Samantha Connor – President
Samantha Connor (pronouns she/her) is a disabled woman living on Ballardong country in Western Australia. She has a strong track record as a disability and human rights advocate. Her past history includes former Vice President of PWDA, member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability in WA and board member of Physical Disability Australia. Samantha is a current board member of Autism Self Advocacy Network AUNZ – she is autistic, has ADHD and muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair for mobility.
Samantha is a campaigner and has been actively involved in many campaigns, including the successful campaign for a disability Royal Commission. She has also been heavily involved in actively working for a better NDIS – as a founder and administrator of the online group NDIS Grassroots Discussion, she supports 48,500 people with disability and their families to navigate a scheme that is not working well.
Part of Samantha’s commitment as a leader in the disability sector is to mentor younger disabled people to assist them to find and develop their voice – she is a youth group leader and has mentored many younger people, including those who hold roles in prominent positions in government and business. Samantha works only in roles that will benefit disabled people and currently lectures part time at two universities in human rights, activism and disability discrimination in Human Resources.
She believes that disabled people have the right to be unapologetic in taking up space in the world and in the disability rights mantra ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’. You can talk to her at @criprights on Twitter.
Kelly Cox- Vice President
Kelly works with other disabled people to affect change around disability and human rights issues. That has included better provision of service within the NDIS, lobbying for a Royal Commission and a wide range of other local, national and international issues. As a disabled woman Kelly has first-hand understanding and lived experience of issues affecting disabled people. She has been actively involved in representing the rights of disabled women in disability rights spaces and is a contributing member of the disability rights movement in Australia.
Kelly spent many years working for an Aboriginal Land Council and has a developed understanding of the barriers disabled Aboriginal people encounter while trying to access services and supports. She is passionate about working to uphold the rights of all disabled people to ensure they are able to live the life they want and holds specific interest in violence prevention and intersectional issues and the way these further marginalise and disadvantage people with disability.
Most recently Kelly travelled to Geneva as part of the Civil Society delegation for the periodic review of the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disability. During this time she worked with other representatives to raise key issues affecting the disability community in Australia.
Kelly believes that we should make sure all disabled people have a voice, including people who come from exceptionally marginalised backgrounds.
Suresh Rajan- Treasurer
Suresh Rajan possesses well over 25 years of experience within the disability sector and is a qualified accountant. He possesses financial skills and disability advocacy knowledge. Suresh has also chaired a number of disability organisations in his career, including the National Ethnic Disability Alliance. Suresh also possesses strong governance skills and has extensive experience with culturally and linguistically diverse issues.
Furthermore, Suresh has also worked with many Not-For-Profit organisations both at the State and National Level and is currently the Chair of the FECCA Disability sub committee and President of the Ethnic Communities Council of WA. Suresh was also involved in the writing of the WA State Disability Strategy for 2020-2030.
Craig Andrews– Secretary
Craig Andrews has worked in the NSW community not-for-profit NGO sector since 1997 in a range of resource development and communications roles having a strong history of implementing peer-led community-based health promotion information and campaigns. He has a lifelong lived experience of disability and is a sound proponent of the social model of disability.
Craig worked for the Physical Disability Council of NSW from 2002 to 2009, People with Disability Australia from 2010 to 2012, and Accessible Arts NSW from March to November 2012. He returned to People with Disability Australia as Communications Manager and Membership Development until January 2015.
Craig has been Director and then President with the OI Australia Board from September 2006 to 2008, and he served on the Inner West Sydney Medicare Local Board from April 2012 to November 2014. After a short term as a Director on the Positive Life NSW Board from December 2013 to 2014, Craig joined the Positive Life staff team as Communications Manager, and Coordinator of the Positive Speakers Bureau (PSB).
Since joining Positive Life in January 2015, Craig advocates for the meaningful involvement of people living with HIV across NSW, promoting an ardent commitment to social justice, human rights and health promotion from the peer perspective.
He insists on the full inclusion of people with disability across all facets of life, in a society where there is truly ‘Nothing about us, without us’.
Nicole is an advocate for the prevention of violence against women and is a strong advocate in the FDV sector. She has had extensive experience on boards and has a strong history of governance and fundraising.
Nicole understands policy and contemporary issues and is a regular panel member on the current affairs program ‘The Drum’. She brings an intersectional policy voice to the table with her experience of FDV gendered spaces and her own lived experience as a violence prevention advocate.
Nicole was appointed four years ago to the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council for the Victorian Government and also holds a position on the board of Safe Steps. She also has a solid understanding of governance and risk and holds a position on the governance and risk sub committee at Safe Steps.
Nicole is a strong voice for disabled women and abuse survivors.
Andrew Fairbairn possesses years of experience on both the inside and the outside of disability systems and on boards and committees and has strong networks across the disability sector with disabled people, family members and the not for profit and government sector. Andrew is involved in running a WA based peer group and is involved in delivering training nationally for Limbs 4 Life, training peer support volunteers. Andrew is qualified in assistive technology and has a thorough understanding of the NDIS, assistive technology and home modifications.
Andrew is currently working on a project called Ramping Up for Work, a project that helps amputees become employed. Andrew has also assisted businesses to learn to be more inclusive and accessible. Furthermore, Andrew has worked with Leadership WA on the LeadAbility program, which mentored people with Disability and their supporters to become leaders in the disability sector.
Andrew was a former Vice Chair of People with Disabilities WA (PwDWA), the peak state body for disabled people in WA. He also is the co-Vice President of Physical Disability Australia, the peak national body for people with physical disability.
Marayke Jonkers is a Paralympian who is passionate about creating a world where people can fulfill their full potential. As part of the Australian Paralympic Swimming Team, Marayke, over a period of 20 years won three medals at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic games.
Marayke possesses a university degree from the University of the Sunshine Coast and a Bachelor of social science (Community work) including disability studies/gender and public health, Bachelor of arts (Communications), public relations and journalism. Marayke possesses a strong focus on public relations campaigns that highlight social issues and investigates how people with disability can be better represented in the media. Marayke is also the founder of Sporting Dreams and is currently its President. Marayke is also a previous Board member of the Sunshine Coast Sports Federation, the Queensland government Q150 & commemorative events (including Queensland day, multicultural awareness week, Australia Day etc). Marayke possesses experience and expertise within the disability employment sector including implementing a pilot project for University graduates with disability, writing literature & consulting. She was the ambassador for the National Injury Insurance Scheme Queensland which was part of the team that brought the legislation before Parliament.
Additionally, Marayke has also worked in various roles which involved working with governments, liaising with people with disabilities and working on government projects within the disability sector which included advocating for people with disabilities.
These are just some of Marayke’s achievements.
Clare Gibellini (pronouns she/her) has worked in the disability sector for 16 years. She has experience in disability rights, policy campaigns and supporting others to advocate for themselves. She is a skilled trainer in person first practices and developing resources for people with disability. She has also developed programs to support people to become self-employed or to run their own small business, informed by her experience in the intersection of employment and disability.
Clare works for an organisation that has a Peer Support project and volunteers for the South West Autism Network, Outback Academy Australia and the Red Dust Heelers. She is autistic.
Clare is passionate about protecting the rights of disabled people in all areas and helping to grow opportunities for disabled leadership so that we are part of the decision-making process.