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 Professor Samar Aoun | President
Professor Samar Aoun | President

Samar is Professor of Palliative Care Research, Perron Institute for Neurological and Translational Research, Perth and La Trobe University, Melbourne Australia. She 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 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 Andrew Halter | Treasurer
Andrew Halter | Treasurer

Andrew is currently the Head of Legal, APAC for FiberSense, a vibration detection and ranging technology using fiber optic cables. Andrew has a background in commercial litigation, financial services regulation, payments technology and buy-now-pay-later. He has served as in-house counsel to Klarna, PayPal, BPAY and eftpos, as well as digital property settlements platform Sympli. Andrew joined the MND Australia board in November 2017 as an independent non-executive director.

Image of Amy Critchley | Secretary
Amy Critchley | Secretary

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 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 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 Diana Melham
Diana Melham

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 Scott Penhall
Scott Penhall

Scott Penhall joined MND Australia's board in 2023 and is currently President on the board of MND South Australia. As owner of Penhall Advisory, he brings a wealth of governance and senior leadership experience, following a successful career in large commercial building companies for the past 25 years in both South Australia and internationally.

Scott also brings his lived experience to the board of MND Australia, having cared for his wife Anna who succumbed to MND in 2020.

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 David Ali | CEO
David Ali | CEO

David commenced as CEO in March 2021. Following his 20-year passion volunteering on MND-related boards and in other ways to make a difference for people living with motor neurone disease in Victoria, nationally and globally, as CEO David hopes his contribution at an operational level will improve the impact for people affected by MND today and in the future. David has held executive roles across the Victorian Parliament and the Victorian Public Service, was CEO of the Commission for Children and Young People, a management consultant, and CEO of IPAA Victoria before joining the MND Australia team. David is Vice Chair and Hon Treasurer of the International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations.

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 Chair of the Scientific Advisory Council of the International Alliance of ALS MND Associations which is a centralized resource to review and provide global perspective on scientific and biomedical announcements, information and research opportunities relating to ALS/MND.

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 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 Nicole Merrick | Project Manager
Nicole Merrick | Project Manager

Nicole joined MND Australia in January 2022. She is a physiotherapist and researcher with experience in sport and working with people with neurological conditions. Nicole is currently doing her PhD looking at spinal cord injuries in rugby, with a focus on understanding the barriers and facilitators to quality of life after permanent injury. Nicole has a special interest in capturing the voice of the person with a disability.

Image of Dr Ben O’Mara | Information Resource Development Manager
Dr Ben O’Mara | Information Resource Development Manager

Ben joined MND Australia in April 2019. Ben works with representatives of the MND Associations and the MND community on fact sheets, guides, web articles, booklets, stories and other resources to support people living with MND. Ben has worked in health promotion practice and research for over 13 years, including with people experiencing homelessness, and people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.

Image of Ruth Quaken | Project Manager
Ruth Quaken | Project Manager

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.