Our Staff and Board

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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. Contact: operations@asan-au.org

Project Officer: Tammy McGowan (pron. she/her) is a late diagnosed autistic. Tammy lives in South Australia with her husband and 2 dogs. Tammy has three adult children.Tammy is an experienced Coordinator and Trainer with a fourteen-year history of working in the community services sector with a focus on disability advocacy, social inclusion, trauma informed and person-centered practice. Tammy has held roles including Service Options Coordinator, Therapeutic Services Consultant, Manager Alternative Care, Community Mentor Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, Program Facilitator and Training Facilitator. Tammy is a recent graduate of the Autism CRC Sylvia Roger Academy Future Leaders program and the Autism CRC Sylvia Roger Academy Governance program. Tammy is a member of the Purple Orange Co-design Council and is the trauma informed expert for the Your Story Disability Legal Support Advisory Group. Contact: projects@asan-au.org

Chairperson: Joanne Dacombe (pron. she/her) from New Zealand (originally English born) was diagnosed as Autistic in 2012. She is married with 2 children including an autistic adult son and a dog (blue heeler cross) named Muki (moo-key).

She is passionate about the UNCRPD and the NZ Disability Strategy as well as inclusive education.

She serves as the autistic representative for Autism NZ, a partner of Autism CRC. She has previously served as secretary for the Autism Spectrum Kiwis (ASK) Trust – a NZ autistic led organisation supporting autistics, and serves on the board Disabled Person’s Assembly as well as a new organisation My Life, My Voice –both disabled led organisations working for disabled people.
She is keen to see disabled people from all walks of life increase in their capacity and capability to have a good life of their choosing with the right support. Contact: chair@asan-au.org

Vice Chairperson: Abby Sesterka

Abby (pron. she/her) is a late-diagnosed Autistic woman based in Sydney, though feels just as at home in Central Java. She is a scholar of Indonesian languages with internationally recognised expertise in languages education curriculum and assessment. Abby is currently pursuing postgraduate studies at Macquarie University while continuing to hold academic status at Flinders University where she lectures in Indonesian Studies and teaches for the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching. She also works independently as a translator and subtitler, as well as facilitating in-country learning for students of Indonesian language. Abby is the co-author of Insights About Autism on Psychology Today. She is passionate about empowering 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.

Treasurer: Leeann Friday

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: Samantha Connor

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. Contact: secretary@asan-au.org

Jarad Mc Loughlin

Jarad McLoughlin (pronouns: him/he) is a prolific, energetic, forward-thinking and outspoken disability and LGBTQIA+ advocate, activist, public speaker, volunteer, freelance journalist and broadcaster who resides in Oaklands Park in South Australia.

Diagnosed with Autism when he was 5 years old and living with other cognitive, sensory impairments since birth e.g. Ayme-Gripp Syndrome, Jarad graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Media degree, majoring in journalism in April 2018 and has been reporting on national and international news stories as a contributor for The Wire over the past 3 years. He has written and spoken out on topics including LGBTQIA+ intimacy and relationships, online dating, media representation, intersectionality, ableism and employment discrimination using his own personified, knowledgeable, reflective, observant and inquisitive perspectives and opinions for SBS, ABC and other mainstream, independent media outlets.

Since September 2013, Jarad has volunteered at Radio Adelaide which is Australia’s oldest community radio station, where he has involved himself in a variety of roles including serving as Executive Producer and Presenter for De-Stigmatised. He also hosts and produces his own podcast What The Quarantine?!! which is all about one man with a microphone who is unafraid in being his true self chatting to those (including his friends) who were/are self-isolating in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within his grassroots and professional sociopolitical activism and self-advocacy work which spans 17 years, Jarad has served as an advisor, consultant, board director and facilitator for multiple non-profit organisations, peak bodies and government departments/agencies including the City of Adelaide Council, People with Disability Australia (PWDA), Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) and National LGBTI Health Alliance.

Lisa Smith

Lisa (pronouns she/her) is a registered psychologist (non-practicing), a late diagnosed autistic and a mother of two young boys- one of which is undergoing assessment for Autism. Lisa obtained her doctorate in Clinical Psychology in late 2017 from Flinders University, SA. Her thesis investigated the relationship between videogaming and sleep in adolescents. Prior to obtaining her doctorate she worked across a broad spectrum of research and clinical settings both in Australia and abroad (UK) including;  child protection research (UniSA), child protection as an Assistant Psychologist, disability forensic mental health as an Assistant Psychologist (UK), adult mental health (community & inpatient, UK). Lisa has also been awarded a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from Cardiff University and a MSc in Psychological Research Methods from Exeter University. More recently (2017-2018), after completion of her doctorate, she worked for not for profit disability provider in SA as a registered psychologist. Lisa is currently focusing on raising her young boys who she lives with (plus partner!) in South Australia.

Lisa also lives with physical disabilities including hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and dysautonomia (dysfunction of the autonomic system). As a result of having these conditions she has a strong interest in promoting the interests of autistic people with physical disabilities and accessibility issues more broadly for disabled people.

Since embracing her autistic identity Lisa has become passionate about raising awareness about the diversity of the autism spectrum and “busting myths”, particularly around females on the spectrum. She is currently representing ASAN-AUNZ on the Autism Expert Reference Group for the implementation of the National Guidelines for the diagnosis of Autism developed by the Autism CRC.