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Disability Council overview

About us, Our purpose, Council member profiles, and Becoming a member

Council member profiles

Chair - Mark Tonga

Mark Tonga

I went into a Rugby ruck/maul training drill in 2008 as a 35 year old, ten foot tall and bulletproof. And then my life changed. After coming out of a coma, I spent months in hospital surrounded by fellow patients dealing with a new disability and its complications.

Over time I found myself speaking up for those around me who couldn't or wouldn't express their own frustration and exasperation. I found my rugby experience invaluable: the ability to channel fierce emotion, to push further, to use emotion as a fuel.

I've included my contact details below for a reason. My contribution to this Council, is only valuable if it is based on a hands-on appreciation of the real world, and how things impact those of us with a disability in our daily lives. So I listen, and look, and then speak and move to help those that can’t.

This Council is an overarching, umbrella body liaising with many organisations, from NGOs to all levels of government. Given your involvement we can ask the question “does your particular issue regarding transport, accommodation or access suggest a lost opportunity, a failure to empower, a general thoughtlessness that can be addressed?”

My formal work experience is outlined below, but the important learning came before that. I'm blessed to be part of a big extended family. We’re close and noisy. I had to learn how to listen to get people working together. Raised in Tonga, my family immigrated here when I was 13. I left school at 15, but returned to the long journey of learning at 20, whilst working on building sites. I joined the Army Reserve and that taught me self-discipline and the importance of teamwork. I matriculated through a technical college and then achieved a Bachelor of Business (Accounting) at UTS after seven years of night study. At the time of my injury was Assistant Accountant at a major Club and had just enrolled for part-time post-graduate studies.

I am a now Director of the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association of NSW (ParaQuad), and acting Secretary (after serving as Director) of People with Disabilities Australia (PWDA).

I retain an informal association with Spinal Cord Injury Australia (SCIA) where I was previously a client advocate. In addition, I am a member of Willoughby City Council’s “Access” Committee and have been appointed an Ambassador for charities Lifestart (Kayak for Kids) and the Hearts in Union Rugby Foundation.

On the Disability Council I am surrounded by altruistic high achievers who deal with our challenges daily, and take that responsibility very seriously. We’re backed by a forthright Secretariat and a committed Minister. Help us to fully engage with those around us, and make the system” more attentive, productive and fairer. Cheers!

Deputy Chair - Eileen Baldry

Eileen Baldry

Eileen Baldry (BA, DipEd, MWP, PhD, FASSA) is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Equity Diversity and Inclusion and Professor of Criminology at UNSW Sydney. Professor Baldry has held senior positions in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, serving as Interim Dean, Associate Dean Education and Deputy Dean and is appointed the first female Deputy Vice-Chancellor at UNSW.

Professor Baldry has taught social policy, social development and criminology over the past 30 years. Her research and publications focus on social justice and include mental health and cognitive disability in the criminal justice system; criminalised women and Indigenous Australian women and youth; education, training and employment for prisoners and ex-prisoners; homelessness and transition from prison; Indigenous justice; Indigenous social work; community development and social housing; and disability services.

Professor Baldry has been and is a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council (ARC), NH&MRC, AHURI and other grants over the past 25 years. She has been involved in a voluntary capacity with a number of development and justice community organisations and is currently a Director on the Board of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC).

Professor Baldry serves as Deputy Chair of the Disability Council NSW; whose role is to monitor the implementation of Government policy and advise the Minister and public authorities on emerging issues relating to people with disability.

Eileen has been appointed Co-Chair Universities Australia Executive Women Group (UAEW), a national group sponsored by Universities Australia that provides strategic advice and high-level guidance to Australian Universities and their governing bodies, relevant associated organisations and state/territory-based networks committed to improving the representation of women, both academic and professional, at executive levels of university leadership and governance.

Professor Baldry was awarded the NSW Justice Medal in 2009 and in 2016 was named in the AFR/Westpac 100 most influential women in Australia.

Paul Zeller

Paul Zeller

Paul lives in a small coastal town in rural NSW. Paul was diagnosed with Aspergers when he was 19 years old.

Paul is passionate about social justice issues. After attending a self-advocacy workshop run by Intellectual Disability Rights Service, he has become a determined advocate for the rights of people with a disability.

Since then, Paul has attended a number of State and National Conferences, and helped establish local self-advocacy organisation, South East Self Advocacy. Paul believes self- advocacy is particularly important for ensuring that people with disability have their voices heard in the roll out of the NDIS.

Paul is also has a keen interest in politics, current affairs and music. His career goals are to become a professional musician and to be in politics as a staffer or politician.

Paul is very excited about being a member of the Disability Council of NSW. Paul is keen to bring about change in areas such as: · Better avenues into employment for people with disability; · Better access to transport for people with disability in regional areas; · Making sure advocacy is more widely promoted and available.

Jake Fing

Jake Fing

Jake Fing has personal experience with people living with both a cognitive disability as well as a physical disability.

Jake is currently working towards a BA (Hons) and LLB through UNSW Australia. He also currently works at Legal Aid NSW on the Bob Bellear Indigenous Cadetship Program, currently placed in the criminal division.

Jake has a passion for social justice and change and has been involved in policy implementation since his school years within the local government area of Moree, NSW. Jake also holds several appointments through the NSW Government. He is particularly interested in advocating for Indigenous people living with disabilities.

Jake is excited about his appointment to the Council and looks forward to working with the other council members to both learn from their experience and help to drive change for policy implementation and advocacy for people living with a disability.

Rachael Sowden

Rachael Sowden

Rachael has four children who are Aboriginal, two who have autism and three who have mental health diagnoses. She is determined that all people in NSW regardless of postcode have access to supports required to live a full life with choice and voice.

Having lived the past 23 years in rural and remote locations across NSW, Rachael is familiar with the challenges of obtaining equitable access to services and supports outside of metropolitan locations.

Rachael has long held advocacy roles in education and mental health particularly in rural settings, and has a focus on young people and people with invisible disabilities.

Rachael has previously been the State media spokesperson for Parents & Citizens. She has spoken at many educational conferences over the past few years and owns a bespoke parental engagement business offering teachers nationally accredited professional development.

Casey Gray

Casey Gray

Casey has been a member of the disability services sector for over 15 years.

She maintains membership of peak industry associations to stay abreast of current affairs in disability.

Casey possesses a genuine passion as well as the creativity and drive to improve the quality of direct service provision to people with disability as well as advocating for systemic change, with the aim of enabling people to live rich and fulfilling lives. She is currently most passionate about supporting people with disability to choose where and with whom they live and is actively taking steps to solve the problem.

She is keen to advocate for local and broad social change that promotes the inclusion and wellbeing of all people, while raising community awareness to break down the stigma associated with invisible disability, such as mental illness, as well as disability in general.

Casey lives with mental illness, with a primary diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder. People with Schizoaffective Disorder can experience psychosis as well as mood changes affecting their ability to function in all aspects of everyday life, such as relationship problems or difficulties in the workplace.

Through her life and work, Casey demonstrates that with the right supports, people with mental illness and other disability can thrive.

Ian Hyman

Ian Hyman

Ian established Hymans Valuers and Auctioneers in 1984 after 9 years in the accounting profession where he qualified as a Chartered Accountant. With a view to obtaining additional experience as an auctioneer, in 1985, Ian wrote to all charities in NSW to offer his services for charity events on a pro-bono basis. Over the past 30 years Ian has undertaken hundreds of auctions for charities all over Australia.

In 1993, Ian and his wife Hanne were blessed with the delivery of their third child, Alistair, who was born with Down Syndrome. With the arrival of Alistair, Ian was galvanised to become involved with the disability community and has served on numerous Not for Profit boards and committees including CNS Precision Assembly, Inala Disability Services, Special Olympics, Lifestart Co-operative Ltd and Association of Children with a Disability. In addition, Ian established fundraising events all over Australia that have raised in excess of $10m over the past 25 years.

In his commercial life, Ian is currently the CEO of Hymans Auctioneers and Valuers which undertakes valuations and asset disposals throughout the Asia Pacific region. He is also Chairman of Professional Risk Managers Pty Ltd which advises clients on insurance risks throughout the world.

Ian is very excited about membership of the NSW Disability Council and the opportunity to have a say in the policy debate affecting people with disabilities.

In 2017, Ian was awarded an OAM for services to people with a disability

Nick Craig

Nick Craig

Born and raised in the Blue Mountains to a Deaf family, Nick’s interests in access to community resilience and emergency preparedness began when he worked as a research assistant for the Increasing the Resilience of the Deaf Community in NSW to Natural Hazards and Disasters project. Nick co-authored a report on this project for the NSW State Government in August 2013. He was instrumental in advocating to the NSW State Government that Australian Sign Language interpreters be provided on TV emergency live news, which was achieved for the first time during the Blue Mountains 2013 Bushfire.

Since then, Nick has worked with the Deaf Community in the Philippines as a Disability Disaster Risk Reduction Officer with the Australian Red Cross under the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) Program, and with the University of Sydney on the Disability and Disaster: Empowering people and building resilience to risk project.  Funded by the Global Resilience Partnership, this project focused on supporting Disability inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) in Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Nick currently runs a consultancy business and looks forward to working with the Disability Council NSW in making positive changes for people with disabilities.

Prue Watt

Prue Watt

Prue is a strong and passionate disability advocate and enjoys engineering creative and powerful ways to change societal perceptions of disability, promote inclusivity and empower self-advocacy.

She has a particular interest in issues relating to equal access for people with disability to quality healthcare services, access to the arts and education. With a background in Paralympic sport, Prue also has a passion for promoting the importance of access and equal participation of people with disabilities in sport to optimise health, wellbeing and social inclusion.

In 2017, Prue graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Neuroscience at the University of New South Wales and commenced a year-long graduate position at Safe Work Australia in Canberra in January 2018.

As well as Prue’s own lived experience of being born with significant vision loss, she has also witnessed the significant challenges that can accompany acquired disability through her mother, who has progressive Multiple Sclerosis, first diagnosed in 2007.

Prue’s diverse range of interests and varied life experiences allow her to bring unique experience, perspective and a multi-faceted approach to disability issues. She is looking forward to learning from other members of the Council and working together towards a more inclusive society.

Dr Jill Duncan

Dr Jill Duncan, BSc (Speech Pathology and Audiology), MEd (Education of Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing), MEd Management, PhD, GAICD is an academic at the University of Newcastle. She has a diverse employment portfolio with experience not only as an academic in the education of children with disability, but also as an educational leader in programs for children and young people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and as an executive in the public service. Among other qualifications, Jill is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

As adolescents, Jill and her siblings became carers of their single-parent mother when she developed hemiplegia due to a brain injury. It was during this time that Dr Duncan learned first-hand the intense pressures of being a 'young carer'. In mid-adolescence, Dr Duncan acquired cholesteatoma (middle ear tumour-like growth), which resulted in multiple surgeries and a permanent conductive hearing loss. Jill’s son developed the same medical condition.

Jill has a long history of volunteer work in the education of children with disability, including her current Board position with Aussie Deaf Kids and as Editor-in-Chief (Australia) of Deafness & Education International, a top-tier journal. Jill also volunteers as a weekend respite foster carer for children with disability, most of whom have experienced trauma and are in long-term foster care.

As an academic, Jill supervises many doctoral students who are investigating various aspects of children living with disability, including those receiving the NDIS in regional, rural, and remote Australia. Jill’s two personal research foci include the buffering effect of social capital for adolescents with disability and non-discrimination in Australian primary and secondary schools.

Jill is honoured to be appointed a member of the NSW Disability Advisory Council and brings a full commitment to upholding its responsibilities under the Disability Inclusion Act.

Carolyn Campbell-McLean

Carolyn Campbell-McLean from Parramatta has an Honours degree in Social Work from Western Sydney University. Carolyn held education and communications positions at the NSW Ombudsman and NSW Public Guardian for 12 years, taught disability studies at university and TAFE, and was a research associate on the first evaluation of individualised funding in NSW in 2008.  Since then Carolyn has been supporting people with disability and the sector to prepare for change, in her roles as Living Life My Way Champion, Senior Facilitator at My Choice Matters’ leadership program, Project Officer at Muscular Dystrophy NSW, Facilitator at the Council for Intellectual Disability and Training Facilitator with Physical Disability Council NSW. Carolyn trains and mentors others to take control of their lives, and is currently working on a variety of projects in the peak disability, peer support and training space. Successfully recruiting her team of supports to live independently for the past 25 years, and now self-managing her NDIS package, Carolyn and is a consultant trainer, MC and public speaker. Carolyn is proud Aunty and papercrafts enthusiast with lived experience of physical disability.

Donna Purcell

Donna Purcell (Dip Mgt, Dip Bus Mgt, Dip HR, Dip PR, Dip Speech & Drama, GAICD) is a specialist developing and leading strategies for the inclusion of people with disability within workplaces and the community.

Donna is a Senior Manager in Customer and Community Advocacy at Commonwealth Bank and specialises in accessibility and inclusion for customers and employees with disability. Donna is currently a Co-chair of the CBA’s Enable Employee Network.

Donna is a certified Access Consultant through the Institute of Access Training Australia, and is currently on secondment from the bank to the Australian Human Rights Commission leading a project to increase employment for people with disability in Australia.

She is a member of the University of NSW's Disability Innovation Institute, and a Director on the Board of Australian Network on Disabiloty. She is a former board director with the Northcott Society, Sydney-based community radio station 2RPH and the NSW Centre for Volunteering.

Donna, who was born and raised in Broken Hill, has lived experience as a person with disability with a rare genetic eye condition and is a guide dog user. She was a NSW Government's Disability Ambassador for three years running in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She brings strengths to the Council with her abilities to build cohesive teams, partnerships and networks with community, government and disability organisations.

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Last updated: 16 Apr 2020