Senior Management Team

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Our people are making it happen.

Our hardworking and dedicated leadership team use their knowledge, skills and networks to guide our operations and deliver important outcomes for the people and communities we serve as well as PWDA’s organisational development.

Chief Executive Officer | Sebastian Zagarella

Sebastian was appointed PWDA’s Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in December 2020 and became permanent CEO in September 2021. He has strong leadership skills and with extensive operational experience across corporate, membership and not-for-profit organisations, having held senior roles at UTS College, the NRMA Group of businesses, Qantas and Sydney Airport (Macquarie Airports). With proven success in developing and implementing sustainable strategies, and with building cohesive, effective teams, his current focus is to provide the team at PWDA with the resources and support to empower them to deliver their best for PWDA and its Membership. Sebastian is also an advocate for people living with HIV. He has been living with HIV for over 20 years and has been on the Board of Positive Life NSW, the state’s largest peer-led and run representative body of all people living with HIV in Australia based in NSW, since 2016.

Deputy CEO | Carolyn Hodge

A mid-close-up photo of Carolyn Hodge. She has a slight smile on her face and wavy, shoulder-length hair. She is wearing dangly earrings and a maroon scarf over a black turtle-neck.

Carolyn has over 12 years of policy and advocacy experience in the community sector across disability, housing, older people, mental health, domestic and family violence, and women. Carolyn holds a Bachelor of Social Science with a sociology major and social policy sub-major and has worked in policy development with a focus on producing better outcomes for people with disability. Carolyn also has a strong background in dealing with media across print, radio and television. In previous roles, Carolyn has also worked within, and managed a National Disability Advocacy Program (NDAP) funded service and has supported CEOs with business development, strategic planning, governance policies, evaluation frameworks and the development of successful grant applications. In addition, Carolyn has been a member of the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) Board for four years. Carolyn also as a high level of knowledge of human rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD). While at NCOSS Carolyn was Chair of the Disability Network Forum.

Director, Individual Advocacy | Stephen Kilkeary

Stephen Kilkeary is the Director of Individual Advocacy in NSW. He provides support and supervision to his team of individual advocates in the Sydney region. He is also the project lead for the Engage In, Group Homes, Assisted Boarding Houses and Redress Projects. Stephen is a proud gay, Irish, social worker and survivor. He has over 40 years of experience as a disability rights advocate and has lived experience with disability. He is a strong and committed advocate, with significant experience in the sector. Stephen was formerly an Official Community Visitor, Guardian Ad Litem and Member of the Guardianship Tribunal of NSW. He coordinated the Mental Health Legal Services Project at Public Interest Advocacy Legal Centre (PIAC) and the Safer Pathways Project at Victims Services NSW. He has held roles across the community and government sectors, focusing on trauma intervention, suicide prevention and domestic and family violence reforms.In addition, Stephen is a creator/facilitator of over 100 training modules, workshops, forums in the health and community services space and a member of the AASW Mental Health National Advisory Panel.

Director, People, Quality & Systems | Karin Waldman

Karin Waldmann is Director, People Quality and Systems – supporting PWDA’s corporate services staff who manage everything from human resources to finance, compliance and operations. Karin is an accomplished senior manager with leadership experience both in Australia and in Europe. She has significant experience in leading change to improve and streamline business processes, service delivery and organisational performance. Karin has worked for a range of education and not-for-profit organisations in senior management roles, including with the Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee, Sydney Community College, Social Leadership Australia, The Centre for Social Impact and Epilepsy Action Australia. Karin has also taken up the role of Acting Chief Executive Officer at PWDA for a period in 2020. Karin has a passion for social justice and was the winner of the Anton Mischewski Design for Social Innovation Prize in 2016 and has a Graduate Certificate in Social Impact. She speaks four languages and believes in their importance for understanding people’s connections and values.

Senior Manager, Disability Housing Advocacy | Sunil Fernando

Photo of Sunil Fernando looking off camera. He is wearing a shirt with leaves on it.

Sunil is the Senior Manager in Disability Housing Advocacy, providing leadership to Disability Housing Advocacy Service and Information Line projects and the Disability Advocacy Futures project teams. He has a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sunil has over 18 years of experience in the Disability Sector. He is the former Country Director for Sightsavers (Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind – UK) in Sri Lanka for over 10 years.  He actively contributed to the development of the Sri Lanka national action plans on the Prevention of Avoidable Blindness, Disability, and Employment of Persons with Disability. As a recognition of his contribution to the disability sector in Sri Lanka, he was appointed as a member of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and to the Advisory Committee on Special and Non-Formal Education. He has also worked for the United Nations Migration Agency and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Sunil has a strong background and skills in programme management, monitoring and evaluation, report writing, research, resource mobilization, and communication. He is well trained and experienced in non-violent conflict resolution, human rights and international humanitarian laws, leadership, partnership development, advocacy, and strategic planning and direction.

Senior Manager, Individual Advocacy NSW | Jen Ruse

[Bio to come]

Senior Manager, Individual Advocacy Queensland | Ted Jensen

[Bio to come]

Senior Manager, Policy | Giancarlo de Vera

Giancarlo de Vera (they/he) is the Senior Manager of Policy at PWDA. They identify as LGBTIQ+, queer, non-binary and a person of colour. They are a passionate advocate for disability, multiculturalism, racial justice, LGBTIQ+ affairs and cultural diversity. Giancarlo was recently named as one of the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians of 2021 and as one of Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25, a list recognising the social sector’s most influential people in 2022 for their significant and positive impact in Australia and overseas. Giancarlo is a trained lawyer, with previous experience in politics, international affairs and diplomacy, including at the United Nations, as well as international development. Outside of PWDA, Giancarlo is also President of the Australian GLBTI Multicultural Council, Australia’s peak body that represents LGBTIQ+ people from multicultural and multi-faith backgrounds. Giancarlo is also the inaugural Secretary of the Disabled Australian Lawyers Association, and Treasurer of the Australian Centre for Disability Law.

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