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.
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).
Jay Carnell - Youth Trainee
Jay (they/them) is a young person living on Wurundjeri land (Melbourne). They have personal experience living with invisible illness, and are currently undergoing a traineeship with CYDA, after having worked in schools as an Education Support Worker.
Volunteering with FReeZA has also been an important experience that lead to them landing a role in the CYDA team, having had a hand in music event creation, organisation, marketing, and running. Most notably, they were integral to setting up ‘chill zones’ at events to create a calm space for low sensory needs.
Much of Jay’s experience from community service volunteering to education support to babysitting has been in aiding others build self-supporting techniques. Even their attempts in retail and hospitality were personal learning experiences of self-regulation and self-management.
When Jay’s not working, they might be doing yoga with their cat, getting nerdy researching personal interest topics, or, most probably, watching streamed TV series or anime. They might even be mucking around with their partner and brothers.
Miranda Cross – 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.
Alana Doyle – NDIS Capacity Building Coordinator
Alana (she/her) joined CYDA in July 2020 as the NDIS Capacity Building Coordinator, having previously worked in communications and social media in the disability and Deaf space.
Her previous work has included digital engagement and strategy, website development, resource development and project work. Prior to joining CYDA, Alana was the Social Media Specialist at Melba Support Services.
As a person with lived experience of disability, Alana brings personal motivation and commitment to the work she does. Her particular focus and passion in work is around accessible communication and resources and making sure everyone has the opportunity to access the information they need in a way that works for them.
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.
Maeve Kennedy – Policy & Program Manager
Maeve (she/her) joined CYDA in late 2019. She previously worked in disability policy and projects at the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), working closely with self-advocates and advocacy organisations and alongside the Disability Advocacy Research Unit. Maeve also facilitated a joint project between Our Watch and Women with Disabilities Victoria focusing on the prevention of violence against women and girls with disability.
Her background is in policy and economics, including experience working in a number of non-profit organisations and in social policy consulting and program evaluation.
Amy Marks - Youth Connection and Development Officer
Amy Marks (she/her) is a human located in Melbourne that has living experience of physical disability.
While Amy also does work in the media, she’s been fortunate enough to volunteer and work in various positions within the disability and youth sectors including at YLab and Student Life and Leadership at Victoria University. More recently, Amy worked at the Youth Disability Advocacy Service (YDAS) where she assisted in developing the ‘Emerging Young Leaders’ Program.
After that she ran off to Disney World for nine months and completed the ‘Disney College Program’ in Florida!
When Amy is not working in the Youth Action Team you can find her watching animated or documentary movies, telling cheesy jokes and perfecting her GIF game.
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.
Jess Mitchell – Youth Storytelling and Development Officer
Jess (Jess) loves hearing and sharing stories! Jess hopes that through enriching facilitation and meaningful research opportunities, CYDA can provide young people with pathways to use their stories to create powerful community narratives for social and systemic change.
With a background in Psychology, Jess has worked in the mental health sector in various roles including as a support worker, advocate and researcher. Time and time again Jess found that people with lived experience, especially young people, are ignored in conversations and decision making about their lives. Jess' combination of training and complex lived experience has contributed to valuable work at VMIAC, headspace, SANE Australia, batyr, University of Western Australia and Swinburne University.
When Jess isn't busy trying to change the world you can find Jess making art, watching footy, baking up a storm and frolicking in the bush.'
Tasha Ritchie – Youth Programs Manager
Tasha (she/her) is passionate about supporting and creating opportunities for young people to be leaders of social change, and is very excited to work with CYDA and young people across the country to make this kind of magic happen!
Tasha trained as a lawyer and was previously the Managing Director of Titjimbat Gija - Teachabout Inc. a youth-led community development not-for-profit that facilitates community programs in remote communities in the Northern Territory. Tasha is a member of the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights Indigenous and Women and Girls subcommittees, and a part of Liberty Victoria's Rights Advocacy Project on the Indigenous Justice Team. She has worked with the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Ylab and the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency - VACCA, and is currently the Deputy Chair of the Board of the Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic ).
With a background in youth engagement and the arts, Tasha loves all things co-design and enjoys finding new ways to inspire and motivate young people into action about the issues that matter to them. When she’s not at work, you’ll find her on the side of a mountain, swimming in salt water or out bush up in the NT.
Sue Tape – Communications Adviser
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.
Robert Pask – Policy Adviser
Robert (he/him) has extensive experience and knowledge of Australian politics and the disability sector. He has played a key role in promoting a policy focus on job retention for people with chronic illness and disability.
Through his voluntary involvement with boards including the Chronic Illness Alliance and the Consumer Health Forum, Robert has brought into focus the growing cost of healthcare for people with chronic illness using pharmaceuticals and other health programs.
In 2013 Robert received the Excellence in Advocacy and Rights Promotion Award at the National Disability Awards and the Huntington's Victoria Advocacy Award.
Board of Directors
Alan Blackwood – Chair
Alan (he/him) has family experience of disability and has also worked in a range of advocacy and governance roles with people with disability in more than 30 years in the sector. Alan has served on numerous state and national advisory bodies and has previously worked with CYDA on NDIS and education policy.
He is a strong supporter of inclusive education and the participation of people with disability in their organisations.
Matthew Hill – Director
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.
Julie Mavlian – Director
Julie (she/her) is a mother of four children including a young person with disability.
Julie is currently a Learning and Support Teacher at a NSW public school. She has a Masters in Special Education and has worked with students in a variety of educational settings from preschool through to adult for more than 30 years.
Julie is a passionate advocate who has worked proactively for the rights and needs of children and young people with disability.
Grace Mills – Director
Grace (she/her) is a young person with disability who has been involved with the disability sector in Western Australia since 2013. She has experience in a range of community organisations including Youth Disability Advocacy Network (YDAN), Diverse Leadership WA and VisAbility.
Grace is currently also involved with the Ministerial Advisory Council of Disability, Telethon Kids Institute Youth Advisory Group and previously was a member of the City of Perth Access and Inclusion Advisory Group.
Grace believes that the inclusion of young people with disability in the community is crucial for increasing the level of participation and recognition of abilities, particularly in areas such as education and employment and social inclusion through community events.
Dr Bronwyn Morkham – Director/Secretary
An experienced individual and systemic advocate, Bronwyn (she/her) has worked with state and federal governments in systems policy and improvement. She is presently working with state and federal jurisdictions on the systemic and policy reforms needed to implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), particularly around the scheme’s interactions with other service systems such as health and education.
Bronwyn has served on a number of state and federal advisory bodies and led development of innovative and collaborative practice solutions in systems working with younger people with disability.
Bronwyn is committed to the development of community-based services that enable children and young people with disability to live safely and with confidence in the community.
Jocelyn Neumueller – Director
Jocelyn (she/her) is a student with lived experience of disability. She is currently studying Law at Flinders University while pursuing her sporting ambitions of achieving a podium position at the Paralympics.
Outside of her study, Jocelyn is involved with a number of organisations advocating for and supporting young people living with disability. For the past four years Jocelyn has been selected as the student representative for the South Australian Ministerial Advisory Committee for Children and Students with Disability.
Heather Renton – Director
Heather (she/her) is the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Syndromes Without a Name (SWAN) – Australia. SWAN provides information and support to families caring for a child with an undiagnosed or rare genetic condition. Heather is the mother of two children, one of whom has a rare genetic condition and disability. Heather is a passionate advocate for families who have children with undiagnosed and rare genetic conditions.
Heather is a member of the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance Community Advisory Group, the Consumer and Community Advisory Group for the Discipline of Genetic Counselling, University of Technology Sydney, and a moderator for both the FOXP1 and Undiagnosed rareconnect.org communities.
Heather received a Highly Commended in the Service category at the 2017 Premier’s Volunteer Champions Awards. The Melbourne Genomics Community Advisory Group (CAG), which she is an active member of, won the Outstanding Achievement by a Volunteer – Better Care Victoria Innovation Award at the 2017 Minister for Health Volunteer Awards. Heather is one of the co-authors of the report An Ounce of Prevention, which captured the value of early community engagement and co-design of projects. Heather is the author of the abstract 'Peer Support Groups Play an Important role in ‘Social Precision Medicine’', published in the Twin Research and Human Genetics journal in 2019 by Cambridge University Press.
Heather received a scholarship to the Women’s Board Leadership Mentoring Program for the period 2017-2018.
Melanie Tran – Director
Named one of the Top 100 Women of Influence 2019 by the Australian Financial Review, Melanie (she/her) is a designer, an innovator, an activist, a social entrepreneur. Melanie’s work as a User Experience (UX) Designer and social entrepreneur has been recognised internationally, including being named the winner of the Laureate International Universities Global Here for Good Award 2018. Melanie’s lived-experience, developed skills and knowledge allow for her work to span the disability, health and technology sectors. With over eight years’ experience, and through her role as a UX Designer at Hireup , Melanie specializes in bringing together the worlds of business, design and social impact.
Following her success, Melanie has become a sought-after international public speaker, presenting at [email protected], TEDxSydney Pitch Night, Laureate Leadership Summit, World Usability Day at Commonwealth Bank Australia, and a keynote at Google, opening their first ever Asia Pacific UX Design Summit.
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)
CYDA's third three-year Strategic Plan commenced on 1 July 2017. The plan articulates organisational priorities and guides the work of CYDA's Board of Directors and staff.
Strategic Plan 2017-2020
2020 Annual Report PDF
2020 Annual Report DOC