There were many moments in Mark Henley’s early career that could have directed him away from the community sector, but each time a strong sense of social justice stayed his path.
An accountant by profession, Mark spent time in Papua New Guinea working in the energy space before taking his first steps into the not-for-profit sector as Chief Financial Officer for the Spinal Injuries Association in 1989.
Within 10 years Mark was made Chief Executive of the organisation, driven by a passion harking back to his sister’s association with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (the then Spastic Centre) when he was growing up.
Tina has been working in Executive Support for the past five years and says she loves helping QCOSS’ CEO and Board Members so they can concentrate on ‘the bigger picture’.
While she admits she is privately spontaneous, in the office Tina’s organisational know-how and efficiency keep everything running smoothly.
“I love supporting people, and my role at QCOSS lets me do that within an organisation that really is making a difference,” Tina said.
Policy, Advocacy and Capacity
Globalisation and shifts in the world order are the reasons Laura Barnes believes Queensland communities need support now, more than ever.
QCOSS’ Senior Manager of Policy, Advocacy and Capacity, Laura plays a leading role in our engagement projects.
She has more than 20 years experience in employment programs and policy in Queensland, holding both government and non-government roles.
Michael really is a jack of all trades. His primary role might be as Project Support Officer for the Sunny Savers Solar Project Team. However he is just as capable working in reception, finance, events, IT, or HR. And he will always make himself available to help out in any way he can.
“I have worked for QCOSS for nearly two years now and working here has really opened my eyes to the real struggles experience by the disadvantaged and I feel privileged to be working for an organisation that does great ground work towards its vision of a Queensland free of poverty and disadvantage.”
Carly Hyde is Policy Lead in the Policy, Advocacy and Capacity team at QCOSS. Her team is currently focussed on cost of living issues, and it’s an area she’s passionate about.
Having just returned from parental leave, it was full speed ahead during her first week with an appearance at a Senate Inquiry into credit and financial services targeted towards Australians at risk of financial hardship. She says it was an amazing opportunity to get some movement around policy in that space.
“When people are unable to cover the cost of essentials, they often either go without, or get trapped in a debt cycle – both of which can have a significant impact on their health, their relationships and community connectedness,” she says.
“In regional areas it is especially tough because everything costs more and there can be issues with access to affordable transport, healthcare and employment as well.”
Carly has been with QCOSS for five years, and brought with her a wealth of experience in renewable energy projects and policy development from her previous work with the Queensland Government. She says there’s never been an opportunity to get bored.
“Everyone is hugely passionate, and our scope of work is so broad that there is always something or someone to energise you.”
Fiona Hawthorne is a Senior Policy Officer working in energy and water literacy. She believes everyone should have access to essential services, and has worked tirelessly advocating for change throughout her career.
“QCOSS is uniquely positioned in Queensland to be that vital conduit between community, industry and government,” she says. “Connecting decision-makers with the people affected by those decisions can be very effective in changing minds and policies. At QCOSS there is always an important conversation underway.”
Prior to QCOSS, Fiona worked to improve energy literacy for refugees and people seeking asylum, and performed energy audits for people experiencing payment difficulties.
“Understanding how to manage utility services and learning what assistance is out there is important for families in Queensland to stay connected,” she says.
Fiona says one of her proudest moments was when the ACCC released their report on electricity prices and recommended QCOSS’s “Switched On Communities” program as the ideal national model for energy literacy.
“It showed that communities hold the solutions – they just need the tools and opportunity to develop them. I was proud to be part of the QCOSS team facilitating that opportunity.”
Fiona has also been in community development roles, a Community Recovery team member, then leader in seven Queensland disasters, and coordinated two community centres.
A keen explorer of land and sea country, Fiona is now also a Life Member of her local Coastcare group after 22 years of involvement. Last year the group discovered 37 previously unknown species of spider, and a prehistoric moth.
“I just know there is still so much more we don’t yet know about where we live and I find that an exciting challenge.”
Who starts their career as an engineer, then moves into management consulting and then ends up loving work as a senior policy officer for QCOSS? Rodney Holmes does; that’s who.
Rodney provides the perfect blend of engineering’s rigour and rationale, consultancy’s creative problem-solving and scientific research from a Master of Politics and Policy to all elements of his work.
When asked, what he likes about his current role, Rodney will tell you, “I love the amazingly diverse expertise that QCOSS has in policy and practice. It engages so well with individuals, communities, services and government, making a real difference directly and by challenging structural poverty”.
Rose McGrath is a Senior Policy Officer working in the cost of living policy space. She has a particular focus and passion for ensuring vulnerable people on lower incomes can achieve financial inclusion.
“Our market and systems do not give all people a fair go,” she says. “They aren’t people-centric and are balanced in favour of business. It’s important to ensure essential services are accessible and affordable, and that vulnerable people can access such services.”
Rose started out her career as an economist in the United Kingdom before relocating to Brisbane in 1994. She spent a few years working at the Queensland Department of Housing and Public Works as a senior housing analyst, before moving back to Ireland for several years.
Her journey in social services began at the Combat Poverty Agency, which aimed to ensure anti-poverty and social inclusion objectives are integrated into all areas of policy making.
“This approach recognises the multidimensional nature of poverty and social exclusion, and the need for multi-layered policy responses if there is to be a decisive impact on poverty.”
She is proud to advocate on behalf of vulnerable consumers.
“The inequitable distribution of essential service costs across households has serious social and economic implications,” she says. “It’s therefore imperative for corporate, government and community service sectors to work together… to address these challenges.”
“Without these services people cannot go about their everyday business – they need them to find work, keep healthy, and provide safe and comfortable homes.”
Rose loves working with the community sector and supporting them in their vital work.
“An exciting part of working at QCOSS is that we can work with the community services sector to build cohesive, skilled and motivated partnerships to bring about positive change.”
Rose also has an extensive history of volunteering – helping out at homeless hostels in London, and supporting people with disabilities to enjoy recreational activities in Ireland. In Australia she continues to volunteer on weekends supporting people with their bills and ensuring food security.
Ryan O’Leary is a Senior Project Officer working on the Energy Savvy Families project. A keen camper and bushwalker, Ryan brings a background of caring for others to QCOSS.
Ryan is a qualified social worker and started his career in the disability sector before moving into a homelessness organisation providing support for people to access crisis, medium, and long-term housing.
“My most recent role was in mental health as a support coordinator and then team leader, where I was able to work at a strategic level within the organisation,” he says.
Ryan joined QCOSS in 2017 to manage the Sunny Savers program, supporting Department of Housing tenants to access rooftop solar in Cairns and Rockhampton. He says QCOSS adds great value to the community services across Queensland, combining voices on issues and policies – something which is vital to his current project.
“The Energy Savvy Families program works with local community organisations across the state to support low-income households with their energy consumption,” he says.
“Electricity is an essential service and increases in prices have put major pressures on low-income households. Local community organisations play a key role in supporting people to access support, understand their energy use, and link in with other social supports.”
Ryan says one of his proudest moments at QCOSS was bringing the Sunny Savers Tenancy Engagement Officers to Brisbane to meet with the QCOSS team.
“Their insights from being on the ground and stories of meeting with households was really powerful, and you could see the effect it had on QCOSS staff understanding the impact of the project,” he says.
“Far more inspiring than the data we had, or the reports I had been writing!”
The desire to ‘give people hope and confidence’ drives Rose McGrath’s success in everything from her work on programs like QCOSS’ Energy Savvy Families through to her long-term commitment as a volunteer with the Salvation Army.
A qualified economist, Irish-born Rose’s career has taken her on a fascinating journey. She started out as a transport economist before moving onto roles with the British Treasury and advising on water economics and water and transport regulation in the UK and Australia.
It is this wealth of experience Rose now draws on as a Policy Officer in QCOSS’ Essential Services team, where she feels she can make a genuine difference.
Community Capacity Team
‘Changing the world’ has been Luke Baker’s top priority his entire career, and it is something he chips away at every moment of the day.
QCOSS’ Community Engagement Lead, Luke’s chief responsibility is connecting with the community sector and government to develop responsive and inclusive policy and service delivery across the state.
In any one day, he works across the areas of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, housing and social infrastructure, and facilitates collaboration between community organisations and the three levels of government.
Donna is a passionate advocate of social and economic inclusion and brings her appreciation of the strength and complexities of communities to the community capacity work of QCOSS.
Donna strives to facilitate connections and opportunities to strengthen community and overcome isolation and disadvantage through an understanding of empowered interdependence, the potential for communities to provide everyone with the opportunity to connect, contribute and belong.
“Initially trained in journalism, I understand the power and value of good communication and most importantly listening. To find the story and to build on individual and community strengths requires intentional listening and reflection.”
Shelley Birrell is a Senior Community Capacity Officer at QCOSS, and is Project Lead for the Changing Lives, Changing Communities project. Criminology and behavioural science qualifications back her extensive experience across the disability and community service sectors.
A self-described “AFL, netball and cricket tragic”, Shelley has been with QCOSS since 2014 in various roles. She says opportunities to work with passionate people to drive social change alongside communities, and promoting inclusion through work with people with disability are major draws of QCOSS as an organisation.
“We want all Queenslanders to enjoy a high quality of life and have access to opportunities that make this possible,” she says. “We know that a thriving community is one which is connected, engaged and working towards a shared vision, and a good life is one in which individuals are socially and economically engaged.”
Shelley says her proudest moment has been coordinating 10 Changing Lives, Changing Communities events across Queensland, with more to come. The work has resulted in QCOSS establishing 22 local champions around the state.
“We are working with communities to make the long-term social change they want. We know that we must do things differently and we can’t do it alone,” she says.
“The Changing Lives, Changing Communities events enable community conversations which create a shared vision and drive action towards a preferred future where everyone contributes, matters and belongs.”
“The wisdom and perspectives of community members are essential in finding effective solutions to the communities most complex problems.”
Stacey De Calmer
Born and bred in Central Queensland, Stacey is the perfect person to be heading up place-based work for QCOSS in that region.
After working for 10 years with an NGO where she supported the early childhood education and care workforce in their practice, Stacey was looking for something to stretch her experience.
“I had a really keen interest to broaden my engagement with the community services sector, and feel very lucky to have landed in a team which has dynamic, extensive and rich expertise and experiences (which is exactly what I was after!).”
Fiona Hunt is a Senior Project Officer with the Community Capacity and Engagement team, and currently leads the Human Services Quality Framework support across Queensland.
With more than 20 years in community services, Fiona brings to QCOSS a wealth of experience in community development, homelessness responses, mental health and housing.
“Working in small organisations, government and large community services has given me a broad perspective on how systems work… I also spent ten years in neighbourhood centres and particularly love the local leadership and community participation found there,” she says.
Fiona says the scope of QCOSS – to influence change at all levels – and the high value placed on partnerships is what drew her to the organisation.
She says that QCOSS’s approach to collaboration empowers people to create change in their communities and have their voices heard around the “big issues”.
“QCOSS supports community services to continue their good work, to meet their compliance requirements and to feel confident in what they do,” she says. “By working with organisations and communities across Queensland we get to hear what is important to people and represent these concerns and aspirations in decision making forums.”
Fiona says one of her proudest moments with QCOSS was “leading the IMS Neighbourhood Centre consultation and advocating for reform and funding for these vital organisations”.
Em James is part of the Community Capacity Team at QCOSS and is currently focussed on place-based projects.
As a community development worker, Em has plenty of experience in driving local-level change, having set up and run neighbourhood centres and cooperatives. She says she was attracted to the state-wide focus of QCOSS and the organisation’s ability to link issues across regions.
“Having previously worked in smaller community-based organisations, I’m also appreciating a larger team of colleagues to learn with and from,” she says.
“I really enjoy the opportunity to learn about the strengths and character of each area, connect with people in each region, and together, craft a community plan that inspires action.”
Rohani Mitchell is a Senior Community Capacity Officer at QCOSS, working on community engagement and place-based work. She is currently the project lead for the Queensland Place-Based Community of Practice, and is studiously working away on the Place-based Approach and Toolkit.
“We established the Queensland Place-Based Community of Practice to build Queensland’s community and knowledge around place-based work,” she says. It’s a process she finds most rewarding when people come together to share understandings and think using fresh perspectives.
“We are hoping that together we can generate new ideas… and support each other in place-based work.“
Rohani has a background as a support worker in the areas of family violence, sexual assault, and mental health, and has also worked on a range of projects in community services and international development.
“A highlight was hosting conversations about gender-based violence with teachers in Tarawa, Kiribati – a remote island in the Pacific,” she says. Community projects are a strong thread throughout her career.
“I love working with a team of passionate, smart people. I’m also grateful to work in an organisation that is purpose-driven and where I can advocate for citizen-led, democratic approaches and sustainable, well-supported communities.”
Organisational Services Team
Annette Schoone is Senior Manager of the Organisational Services team at QCOSS. She brings more than 20 years of senior management experience to QCOSS, having worked in local government roles in both Australia and New Zealand providing leadership in a diverse range of business areas – including events, community development, libraries, performing arts, social planning and research, marketing, media, governance and business support.
“I am proud of the org services team – although small in numbers they look for inspiration and innovation, are gutsy, ambitious always willing to go the extra mile,” she says.
After travelling and volunteering in Cambodia in 2016, in 2017 Annette returned to work in the not-for-profit sector, initially for an organisation providing humanitarian and refugee settlement support. She joined QCOSS in March 2018.
“I love to travel,” she says. “There’s nothing better than appreciating life, and your own life, exploring new places and having new adventures and experiences… creating new memories, connecting with many diverse people and cultures, and understanding history – including the good, the bad, and the sad!”
“(Here at QCOSS) there are a range of key projects currently being progressed by a small but committed and enthusiastic team,” she says, which include a new HR and payroll system, intranet refresh, and investigating other enabling technologies – amongst many other things.
“(We’re also) developing a physical co-location project with a number of other Peaks.”
“I enjoy working at QCOSS as it is a trusted leader in the community services sector,” she says. “(Because of) its agility and flexibility to respond to opportunities, challenges and change – and the ability to work on a range of projects.”
She says a significant piece of work is also putting a bigger focus on organisational culture and staff engagement, ensuring staff share a sense of direction, and are strengthened by unity.
“(It’s important) that every single employee feels that they are valued, belong and are contributing to their own and the success of the organisation.”
Internal Accountant Dennis Forman oversees QCOSS’ financial responsibilities with an ease born of rich life experience.
Originally an auto-electrician, Dennis was Bundaberg’s go-to man for any issues with prime movers and refrigerated transport.
Changing times demanded computer know-how, which led Dennis to software programming and the field of accounting, where he has built two successful businesses.
When QCOSS sponsored German information and communications technology whizz Dietmar Frick six years ago, they inherited a brilliant team member.
As ICT Support Officer, Dietmar keeps QCOSS’ technological cogs finely tuned.
His skills also include business analysis, which is put to good use ensuring QCOSS optimises the use of its resources.
Tri-lingual QCOSS Financial and Organisational Officer Shelly Karman admits she never imagined she would one day call Brisbane home.
Fluent in Indonesian, Mandarin and English, Shelly holds an economics degree which has allowed her to live and work in Jakarta, Taiwan and New Zealand.
Shelly initially came to QCOSS through MDA’s Skilling Queenslanders for work program but her talents were quickly recognised and she was offered a permanent role.
The fact that Lacreicha Major’s first job out of school was at QCOSS, and that she is still here six years later, is testament to how much she enjoys her work.
Lacreicha is QCOSS’ Organisational Services Officer, covering everything from finance to human resources, and is also studying a Bachelor of Commerce.
Lacreicha is a descendent of the Kalkadoon people from the Mt Isa region and is driven to make a difference to all Queenslanders who are experiencing poverty and disadvantage.
Karen heads up the hard-working communications team for QCOSS and with 20 years of experience in communication and public relations as well as broad experience in the not-for-profit and government sectors she is more than qualified for the gig.
“I had a dream when I was at uni to work for the UN and I guess I always thought it would be in a sort of a support role in terms of communication or public relations, that sort of thing.
“The communication advice that I’m doing is about making communities or places better for people and so that’s led me to QCOSS.”
Ukulele-playing Angela Massey knows a thing or two about pulling strings – when she needs to get things done as QCOSS Communication and Media Officer.
Ange has a strong interest in the energy sector, after working in Melbourne in the 1990s when Victoria became the first state to establish a competitive energy market.
Her experience and in-depth knowledge of the subject makes Ange’s input on any of QCOSS’ energy affordability projects invaluable.
Louise has the power to inform and educate community service organisations at her fingertips – literally!
A Communications Officer, Louise is custodian of QCOSS’ Community Door website where she keeps a broad range of audiences and organisations up to date on an even broader range of topics.
Louise started her career as a newspaper journalist in England, making the jump to not-for-profit communications a decade ago.
A Communication Officer, Marie plays an essential role in making sure QCOSS’ messages are heard by their intended targets.
Marie’s scope of work is huge, including creating newsletters, looking after membership and the website, as well as organising and managing events.
“Organising the annual conference is an enjoyable challenge and it’s great to meet new people in the process,” Marie said.