Merle Mitchell AM, former ACOSS President 1989-1993
ACOSS pays tribute to Merle Mitchell – a truly great social justice giant, who passed away suddenly on 21 September.
She is remembered in her local community and far beyond for her grace, courage and tireless advocacy.
Her work helped to shape and inform state and federal government social welfare policies through her roles with both ACOSS and VCOSS.
Former ACOSS President Michael Raper said: “She was admired locally for her personal warmth, vision and leadership. She was respected throughout the community sector in Australia for her evidence-based advocacy and compelling voice for justice, diversity and inclusion.
She was heard and listened to by politicians at state and national level. She achieved so much improvement for migrants, refugees and people on social security. We are all the better for her time with us.”
Read more about Merle and her life of advocacy here
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.
Violet Roumeliotis, Vice President
Violet Roumeliotis AM is a social entrepreneur who champions the strengths of our diverse communities and is committed to take a leadership and pioneering role to elevate reconciliation. 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 ten years as CEO, Violet has taken SSI from a Sydney-based organisation with 68 staff to a 900-plus workforce that supports more than 52,000 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 in the category of Diversity & Inclusion, In Style Magazine’s Community Champion 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 as the Deputy President; and sits on the NSW Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council. Her other appointments include Deputy Chair for the SBS Community Advisory Committee, she sits on the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Expert Advisory Group for the ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ campaign, the NSW Council for Women’s Economic Empowerment, the University of Sydney’s Open Society, Common Purpose taskforce, 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 joint partnership working group overseeing refugee resettlement.
Matt Gardiner, Treasurer
Matt is the CEO of 54 reasons.
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 is the immediate past 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 permanent Raise to the Rate of JobSeeker. 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.
Hayden received a Centre for Australian Progress 2020 Fellowship.
Mary Sayers – Principal Said Consulting Services
Graduate Diploma in Human Resources, Master of Commerce by Research, Graduate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD).
Mary has a professional career and experience leading policy and research, advocacy and service delivery to progress positive outcomes for children and young people, and people facing poverty and disadvantage. Mary also has extensive governance experience on public hospital and community sector boards. Mary has family experience of disability as a parent and is passionate about ensuring people with lived experience are co-designing services and are meaningfully engaged in policy and advocacy.
Mary is currently Principal of Said Consulting Services which provides consulting services to the ‘for purpose’ sector. Mary was formerly Chief Executive Officer of for Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) the national representative organisation for children and young people with disability. She has also had experience as Deputy CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) and Associate Director at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
She is a current Board Director of the Australian Council of Social Service.
Dr. David Panter
David originally trained as a psychologist and has worked in health and social care for over 42 years, half of which has been as a Chief Executive. In the UK he initially worked in the National Health Service across hospital, community and primary care services and more latterly in local government, where he was Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove City Council. In 2004 he was recruited to the South Australian public health system where for over 10 years he led reforms, including the development of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. From 2015-2022 he was the Chief Executive of not-for-profit aged care provider ECH, and at the end of January 2022 he became the Chief Executive at Minda, South Australia’s largest provider of services to people living with an intellectual disability. David is committed to human rights and ensuring that services respond to the diversity of Australian communities. David is currently the Chair of the South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS).
Jana is Director of Advocacy and Campaigns for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), where she has worked for 11 years.
Jana is a regular spokesperson in breaking news on human rights and refugee policy on and offshore. She contributes comment to major media publications and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences, roundtables and events on asylum policy.
With strong, varied global experience, from communications for the private sector in the UK to women’s social enterprise development in the steppe of Mongolia, to leading a campaign to increase the effectiveness and acceptance of women’s leadership in India.
Jana’s global social justice work has sharpened her social justice values and entrenched in her work a basic belief that collaborative effort is needed to end discrimination and disadvantage. Jana is committed to advocating for the fair, equal and respectful treatment of everyone in Australia.
Outside of work, Jana is a proud member of the Cloud Appreciation Society and in leisure time can be found on a flying trapeze or on a bike path with her three young children in tow.
Jo’s extensive background in the for-purpose sector, in both service delivery and philanthropy, has made her the leader she is today. During her 25+ years in the sector, Jo has distributed in excess $400m to for-purpose organisations, helping to create genuine and long-term change with every project she contributes to.Having most recently held the position of Chief Capability Officer at the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Jo brings unrivalled expertise in community development and partner growth capability, as well as a deep understanding of how to build resilient not-for-profits. As chair of the Sustaining Our Partners Taskforce, Jo also led a multi-disciplinary team supporting 80 for-purpose partners to manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
Vicki is CEO of Melbourne City Mission, a charity dedicated to disrupting disadvantage for Victorians, which works across homelessness, disability, education, early years and palliative care. She has been a director of VCOSS since 2017 and is past Victorian co-chair for Anti-Poverty Week 2018-2019.
Vicki is committed to reducing poverty and inequality in Victoria through both direct service delivery and strong and effective advocacy for systems change. She is also passionate about the role of innovation to create new, better solutions to complex problems.
Vicki brings diverse experience to her work, having built an extensive career across both the for-purpose and commercial sectors. While Vicki’s formal training is in finance and management, she has a passion for, and commitment to, lifelong learning and has recently commenced post graduate study in psychology.
CEO, Dr. Cassandra Goldie
Cassandra Goldie is CEO of ACOSS and Adjunct Professor with UNSW Sydney. With public policy expertise in economic, social and environmental issues, civil society, social justice and human rights, Cassandra has represented the interests of people who are disadvantaged, and civil society generally, in major national and international processes as well as in grassroots communities. Prior to joining ACOSS, Cassandra held senior roles in both the NFP and public sectors, including with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Darwin Community Legal Service and Senior Executive with Legal Aid in Western Australia.
Cassandra has a PhD from UNSW Sydney and a Masters of Law from University College London. She is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and serves on the UNSW Law Advisory Committee, the Australian Climate Roundtable and the Energy Charter Independent Accountability Panel. Cassandra is Co-Chair of the ACOSS and UNSW Sydney Poverty and Inequality Partnership and a member of Chief Executive Women.
Cassandra has been recognised as one of the Inaugural Westpac Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence. She has been voted one of the Impact 25 Most Influential People in the Social Economy, most recently in 2021. In 2018, Cassandra was recognised as one of Australia’s top 50 Outstanding LGBTI Executives by Deloitte and, in 2021, she received the 2021 UNSW Alumni Award for Social Impact and Service.
EDWINA MacDONALD, Co-Deputy CEO and Director of Policy
An accomplished national community sector leader with a strong human rights and legal background, Edwina is Director of Policy and Advocacy of the Australian Council of Social Service and a lead spokesperson at ACOSS, including in the media.
With over two decades of experience in research and policy and advocacy in government and the university and community sectors, Edwina brings deep gender expertise, global advocacy experience, including at the UN, and a strong community services and development background to her role. Edwina is committed to working collaboratively for social justice, with a focus on putting people and communities at the centre of social change work.
Prior to joining ACOSS, Edwina led the Sydney office and United Nations advocacy for the Human Rights Law Centre. She has also led reform agendas for Women’s Legal Services and UNSW’s Kingsford Legal Centre, worked as a researcher with UNSW’s Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law, lectured in law reform and public interest law and worked in federal government.
JACQUELINE PHILLIPS, Co-Deputy CEO and Director of Policy
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.
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
CHARMAINE CROWE, Program Director – 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. SIMONE CASEY, Senior Advisor – Employment
Simone Casey joined ACOSS in April 2021 as Senior Policy Advisor – Employment, and previously held a variety of roles in policy advocacy, research and communications where in the employment services and welfare sectors. Simone holds a PhD in employment services is an expert on marketisation, welfare conditionality, labour market program design, unemployment and related social security topics. Her campaigns and reports are underwritten by rigorous analysis and the use of up-to-date evidence and arguments. She has designed and contributed to many academic and normative research projects involving quantitative and qualitative research methods, where the publication outputs have been both scholarly and/or policy focused. Simone contributes lived experienced to the role of Senior Advisor and is passionate about amplifying citizen perspectives in policy development.
KELLIE CAUGHT, Program Director – 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. Kellie was named Energy Efficiency Champion in the National Energy Efficiency Awards 2020 for her outstanding contribution to the field of energy efficiency, management and demand response, including her advocacy work on the outsized impact poor energy efficiency has on vulnerable Australians.
DR. ROCHELLE BRAAF, Senior Advisor – Climate and Energy
Rochelle Braaf joined ACOSS in November 2022 as Senior Advisor – Climate Change and Energy. She is an accomplished social researcher, bringing over twenty-five years’ experience in research and evaluation, policy, program management and advocacy. Her experience spans roles in NGOs in Australia and overseas, the United Nations, academia, and government and community sectors. Throughout her career, Rochelle has maintained a strong commitment to social justice, equity and environmental sustainability. Her research and policy expertise span a range of areas, including: climate change; disaster preparedness and response; resilience building; gender and gender-based violence; and homelessness. Rochelle holds a PhD in climate change impact assessment and a Master’s degree on climate change and energy and transport policy.
PENNY DORSCH, Project Manager and Researcher
Penny is the project manager for the ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership. She also works on the Australian Community Sector Survey and Faces of Unemployment projects. She has been at ACOSS since 2009, first as librarian then in information and communications.
Penny has had previous roles at the National Parks Association, at Fairfax Media and various publishing companies. She holds a Masters in Information Management along with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Diploma of Design.
ROB STURROCK, Senior Advisor – Community Services
Rob leads the community services and health policy work for ACOSS, having joined the organisation in 2021. He is passionate about improving the lives of disadvantaged and marginalised people, ensuring they can fairly and equitably access life opportunities. Rob wants to bring about systemic change to make Australia more equitable, compassionate and caring. Rob has been involved in public policy development, advocacy and research at various levels of government, as well as within the community and private sectors, including at the Centre for Policy Development as a Policy Director and at The Smith Family as Senior Manager Public Policy and Advocacy. Rob has expertise and experience in social policy, community service delivery, poverty, disadvantage and education. Rob also has a Master’s Degree in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and in his spare time is an author and commentator on gender equality, fatherhood and masculinity.
Media, Communications and Engagement
OLIVIA GREENWELL, Director of Communications and Engagement
Olivia is a communications and campaigning expert with a deep commitment to ending poverty and inequality.
With over ten years’ experience in the not-for-profit and government sectors she has advocated on a range of issues including for a range of initiatives to prevent violence against women and their children, to reduce the criminalisation of young people in care, address climate change, increase Australia’s humanitarian intake, ensure everybody has access to clean water, reduce multinational tax avoidance and increase Australia’s foreign aid budget. She is particularly interested in solutions that address the intersection between climate change, poverty and inequality and gender. Olivia holds a Masters in Social Science (International Urban and Environmental Management) and is part of the Centre for Australian Progress campaigning fellowship alumni.
CAMERON LUM, Digital Communications Officer
Cameron has been with ACOSS since August 2019. His extensive background in Illustration, Visual Communication and Digital Design makes ACOSS a bigger presence in today’s digital landscape. 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.
STACEY BATTERHAM, Senior Campaigner – Raise the Rate for Good
Stacey Batterham joined ACOSS in January 2021 as the Senior Campaigner on the Raise the Rate for Good campaign. Stacey has a background in digital campaigning, community organising and digital fundraising. Prior to joining the ACOSS team, Stacey was Senior Campaigner at Fair Agenda where she worked on campaigns to help secure additional funding for domestic violence services, and decriminalise abortion care in Queensland. Stacey was also the Head of Campaigns at Oaktree where she managed a team to create campaigns to promote global equality and climate justice. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne.
MICHELLE SHACKLETON, Community Organiser and Engagement Officer
Michelle first joined ACOSS in 2015. She has a background in community organising and grassroots campaigning focused on the power of human connection and the way our stories inspire others to action. She earned a Bachelor and Masters degree in behavioural ecology from the Australian National University, a Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Development from Macquarie University, and a Certificate in Vocational and Community Engagement from UTS.
DANI PREVITERA, Marketing, Communications and Events Manager
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.
Operations and Stakeholder Engagement
AMY SIMMONS, Director of Development and Operations
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.
BEV CARTER, Membership and 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.