Our People

Merle Mitchell AM, former ACOSS President

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

Betty Hounslow AM, former ACOSS Executive Director

ACOSS pays tribute to the mighty social advocate Betty Hounslow, who passed away on 27 July 2023. We send our deepest condolences to Betty’s partner Kate Harrison and her family and friends.

Among many other magnificent contributions to social justice and the community sector, Betty served as Executive Director of ACOSS from 1994 – 2001, a time of great challenge through the early Howard Government years, yet significant social progress.

Betty was a trailblazer. One of the original Mardi-Gras 78ers, she also fought for women in refuges, gained the first funding to meet their childcare needs through Marrickville Women’s Refuge in 1977 and lead the lobby for gay and lesbian immigration rights. A canny strategist and a great tactician -she combined these with genuine humility and disarming humour to forge great gains on almost every issue she worked on.

Read more

ACOSS Board

HANG VO, President

Hang has over 20 years’ experience in the for-purpose sector leading national and international services. Hang was appointed as CEO of Sacred Heart Mission in December 2022, an organisation that addresses deep social exclusion and homelessness. Prior to this she was CEO of Whitelion Youth for over four years where she led the organisation through transformational change and the COVID pandemic. Before this, she held various leadership roles at Australian Red Cross and EACH Social and Community Health. 

Before her recent re-election onto the ACOSS board she served as Vice-President between 2014-2019.  Hang is currently Chair of the Victorian Pride Centre and board director with Respect Victoria, a statutory agency focused on family violence primary prevention.

Having come to Australia as a part of the Vietnamese refugee ‘boat people’ seeking asylum in the late 1970s and being a member of the LGBITQ+ community, Hang has first-hand experience of dislocation and exclusion which drives her deep commitment to creating a more just, inclusive, and equitable society.  

Her qualifications include executive education at Harvard Business School; Executive MBA; Graduate of Australian Institute of Company Directors; and degrees in Social Work and Arts.

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.

MARY SAYERS

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 FAVERO

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.

VICKI SUTTON

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.

ACOSS Staff

DR. CASSANDRA GOLDIE, CEO

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 Co-Deputy CEO and 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, 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 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 is an experienced and effective senior member of the ACOSS team. She manages the Poverty and Inequality Partnership, a major national research and impact partnership and, with Edwina MacDonald, leads the development of ACOSS policy.

She brings 20 years’ experience in social policy, research and advocacy and has represented ACOSS in major national policy processes and in the media. She is a highly skilled communicator and policy analyst, and adept at building common ground across difference.

Jacqueline has managed ACOSS’ policy work for more than a decade, and prior to that worked as National Director of ANTaR and as a policy officer at ACOSS and ACTCOSS. She has qualifications in Arts and Law and a Masters of Law.

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.

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, Program Director – 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

ALEXANDRA HODGKINSON, Director of Media and Communications

Alexandra joined ACOSS as Director, Communications and Engagement in July 2023. Alex is an experienced journalist, television producer and communications executive, and a multi-award winner.  Advocating better health, education and opportunities for young Australians has been a passion and focus during her career.

Alex’s experience spans a wide spectrum of programming including short-form documentaries, investigative journalism, entertainment and current affairs on flagship programs Sunday Night and 60 Minutes, where she worked for 16 years.

Alex worked as Director of Corporate Communications at NSW Police Force, and at the Goodes O’Loughlin (GO) Foundation, founded by Sydney Swans legends Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, providing education, access, and opportunities to young Indigenous Australians.

STACEY BATTERHAM, Senior Campaigner

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.

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 led Cameron to become the Digital Communications Officer at ACOSS

DANI PREVITERA, Marketing, Communications and Events Manager

With extensive experience as a Public Relations professional 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 is passionate about creating engaging events, content, and publications for the ACOSS membership and the community sector more broadly.

Operations and Stakeholder Engagement

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.