Team VMIAC

Every person who works at VMIAC has lived experience as a mental health consumer/survivor, along with specialist skills in their work roles.

Our work is informed by our lived experience, and a genuine passion for making a difference.

Our Leadership Team


Craig Wallace
CEO
Fionna
Deputy CEO
Chantelle Higgs
Membership Lead
Erandathie
Senior Project Lead
Neil
NDIS Manage
r  
Taylor
Acting Advocacy Manager
Gabriel Aleksandrs
Policy and Research Lead
Narelle
Corporate Services Manager

Our Staff

Dominic Troughton – General Advocacy

Shweta – General Advocacy

Kate – NDIS Appeals and Reviews

Matthew – NDIS Appeals and Reviews

Melinda – NDIS Appeals and Reviews

Shellie – NDIS Information and Support

Lauren – NDIS Information and Support

Frankie – CHECK-IN Strengths Based Peer Support

Janel – CHECK-IN Strengths Based Peer Support

Sar- CHECK-IN Strengths Based Peer Support

Romy – Disability Royal Commission Submission Support and Service Navigation

Xan – Disability Royal Commission Submission Support and Service Navigation

Alycia – Policy and Research

Robin – Communications Support

Bryony – Executive Support and Office Coordinator

Piume – Finance Assistant

Bios

Leadership Team

Craig Wallace

Chief Executive Officer

Let go of the attachment to only one outcome

Why is the consumer movement important to you?

The consumer movement is important to me because it contains so many talented and passionate people and has given me great strength. And because it has achieved so much and has so much more it will do.

Additional information

I’ve worked in Lived Experience roles for the past ten years including previously at VMIAC 2015-16 in an NDIS Project role. My academic background is Community Psychology and I love working with two values based disciplines – Lived Experience and Community Psychology.

Outside of work I love reading, writing, cycling, running, Lego, and listening to Midnight Oil. I have two kids aged 6 and 9 who give me much joy and keep it real.


Fiona Reidy

Deputy CEO

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

The consumer movement is diverse, inclusive and vibrant and these are vital characteristics in any strong community.

Additional Information

Fiona (she/her) has a strong background in community planning and development and significant experience designing and implementing social and health policy and projects. Fiona started her career as a public housing community worker. She has more recently held senior management roles in a number of Local and State Government organisations. Her commitment to advocacy is informed by personal experiences of the mental health system in Victoria and she will bring this to the role of Deputy CEO of VMIA


Chantelle Higgs

Membership Lead

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” The quote attributed to Lilla Watson, a Murri woman, activist, artist and academic, who notes it was born of collective belief within activist groups she was part of.

Why is the consumer movement important to you?

Why is the Consumer Movement Lived experience is unique and specialist knowledge that must be valued. The consumer movement is important to me as I see it as transformative. It disrupts power imbalances, it can offer healing and reorientates our thinking about systems and institutions. And this is something I am invested in being involved in

Additional information

As a prison abolitionist I’m passionate about and committed to radical social change. I’ve been privileged to work alongside communities experiencing colonisation, classism, criminalisation, racialisation as well as those experiencing Islamophobia, homophobia and transphobia. I also know these forms of oppression intersect.

I’m excited to bring my lived experience and history of using co-design to bring about social change to VMIAC and mental health consumes.


Erandathie Jayakody

Senior Project Lead

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.” – Robert F. Kennedy

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

The consumer movement has paved the way for people like me to strive to live a life of dignity, a life with meaning and purpose. I feel proud to be part of this movement and contribute to this work.

Additional Information


Neil Turton-Lane

NDIS Manager

“I really do think that any deep crisis is an opportunity to make your life extraordinary in some way.” Martha Bec

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

The consumer movement is an important social movement seeking to effect change in how we as a society understand, respond to and support difference and diversity. We need a new mental health system informed by lived experience and understanding that leads to new opportunities for growth, healing, respect and freedom for all people experiencing mental health challenges and/or emotional distress.

Additional Information

I have worked in mental health in lived experience roles for over 20 years in some great organisations working with and alongside many wonderful and inspiring people. I am passionate about music, art, people and pets and all things that grow.


Taylor


Gabriel Aleksandrs

Policy and Research Lead

‘Find out who you are and do it on purpose’. – Dolly Parton

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

It’s important to talk to experience and to the uniqueness of your experience. I identify as a consumer based on my own experiences with mental health more than the services I accessed. This has driven my desire to create a wider range of opportunities, communities, systems and frames where folks can safely connect with pain, recovery, healing and resilience on a deeper level.

Additional Information

Gabriel (he/him) is also passionate about the environment, connecting to the healing properties of Country. (#alwayswasalwasywillbe) On an ideal day – he’ll be camping in a national park in the outback 400 kms from anything.


Narelle Fousketakis

Corporate Services Manager

Sometimes I like Coffee more than People

Why is the Consumer Movement Important to You.

I started at VMIAC 5 years ago knowing nothing about the consumer movement. I am still learning.

Additional Information

I am the quiet achiever working behind the scenes at VMIAC to keep the cogs turning.  I have worked for the last 10+ years for non-for-profits in finance and quality improvement. 
I am a mother to 4 children ranging in age from 12 to 24. 

Our Staff

Dominic Troughton

Advocate

“Never … Never Again”
Every inspirational world Leader for peace from Mandela to Churchill
“It’s happening again” – Eric Bogle
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W9xS50T90g

Why is the Consumer Movement Important to You.

Because it is the multifarious voice of the people OUR people.

Additional Information

I have been an advocate here for over ten years and have received such a wonderful life changing education from the amazing consumer community we serve. YOU are truly amazing.


Shweta (she/her)

Advocate officer

‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.’ – C.S.Lewis

Why is the consumer movement important to you?

I see the consumer movement as imperative for people to be able to take a central role in creating positive change in their own lives. To me, the consumer movement is so important because it amplifies, and puts the consumer voice first. Without multiple perspectives and experiential knowledge, we lose the humanity in the mental health system, we lose half the picture.

Additional information:

As an advocate, I work with consumers to ensure their voice is heard and rights are being upheld.  I am particularly passionate about ensuring that minority groups have the adequate support and understanding to have their rights upheld.  Advocacy directly with and for consumers is a good fit for me and my values, which is why I am now so proud to be part of the VMIAC Advocacy team.


Kate Harper

NDIS Appeals Advocate

“The more you know, the harder you will find it, to make up your mind. And it doesn’t really matter, if you find you can’t see, which grass is greener. Chances are it’s neither. And either way, it’s easier to see the difference, when you’re sitting on the fence”
Tim Minchin – The Fence (An Anthem to Ambivalence)

Why is the consumer movement important to you?

I have spent a lot of my life trying to overcome daily challenges and feeling overlooked in a world that didn’t quite seem to understand my needs. As I got older, I came to realise that there was generally no ill-intent, it was simply that diversity of needs is essentially invisible, not even entering the consciousness of those who don’t experience these same challenges. That’s why the consumer movement is so imperative. By speaking up, for ourselves, and by supporting others, where necessary, to be heard, we ensure our perspectives are represented, respected and influential in all decision-making. The aim being to progress towards a society that identifies and removes barriers to participation and makes individuals feel in control of their lives and empowered. Not invisible.   

Additional Information

Kate (she/her) is part of the NDIS Appeals Team, providing advocacy support for individuals who want to appeal decisions made by the NDIA regarding their plan or access to the NDIS.  

She is very close to completing her Juris Doctor (though becoming a mum – twice – has delayed this a bit), with undergraduate degrees in Arts and Health Science (Psychology, Health Promotion, Nutrition).  

She hopes to find the ideal way to combine her passions of mental health, public health, research and writing with law, and make some kind of positive difference in the world! 


Matthew


Lauren Huynh

NDIS Information & Support

“If every pork chop were perfect, we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”

Why is the consumer movement important to you

The consumer movement is important to me because it allows space for mutuality, dignity, and power in the hands of those who know best, what works and what doesn’t. Not only does the focus shift away from institutionalisation and clinical treatment, but opportunities present for consumers to play an active role in their own personal recovery and the recovery of others. I mean, using our traumatic experiences as strengths to help others? What could be more empowering!

Additional Information

At VMIAC, I provide information and support regarding the NDIS to our consumers, often assisting with planning meetings, complaints, and/or service navigation. Being neurodivergent and having experienced a significant amount of trauma throughout my life, it took me a long time to find my footing in higher education. Since graduating high school, I dropped out of at least 6 different courses until 2017 when I finally managed to complete a Diploma of Community Services. I have now volunteered and worked in disability for the last 6 years in numerous different roles and am currently completing a Bachelor of Social Work. As a first generation Asian-Australian I am particularly passionate about anti-racism and equality, however, I’ve generally always loved helping others and am a fierce advocate for human rights and social justice.


Melinda

NDIS Appeals Advocate

Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children. (Khalil Gibran)

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

I believe wholeheartedly in the consumer movement as it allows us to be heard. Policy at all levels needs to embrace, reflect and adapt to the lived experience of those most affected by it.  

Additional Information

Melinda works in the NDIS Appeals Advocacy team, providing support to consumers appealing NDIS decisions. Melinda practiced as a lawyer for many years, but found little joy in the corporate world. Her current role allows her to combine the skills she developed in that world with her passion for advocacy. Kindness first, always.


Shellie

NDIS Information and Support team member

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. By Max Ehrmann © 1927, Desiderata

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

Each social movement manifests different types of stories about the world and its inhabitants. Class, gender, ableism, colonialism, racism, identity….to my mind, the consumer movement is an ultimate intersectionality of experiences, strength, and struggles. We all have a right to feel in the ways that we want… the consumer movement to my mind supports this.

Additional Information

Shellie works in the NDIS information and support team and is passionate about ensuring people have the right to speak up and be listened to.


Frankie


Janel Gibson

CHECK-IN Peer Support Project Officer

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes” – Charles Swindoll

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

Our experiences shape how we see and understand the world. Experience is an expertise that cannot be found by reading or listening; it is an embodied expertise. Creating a platform for personal knowledge to be shared and valued feels really important to me.

Additional Information

Janel (she/her) is a peer worker for the CHECK-IN program. Janel has always been passionate in creating safe spaces for people to learn more about themselves and the world they live in. When not at VIMAC, Janel volunteers as a Pregnancy Support Worker and studies Therapeutic Arts. Prior to peer work, she worked in theatre as a stage manager and creative advisor. Janel continues to bring her love of creativity to conversations with others.


Sarah Bostock

CHECK-IN Peer Support Project Officer

“It [i.e. disability justice] means we are not left behind; we are beloved, kindred, needed.” ― Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice

Why is the Consumer Movement Important to You.

The consumer movement is important to me as it resists simplistic, clinical, and carceral approaches to being well. Instead, it presents possibilities for complex, rich, and community focused, understandings of connection and care.

Additional Information

Sar is a white peer worker who lives and works on Wurundjeri country and they have a background in gender and Queer studies. They are an early career consumer evaluator and researcher with an interest in the ways that physical and mental health interact. They are also a writer and are always keen for a chat about the ways that consumers document, explore, and share their stories of resistance and survival.


Romy


Xan Coppinger

Disability Royal Commission Facilitator

‘I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept’ – Angela Y. Davis 

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

The consumer movement is important to me because I survived institutional harm from health-services, and I now carry this trauma with me each day. In this movement, I walk alongside all those who were and are silenced and harmed by these oppressive systems. I choose to stand in solidarity and fight for collective liberation, and to fight for our voices and experiences to be at the forefront of change – nothing about us without us. 

Additional Information 

Xan (they/them) is a Disability Royal Commission Facilitator at VMIAC. They support people to engage with the Royal Commission, specifically engaging with those in rural and regional Victoria with psychosocial disability. Xan is also a radio-presenter, podcast-producer, music producer, and lover of the outdoors.  

Prior to VMIAC, they worked as a Peer Support Worker at Orygen and Austin Hospital, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (Neuroscience) and Concurrent Diploma of Musicology from the University of Melbourne.  


Alycia O’Keefe

Policy Officer

“You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” – Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

“Not everything is supposed to become something beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life to show you what is right and what is wrong, to show you who you can be, to teach you to love yourself, to make you feel better for a little while, or to just be someone to walk with at night and spill your life to. Not everyone is going to stay forever, and we still have to keep on going and thank them for what they’ve given us.” – Emery Allen

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

Because we matter. Because we are important. More important than most of us will ever allow ourselves to realise, and if the lucky few who recognize the fragile but growing importance of this movement are able to do something about all of the hurt we have experienced as a result of the treatment we have received, both within the mental health system and within society more generally, then we will have done something that truly matters

Additional Information

Alycia (she/her) is the Policy Officer at VMIAC and self-confessed law nerd. She spends most of her time researching and writing policy position papers about issues within the mental health system, with a focus human rights law. Having previously worked at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, she has experienced first-hand how some of the oversight mechanisms within the system work and as a result she is passionate about improving regulation, oversight and accountability in order to ensure that consumers are better protected.


Charlotte

Service Navigation & Consumer Register

“It’s chaos, be kind.” – Michelle McNamara

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

Equality, Fairness and Respect. These values are close to both my heart, and to the consumer movement.

Historically, people like us have been dismissed, silenced, abused and made to feel inferior. I believe that the consumer movement is essential in correcting the power imbalance, restoring autonomy to individuals and exploring new pathways to better wellbeing.

Additional Information

After benefitting from peer relationships as a ‘consumer’ of services, Charlotte (she/her) decided she wanted to use her own experience to support others. Charlotte joined VMIAC in 2020, while completing a Diploma of Community Services. She is grateful to be part of a passionate and supportive team.

Charlotte’s an animal lover who likes making music, art and has a deep appreciation for nature.


Robin Litvins-Salter

Communications Support Worker

“To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

Why is the consumer movement important to you.

To me the consumer movement is the acknowledgement that it is those with lived experience, who are the true experts on their own lives. Why do people spend so long trying to figure out what we need, when they could just ask and let us show them.

Additional Information

Robin (she/her) is the communications support worker at VMIAC. She manages the day-to-day external communications aspects of VMAIC, from our social media, website, newsletter, publications, as well as the technical aspects of our events and consumer consultations, and more.
Robin is a proud trans woman, and prior to working at VMIAC, worked for years as a peer worker within the LGBTQIA+ advocacy space, as well as in local community radio


Bryony Wilson

Office Co-ordinator and Executive Support

“Thou art thou” ~ Yogananda Paramahansa

Why is the consumer movement important to you

To me the consumer movement is about human beings. Care. For all humans being.

Additional Information

I feel honoured to work at VMIAC. Privileged to work in the roles I do. I get very proud of VMIAC – working for the wellbeing of all humanity. Inclusion. Visibility. Voice. Support. Facilitating change and innovation for the better care of everybody.


Piume