Our Board

Bonnie Millen – President

Bonnie is looking directly at the camera smiling. She has blonde coloured hair and is wearing a blue coloured shirt. She has a silver necklace. The background of a tree is out of focus.

Bonnie Millen currently lives in the ACT. Prior to entering the advocacy domain, Bonnie worked in public service roles within South Australian Government.

Bonnie is hard of hearing and wears a cochlear implant and hearing aid. Bonnie has been an active member of the PWDA Board since 2014 and also sits on the Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) Management Committee. As part of her Board roles, Bonnie actively advocates for equality for women and girls with disability, challenging the justice system and institutionalisation.

She has proudly represented PWDA as a youth delegate at the United Nations Conference of States Parties (COSP) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in New York in 2014. In June 2016, she returned as a delegate as part of the Australian Cross Disability Alliance (ACDA).
Bonnie is a currently a Policy Officer at Advocacy for Inclusion based in the ACT and is currently studying a Master of International Law, Governance and Policy via Macquarie University. Her interests lie in social policy, research, and international relations.

In her spare time, Bonnie continues to enjoy being busy, spending time with her 3 young children, is an active Girl Guide Leader and continues to seek the secret of a work/life balance.

Brendan Pearce – Vice President

Brendan standing side on in a grey jacket with white shirt. He is smiling.

Brendan Pearce was born Hard of Hearing and from an early age, faced discrimination because of the two Hearing Aids he wears. Growing up in regional NSW, Brendan learnt what it was like to participate in mainstream life while navigating certain difficulties relating to his hearing loss.

In 2013 Brendan was appointed Chair of the Inaugural Australian Hearing Paediatric Program Advisory Committee. As Chair of this Committee, Brendan led efforts to provide strong client feedback to Australian Hearing on how it could improve its service delivery. In 2014, Brendan was part of the 2014 Australian Youth NGO Delegation to the 7th Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. Brendan pushed heavily at that Conference the need for Youth with Disability to be equipped to lead in both their communities and personally in their own lives. Brendan represented People with Disability Australia (PWDA) at the same conference in 2016 as part of the Disabled People’s Organisation Australia Delegation (formerly Australian Cross Disability Alliance).

Brendan comes to the board of PWDA with experience in governance and management, having been a part of the rebuilding of the Lismore an External Students Association at Southern Cross University into a financially sound and transparent organisation. Brendan also holds a Bachelor of Media majoring in Journalism, Policy and Governance.

Brendan is motivated by the need to reduce the likelihood of others facing the barriers he did while growing up with his hearing loss.

Vanessa Fanning – Treasurer

Vanessa is standing wearing a blue dress and orange and purple scarf. She has grey hair and is smiling.Vanessa Fanning has a keen interest in advocating for people with disabilities, in improving communication between government and people with disabilities and in improving the interface between disability support and aged care support. She considers that many people with a disability are not receiving the support for which they are eligible and entitled because of institutional and social barriers and deficiencies in communication channels. She believes that PWDA with its broad base of membership is playing an effective role in these areas and can continue to make a major difference in influencing the quality and availability of services and the way they are delivered.

In her earlier career, Vanessa was Chief Executive of a national health services organization with over 750 staff for a period of 7 years. She has also been a non-executive director on the Boards of a number of Government agencies as well as a non-government, not-for-profit board. She is currently a member of the Multiple Sclerosis ACT and NSW Regional Advisory Board.

Vanessa is a member of the Centre for Strategy and Governance in Canberra (www.csg.org.au), a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management. She also has a good understanding of the way government works and is experienced in dealing directly with senior officials and Federal Ministers.

Ebru Sumaktas – Secretary

A headshot of Ebru who is wearing a grey jacket and black dress. She is smiling.Ebru Sumaktas is a dedicated advocate bringing to the Board over 15 years’ experience in policy and advocacy roles for a variety of social justice and disability peaks, including People With Disability Australia, Vision Australia, NSW Ombudsman’s Office and the NSW Department of Family and Community Services. Committed to championing the access and equitable inclusion of people with disability in our community, particularly in employment.

She believes that accessible and inclusive employment is more than employer platitudes promoting workplace diversity. An employer of choice for people with disability needs to deliberately and purposefully design internal systems and processes that encourage the attraction, retention, learning and development of its collective workforce, irrespective of disability.

Ebru mentors young adults who are blind or have low vision through education, employment and community participation. Her passion to promote and uphold the rights of people with disability, their families and carers is underpinned by her strong community involvement in social justice and community service initiatives. Ebru also brings lived experience of disability, Retinitis Pigmentosa a degenerative eye condition.

Jarad McLoughlin – Board Director

Jarad is wearing a bright green polo shirt and smiling.Jarad McLoughlin lives in Adelaide. He is on the high-functioning scale of the Autism Spectrum, as well as beendiagnosed with various vision and hearing impairments since birth. This clearly indicates his vast expertise and skills as a disability and LGBTIQA+ activist when challenging and engaging with Australia’s political, social, economic and cultural climates.

McLoughlin began his involvement in disability self-advocacy and leadership in 2003 through Guide Dogs SA and NT’s Successful Adults in Life (SAIL) program. Then in 2005 he joined the City of Marion Youth Advisory Committee, where local governance, youth advocacy and fundraising initiatives strengthened his political ideals and knowledge.

Since then Jarad has worked within a magnitude of diverse roles as an activist, mentor, consultant and campaigner with Gay Men’s Health SA, JuIia Farr Association (Purple Orange), Disability SA, Youth Affairs Council of South Australia, U.N. Youth Association, Cando4Kids (Townsend House Inc.), the YMCA of SA and The I Can Network. He has also worked efficiently as an autistic self-advocate, executive committee member and elected Treasurer of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) Incorporated (Australia and New Zealand).

In gaining confidence in public speaking, eloquence, determination, humility, accountability, knowledge on national and international human rights statutes and treaties (i.e. United Nations), wit, honesty, academic/political intellect and open mindedness, McLoughlin is hopeful on using his term as board director:

  • To support local, national disability groups, agencies and organisations;

  • Eliminate ableist/queerphobic language and rhetoric and;

  • Creating new opportunities in the media industry.

Kevin Boyce –  Board Director   

Kevin is standing and wearing a cream coloured shirt and a bowtie. He is also wearing a name badge which is white and blue. He is smiling.Kevin is an experienced Board member having served with PWDA, disability Media and 4 Public hospitals in Melbourne working on their disability Access Action Plans. Kevin has a genuine commitment to the delivery of safe and high-quality user-centric advocacy.

Over the last 4 years Kevin has been working in the health areas of the Public health System in Victoria and his experience as a client with disability has benefited these committees, working in the area of developing implementing and promoting effective communication techniques, leading and developing others and working within organisational and Government structures to enable development outcomes and as well as his ability to analyse sociological factors for clients in the community and work areas.

Kevin continues to provide both advocacy and representation for those who are unable to advocate for and represent themselves and believes that being a Board member of PWDA will give his advocacy a more systemic weight to the work he does in Victoria in the public health domain.

Adam Hewber – Board Director

Adam is sitting wearing a black jacket, blue shirt and purple tie.He is smiling and wearing a pair of glasses.As a Director Adam is concerned about all aspects of inclusion of people with a disability into a meaningful community life. For this reason, Adam seeks to motivate the three tiers of Government to dismantle the discriminative, oppressive and abusive behaviour that is often described as “Disablism”. This behaviour stems from a medical model of incapacity and a belief that disabled people are inferior to others. In general terms disablism describes the treatment of people who for various reasons are judged less able to perform tasks according to perceived standards. Often, it is used as an excuse for not employing a person with a disability.As a Director Adam is concerned about all aspects of inclusion of people with a disability into a meaningful community life. For this reason, Adam seeks to motivate the three tiers of Government to dismantle the discriminative, oppressive and abusive behaviour that is often described as “Disablism”. This behaviour stems from a medical model of incapacity and a belief that disabled people are inferior to others. In general terms disablism describes the treatment of people who for various reasons are judged less able to perform tasks according to perceived standards. Often, it is used as an excuse for not employing a person with a disability.

A truly inclusive society would ensure that a percentage of people with a disability can find meaningful employment with career opportunities.  This is of a special concern to Adam when considering that many organisations are staffed by people who do not know what it is like to be disabled. A lifelong experience of living with a disability has taught Adam that relying on sympathy is a hindrance whilst encouragement can help. From a society and a Government budgeting perspective, Adam feels our country is missing out on a valuable labour resource and the contribution this could make to our economy.

Adam’s goal is to encourage people with a disability to try harder, aim higher, and speak in a unified voice. Adam believes that a disability is not a life sentence and that PWDA’s challenge is to attract new members, grow the organisation and create a vision of future potential. Adam’s goal is to encourage people with a disability to try harder, aim higher, and speak in a unified voice. Adam believes that a disability is not a life sentence and that PWDA’s challenge is to attract new members, grow the organisation and create a vision of future potential.

Jason McCurry – Board Director

Jason standing in front of a garden smiling looking directly at the cameraJason grew up in a small country town in north-west Victoria. He moved to Melbourne for University and fell in love with the city; and has remained here ever since. Since graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Sport Management), majoring in Human Resources back in 2015, Jason has undertaken a significant amount of both full-time and volunteer work within the Sports, Recreation and Events industry.

Jason has experience within program delivery specialised for people with a disability in sport, such as: a liaison between Disability Sport & Recreation and clients through a long-term placement, running day services programs in Echuca, assisting multiple all abilities sports teams, and attending multiple training and professional development conferences focused on inclusion and diversity. He is passionate about inspiring the lives of others through the power of sport and specialises in building sustainable relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders.

Jason was diagnosed with a neurological/psychosocial disability, Tourette’s Syndrome, when he was in primary school, however, he has never let this control his life or affect his high ambitions within life. He is passionate about advocating for and ensuring everyone in life can achieve their full potential, despite their disability.

In his spare time, Jason likes exercising and playing sport with friends, attending live music, and spending time with family back home in Rochester.