy interests include employment assistance, the labour market and unemployment, income support, poverty research, taxation and superannuation policy. He has served on a number of Government advisory bodies and contributed to major reform efforts in these areas. ACOSS publications prepared by Peter cover such topics as reform of the personal income tax system, an analysis of tax concessions for superannuation and proposals to make them fairer, and reform of employment assistance for long term unemployed people. He is currently undertaking a PhD in social policy at the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre.

DR JOHN MIKELSONS, Senior Advisor (Community Services & Health)

John currently leads ACOSS policy advocacy in the community services and health policy areas. John has significant experience working in the non-government sector, including periods working at QCOSS, NCOSS, the Queensland AIDS Council and in the trade union movement. John has also worked in government, in policy areas as broad as education, health, industrial relations, community services and youth justice. John has a PhD in social policy from the University of Queensland, a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor of Arts.

PAS FORGIONE, Raise the Rate Campaign Coordinator

Pas Forgione is the Raise The Rate community organiser, working closely with people on Newstart (now JobSeeker and JobKeeper) and Youth Allowance, to support them to share their stories, as well as with other supporters and organisations. Before this, he spent over 5 years coordinating Anti-Poverty Network SA, a grassroots campaigning organisation led by people directly affected by poverty and unemployment, that advocated on a wide range of topics related to social security policy, included the inadequacy of Allowances and Pensions, cashless welfare, robodebt, Job Active, Centrelink call waiting times, and other issues.

Media & Communications

MONIQUE VANDELEUR, Director of Media and Communications

Monique joined the ACOSS team in October 2018 as the Director of Media and Communications. She has ten years of experience in professional communications, spanning journalism, the public service, the not-for-profit sector and politics. Before joining ACOSS, Monique was an Account Manager at Essential Media Communications, where she worked with a range of not-for-profit and union clients, including ChildFund, Lock the Gate and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Monique has worked as Press Secretary to a federal Senator, whose portfolio responsibilities included the environment and gender equality. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism, a Bachelor of Environmental Science and a Graduate Certificate in Philanthropy and Not-for-Profit Studies.

Contact: 0419 626 155 or [email protected]

PENNY DORSCH, Communications and Information

Penny is responsible for ACOSS publications and member communications. She provides an information service for ACOSS, including research and information management. Prior to joining ACOSS, Penny worked in Information Services at Fairfax Media and as a consultant for the National Parks Association. She has a BA (Hons) from the University of Sydney, a Diploma in Design from TAFE and an MA (Information Management) from the University of Technology in Sydney. She is an Associate of the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).

CAMERON LUM, Digital Communications Officer

Cameron has been with ACOSS since August 2019. After completing his studies at UTS, Cameron went on to pursue artistic endeavors and remains a passionate creative. With an extensive background in Illustration, Visual Communication and Digital Design, Cameron aspires to apply his creativity, knowledge and skills toward a worthy cause. A strong belief in universal and equal rights for all has lead Cameron to become the Digital Communications Officer at ACOSS.


WILL MARTIN, Communications Officer

Will came to Australia as a child refugee from Chile. He is an award winning filmmaker, documentary maker and TV producer. He has worked for 21 years in various communications roles for UNICEF, Amnesty International Australia, The Wilderness Society, ChildFund, The House of Welcome (supporting asylum seekers and refugees) and others. Working at ACOSS now, Will believes all of his passions and NGO interests have been happily consolidated.


Operations and Stakeholder Engagement

AMY SIMMONS, Director of Operations and Engagement

Amy is the Director of Operations and Stakeholder Engagement at ACOSS. She leads a dynamic team of ops and engagement professionals – otherwise known as “The Enablers”. Amy has 13 years of experience in the community sector. She has a long history with ACOSS and the COSS movement, having begun her career at ACOSS in 2007. Amy went on to spend 6 years working in the domestic and family violence sector in a variety of roles, most recently as Head of Operations at Domestic Violence Service Management NSW. Amy returned to ACOSS in 2015 and moved into her current role in 2019. Amy has qualifications in Business Management and Financial Services and an strong commitment to the Australian community sector. She is passionate about the critical role it plays in providing key services and supports and progressing social justice and inclusion.

DANI PREVITERA, Marketing, Communications and Events Coordinator

With four years’ experience in the Public Relations industry and a Bachelor in Media and Communications, Dani came to the ACOSS team in 2019 with knowledge in events planning, strategic communications, media relations, consumer campaigning, content creation, social media management, and crisis handling. Dani now works as part of the ACOSS Operations team, and is passionate about creating engaging events and publications for the ACOSS membership and the community sector more broadly.

BEV CARTER, Reception and Team Support Officer

Bev came to ACOSS as a lived experience advocate on the Raise the Rate campaign. Bev is passionately committed to addressing inequality and social equity issues. Previous pursuits have included study in psychology, child welfare and wellbeing, and working on small social projects in Nepal. With interests extending into regional mental health, environmental health and sustainability, and humanitarian concerns, Bev loves working closely at the grass roots level, and firmly believes there is always more to be done.

RENATA FRANZ, Operations Manager

Renata joined ACOSS in 2012 July and currently holds the position of Operations Manager.  She has global experience in Management, Customer Relations, HR and Administration and has worked in wide range of industries including construction, hospitality and sport.  Renata studied Economic and Sciences at Technical School and holds an Advanced Diploma in Human Resources. She completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Management in 2011 and gained her Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) in 2015. Renata is committed to the principles of equity and diversity and passionate about sport.

MAI NGUYEN, Finance Officer

Mai Joined ACOSS in 2017 with a number of years experience working in Accounting and Finance in the Charity and NFP sector. She is currently completing her CPA. Before joining ACOSS, Mai worked in different industries including pharmaceutical, hospitality and education. She has a Masters Degree in International Marketing and Bachelor in Business Administration with full scholarship. Before moving to Australia, she worked as a lecturer in International Trade and International Marketing in a leading economics University in Ha noi, Vietnam.

BRENDAN WYLIE, Membership Coordinator and Policy Support Officer

Brendan joined ACOSS in March 2017. Prior to joining ACOSS Brendan coordinated various offices, campaigns and projects within campaign organisations in Sydney NSW. He holds a Bachelor of Political, Economic and Social Science from the University of Sydney. A plucky young fellow just starting his career, Brendan is passionate about helping to create a more socially just world.