Who we are
We're the national peak body that represents children and young people (aged 0-25) with disability. CYDA is a not-for-profit community-based organisation that was officially incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in November 2009.
The organisation was initially established in 2002 as the Australian Association for Families of Children with Disability. CYDA receives its core funding under the Department of Social Services (DSS) national secretariat program.
We also receive project funding from:
- DSS to provide information, referral and systemic advocacy regarding the experiences of children with disability in relation to the work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
- DSS to support the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability
- the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Information, Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Program
- Equity Trustees.
CYDA provides a link between the direct experiences of children and young people with disability and their families and the Federal Government and other key stakeholders. This link is essential for the creation of a true appreciation of the experiences of and challenges for children and young people with disability and their families.
CYDA was incorporated as a company limited by guarantee to advocate at the national level for children and young people aged 0 to 25 years in 2009. CYDA was formerly known as the Australian Association for Families of Children with Disability.
CYDA's Constitution sets out the rules that govern the organisation’s internal management and operations.
Download a PDF version of CYDA's Constitution PDF
Board of Directors
Matthew Hill – Director / Chair
Matthew (he/him) is a senior executive with more than 10 years of experience in governance and board roles involving both the not-for-profit and private sectors. Matthew has a strong interest in providing value and support to communities and associations like CYDA. Over Matthew's career he has developed skills in leadership, building relationships, seizing control of critical problems and delivering on customer commitments.
Matthew is a father of two children and has family experience of disability. Matthew is extremely committed to progressing the rights of children and young people with disability.
Andrew Dean – Director
Andrew is a corporate lawyer with over 13 years experience in the insurance and property industries. In his role he has worked closely with a number of Federal Government departments, and has also gained very strong governance experience, through serving as both company secretary and Director for a number of corporate entities within Australia and overseas. In addition to this, Andrew regularly sits on executive steering committees and operational Boards.
Personally, and most importantly, Andrew is a father to two boys and has experience of disability as a parent giving him exposure to, and firsthand experience with, the often daunting and confusing world of NDIS and Educational support for those living with disability. It has become very clear to Andrew that significant work is still needed to ensure that the system meets the needs of children and young people with disability.
Andrew’s experiences in advocating for his son are a key driver for him joining the CYDA Board.
Kristen Desmond – Director
Kristen is a mother of three young people with autism and an advocate for many young people in Tasmania. Kristen is the Founder of the Tasmanian Disability Education Lobby and has lobbied the Tasmanian Government for a complete reform of the Tasmanian Disability Education System for more than 15 years. She is committed to ensuring all children receive an education that meets their needs.
Kristen was a former Director of CYDA from November 2014 – December 2016 before she resigned to concentrate on Disability Reform in Tasmania.
Kristen now having achieved some very real reform in Tasmania would like to use those same skills to contribute to CYDA’s national work through its Board.
Timothy Lachlan – Director
Timothy (he/him) is a young person and is the first Australian to land a wheelchair backflip, he is also autistic and lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). Timothy is a Third-year Occupational Therapy (OT) student who is passionate about Wheelchair Moto-Cross, fabrication and advocating for access and inclusion. His passion for helping others is what lead him to become a member of the Co-Design Committee for the National Youth Disability Summit.
Lara Maia-Pike – Director
Lara (she/her) is an equity practitioner and mother of two boys. She has worked in Higher Education for over fourteen years and is passionate about education and social justice.
She is a PhD candidate in Inclusive Education with research focusing on transition planning for students on the autism spectrum in senior high school. She is an Associate Fellow for the Higher Education Academy and a HDR member of the Centre for Inclusive Education.
Pam Williams - Director / Secretary
Pam (she/her) is a senior executive with experience in government and consulting. She has had leadership roles in operational service delivery, emergency management, strategic policy and planning, and research, audit and evaluation. Pam has worked on the policy and provision of state government community and disability services. She has also undertaken Board Director roles in a community housing association, tenancy support group, and local community organisations.
Pam has family experience of disability and is keen to support the work of CYDA in promoting the rights of children and young people with a disability.
Mary Sayers – Chief Executive Officer
BA, Grad Dip HR, MCom, GAICD
Mary (she/her) joined Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA) as Chief Executive Officer in July 2019. Over her career she has worked across policy and research, advocacy and service delivery to progress positive outcomes for children and young people, and the broader determinants of social wellbeing. She has family experience of disability as a parent, and is a passionate advocate for the rights of children and young people.
Her previous roles have been Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) for almost five years; Manager, Children, Young People and Families at the City of Whittlesea; and Associate Director of translational research, policy and service development at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.
She was on the Board of Management of QEC Early Parenting Centre for eight years, including two years as chair of the board. She is a current board member of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).
Husna Amani - Youth Project Support Officer
Husna (she/her) joined CYDA in June 2022. She is currently studying a bachelor of social work at Deakin university, and is passionate about social justice issues, including issues related to disability and racial justice, and the experiences of, and intersection between, disability and people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. She is also currently volunteering with Democracy in Colour, a grassroots organisation run by people of colour, which advocates for racial justice issues, and other issues pertaining to people of colour.
Before joining the team at CYDA, Husna worked on projects through her university, on topics such as career education and inclusive education, where she used her own lived experience to guide her work. Husna is dedicated to advocating for children and young people with disabilities, and is committed to making a positive change, particularly with a focus on people with disability from CALD backgrounds, and their lived experiences. She is passionate about accessibility, equity, diversity and inclusion for all.
Kay Barnard - Youth Connections and Opportunities Officer
Naomi Chainey - Communications and Media Adviser
Madeleine Clarke – Project Coordinator - Disability Standards for Education
Maddy (she/her) joined CYDA in July 2021. She previously worked as an educator and facilitator, and is passionate about using education to empower young people and transform lives.
Before joining CYDA, Maddy worked with primary and secondary students to build their skills in topics that ranged from space science to respectful relationships. She also designed youth-focused programs with grassroots organisations, and created online education experiences for health professionals on chronic disease management.
As someone with lived experience of disability, Maddy values genuine commitment to inclusion, sharing knowledge, and centering youth voices.
Kim Collinson – Inclusion Support Officer
Miranda Cross – Senior Policy Officer
Miranda (she/her) joined CYDA in September 2020. She has a background in social work and is passionate about ensuring all in society can participate in and enjoy community life on an equal basis.
Prior to joining CYDA, Miranda worked across research, policy and project work for the Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Research and Policy Centre. She worked in the Centre’s youth and disability teams, followed by a stint in the organisation’s NDIS services division.
Joanne Ellingworth – Business Manager
Joanne (she/her) joined the team at CYDA in October 2013. Joanne has more than 30 years of experience working as an executive assistant and administrator in small business.
Joanne is extremely committed to progressing the rights of children and young people with disability.
Liz Hudson - Policy and Research Manager
Liz Hudson holds a PhD and is recipient of the inaugural RMIT university/Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) PhD scholarship (2016-2020). Her PhD research has explored the experiences of people with psychosocial disability during transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Liz is Melbourne-based and is the former Senior Researcher at Mind Australia and Research Manager at BreakThru Ltd, a not-for-profit human services organisation. As Research Manager, she was responsible for a small team whose role was to explore national and international best practice within the disability, community service and mental health sectors through partnered research with universities, government and other community organisations. Liz is also the former CEO of The NEPS Centre, a specialised mental health and disability employment service and has over 15 years’ experience working in management roles in the community/employment industry. She left the sector briefly to work in human resources management in a law firm in Sydney for 5 years.
Liz has a PhD in the social sciences, a teaching background; Master of Education and Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
Liz's research interests include NDIS, disability rights and social inclusion, community mental health and disability service provision, person-centred and recovery-oriented practice.
Liz enjoys globetrotting (when COVID-19 restrictions permit!), supporting human rights (Amnesty International member), independent films and beach retreats on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria.
Shae Hunter - Policy Officer
Daniel Munter – Youth Programs Manager
Jason McCurry – Youth Leadership and Engagement Officer
Jason (he/him) is passionate about diversity and inclusion across all industries and aims to ensure people from diverse backgrounds are provided an opportunity to have a voice and are involved in decision-making relating to key issues in their lives. He has a background in sports management, events management and diversity and inclusion.
Jason has a lived experience of disability, living with Tourette’s Syndrome and mental illness since a young age. He was on the Board of People with Disability Australia (PWDA) in 2018 and is an advocate in the disability sector. Lived experience is embedded into all the work Jason does, and he is very excited to engage and work with young people with disability across Australia to ensure everyone has equal access to participation in community, education and employment. Jason is a big believer in ability over disability – by focusing on our strengths and disability pride.
Jason understands the importance of an intersectional approach to inclusion and having grown up in a small country town in Victoria, he strongly values community connection and understands the added barriers that people from rural/remote backgrounds can encounter.
Sharon O'Mara - Policy Officer
Sharon (she/her) is an experienced researcher and educator living on Wurundjeri lands. She has taught in the Law School and Department of Crime, Justice and Legal Studies at La Trobe University.
Currently Sharon is completing her PhD which examines the barriers and tensions of teaching Victorian secondary students sexual ethics and respectful relationships. With a right’s-based focus, Sharon’s research spans many areas including policy development and implementation, disability, youth, education, gender studies and socio-legal studies. A particular focus of the current study is the unique challenges and barriers for special education teachers in teaching respectful relationships to students to ensure all students receive education that helps them establish positive ways of thinking about and engaging in intimate relationships. Sharon research has been funded with the support of a Transforming Human Societies scholarship and Victorian Graduate Women Feminist Father’s Award.
Sharon has family experience of disability through the care and advocacy for her daughter. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of children and young people with a disability.
Sarah Priest – Communications and Media Adviser
Sarah (she/her) is a dedicated communications specialist with a Bachelor of Business Marketing and post graduate qualifications in Public Relations. She has worked in Australia and overseas. Throughout her career she has always been drawn to working for organisations with a social conscience. She joined CYDA in 2021 with a hope to help make a positive difference for young people with a disability, their families, and carers who are often disproportionally affected by many barriers impacting their quality of life and opportunity to reach their full potential.
Sarah is also keen to shine a light on the tenacity, victories and talents of the CYDA community. Her previous roles have been working across a diverse range of sectors and industries including youth, family, disability, health, education and government.
Ewen Rawet - Policy Engagement Officer
Ewen (he/him) joined CYDA in July 2021 as the Policy Engagement Officer, having been engaged across the disability sector for the past five years in several paid and volunteer roles.
His previous work has included policy development, research and advocacy. With a particular focus on empowering young people with a disability. Prior to joining CYDA, Ewen spent three years as a Local Area Coordinator for the NDIS Services division of the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Ewen brings with him lived experience of cerebral palsy and believes strongly in ensuring the voices of people with disability remain at the centre of his work.
When not at work you will find Ewen painting, watching movies or hunting down the next best dumpling house.
Jess Rosenthal - Administration Officer
Sonia Regan - Community Impact Manager
Sonia (she/her) joined CYDA in February 2022. She has worked in a range of roles across government and community with a focus on improving the lives of children and families. Sonia is passionate about supporting families to live their best lives, and believes with the right opportunities, motivation and accessibility, we can see families, children and communities thrive in partnership together.
She has worked as an advocate for individual and systemic matters related to children and young people including child protection, education and disability service provision. Her work supports her passion for bringing individuals and communities together to develop creative, innovative solutions to complex issues.
Sonia has degrees in sociology, disability studies and health sciences.
Sue Tape – Project Coordinator - Inclusive Education
Sue (she/her) joined CYDA in April 2020 to help develop communication and information resources to engage young people with disability and families of children with disability in the Disability Royal Commission, the National Young People with Disability Summit and the National Redress Scheme, among other communications activities.
Sue’s career experience is in auditing, design and implementation of learning and development at a local, national and Asia Pacific level. Sue is now using her career experience in building an inclusive local community around her family. Sue is excited about the opportunities to share her family's story, connect with other families and be a force for change.