Welfare Rights Centre relies on the expertise of our governing Board members who volunteer their time and expertise to set the overall strategic direction of the Centre, while also overseeing the Centre's long-term sustainability, performance and risk management. We are fortunate to enjoy oversite by a dedicated team who bring insights drawn from their own expert practices, including many who have long-term personal or professional affiliations with the Centre.
Simon is the Kim Santow Chair of Law and Social Justice at the University of Sydney Law School, and a legal consultant at the law firm Chalk & Behrendt. He has been a solicitor and volunteer at Redfern Legal Centre, Principal Solicitor and Director of Kingsford Legal Centre, and a board member of many other legal centres. In his role at Chalk & Behrendt, Simon advises Aboriginal organisations on land rights and corporate governance issues. Simon has also been Director of the NSW Law and Justice Foundation, Chair of the ACT Law Reform Advisory Council, adviser to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, and a judicial member of the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal. He has practised, taught and written extensively in anti-discrimination and human rights law. Simon became chair of the Board in 2019.
Laura is a special counsel in the pro bono team at Gilbert + Tobin where she runs public interest litigation with a particular focus on discrimination, human rights, First Nations justice and refugee rights. Laura started her legal career as a litigator at global law firm Ashurst and since then has represented clients in the District, Supreme and Federal Courts, NSW Court of Appeal, High Court of Australia, in coronial inquiries and in Royal Commissions. Laura was previously the Principal Solicitor at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre and has also worked in Katherine and Alice Springs at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency. Laura joined the board in October 2016.
Andrew is a Partner at PwC, where he works as a lawyer specialising in tax controversy, dispute resolution and risk management. His previous experience includes working at the ATO in audit and litigation roles. Andrew’s current work includes advising clients in dispute with government agencies and litigation of matters in the AAT and Federal Court; practises with a strong correlation to the work of Welfare Rights Centre. Andrew has a Master of Laws from the University of Sydney. Andrew joined the board in November 2022.
Sam is the Deputy Secretary (Research, Industrial and Professional Support) at the NSW Teachers Federation. In this role, he is involved in representing and advocating for individual members and the teaching profession at large, via direct negotiations with the Department of Education, TAFE NSW and other employers, in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, Fair Work Commission and other jurisdictions. Sam holds a Bachelor of Science with Honours, Bachelor of Laws, and Graduate Diploma of Education from the University of New England. He completed his practical placement for his Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice with the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT in Wagga Wagga. Sam continues the Teachers Federations’ long term support of the Welfare Rights Centre, having been the Federation’s nominee on the Board since April 2018.
Rita has a background in Intensive Care Nursing and public hospital management, having worked extensively in Ireland, England, Switzerland, Netherlands, USA, Germany, Italy and France before settling in Sydney. She studied Political Science and Industrial Relations prior to her appointment at the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association, which is the industrial and professional organisation representing nurses and midwives in NSW (and also the NSW Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation). Initially Rita worked as a Professional Officer in the Professional Services team, until the development of her current role as Government & Community Relations organiser. The NSWNMA are proud to be long-term supporters of the Welfare Rights Centre. Rita joined the Board in November 2020.
Ann is passionate about community engagement and philanthropy for social impact. She serves on the Fundraising Committee for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and was formerly PIAC’s Relationships and Events Coordinator, where she worked with diverse stakeholders to strengthen philanthropic engagement in support of PIAC’s social justice and human rights work. Ann has previously held senior professional services, program management and software development roles within the technology and financial markets sectors in Sydney, London, San Francisco and Boston. Ann joined the Board in November 2021.
Thom is a proud First Nations Australian, a member of Kungarakan people from Darwin, NT. After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology/Performance Studies) from the University of Sydney in 2009, he entered the not-for-profit sector, and since then has been actively working and volunteering in this space. Thom is an Executive Manager at Participate Australia, a Sydney based organisation that supports people with disabilities and their families. He has a strong interest in human rights, with a particular focus on the rights of First Nations people, people with disability, refugees and asylum seekers and LGBTQI+ people. Thom is a long-serving Director at the University of Sydney Settlement Neighbourhood Centre; a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee; and the Sydney Committee of Human Rights Watch (Australia). Thom joined the Board in November 2021.
Wendy is head of Policy, Programs and Strategy at The Smith Family, focussed on program impact, strategy development and execution. She has more than 25 years’ experience in management, administration, and leadership across a range of environments, including the community sector, policy and advocacy organisations, and public service sectors. Wendy is a qualified Social Worker and holds a second degree in social sciences. She has worked across a range of policy areas including homelessness, family wellbeing, education, young people and disability. She has also held a number of leadership roles across a wide variety of policy and program areas in the (then) Australian Government Department of Family, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA). Wendy joined the board in Dec 2022.
Nicole Hibberd-Smith is a trauma counsellor and corporate consultant focusing on advocacy for those who experience trauma resulting in financial instability. She strives to amplify lived experience voices to directly impact social policy change. Nicole previously held senior marketing roles with several global brand leaders, but now works in a private counselling & facilitation consultancy, underpinned by evidence-based neuroscience & trauma best practices. Nicole holds a Bachelor of Business (Marketing /Law), a Grad Dip Counselling and is currently completing a Master of Counselling. She is a guest speaker at UNSW, a keynote speaker and enjoys her voluntary work with 100% Aboriginal owned social enterprise Bush to Bowl. Nicole joined the board in Dec 2022.
Renee currently works with one of Australia’s leading social finance organisations, Sefa, where she is Head of Engagement. With her team, she contributes to the developing impact investing ecosystem by supporting for-purpose organisations to access the capability support and capital that they need to achieve their social impact potential and address structure disadvantage in Australia. Renee has academic qualifications in business, international relations and public health. Her experience spans working in financial markets, with farmers in rural Cambodia, running and funding health programs in Asia, providing program and policy advice to the Federal Government, and delivering advisory services to clients in the health, education and human services sectors in Australia and internationally. She remains committed to contributing to better outcomes for people and the planet. Renee joined the WRC Board in December 2022.