Our people: Staff Members
Adele Cox: Chief Executive and Project Director NICRS
Adele Cox is a Bunuba and Gija woman from the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Adele works as an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in a range of areas, specifically mental health and suicide prevention. She was previously engaged as a National Senior Consultant on the National Empowerment Project and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project and is also involved on state and national Indigenous suicide prevention projects across Australia.
Beginning her career working as a broadcaster/journalist covering Indigenous-specific content as well as mainstream media, Adele has spent the majority of her working life devoted to advocating for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Adele has been involved in organising and contributing to large scale community festivals and events, such as National NAIDOC celebrations and the Stompem Ground Festivals and has also spent time working at Telethon Kids Institute as a Senior Research Officer on a range of projects, including leading the communications and dissemination of the WA Aboriginal Child Health Survey.
Later, Adele went on to provide input for large research projects focussed on Aboriginal health and suicide prevention, which also led to her involvement as an Academic at the University of Western Australia. Through her work on various committees and councils, Adele has been able to influence the way that programs and policies are developed and implemented to ensure that they reflect the current needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Adele is currently a member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Advisory Group and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health group.
Gerry Georgatos: National Coordinator NICRS
Gerry Georgatos has a long history working closely and alongside the homeless, the most vulnerable and the incarcerated. He is a suicide prevention, poverty, trauma recovery and prisons reform researcher and advocate, writing prolifically on these and other issues. He has established projects (some national) to improve the lot of others. He helped establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project (ATSISPEP) and was a member of ATSISPEP’s pilot of the Critical Response Project, responding to suicide affected families.
Gerry is a board member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Advisory Group. He has an association with the Ngalla Maya project. Ngalla Maya is dedicated to transforming the lives of former inmates – from prison to education or employment. Ngalla Maya (2017/18) set a national record with the highest number of recently released former inmates secured into fulltime ongoing employment. In 2004 Gerry founded Students Without Borders and continues a long association with the charity Wheelchairs for Kids. He is also the coordinator of the National Migrant Youth Support Service.
He is well known for a three-year pro bono foray into journalism, writing prolifically on social justice issues and was the recipient of several national awards, including Journalist of the Year at the 2013 Multicultural and Indigenous Media Awards. He remains a vocal advocate on social justice issues.
Gerry has journeyed to hundreds of homeland communities.
MA in Social Justice Advocacy (Murdoch University), Master in Human Rights (Curtin University), GradDip in Human Rights Education (Curtin University), BA in Philosophy, BA in Media, BA in Australian Indigenous Studies.
Catherine Elvins: Project Manager
Catherine Elvins has extensive experience in leading the delivery of responsive services to support those with complex needs from her time as Chief Executive of two metropolitan Community Health Services, and has extensive experience in policy development, from her time working with the Victorian Healthcare Association.
Prior to this position, Catherine worked as a health and community services consultant, and has undertaken a wide number of assignments related to strengthening Aboriginal health and wellbeing.
Early in her career, Catherine worked as a community solicitor in a number of inner suburban community legal services.
Fellow Australasian College of Health Service Management, Masters in Business Administration, Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws, Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course
Critical Response Team
Megan Krakouer: Critical Response Support Advocate
Megan is a Noongar woman from the Wagyl Kaip area in the South West corner of Western Australia.
She has worked extensively in the private, government and not-for-profit sectors in Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. Prior to commencing with Thirrili, Megan worked with knowmore Legal Service, which was established in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It is during this time that Megan further developed her passion and interest to work in vulnerable areas in partnership with individuals, families and communities to enhance positive change.
Another passion of Megan’s is her love for the North Melbourne Football Club and recently worked with the club to finalise their Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan. Megan has also worked in land, heritage, education, justice and health. She is very proactive for the betterment of the lives of Indigenous Australians and strives for equality.
Jo-Anne D’Cress: Critical Response Service Advocate
Jo-Anne D’Çress is a proud and strong Noongar Yorga from Kojonup in the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Jo-Anne has a strong bicultural foundation through her mother, a proud Noongar woman and her father’s Indian ancestry from Calcutta, India. She considers herself privileged to have also been taught the Maori culture and traditions by her step-father, who comes Wanganui New Zealand.
Jo-Anne knew from a young age that her career would be focussed on helping people, particularly in communities. In 2005-6, she was one of fifteen young people selected to be part of that year’s National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group in Canberra. That role sparked Jo-Anne’s leadership journey, leading to volunteering within her community before receiving a receiving a Health Promotion Scholarship from the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation and commencing a career in community services, predominantly as a counsellor in the Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) sector in metropolitan Perth and the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.
As part of Jo-Anne’s scholarship, she developed the “Your Right to Object” booklet, which educates Aboriginal individuals, families and communities on how to object to liquor license restrictions and empowers them to make applications to control the amount of Alcohol in their community under the WA Liquor Control Act 1988.
Jo-Anne’s career path changed direction about five years ago, when she commenced work as a Team Leader and Manager for an Aboriginal Community Controlled Service, working with Stolen Generations, Sexual Abuse, Family and Domestic Violence and Grief and Loss.
Jo-Anne considers her most important and rewarding role is as mother to her children. She believes that because of this role, she wakes up each morning with the belief that while she can’t solve all the problems of the world, she can make a positive difference for her family, her community and for the generations to follow.
Shannon Kearing: Critical Response Support Advocate
Shannon Kearing, is a Nyoongar man from the south west of Western Australia. He has been teaching culture for over 30 years through Nyoongar cultural dancing, bush foods and medicines, cultural awareness and history, as well as a cultural ambassador in Germany.
Shannon has previously worked for Moorditj Koort Health and Wellness Centre for 2 years, as an outreach officer, and spent 7 years at Relationships Australia before that, holding various roles as an outreach worker, Men’s Group Coordinator and facilitator, co facilitated grief and loss workshops.
Every year Shannon along with his family holds the Isiah Kearing Memorial Cup Basketball Carnival to promote mental health through depression and suicide, in his son’s name whom he lost in 2013.
Shannon did a workshop as a guest speaker at the 2nd National and International Suicide Convention 2018 which was held in Perth. He also did talks as guest speaker at various suicide awareness conferences all around the state of W.A.
Clare Dawson: Critical Response Support Project Officer
Clare Dawson spent 21 years in health primary care and medical research, working in the areas of paediatric and chronic disease both as a researcher and as a clinical counsellor. Her research culminated in presenting longitudinal results in Maxillo Facial Distraction Osteogenesis in Sweden.
A career change to construction and design followed, during which Clare worked on 3 flagship health, sport and marine projects in Perth and in remote Western Australia. Yoga and Ethno Botany takes up Clare’s spare time, especially providing the practice of Yin to professional sports people.
Jane Blunden: Critical Response Support Advocate
Jane is a Warlpiri woman from the Tanami Desert and is also known by her skin name Nungarrayi. She was born in Wyndham WA, and was on Gordon Downs Station in the Kimberley. The family moved to Queensland which is where Jane grew up and she was educated in Dalby on the Darling Downs. Jane has close family ties in both Dalby and Toowoomba on her father’s side who are non-Indigenous. In 2006, Jane returned to her mother’s country basing herself in Katherine with her children now aged 28, 24, 22 and 17. She now resides in Darwin.
Jane has a nursing background with extensive knowledge of mental health, and was an instructor in Mental Health First Aid. Over the past 20 years she has worked extensively in different industries and with people of different age groups that has allowed her to gain knowledge of suicide and its impacts on individuals, families and communities.
Jane has sat on boards in Queensland (Housing) and the Northern Territory (Family Dreaming – Wirntiki attached to the Granites Gold Mine).
Jane’s grandmother, Nancy Naninurra Nabananga – world famous artist from Balgo and grandfather Julbidee – Harry Dibu along with her mother worked and lived in the Tanami Desert. These ancestral roots have given Jane and her daughters the greatest gift of being able to paint as Nancy did.
Jane has also produced a body of work “Social Care System: An Extension of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory” (An Indigenous Perspective) which incorporates Erickson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development across the life span.
Angela Threfall: NICRS Critical Response Support Advocate
Angela Threlfall was born in Emerald, Queensland but raised on the Sunshine Coast. Angela has fifteen years’ experience with the Australian Army working in combat and non-combat Regiments throughout Australia, including Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Cairns.
In 2007 she deployed to the Middle East with 2nd Cavalry Regiment on Operation Catalyst, assigned for administration and logistics duties to support a $2.3 billion multinational project. The operation was commissioned to assist multinational forces in the stabilisation and security of Iraq.
In 2011 she was assigned to Defence Force recruitment duties in South-East Queensland, particularly aimed at engaging women, multicultural and indigenous candidates from low socioeconomic regions.
In 2017 Angela was deployed with the 51st Far North Queensland Regiment to the Torres Strait, assisting with administration and logistics for Operation Resolute, an operation designed to detect and deter illegal activity and for the protection of the Torres Strait waters.
Angela is currently an active reserve member specialising with Australian Defence Force Recruiting for Far North Queensland.
Awards received during her service to date include the Iraq Campaign Medal, Active Service Medal, Border Protection Medal, Long Service Medal, Australian Defence Medal and the Army Combat Badge.
Experiencing the tragic loss of her brother through suicide in Dec 2017 has driven Angela to postvention work with families and individuals experiencing trauma and other complex issues.
Angela strives to strengthen the lives of families and individuals affected by loss and seeks to empower the socially disadvantaged.
Chenoa Dowling: Critical Response Support Advocate
Chenoa Dowling was born in Nambour, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland and grew up in Townsville. She moved to Brisbane in 2010 to study a Bachelor of Social Work at university. During this time Chenoa gained experience working with Indigenous families as a Family Support Practitioner, aiming to keep families together – especially those at risk of entering the child protection system.
Chenoa has also worked within a counselling framework with individuals involved in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, in addition to travelling throughout Australia to provide social and emotional wellbeing support to families impacted by the Stolen Generation.
Recently, Chenoa has worked with national youth mental health organisation Headspace, delivering psychosocial assessments and developing outreach programs for young people.
Chenoa is passionate about working with families, with strength in working with young children. Chenoa describes her practice as constantly evolving and she is driven to learn and better understand the ways she can support Indigenous people and their families throughout Queensland and Australia wide.
Toby Hunter: Critical Response Support Advocate
Toby is a young Widi and Gudjala man from Charters Towers in Far North Queensland with connections and ties to the Torres Strait Islands, Kuranda, Central Queensland and Palm Island.
He has spent the majority of his working life in Perth, Western Australia working in human resources and administration support. He also volunteered at Nidjalla Waangan Mia Aboriginal Medical Service while completing his Certificate II in Leadership Development. Prior to becoming a Critical Response Support Advocate Toby was providing administrative support to Thirrili Ltd and the National Indigenous Critical Response Service.
Toby is passionate about addressing the broader social disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Toby believes that his own life experiences as a young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man that is a part of the LGBQTI community can bring unique perspective, knowledge and understanding to this role.
Rachael Schmerl: Critical Response Support Advocate and Community Capacity Building Project Officer
Rachael is of Yankunjatjara and Arrente background and spent most of her childhood growing up in communities.
She has a long history of undertaking community engagement and development activities with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations. In the capacity building roles she has held, she has used strength based and place based approaches. She has extensive experience in Aboriginal Affairs with both Commonwealth and State governments, worked in non-government organisations and worked closely with local government in Port Augusta City.
Rachael volunteered with the Aboriginal Community Engagement Group which involved working closely with three tiers of government around the COAG Building Blocks for the Port Augusta Community.
She has an Advanced Diploma of Community Sector Management.
Kevin Cox: Senior Cultural Adviser
Kevin Cox is a founder and inaugural CEO of the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council (KAMSC) and the Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS). He was the Kimberley Project Manager for the St John of God Health Care’s community maternal and child healthcare program.
For a number of years, Kevin was the Kimberley Aboriginal Health Manager for St John of God Health Care. He then relocated to Perth to undertake the position of National Aboriginal Health Manager. Subsequently, Kevin was the Aboriginal Health Manager for the Western Australian Country Health Services, and then the Aboriginal Health Strategic Consultant for the Unity of First Peoples.
Kevin has been the Chairperson for BRAMS, and a former Board Member of the Healing Foundation; he was one of the founders of WA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (now AHCWA).
Kevin’s introduction into Aboriginal health was as a young person in his capacity as a Kimberley Project Officer for the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, led by Professor Fred Hollows.
Kevin’s deep experience in Aboriginal primary healthcare positions him well to support the community development activities of the NICRS.
Primary Teachers Certificate (Mt Lawley Teachers College)
Northern Territory StandBy – Support After Suicide
Joan Washington: StandBy Coordinator
Joan brings a wealth of experience to her role at StandBy NT. She has more than 15 years’ experience in working with children and young people, individuals, families and communities affected by trauma and is an experienced case manager of complex clients, including torture and trauma survivors and asylum seekers.
In addition to her direct service skills and experience, Joan’s professional history includes extensive community development with local communities, program coordination and management roles, research and writing experience for reporting, articles in various publications, and workshop development. Joan is a passionate educator and is experienced in the development and delivery of workshops relating to the effects of trauma, long term advocacy and coordination with other relevant stakeholders. She has delivered training in various settings, including Bachelor Institute of Indigenous Education and more recently in youth justice where the focus was on understanding the impact of trauma and adolescence and building resilience. During the East Timor crisis of 2006, Joan coordinated a Red Cross emergency response program for East Timorese nationals fleeing Timor in 2006 and being airlifted into Darwin.
Joan is passionate about working with trauma survivors and loves working with diversity and difference. She says “I find I learn and develop from every client. I feel that they give me back so much more than I do for them and I am always inspired by the strength of people who I work with”.
She holds a Graduate Diploma in Education (Adult/Vocational), a Bachelor degree (Social Sciences) and has qualifications in nursing and migration law.
Administration Support Team
Peter Stephenson: Communications and Engagement Adviser
Peter is an experienced consultant having delivered projects for state and local governments and not-for-profit organisations in health and community services. He has more than twenty years’ experience in senior roles in health and community services, higher education and local government including a decade as a local government councillor (twice Mayor).
A skilled and experienced facilitator, Peter has worked with a range of organisations towards achieving strategic goals, resolving pressing issues and implementing quality improvement programs.
Peter brings broad life experience to his role at Thirrili: his CV includes trade training in engineering, service as a soldier in the Australian Army, a decade working as a youth worker in juvenile justice and homelessness services, stints as a lecturer and tutor and several years as a part-time speechwriter. Most recently, he worked as an advisor to the Victorian government.
Lobna Rouhani: Research and Policy Officer
Lobna is an experienced researcher who has worked on a range of international development and Indigenous health and wellbeing projects, including the Commonwealth government’s National Empowerment Project: Strengthening social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of Indigenous communities and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Evaluation Project. She has also worked at Queensland Health helping implement their Zero Suicide Strategy.
Lobna holds Master’s degrees in Business Administration (M.B.A.) and International Development and undergraduate qualifications in Indigenous Studies and professional writing.
Munya Mugari: Finance Officer
Munyaradzi has extensive accounting experience and has worked in public, private, health, logistics and not-for-profit sectors and has been involved in implementing accounting processes and procedures, HR and payroll systems, procurement procedures and general accounting operations reporting.
Munyaradzi is a Chartered and Certified Accountant (CA and ACCA) and holds an MBA Global in Financial Management