Council member profiles
Chair - 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.
My contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook: mjtonga. Ph: 0432 454 483
Deputy Chair - Eileen Baldry
Eileen Baldry (BA, DipEd, MWP, PhD) is the Interim Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Professor of Criminology at UNSW Australia where she has been an academic since 1993. She served as Associate Dean Education, Arts and Social Sciences, from 2007 to mid-2010 and Deputy Dean, Arts and Social Sciences, from mid-2010 to mid-2015.
Eileen is an esteemed researcher in the areas of Criminology, Social Policy and Social Work. She holds an outstanding record over the past twenty years as a Chief Investigator on major grants from the ARC, NHMRC and other funding bodies. She is involved in a voluntary capacity with a number of development and justice community agencies and served two terms as President of the NSW Council of Social Services. In 2009, the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW recognised Baldry’s “indefatigable” support for justice-related causes by awarding her its highest honour: the Justice Medal.
Eileen was also recently appointed to the position of Academic Chair, UNSW Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Board.
Zoe has cerebral palsy and hearing impairment, both acquired from birth. Zoe is passionate about driving change for people with disability, improving rights, inclusion and awareness, and removing barriers. By day, Zoe works as APAC Marketing Intern for Salesforce, and has six years experience working in disability policy and research within the NGO sector.
In a member role, Zoe is eager to contribute her passion for disability, innovation and policy expertise, towards enabling a better society where people with disability can interact, live, participate and contribute to.
Unis Goh PSM
Unis has a physical disability which was acquired as an infant as well as a family connected with disability.
Unis has had a long and well recognised career in the Human Services sector of the NSW Public Service as well as in the Not-For-Profit sector. This culminated in her receipt of the 2009 Public Service medal for outstanding service to community housing in NSW.
Unis is currently a Director of the Board of Royal Rehabilitation & Disability Support Network (Royal Rehab) since 2013. She is the Chair of the Consumer Outcomes & Participation Committee there.
Unis was appointed to the Disability Council NSW in 2011. She served a full term membership of four years with passion and enthusiasm in raising awareness of contemporary issues of disability and promoting actively the importance of respect for the rights and choice and control of people with disability. She is delighted with her recent re-appointment of her membership to the Disability Council for the second term, that enables Unis continuing her efforts in giving back her knowledge and expertise through the Council to achieving an inclusive society.
She is looking forward to continue working with members of the Disability Council and the disability networks in the coming years when NSW is implementing the Bi-lateral Agreement for NDIS and implementing the NSW Government's Disability Inclusion Plan.
Melinda has many years experience as a senior policy adviser, mainly in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet. More recently she was the Executive Officer for the Disability Council NSW and retired in October 2014. Before working in these roles, Melinda did a variety of things, starting as a research assistant in the Centre for Communication Disorders at UNSW, and including roles as Psychologist in a community health centre, and Project Administrator at a charity in Wales UK which worked with people with intellectual disability.
Melinda has lived all her life with significant hearing impairment and is legally blind. She is keen to work with Council members towards making a difference to the lives of people with disability.
Sean Webber has Cerebral Palsy and has worked in the NSW Transport Cluster for over 11 years across a number of areas. He has been involved the Rotary Youth Leadership Award since 2006 both in NSW and East Timor. He has competed internationally in Swimming and has held many records. He has taught learn to swim since the age of 16. In 2006 he started a Disabled Learn to Swim program in Penrith, Sydney NSW Australia. Sean was asked to help develop a Learn to Swim Teachers Course for the Australian Swimming Teachers and Coaches Association Inc.
He also initiated the inclusion of 15m participation events within NSW for up and coming swimmers who have the opportunity to get a taste of what they could achieve. Sean regularly presents at the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, the Penrith Referees Association Meetings as well as local schools regarding obstacles he has overcome, Leadership, team work and a variety of topics relating to disabilities.
Most recently he was awarded the Cerebral Palsy Sporting and Recreation Association of NSW Inc. Daniel Berry Inspiration award.
Carmel (M.ChildAdolWelf. BA Soc.WomStud.) has an adult son with Down Syndrome and Autism. She is the first person in Australia and New Zealand to become a Certified Practitioner of Case Management through the Case Management Society of Australia and New Zealand and is a Fellow of the Case Management Society Australia and New Zealand. She is an Adjunct Fellow with Western Sydney University (Campbelltown Medical School) and a member Golden Key International Honour Society (Deakin university chapter). She received the NSW Carers Award in 2011 for work with Carers.
She is a Manager of the Case Work team of Community Links Wollondilly and has over 20 years' experience of providing support and case work for families with children with disabilities, and families in crisis, by providing information, coordination, advocacy and referrals as well as professional linkages for these families.
Leigh Creighton is a leader around social change in the Hunter. A ‘Living Life My Way’ ambassador and champion with ADHC, Leigh is a committed advocate for the rights and best interests of people with disability. Leigh’s passion is to make the world a better place for all human kind and his motto is ‘believe in yourself, go for your dreams and live every single moment to the fullest’. Leigh recently transitioned to the NDIS and is keen to share his experience in how he uses his NDIS Plan to live independently and to be part of his community.
Leigh is a Board member of the Community Disability Alliance Hunter (CDAH) and is committed to ensuring that the diverse voices of people with intellectual disability are heard.
Elaine De Vos
A recognised thought leader and expert in shaping and driving major Government reform strategy with a track record of commercially focused organisational leadership.
In 2013 Elaine was asked to advise on one of the most significant social reforms in Australia - the NDIS. She spent 18 months working with the NSW Government agency ADHC and NSW Treasury to develop a transformation strategy that would allow the organisation to successfully transition its service delivery into the NGO Sector.
Prior to this Elaine spent the past 10 years working with the UK Government where she was an integral part of establishing national policy and delivering key social reforms. She brings a senior private sector director’s experience and drive to operational delivery.
A focused and experienced CEO, Elaine has over 20 years of experience of working at a senior level across both the public and private sector.
As Commercial Director for one of the top four UK Retailers Elaine has played an integral part in high profile business turnarounds and has extensive experience of delivering sustained business growth.
Currently CEO of On Track Community Programs (OTCP), a major regional not for profit organisation running multiple business units, providing services which include a range of Disability programs, Community Housing, Mental Health provision, Community Outreach and Employment, in addition to a number of National Award winning Social Enterprises.
In 2011, Sally and her family found in Newcastle a place to lay down roots after living and working overseas for 15 years. Her career spans over 20 years in financial services, health and nonprofit industries around the world having mentored business owners in the USA and Australia in implementing highly efficient and effective business growth strategies.
Today, Sally is Managing Director of Curb-Cut Effect, a consultancy that supports businesses in developing products, services, spaces and experiences that are accessible to and inclusive of all people including people with a disability. Sally's mission through Curb-Cut Effect is to change the paradigm from inclusion motivated by philanthropy to inclusion motivated by business competitiveness with the aim of consumer empowerment for people with a disability.
Among the diverse range of perspectives Sally brings to the Council is that of mother and carer to Nicky, one of her three young daughters. Nicky lives with quadriplegia as a result of an acquired brain injury, she is an NDIS participant and attends Newcastle School, a school that creates quality educational pathways for students with very significant disabilities.
Sally also lectures in Industrial Marketing Management at the University of Newcastle, is Director of disability support and services provider Endeavour Group Australia and, Director of the Hunter Business Chamber.
Her vision is a world where the word 'disability' is redundant because the barriers that create disability have been removed and instead communities enjoy diversity in its many forms.
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 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.