Operations Manager: Katharine Annear (pron. they/them, she/her) is an Autistic person – diagnosed with autism later in life. They live in Adelaide, South Australia. Through their advocacy work Katharine is committed to establishing high quality dynamic and responsive systems for people with disability. They have held management and quality roles within disability services and has held and holds several key roles in not for profit organisations.
Holding a Master of Disability Studies, Katharine works in the disability field and lectures part-time at Flinders University. They travel overseas regularly to foster and maintain links with the international disability community and gain knowledge on contemporary approaches to global disability issues.
Kathy Isaacs (pron. she/her) is an Autistic woman, living in Melbourne with her family husband and 2 neurodivergent kids. She qualified as a registered nurse, worked in palliative care for over a decade, and completed a Masters degree in 2014. Diagnosed with Autism and then with ADHD as an adult, she now supports a home-schooling 13yo while running a support service to help other Autistic adults navigate the healthcare system safely and effectively (Access Health Autism – www.accesshealthautism.com.au), using her health background and both lived and learned understanding of Autism. She has also turned her interest in writing and research, and in simplifying academic concepts to Autism-related topics, and blogs at https://bungyheart.wordpress.com/.
Leeann (pron. she/her) has had many careers ranging from Industrial Electrician to Youth Worker and a dozen other weirdly unrelated things in between. Leeann has a Cert 3 in Community Services Work, Bachelor of Health Science (Health Education/Health Promotion stream), Diploma in Electricity, Advanced Diploma in Transpersonal Art Therapy and is currently studying a Bachelor of Disability and Developmental Education.
Leeann was diagnosed as Autistic at the age of 38 and is the single parent of three children several who are also autistic. The lived experience of being autistic and a carer of autistic children has been integral in shaping the focus of Leeann’s future goals. Living in South Australia Leeann is a Senior Coordinator of activities and previous board member of Asperlutely Autsome and works in several of the groups regular life skills programs. Leeann is also a Student Representative for Students with Disabilities at Flinders University as well as a Student Ambassador. Leeann was co-opted onto the board of ASAN AUNZ in May 2018 as Treasurer and remains in this role.
Secretary: Dr Jac den Houting
(pron. they/them) Jac is a registered Psychologist with unique experience in their field; they spent five years as a prison Psychologist with Queensland Corrective Services, and four years as an Occupational Psychologist with the Queensland Police Service. In 2015, Jac was awarded an Autism CRC scholarship to complete their PhD through the Autism Centre of Excellence at Griffith University. In 2018, Jac took up a role as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Macquarie University in Sydney, working alongside Professor Liz Pellicano.
Jac was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at 25 and is proudly Autistic and queer. Jac quickly became established as a strong advocate for the Autistic community, with advocacy interests including: Autistic mental health; Autistic sexuality and gender identity; Neurodiversity and intersectionality; and autism in the criminal justice system.
Jac was a participant in the inaugural Future Leaders Program at the 2013 Asia Pacific Autism Conference. They are the Autistic representative on the Autism CRC’s Data Access Committee, have a number of published academic articles, and have presented at a range of conferences including the 2017 Asia Pacific Autism Conference.
Joanne Dacombe (pron. she/her) from New Zealand (originally English born) was diagnosed as Autistic in 2012. She is married with an autistic adult son.
Passionate about the UNCRPD and the NZ Disability Strategy.
She serves as the autistic representative for Autism NZ, a partner of Autism CRC. She is secretary for the Autism Spectrum Kiwis (ASK) Trust – a NZ autistic led organisation supporting autistics, and serves on the board of the Manaaki Ability Trust that provides vocational services for people with disabilities aged between 16-65 years.
Dr Melanie Heyworth
Mel (pron. she/her) is an Autistic mother of three Autistic children, who has postgraduate qualifications in Autism and is a passionate advocate for creating a better world for herself, her children, and the Autistic community. Her current role is managing a new nonprofit organisation, Reframing Autism, an organisation run by and for Autistic people and their families and allies. In 2018, Mel was accepted to participate in the Autism CRC’s Future Leaders program for emerging Autistic leaders, and she continues to develop her skills to lead social change by undertaking training in person-centred facilitation, disability research, and active citizenship. In addition to the ASAN AU/NZ Board, Mel sits on several advisory committees to guide respectful, inclusive best practice.
Abby Sesterka (Witts)
Abby (pron. she/her) is a late-diagnosed Autistic woman based in South Australia, though feels just as at home in Central Java. She is a scholar of Indonesian languages with nationally and internationally recognised expertise in languages education curriculum and assessment. She is currently based at Flinders University as a Research Officer, but also works independently as a translator as well as facilitating in-country learning for students of Indonesian language. She is currently engaged in research projects exploring initial teacher education and legislative frameworks around reproductive rights. Her own research interests centre around social and linguistic phenomena in minority communities. Abby is passionate about empowering strong Autistic voices, enjoys jazz drumming and artisanal gin. If you’d like to lose a solid hour of your life, ask her how she feels about the commodification of knowledge or the Whitlam dismissal.
Samantha Connor (pronouns she/her) is a cross disability and human rights activist who identifies as ‘non compliant’. She is a wheelchair user and an Autistic and ADHD parent to a number of neurodivergent children.
Samantha has held a number of roles with peak disability bodies and organisations, including (former) Vice President of People With Disability Australia. She is passionate about the prevention of violence against disabled people and lobbies in this space, as well as in other discrete areas such as NDIS and government policy. Samantha is the Convenor of a not for profit disabled persons’ organisation, Yellow Sub, occasionally lectures at Curtin University and UWA and runs a consultancy business with a focus on improving the lives of disabled people. She has two bulldogs, Frank and Lucy and may or may not have a cat named Schrödinger.