Meet the team at DANA
Our team at Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA) are a dedicated group of individuals who use their lived-experience, passion and knowledge of the disability advocacy sector to deliver systemic outcomes for people with disabilities.
We are here to ensure that advocacy organisations are supported and provided with the knowledge and services they need for capacity building in the sector.
Chief Executive Officer | Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith is the Chief Executive Officer of Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA), the peak membership body for independent advocates in Australia. Prior to joining DANA, Jeff worked as a senior executive for 15 years, being a longstanding CEO of Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) NSW and People with Disability Australia (PWDA).
Jeff is a person with disability who has moved into the disability sector in recent years, while also continuing to work in the environment sector and seeking to identify linkages between the sectors.
Jeff is a solicitor with a lifelong commitment to social justice and the environment. Jeff also has a wealth of governance experience, with 50 years’ cumulative experience at Board level with the Leadership Coalition of the World Federation of Public Health Associations (WFPHA), Climate Action Network International, Haymarket Foundation, the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, EDO NSW, the Total Environment Centre, the Environmental Planning and Law Association, and the Climate Institute.
Policy and Advocacy Team
Director, Policy and Advocacy | El Gibbs
El Gibbs joined DANA in May 2023 in the newly created role of Director, Policy and Advocacy. El is a seasoned advocate, communications genius and NDIS specialist. El has devoted over fifteen years to working in policy, strategy and advocacy for the rights of people with disability and is a highly respected expert in the media and policy.
El is a disabled person and has previously worked as a sought-after consultant in policy, communications and strategy, working across the disability and social sectors. El has also worked for a variety of national disability peak organisations in senior roles.
El is also an award-winning writer, regularly published on the NDIS and disability issues in leading publications.
Policy Officer , DRC | Siobhan Clair
Siobhan is our Disability Royal Commission (DRC) Policy Officer. She is responsible for liaising between advocacy organisations, the DRC and other relevant bodies; working to support advocacy and community engagement activities around Australia; and contributing to coordination and communications strategies that improve the effectiveness of the DRC advocacy effort.
Since 2013, she has worked in policy and project roles in disability rights and representation, including at DANA from 2013 to 2015, and at Advocacy for Inclusion, People with Disabilities ACT and the ACT Government’s Office for Disability.
Working in small organisations and understaffed teams, Siobhan has developed varied skills in systemic advocacy, community engagement, projects, events, and communications.
Advocacy and Policy Officer | Liam Thatcher
Liam joined DANA In October 2023 to support the team’s ongoing policy and systemic advocacy efforts.
Liam has a background as a NDIS Appeals advocate, having supported many clients with cases before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in his previous role with Brain Injury SA as well as in research assistance for the Adelaide Law School during his undergraduate studies in Law and Political Science. His research interests are around administrative law and the NDIS, economic justice and welfare more generally, and the practical experience of people asked to navigate these systems.
He is also a carer and is a passionate advocate for the rights of people with a disability to participate in all aspects of society and the community
Policy Officer | Caitlin Clair
Caitlin commenced her role as NDIS Review Project Officer in June 2023, after providing communications services to DANA since July 2022. After living in Canada for six years, Caitlin is excited to reacquaint herself with Australian systems of law and policy. In her new role, she strives to meaningfully contribute to and engage with the disability advocacy sector and community to maximise DANA’s impact on the NDIS Review.
Caitlin has a decade of experience working in diverse positions across the legal, insurance and health industries, which has been informed by her Bachelor of Law and Fine Arts in Creative and Professional Writing.
Caitlin has lived experience of mental illness and identifies as a person with psychosocial disability. She is passionate about systemic advocacy and intersectional equality, and greatly values the opportunity to apply her skills and knowledge to working with the disability advocacy sector.
Manager, NCDA | Martin Butcher
Martin is leading up the National Centre for Disability Advocacy. This is a resource centre supporting the independent advocacy sector across Australia. Martin has had over 30 years experience in community and service development across the local government and not for profit sectors.
Before joining DANA Martin spent 12 ½ years as Executive Officer of Regional Disability Advocacy Service in North East Victoria and Southern parts of NSW. Martin has also worked for 5 local governments across the northern region of Sydney. His experience includes facilitating disability and aged care service networks, access advisory committees and organising senior weeks festivals.
Born with cerebral palsy, Martin has first-hand experience of community prejudice that is experienced by many people with disability. Throughout his career, Martin has been advocating for improved access and inclusion of people with disability in the community.
Education and Engagement Officer, NCDA | Kim Tyson
Kim is one of our Education and Engagement Officers at the National Centre for Disability Advocacy. Kim has over 15 years’ experience in the disability sector in a range of roles, from direct care to projects and case management.
For the past seven years, Kim has worked in the Disability Advocacy sector as an advocate and training officer on the Northern Rivers of NSW. Kim has a history of working in the Community sector in non-government organisations (NGOs) and believes the best outcomes occur when people are truly engaged and work collaboratively towards a common goal. Kim has experience in the engagement and education of organisations, individuals and community groups focussed on making society more inclusive for all people.
Kim also has a lived experience of disability, where he has been married to Bethany, who is a T9 paraplegic for over 15 years.
Education and Engagement Officer, NCDA | Courtney Wolf
Courtney is one of our Education and Engagement Officers at the National Centre for Disability Advocacy (NCDA). Courtney has lived experience of being a carer, which introduced her to the disability sector. In more recent years, Courtney has been an individual disability advocate, NDIS appeals advocate, and systems advocate for Queensland’s state-based disability network.
Courtney enjoys making connections between advocates and celebrating the different ways advocates and advocacy organisations achieve real and meaningful change with people with disability.
Courtney holds a Bachelor of Community Health and is currently studying a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. She also has an interest in data and data analysis, and understands the challenges of working in small organisations with competing priorities.
Corporate and Membership Team
Operations Manager | Elicia Ford
Elicia joined DANA in October 2023. Elicia brings substantial experience in community sector, and education sector roles at both practitioner and senior management levels, most recently as National Disability Coordination Officer, South-East NSW for 9 years, and previously as Program Implementation Manager for a large national not-for-profit organisation.
Elicia is passionate about cultivating flourishing, healthy, inclusive communities which encourage and celebrate the contributions of all people and empower all people to achieve their potential. She values creativity, collaboration, and connectedness, is values driven with a strong commitment to social justice and advocating for human rights, and takes a strengths-based, person-centred approach to her work.
Elicia has experience volunteering on boards, executive committees, advisory and expert reference groups relevant to disability access and inclusion, women’s issues, education and employment, and children and families. She has a chronic health condition, vision impairment, and has supported family members with mental health conditions.
Communications Officer | Jessica Schulz
Jess joined DANA in 2023 as Communications Officer. With a decade of experience in NFP communications, Jessica is passionate about working in the advocacy space. Previously working for organisations who advocate for policy and cultural changes to improve the health and wellbeing of others, Jessica is dedicated to ensuring everyone has a voice.
Jess joins the DANA team to help enhance the values of our organisation through strategic communications support and messaging.
Jess has worked in various national peak organisations, including indigenous health, and is a volunteer advocate for Still Aware, an advocacy organisation dedicated to stillbirth prevention in Australia.
Finance Officer | Lesley Porroj
Lesley is DANA’s Finance Officer. She started working with DANA more than ten years ago as a contracted bookkeeper and in 2023 continues her service provision as an employee.
Lesley has over 30 years of experience working within the community sector across a broad range of areas. This includes working in youth, disability, mental health, the arts, multicultural, men, families and women services.
Lesley’s passion and commitment is specifically to the not-for-profit sector. She recognises the unique requirements to acquit grant funded programs aiming for no profit/surplus, whilst striving to secure the organisations on-going viability. Lesley takes pride in supporting DANA to meet all its financial and reporting requirements.