About us

QAI Team

Management committee

Photo of Byron Albury

Byron Albury

President

 

I am an indigenous male with a disability which I believe gives me a unique perspective on fighting for the rights of not only indigenous people but also other marginalised and disadvantaged people. I became a member of Queensland Advocacy Inc. in the year 2000. My disability type is Cerebral Palsy Spastic Quadriplegia. My childhood years were spent in an institution setting in Brisbane. My family came from Rockhampton but has lived in the Cherbourg Community for over 20 years.

I am a team player, well spoken, loyal, passionate and determined in my beliefs to maintain and defend the fundamental needs of people with disability in Queensland. I have been an active volunteer member and team leader of Club Rainbow (formally Radio Lollypop) at the Royal Children’ Hospital at Herston since 1994.

I have recently undertaken and completed the 3-day Social Role Valorisation (SRV) training with Peter Millier, senior trainer. This training has assisted me along the way to deepen my understanding of the bigger picture of social and systems advocacy. I also intend to undertake P.A.S.S.I.N.G. in October this year.

Since I was 22 years old I have been passionate about advocacy from a grass roots understanding. My experiences range from working closely with people with disability, families and senior management of many community organisations.

I am currently the Chair of the Client Consultative Committee with the Cerebral Palsy League of Queensland and have been for the past five and a half years.

If a conflict should arise between my involvement with the Cerebral Palsy League of Queensland and the QAI committee I will deal with it in an appropriate manner.

The experiences I have gained throughout my life will assist me to contribute to furthering QAI’s mission statement, values and beliefs.

Photo of Fiona Kennedy

Fiona Kennedy

Vice President

 

Principal Solicitor | B.A. (Hons), Dip.Ed., LL.B.(Hons)(UQ)

 Fiona Kennedy completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in English Literature at University of Queensland in 1984, her Diploma of Education in 1988 and her Bachelor of Laws (Hons) in 1998 from the same institution. She has tutored in Law at the University of Queensland.  

After Fiona completed articles with Delaney & Delaney and worked as an employed Solicitor in another CBD firm and at a legal advisory service, she returned to Delaney & Delaney as Principal Solicitor of the firm in 2001. Fiona has also completed the Barristers’ Practice Course so that she is comfortable as an advocate in the courtroom as well as in her role as solicitor.  

In 2005, Fiona became an Accredited Family Law Specialist.  She also practices in Employment and Commercial Law.  Currently she has a special interest in Native Title and working for organisations in the disability sector.  

Delaney & Delaney is a general law firm of six solicitors with offices in the Brisbane CBD and Wilston on Brisbane’s inner city northside. 

Fiona has had four children, one of whom, Andrew, was severely disabled with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hearing and sight loss associated with microcephaly.  She has been involved in advocacy for disabled people through committee positions for Queensland Parents of the Disabled (later named Queensland Parents of People with a Disability), the Cerebral Palsy League and Red Hill Special School P & C.   She has been a member of the Board of QAI since the AGM in 2009. 

Fiona believes passionately in systemic advocacy for the disabled.  She has experienced the frustrations of advocacy for individuals in systems that are chronically underfunded and disconnected from the needs of those who are most vulnerable.  She wants to be part of QAIs drive to effect positive change. 

Photo of Donna Best

Donna Best

Secretary

 

Donna Best is a board member and founding member of QAI and she is a long term self-advocate.  She has been involved in trying to give people with intellectual disability a better life.  Donna has had a long history of advocacy involvement with people with disability at Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, Queensland Parents of Persons with Disability, SUFY (formerly Speaking Up for You), GADIP (Greater Achievement for people with Disability Ipswich) and Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN).  Donna is the convenor of Brisbane Hot Topics (a discussion group of  people with disability).  Donna has been working with SARU (Self-advocacy Resource Unit) in Melbourne on their website development, funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).  

Donna recently was working on Peer Facilitation for the Ready to Go Project which provided NDIS participation readiness.for people with intellectual impairment. Donna has a long history of being involved in projects like the Community Living Project (CLA), Community Resource Unit (CRU), Australian Communication Exchange (ACE) and Lifestream.  Donna was involved in the Stewart (Basil Stafford) Inquiry, the Senate Inquiry into Young People in Aged Care, and the Senate Inquiry into Sterilization of People with Intellectual Disabilities.    

Donna presented at the Round Table for People with Intellectual Disabilities in Brisbane, and at the ‘Walk the Talk’ Forum at the Brisbane Convention Centre.  Donna was involved in the Digital Stories Project for QDN.  With Samantha Mathieson, Donna presented a paper at the Speakout Conference in Tasmania in 2017, and she will present as part of a roundtable discussion at the Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) conference on the Gold Coast in Queensland in November 2018.  Donna currently  is working with others towards the establishment of a Queensland-based self-advocacy group.  

Ted Cole

Treasurer

 

Ted has been actively involved with individual and systems advocacy for the past twenty-five years. This included volunteering at eight Not-For-Profit organisations in Canada and Australia, of which three were Board of Director positions. A list of these NFP organisation follows. Most notable is his involvement with assessing rent affordably/appropriateness for lower-income earners in Queensland.

His passion is assisting others in exercising appropriate, informed choices and to ensure they have a voice in matters regarding their dignity, fairness, justice, equality, safety, inclusion, autonomy and respect, especially when they are not being heard.

He has worked at sixteen corporations in the public and private sectors. His transferable skills include Accounting, Financial Reporting, Project Management, Change Management, Data Analysis, Strategic Planning, Business Analysis, Work Evaluation, Process Compliance and Quality Assurance.

Ted’s most significant Accounting and Financial Reporting roles were that at EXXON/Esso in Canada, as well as being a Project Manager at Queensland University of Technology for their Financial Management Reform Programme.

NFP organisations Ted has been volunteered with: 

  • Parents Against Drugs
  • Family Education Centre*
  • Worlds of Music Toronto*
  • City of Kingston, Community Services Endeavour Foundation*
  • A Place to Belong Anglicare UnitingCare

*Board of Directors

Photo of Brendon Donohue

Brendon Donohue

General member

 

My name is Brendon, I am a young disability advocate who has worked on making public service websites and mobile apps accessible.  

In particularly the Seek.com website and the Centrelink login process. Increasing employment access to people with a disability.  

I have also worked on making public transport accessible increasing the access to the world to people with a disability. I have also commented and provided submissions into the NGR Train failure in Queensland.  

I believe my hard work and my continuous willingness to learn about advocacy makes me a good placement on QAI’s board. 

Mandy Kaur

General member

 

Mandy joined the QAI Management Committee at the 2023 AGM. Mandy is the Finance Officer and Office Manager at Prisoner’s Legal Service Inc., where she started work in 2011 as the Bookkeeper.

She has a double Master of Accounting and Commerce and has previously served as Treasurer on the Committee of Eating Disorders Queensland.

Mandy is passionate about helping disadvantaged groups of people, especially those who do not have the same access to support in terms of affordability, for example, when representation or the cost for fair treatment is too expensive.

Niki Edwards has large clear framed glasses, brown hair that is grey on top and is wearing a green and white print top. There are pink and purple flowers in the background.

Niki Edwards

General member

 

Niki Edwards is a Professor of Social Work and Human Services in the School of Psychology and Wellbeing at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ). Here she is the Academic Lead for Social Work and Human Services, Director of the Master of Social Work (Qualifying), and the Major Convenor for Disability and Diversity in Human Services. Her profile is available here. She is also appointed as a visiting Professor to Fulda University of Applied Sciences, Germany and is a visiting Fellow at QUT.

Niki is a critical social worker and social scientist who has taught in academia for more than two decades. She is currently teaching disability, health and mental health at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at UniSQ. She is passionate about the importance of understanding health and mental health as a “social idea”. Niki has lived experience of mental illness, celebrates diversity and difference, and advocates for recognition of the importance of systemic drivers of social inequalities.

Prior to entering academia, Niki worked in health, disability and human services, hence her research brings together clinical, governmental and academic perspectives to create a synthesised account of psychiatry, disability and disadvantage. Early in her career, Niki was employed in psychiatric services as Queenslanders with disabilities moved from institutional care into the community. Later, while having her children, she worked clinically in hospital and rehabilitation settings, and in public policy and public administration across government portfolios including family services, community services, disability, and mental health services.

Her strong commitment to deinstitutionalisation, human rights and social justice brought her to Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion (QAI) where she has been a committee member for almost a decade.  Further, Niki was a member of the Management Committee of Arafmi Queensland Inc. from July 2014 and was elected to the Board of Arafmi Limited as a First Director in June 2018. She continues as a Director of Arafmi Queensland.

Niki spends time with her husband of almost 40 years between the city and the bush. She has a farm in regional Queensland where she keeps donkeys that are important for her mental health and wellbeing. She appreciates that health and wellbeing, including mental health and challenges with equity in service provision, depends on where you live. Niki is a proud mother of five adult children, she prioritises family and enjoys constantly learning about life, “taking in nature” through walking, and travelling.

Trevor Boone

General member

 

Trevor joined the Management Committee of QAI in 2010. He served on the board as Secretary for the year of 2013-14 and has now returned to being a commitee member. Trevor has a passion for advocacy and supporting people who are trying to improve their situation.  Trevor has completed a Diploma of Business Management, and works full time for the Queensland Government as a Call Centre Consultant.  Trevor also has an interest in tutoring English to new migrants on a voluntary basis.

Staff

Senior Management

Photo of Matilda Alexander

Matilda Alexander

(she/her)

Chief Executive Officer

 

Matilda started with QAI in March 2021 and her work builds on her longstanding commitment to working towards a free, equal and inclusive society.  Matilda is a leader and human rights lawyer with a lengthy history in the community legal sector including at Prisoners’ Legal Service and LGBTI Legal Service. 

She teaches Prison Law at Griffith University and has previously worked at the Queensland Human Rights Commission and Legal Aid Queensland.  She has won multiple awards for her work with vulnerable communities and holds an enduring passion for justice.

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

Carly Dennis

(she/her)

Principal Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Carly is a Principal Solicitor at Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion. She joined QAI’s Mental Health Advocacy Practice (MHAP) in August 2017 as a solicitor before moving into the role of Principal Solicitor in November 2019. MHAP was combined with the Human Rights Advocacy Practice (HRAP) in June 2023 when Carly moved across to be Principal Solicitor of HRAP. Carly has a degree in psychology and has experience in the private sector and litigation.

Carly is driven by her passion to help others, promote social change and support the most vulnerable people in the community with disability by fostering genuine positive relationships and advocating for individual rights.

Carly’s background in psychology and interest in mental health and human rights compels her work with QAI’s HRAP.

Photo of Sophie Wiggans

Sophie Wiggans

(she/her)

Principal Systems Advocate

 

Sophie’s passion for upholding the human rights of people with disability comes from her experience in individual disability advocacy and working alongside people with disability and their families as a social worker in the health setting. Sophie’s undergraduate degree in law complements her understanding of the systemic barriers facing vulnerable members of our community and inspires her to promote the values of social justice and equality.

Vinay Veerabhadra

Senior Solicitor & Volunteer Coordinator

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Vinay is the Senior Solicitor and Volunteer Coordinator at Queensland Advocacy. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours in Political Science) from York University and a Juris Doctor from Bond University. 

Vinay Veerabhadra works across the Human Rights Advocacy Practice specialising in mental health and human rights law. He was previously employed as a solicitor at LawRight within their Mental Health Law Practice and Health Advocacy Legal Clinic (now a part of the Community and Health Justice Partnerships).

Anna Brasnett

(she/her)

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Anna is a solicitor in the Human Rights Advocacy Practice. Anna has worked across many areas of civil law, including guardianship and administration, mental health, discrimination and human rights.

Chloe de Almeida

(she/her)

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Chloe joined QAI in January 2022 as an Advocate helping clients share their experiences with the Disability Royal Commission. She did her legal training at Caxton Legal Centre and has a variety of experience doing community work including volunteering with the Riding for the Disabled Association, and providing English tutoring for newly settled refugees. She has also worked as a Paralegal in class actions supporting clients who have experienced medical negligence.

Chloe holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Bachelor of Justice (Criminology and Policing) and Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the Queensland University of Technology. She has a particular interest in promoting the value of diversity within our community, and ensuring that each and every person is represented and has a voice.

Eve Newton-Johnson

(she/her)

Graduate Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Eve joined QAI at the beginning of 2023 and is a graduate solicitor in the Human Rights Advocacy Practice. She holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Western Australia, and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the College of Law. She has previously worked within the community legal sector in WA and is committed to ensuring each and every person has access to justice.

Jess Park

(she/her)

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Jess Park is a solicitor in our Human Rights Advocacy Practice, having graduated with a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from QUT and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, in mid-2021. Jess has been with QAI since mid-2019 when she began as a paralegal in our Mental Health and Human Rights Advocacy Practices. She also holds a Bachelor of Nursing from QUT and has previously worked in surgical and orthopaedic wards, as well as aged care as a Registered Nurse, and has been a Mental Health Registered Nurse since 2016. Jess is interested in and passionate about healthcare policies and procedures, forensic mental health, human rights, and social justice.

Kerryn Luppi

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Kerryn joined the team as a solicitor in our Mental Health Advocacy Practice (MHAP) in May 2022. Kerryn completed her Bachelor of Laws at Southern Cross University in 2019 and was admitted as a lawyer that same year. She joined the High Court of Australia’s register in 2022 and has a wealth of experience in the criminal justice sector. Kerryn is passionate about fostering positive relationships that create equality and inclusion with particular focus on mental health advocacy, human rights and Indigenous rights.  Kerryn enjoys surfing and gardening in her spare time.   

Saibal Kar

(he/him)

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Saibal is a solicitor in our Human Rights Advocacy Practice. After completing his legal studies, Saibal volunteered in the Mental Health Law Practice at LawRight. Saibal has also volunteered in a variety of Community Legal Centres, including Caxton Legal Centre and Refugee and Immigration Legal Service.

Sarah Ward

(she/her)

Advocate

Human Rights Advocacy Practices

 

Sarah joined QAI as our Justice Support Advocate in the Human Rights Advocacy team in January 2023. Sarah is a lawyer and human rights advocate who enjoys working in a social justice environment.

Sarah seeks to help vulnerable people be heard and access justice. Sarah previously worked as a Disability Royal Commission Advocate at Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia and at community legal centres as a volunteer lawyer. Sarah is able to help our clients navigate the justice system using her experience within court environments, engagement with lawyers over many years and her experience communicating with the Queensland Police Service.

Sarah currently works in a non-legal capacity using her experience and her strong commitment to human rights, justice and the principles of diversity and inclusion to help our clients.

Sonia Oki

(she/her)

Solicitor

Human Rights Advocacy Practice

 

Sonia is a solicitor in our Human Rights Advocacy Practice (HRAP). She joined QAI in 2021 and worked as a paralegal before moving into the role of a solicitor in 2022. Her interest lies in Human Rights and Forensic Mental Health. She is passionate about advocating for vulnerable and disadvantaged persons with disability in the community.

NDIS Advocacy Practice

Sian Thomas

(she/her)

Principal Solicitor

NDIS Advocacy Practice

 

Sian joined QAI in 2021 and shares the Principal Solicitor role for the NDIS Advocacy Practice with Andrea.  Sian’s legal experience has included working in private practice, for government and private enterprise and community legal centres. Sian is excited to have returned to the community legal sector after 10 years in private practice and looks forward to working with our clients through the NDIS appeals process.

Photo of Andrea de Smidt

Andrea de Smidt

(she/her)

Senior Solicitor

NDIS Advocacy Practice

 

Andrea de Smidt has worked for over twelve years as a lawyer supporting disadvantaged members of our community. Andrea’s experience includes coordinating the Homeless Persons’ Legal Clinic and Self Representation Service, both initiatives of LawRight, and working as a Senior Lawyer for Legal Aid Queensland representing clients in anti-discrimination complaints and National Disability Insurance Scheme appeals.  Andrea enjoys working with vulnerable clients and tries her best, through her practical and empathetic manner, to make a difference in their lives.

Brianna Bell

(she/her)

Solicitor Advocate

NDIS Advocacy Practice

 

Brianna joined QAI as a paralegal in the NDIS Advocacy Practice in May 2022 after previously completing a volunteer placement with QAI during her university studies. She is now one of our NDIS solicitor advocates assisting with appeals. Brianna holds a Bachelor of Laws (hons) from UQ and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from QUT. She is a proud disabled woman, ambulant wheelchair user, and assistance dog handler.

Ridmi Ambalanduwa

(she/her)

Solicitor Advocate

NDIS Advocacy Practice

 

Ridmi completed her Bachelor of Laws Degree from University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and was admitted as a Lawyer before the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka in 2011. After migrating to Australia, she completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice at Queensland University of Technology and was admitted as a legal practitioner before the Supreme Court of Queensland in 2018. Ridmi is passionate about equal access to justice and has undertaken assignments for various humanitarian organisations in Australia and Sri Lanka advocating for the rights of vulnerable groups within the community.

 

Photo of Sara Martins

Sara Martins

(she/her)

Advocate / Systems Advocate

NDIS Advocacy Practice

 

Sara is an advocate in our NDIS Appeals team, having been a paralegal in our Mental Health and DRC Advocacy Program, after volunteering with the NDIS team for some time. Sara has a Bachelor of Laws from a Brazilian university and is a registered lawyer in Brazil having two years of practical experience in the area. Sara has been living in Australia since December 2018 and joined QAI in May 2019. Sara currently lives on the Sunshine Coast, after living in Brisbane for 2.5 years.

Disability Advocacy Practice

Photo of Caitlin De Cocq Van Delwijnen

Caitlin De Cocq Van Delwijnen

(she/her)

Principal Advocate

Disability Advocacy Practice

 

Caitlin is passionate about supporting people with disability to live a happy life. She has completed a Bachelor of Social Work, Certificate II in Auslan and started a Graduate Certificate in Disability Inclusion. Caitlin moved into the role of Principal Advocate in late 2021 with the establishment of the Disability Advocacy Practice. Prior to this, she was QAI’s first social worker from August 2020, after several years as one of QAI’s NDIS Appeals Advocates. Before starting with QAI, Caitlin worked in the areas of community development and inclusion and spent many years as a support worker.

Paula Herlihen

(she/her)

Senior Advocate 

Disability Advocacy Practice

 

Paula has previously worked in community and health organisations, and the private sector, before joining QAI in August 2021 and is passionate about human rights and advocacy, particularly around disability. Paula has previously worked in advocating for improved access to health services and transport, particularly in her involvement in the New Generation Rolling Stock Project Working Group and as a member of various committees. She has worked in community and health professional education and managed a variety of programs and services for NFP organisations. Her most recent qualification is a Bachelor of Psychological Science and she is currently studying a Diploma in Project Management.

Christen Hayter

(she/her)

Advocate 

Disability Advocacy Practice

 

Christen joined QAI in 2022 as an advocate in the Young Peoples Program. She holds a Bachelor of Visual Art and Masters in Human Services (Disability Studies). She has worked with children and young people in a variety of settings and as a support worker. She became interested in disability advocacy after she became disabled as a young adult and personally experienced the generous support and wisdom of the disability community. Christen is excited and passionate about the work that QAI does, knowing that disability advocacy can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

Gabby Hill

(she/her)

Advocate 

Disability Advocacy Practice

 

Gabby Hill, by way of her father is a proud decedent of Australia’s Palawa nation.  Gabby became a full time Young People’s Program Advocate in January 2022. Gabby, having raised her now grown children in North Brisbane for 20 years, took on a solo road trip across Australia working and volunteering in remote first nation communities. Gabby settled in the Top End in 2010 where she spent 11 years working as Indigenous Remote Area Coordinator with disadvantaged and disengaged young people both in community and detention centre locations. A community legal services professional, Gabby was employed by various not-for-profit organisations as international inspirational speaker, paralegal and community engagement officer. Gabby holds an Assoc Degree and LLB of Law, along with qualifications in Youth Work and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Primary Health Care. A grandma to three, Gabby is passionate about advocacy for positive change to empower young people of all abilities, first nations clans and asylum seekers.

Savannah Spalding

(she/her)

Information and Referral Officer

Disability Advocacy Practice

 

Savannah started at QAI as an Information and Referral Officer in January 2023 when our Pathways service was launched. She is currently in her final year of her Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Justice at QUT. Savannah is passionate about human rights and justice.    

Client Services Team

Photo of Cate Sudbury

Cate Sudbury

(she/her)

Senior Client Services Officer

 

Cate joined Queensland Advocacy in early 2019 as a volunteer and was quickly offered a full-time position in our client services team. Cate has extensive experience working in administration, with her past roles including admin for law firms, accountants, a building society and financial regulator.

Photo of Eva Thelander

Eva Thelander

(she/her)

Paralegal

Human Rights & Disability Advocacy Practices

 

Eva is a Paralegal for both our Human Rights and Disability Advocacy Practices. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Film, Television and New Media with a second major in Fashion and is currently in her final year of her Bachelor of Laws (Hons) at QUT. 

Eva has extensive experience in administrative support roles in government, private practice and in the community legal sector, and is looking forward to pursuing a legal career in Forensic Mental Health and Human Rights.  

Photo of Shannon Bell

Shannon Bell

(she/her)

Communications Officer

 

Shannon started at QAI in late 2018 in the client services team and has since become QAI’s first Communications Officer. Shannon has a Bachelor of Creative Industries (Drama and Creative Writing), a Master of Journalism, and is currently studying a Master of Digital Communications.

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