Our Board

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The voice of our members

The PWDA Board oversees the governance of the organisation and sets its strategic direction. Primarily, the Board’s role is to govern the organisation, and speak with and for all people with disability. 

All members of the PWDA Board have lived experience of disability.

President | Nicole Lee

Photo of Nicole Lee smiling in a bright dress

Nicole is a dedicated voice for disabled women and abuse survivors and determined campaigner for the prevention of violence against women. As a strong advocate in the family and domestic violence (FDV) sector, she brings an experienced intersectional policy voice to the table with her familiarity of gender-based FDV as well as mental health spaces and her own lived experience as a violence prevention advocate. She is committed to strengthening the disability and mental health sectors understanding of what suicide prevention, and mental health supports look like for people with disability.

Nicole has had extensive experience on boards, brings a solid working knowledge of fundraising, governance and risk, holding a current position on the governance and risk subcommittee at Safe Steps. She is a regular panel member on the current affairs programs The Drum, Sky News, ABC Morning Breakfast, 7 News, SBS, and various radio programs.

Nicole is a former member of the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council for the Victorian Government and currently holds a position on the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC).

Vice President | Samantha Connor

Photo of Samantha Connor smiling with bright red hair

Samantha Connor (pronouns she/her) is a woman living with disability on Ballardong country in Western Australia. She has a strong track record as a disability and human rights advocate involved with many campaigns, including the successful campaign for a Disability Royal Commission (DRC). 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, and has mentored many younger people, including those who hold roles in prominent positions in government and business.

With lived experience of autism and ADHD, she is a current board member of Autism Self Advocacy Network AUNZ who uses a wheelchair for mobility. She is 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.

Samantha has previously been the vice-president of PWDA, member of the Ministerial Advisory Council on Disability in WA and board member of Physical Disability Australia (PDA). She is committed to working 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.

Vice President | Marayke Jonkers

Photo of Marayke Jonkers smiling with her hand on her hip

Marayke 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 won three medals at the Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympic games. She has expertise within the disability employment sector including implementing a pilot project for university graduates with disability, writing literature and consulting.

She is founder and president of Sporting Dreams, a previous board member of the Sunshine Coast Sports Federation, the 2016 ambassador for the National Injury Insurance Scheme Queensland (NIISQ), and participant in a range of commemorative events (including Queensland day, multicultural awareness week, Australia Day etc).

Marayke holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Community work) including disability studies/gender and public health, and a Bachelor of Arts (Communications), public relations and journalism. She enjoys developing public relations campaigns that highlight social issues and investigate how people with disability can be better represented in the media.

Treasurer | Suresh Rajan

Photo of Suresh Rajan looking pensive with his chin resting on his hand

Suresh has been involved in the advocacy space for well over 30 years with strong experience as president or board member for a range of disability and ethnic community organisations. These include the National Ethnic Disability Alliance, the Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre, Ethnic Communities Council of WA, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Chair of the Disability Sub Committee of FECCA, Treasurer of Attitude Foundation, Lifeline WA, the Anti-Racism Steering Committee and NDIA CaLD Strategy Group.

An accountant by profession, Suresh brings a sound financial background to the PWDA Board. He has been involved in the writing of the 2020-2030 WA State Disability Strategy, and is a committed advocate for many people with disability across Australia who have been impacted by our health systems.

Suresh is well known in media circles, with experience running a number of radio programs. He was the host of ‘Ethnicability’, a radio program called addressing issues of ethnicity and disability.

Secretary | Clare Gibellini

Close-up photo of Clare Gibellini smiling

Clare (pronouns she/her) has worked in the disability sector for 16 years and has lived experience of autism. She enjoys supporting others to advocate for themselves sharing her experience with disability rights and policy campaigns ensuring we remain intrinsic to the decision-making process at the intersection of employment and disability.

As a skilled trainer in person-first practices, Clare has developed programs to support people with disability to become self-employed or to run their own small business. She 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.

Clare is passionate about protecting the rights of people with disability in all areas of life, and enjoys enabling leadership opportunities for people with disability.

Director | Haidi Badawi

Close-up photo of Haidi who has long brown hair and is wearing a spotty top.

Haidi is a woman from a cultural and linguistically diverse (CaLD) background with lived experience of mental and physical disability based in Melbourne, Victoria. She is committed to furthering the human rights and the best outcomes for all people with disability across Australia in the spirit of “Nothing about us without us”. 

As a molecular biologist, Haidi holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons), an MEd Degree in Educational Leadership and has four registered patents in science innovation. Haidi is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and member of the Disability Leadership Institute Australia.

With 22 years of experience in leadership and learning, she has been a founding member and Ambassador of WomenH2H, and an active member with a number of boards and forums including the board of Women with Disabilities Victoria (WDV), the United Nation Australian Association (Victorian Division), and an Advisory Board member of the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC) affiliated with the University of Melbourne.

Director | Arun Barramundi

Arun smiling widely while sitting outdoors. He is wearing a suit with a light blue tie.

Arun is a qualified epidemiologist, a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participant, and a public sector manager with a strong background in health policy research, governance, advocacy.

He volunteers for the management committee of Diversity ACT Community Services, and on the lived experience advisory committee of the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (peak body for the community mental health sector). Arun was a founding chair of the Department of Health’s Cultural and Linguistic Diversity (CaLD) network.

Director | Dr Zhila Hasanloo

Zhila sitting with her chin resting on her hand and smiling slightly. She is wearing a long gold necklace with a large pendant and a white shirt.

Zhila is a woman with visual impairment from a Persian background, and is committed to furthering her grasp of contemporary developments in the sector, as well as her leadership and organisational governance skills. She brings extensive advocacy experience in both a personal and organisational capacity, with experience of caring for family with disability.

Zhila is passionate about working with diverse communities, and in 2016 she established a non-profit organisation, Ability Beyond Boundaries to raise disability awareness focusing on Persian community.

She holds a PhD in Education (focusing on disability rights) from the University of Sydney, been a member of several boards, worked for the Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association and employed by the NSW Department of Education where she was part of a team working on developing policies for young children with disability in preschool settings.

Zhila would like to increase PWDA’s level of representation and interactions with culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) communities and improve these community-level understandings of disability in Australia.

Director | Michelle Hyde

Michelle smiling widely and sitting in a car. She has bright blonde hair.

Michelle is a woman with disability and also has lived experience of mental illness both first-hand and as a family carer. Michelle takes a strengths-based approach and believes that change is best facilitated through ‘being in the tent’ and sharing stories.

As the first person in her family to attend university, she holds a degree in Agricultural Science, a PhD in Veterinary Science, and teaching and business qualifications. Michelle has worked as a teacher, editor, trainer, researcher and administrator in the vocational education area and in academia. She is currently studying a Diploma of Life Coaching and Aboriginal languages (Gamilaraay) and works full time at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in Indigenous Health Advice.

Michelle has strong ties to the Indigenous community and has Gamilaraay ancestry through her father’s family. She is a member of the LGBQTI+ community and has experienced the impact of intergenerational family disfunction and displacement.

Michelle has experienced a late-stage cancer diagnosis and aggressive cancer treatment which has created significant challenges. She enjoys teaching, mentoring, coaching, training and advocacy and her passion is assisting people (all of us!) to find their path to their best life.

Advisory groups

Our advisory groups give advice and support to our board of directors and executive staff in many important areas.

Find more information on PWDA’s advisory groups here.

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