MND Australia

Our people

Meet MND Australia's board and staff, who are striving to improve the lives of everyone impacted by MND and ultimately a world free of MND.

Our board

The board of MND Australia and MND Research Australia consists of an independently elected President, a nominated representative from each state MND Association board, up to three Independent Directors and the Chairman of the Research Committee.

Image of Andrew Danson  | President
Andrew Danson | President

Andrew is a current Director of The Leasing Collective business (previously Urban Food Collective) which assists retailers with their property portfolios and leasing requirement on a national and international level. He is a current board member of the South Melbourne Market and is the current Chair of the Motor Neurone Disease Association of South Australia. He has lived experience with the disease, with his father having passed away at the start of 2020.

Image of Jemma Scott | Vice President
Jemma Scott | Vice President

Jemma is a qualified solicitor with over 12 years’ governance & compliance, project management, and commercial negotiation experience within ASX-20, Professional Services and government environments. Jemma currently works as a Company Secretary at Westpac Banking Corporation, where she is responsible for supporting the Westpac Board of Directors and ensuring compliance with all regulatory, legislative, and prudential obligations. Jemma holds formal corporate governance qualifications from Harvard University and has previously held positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Jemma’s mother passed away from MND in 2012, and she is extremely passionate about supporting those touched by MND. Jemma joined the board in September 2018 as an independent director.

Image of Diana Melham | Secretary
Diana Melham | Secretary

Diana has spent 25+ years as a senior executive and company director in the not-for-profit sector. An experienced CEO, she has led both not-for-profit and commercial organisations involved in agriculture and sport. Diana currently provides company secretary and governance services to several community sector organisations through her consultancy, NFP Assist, and in addition to serving as President of MND Queensland, her other voluntary roles include director/secretary of a disability charity and company secretary for an Aboriginal family legal service.

Diana has a Master of Business Law and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Laws. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an Associate of the Governance Institute of Australia.

Image of Professor Samar Aoun
Professor Samar Aoun

Samar is Perron Institute Research Chair in Palliative Care at the University of Western Australia and 2023 WA Australian of the Year. Samar adopts a public health approach and a focus on under-served population groups such as people with MND and advocates for person-centred health and social care. Her research programs on supporting family caregivers at end of life and the Public Health Model of Bereavement Support have informed policy and practice at the national and international levels. Samar is also currently the President of MND WA.

Image of Professor David Burke AC FAA FTSE
Professor David Burke AC FAA FTSE

David is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Neurology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and University of Sydney. Previously he held Chairs of Clinical Neurophysiology from 1987 and of Neurology from 1991 at the University of New South Wales during which he was appointed Chairman of the Department of Neurology, Prince Henry and Prince of Wales Hospitals. David led one of the two research teams around which the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute [now renamed “NeuRA”] was formed in 1991, and was Director of Clinical Research until 2002. From 2002 to 2008, he was Dean of Research for the Health Faculties at University of Sydney and from 2008-2013 Bushell Professor of Neurology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, was a member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation for 18 years, immediate past Editor of Clinical Neurophysiology, and inaugural Editor of Clinical Neurophysiology Practice. He was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia in 1999, and elevated to Companion in the Order of Australia in 2019.

Image of Amy Critchley
Amy Critchley

Amy is a public sector professional with over 20 years experience in government, both at the Federal and State level. She has held senior positions focussed on policy, strategy, intelligence and governance in her day job and is mum to four lively kids and a Labrador in her non-paid job! 

Amy likes to keep herself busy through being a member of the local ACT MND community and has been an MND NSW Board Member since 2013, where she currently serves as Vice-President.

Amy brings her lived experience to the Board, through being a carer for her mother who passed away from MND.

Image of Professor Tracey Dickson
Professor Tracey Dickson

Tracey is Professor of Neuroscience, at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, and Associate Dean Research for the College of Health and Medicine, University of Tasmania. She leads a group of researchers and students dedicated to using cellular and transgenic models to determine the mechanisms underlying MND, and to develop and test new therapies. Tracey is currently on the board of MND Tasmania.

Image of Wayne Pfeiffer
Wayne Pfeiffer

Wayne is a member of the MND Victoria State Council. He has 20 years’ experience in senior management in the disability sector both here and in Ireland. Wayne also has an extensive background in community health, community development, education and research. He is an accomplished workplace facilitator and trainer, and has worked at both Board and operational service delivery levels.

Our staff

Image of Clare Sullivan | CEO
Clare Sullivan | CEO

Clare is a results oriented leader with over 20 years’ experience in leadership and advocacy across a range of sectors including health, community, infrastructure and government. Clare is driven to make Australia a better place to live and to improve the lives of Australians in her professional and personal life.

Clare comes to the role of Chief Executive of MND Australia having delivered significant policy change, millions of dollars in funding programs and greater engagement for a diverse range of organisations. She now oversees millions of dollars in research funding while supporting State Associations in service delivery to improve the lives for people with motor neurone disease, and their families and carers.

Drawing on her experience as a CEO, Chief of Staff and senior executive, Clare is driven to deliver strong results for MND Australia, working to continually improve the care and support services available for people with MND while relentlessly pursuing a cure.

Image of Dr Gethin Thomas | Executive Director, Research
Dr Gethin Thomas | Executive Director, Research

Gethin Thomas has been the Executive Director, Research at MND Australia since 2019. He oversees the research grant program and manages national and international partnerships. A key aspect of this role if providing a conduit between research programs and the wider MND community through MND Australia and the affiliated State Associations. Gethin is also on the board of the International Alliance of ALS MND Associations.

Gethin has over 20 years of experience as a biomedical researcher, having published widely and secured almost $4M in research funding. He has extensive review experience across a wide range of journals as well as reviewing grants for Australian and International funding bodies. Over the last 10 years as a senior research manager, he has directed a University Research Office and served as an Associate Dean of Research. He has a deep understanding of research strategy and the research funding system from the grant preparation, application and review process through to management of funded projects at both the researcher and institutional level.

Image of Laura Birks | Research Coordinator
Laura Birks | Research Coordinator

Laura joined the MND Australia team as Research Coordinator in November 2018. Together with Gethin Thomas, Laura manages MND Australia’s research grants program. Laura has a background in science and environmental law and a masters in education. She worked part time at MND NSW while studying at university. Since moving to Canberra in 2009, Laura has worked in a policy role at an industry association, undertaken committee work at Parliament House and has worked at a local publisher. Outside of work, Laura loves spending time with her three kids and getting out in the beautiful Canberra bushland for a run.

Image of Maddie Catlin | Executive Officer
Maddie Catlin | Executive Officer

Maddie holds a Master of Project Management and a Bachelor of Communications from the University of New South Wales. She is passionate about working with not-for-profit organisations which have a social impact. Maddie’s experience extends across governance, project management, event management, marketing strategy and implementation, operations and stakeholder engagement. In her spare time, Maddie volunteers some pro-bono hours for deserving charities and spends weekends with her two dogs – usually at the beach!

Image of Olivia Everitt | Grants Coordinator
Olivia Everitt | Grants Coordinator

Olivia joined the MND Australia team as Grants Coordinator in September 2023. Olivia has extensive grant writing, strategic planning, event and project management experience across the arts and culture, economic development, not-for-profit and local government sectors. Based on Gubbi Gubbi country in Queensland, Olivia holds a Master of Business (Arts and Cultural Management) from Deakin University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Visual Arts) from the Queensland University of Technology. Outside of office hours, Olivia is a busy mum to four children and enjoys getting lost in a good book. 

Image of Melissa Fagan | Information Resources Development Manager
Melissa Fagan | Information Resources Development Manager

Melissa joined MND Australia in September 2023. She is a writer, editor and communications specialist with 20 years experience within the health and medical, not-for-profit and travel sectors, including roles at Melanoma Institute Australia and Cancer Council Queensland. Melissa is the author of What Will Be Worn: A McWhirters Story, published by Transit Lounge in September 2018, and also writes essays, reviews and short stories. She has lectured and taught writing to undergraduate and postgraduate students at The University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology and recently completed a PhD in creative writing within the Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance program.

Melissa is based on Bundjalung country, in the Tweed region of northern New South Wales.

Image of Julie Labra | Project Manager, MND Lived Experience
Julie Labra | Project Manager, MND Lived Experience

Julie joined MND Australia in September 2023 and comes from a health background, including extensive experience providing healthcare for people living with MND and their carers. She was the Clinic Coordinator of a Sydney-based multidisciplinary MND Clinic for 17 years, supporting more than 500 patients and carers throughout the course of their illness. During her time in this role, Julie learned the most valuable lessons about MND directly from people living with the disease and their families.

Julie has led numerous projects over her career, harnessing clinical indicators and the lived experience of patients, to inform best-practice models of care, shape service design, and develop clinical policies and procedures. Julie also has a keen and active interest in MND non-clinical research. In collaboration with various universities, she has published papers in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at national and international MND conferences.

Image of Morag Millington | Communications Manager
Morag Millington | Communications Manager

Morag joined MND Australia in February 2019. She has held a variety of marketing and communications roles over the last ten years, beginning in book publishing before moving into the the public heath and research sectors. Before moving to Canberra, Morag worked for a research and health promotion centre at the University of NSW, where she also completed a Master of Public Health.

Image of Dr Ben O’Mara | Project Manager, Game on with MND
Dr Ben O’Mara | Project Manager, Game on with MND

Ben joined MND Australia in April 2019 as Information Resources Manager. Ben was recently seconded to a role leading a new study with a different approach to improving quality of life: making videogames more fun and easier to play for people with MND.

Ben has worked in health promotion practice and research for over 15 years, including with people experiencing homelessness, and people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Ben is also an Adjunct Fellow at University of New South Wales and Swinburne University and writes for a variety of academic, news media and literary publications. Ben enjoys spending time with his family, reading science fiction novels and walking his very large Bernese mountain dogs.

Image of Ruth Quaken | Project Manager, MND Connect
Ruth Quaken | Project Manager, MND Connect

Ruth started working with MND Australia in 2020 as the Connect Project Manager. Ruth began her career working in the nursing arena and has had a career of over 37 years working in health related fields in hospitals and community based services, which have included public, corporate and not for profit organisations. Her introduction to MND came via a six year period working as a Regional Advisor for the MND Association of NSW in the early 2000s. Ruth’s diverse experience underpins her special interest in the skilled provision of health information that supports service users to engage with health services and to proactively manage their health.

Image of Frances Quan Farrant | National Policy & Advocacy Manager
Frances Quan Farrant | National Policy & Advocacy Manager

Frances Quan Farrant has worked in the community and disability sectors for two decades. She is a social scientist (BA, Macquarie University) and a graduate social worker (MSW QUT). She has an extensive background in advocacy, policy and disability rights including expertise on the UNCRPD and has represented disabled people at the United Nations (Geneva, New York) on a number of occasions.

Frances is currently enrolled for a PhD at the University of Queensland researching the implementation of the CRPD in Australia and internationally. She is based on Gubbi Gubbi Country north of Brisbane.

Image of Komal Upadhyaya | Administration Officer
Komal Upadhyaya | Administration Officer

Komal joined MND Australia in April 2019. Komal is an educated professional and has extensive administrative and management experience with a demonstrated history of working in the facilities and services industry in Australia for over 10 years. Komal is skilled in negotiation, customer service, business development, organisational development, office management and recruitment. Komal’s work background is a strong business development professional with a Masters in Human Resource Management, Certificate II in Customer Service, and Certificate III in Business Administration. Komal thrives in customer service and building strong relationships with clients, donors, and stakeholders.