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Our people

Strong leadership, focused on the best support

Very Special Kids has an experienced and dedicated Board, foundation and leadership team striving to make a profound difference in the lives of children and young people with life-limiting conditions. Get to know the passionate people behind our business.

Board

Our Board is responsible for governance, leadership, strategic direction and upholding our standards of conduct. Very Special Kids Directors are widely respected and have deep experience in the not-for-profit sector.

Leadership team

We’re powered by compassionate and devoted people. Our leadership team manages the day-to-day operations and is committed to ensuring we remain one of the leaders in palliative care for children and young people.

Patron

The first employee of Very Special Kids, Sister Margaret Noone has been a special guardian of our organisation’s mission since our journey began. She continues to benefit Very Special Kids with her guidance and support today.

Foundation

The Foundation Committee is a network of dedicated supporters who play a pivotal role in elevating the awareness of Very Special Kids while actively seeking out new fundraising opportunities.

Meet our people

Board

Peter Polson

Board Chair

Peter Polson

Board Chair

Peter has been Chair of the Very Special Kids Board since 2012.

A financial services professional with many decades of experience, Peter has previously been Group Executive at CBA, Chief Executive Colonial First State and Managing Director.

In these roles he was responsible for all investment and insurance services, including funds management, master funds, superannuation and insurance businesses, and third-party support services for brokers, agents and financial advisers.

In addition to his Chair role at Very Special Kids, Peter was Chairman of Challenger Limited (listed company director since November 2003), Challenger Life Company Limited and Avant Group Insurance Limited until 2022. Peter is also a director of Avant Mutual Group Limited, Avant Group Holdings Limited and Copia Investment Partners.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Masters in Business and Leadership) and has graduated from the Harvard School of Business Development Program.

Luke Bell

Luke Bell

Luke Bell is a marketing and fundraising specialist, currently Director of Advancement at Swinburne University. He has held executive and senior leadership positions across multiple purpose-based sectors, including health and disability at Vision Australia, aid and development at Oxfam and medical research at Cancer Council.

Luke is deeply experienced in developing effective strategies that drive revenue growth and make businesses more sustainable. In addition to his professional roles, Luke has held directorships with SEATT (a gender equality change accelerator) and Alpha Autism (Adult Autism service organisation now merged with Aspect), where he guided the launch of an award-winning national awareness campaign, Drawtism.

Luke holds a Master of Business Administration (Professional), Postgraduate Diploma of Management (Marketing) from Melbourne Business School, a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT, and is an Australian Marketing Institute-recognised Certified Practising Marketer.

Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans has thirty years career experience in the healthcare and disability sectors, and joined the Very Special Kids Board in 2023.

A Registered Nurse, and holding a Graduate Diploma in Health Science, Lisa has worked across frontline and leadership roles within public health and private hospitals. In 2014 she joined St John of God as Director of Nursing at their Berwick Hospital, which included the oversight of the new hospital build and eventually coordinating the relocation from the previous facility.

Lisa was appointed CEO of St John of God Accord in 2019, the disability service within St John of God’s extended healthcare network. And in 2023 Lisa joined Scope Australia, one of Australia’s largest providers of disability services, as Chief Operating Officer.

Lisa has also been a recipient of support at Very Special Kids. Lisa’s eldest son Jack was supported regularly for respite stays for over 15 years, before exiting the service as an adult. Lisa and her family also accessed family support services during the same period.

As both a highly experienced health clinician and leader, as well as a parent of a child with a life-limiting condition and service recipient, Lisa brings to the Very Special Kids Board both insight into the opportunities available to improve services to families, and in ensuring that all future service endeavours undertaken at Very Special Kids remained child and family-centred.

Cameron Fuller

Cameron Fuller

Cameron Fuller (Cam), joined our Board in October 2021 and is Chair of our Finance, Audit and Risk Committee. He brings over 30 years’ experience in commerce and banking, 20 of those in the healthcare industry.

From November 2022 until August 2023, he was the Interim Group Chief Executive, Epworth Healthcare, and before this, their Chief Financial Officer having joined Epworth in August 2020. Prior to this, Cam spent more than four years with National Australia Bank, where he was the Executive General Manager Growth Sectors and Specialised Banking.

Cam has also held roles at NAB Health as General Manager, at ANZ leading the Diversified Industries sector within the Institutional Bank, as Chief Financial Officer Mayne Pharma, and Head of Investor Relations Mayne Group.

Cam is a Chartered Accountant, holds Post Graduate Diploma in Finance and Investment and is a Graduate of the Australian Company Institute of Directors.

Susie Gibb

Susie Gibb

Dr Susie Gibb is a paediatrician with three decades of experience in Australia and the United Kingdom.

She is currently the Medical Lead of the Complex Care Hub at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, and consultant Paediatrician in the Departments of General Medicine and Neurodevelopment and Disability. She also has a private paediatric practice.

It was through the experience of her patients that she became aware of Very Special Kids, joining our Board in 2017 as the head of the Clinical Risk and Governance Committee. She brings a wealth of knowledge across paediatric care and healthcare in general to our organisation.

Susie holds a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. She is a member of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioural Paediatric Society of Australasia, member of the Continence Foundation of Australia and an Honorary Fellow of the Melbourne Children’s Research Institute.

Rhys Jewell

Rhys Jewell

Rhys is a Partner and Head of Tax at the leading Australian law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth.  He specialises in advising major Australian and multinational clients and government on the tax aspects of significant and high profile transactions such as mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructures, infrastructure projects, capital raisings and inbound investment. He is also one of the Corrs pro bono partners, and regularly advises charitable and not-for-profit clients. It is in this role that he advised Very Special Kids on several matters for a number of years, before joining our Board in 2015.

Rhys has brought a wealth of financial and commercial knowledge to the Board, and sits on the Finance, Risk and Audit subcommittee.

Rhys holds a Bachelor of Laws, Bachelor of Commerce and has been admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia. In addition to this, Rhys is a member of the Tax Committee for the Law Council of Australia and a fellow at The Tax Institute.

Therese Robinson

Therese Robinson

Therese joined the Very Special Kids’ Board in 2019 and sits on the Family Advisory Committee and Remuneration Committee.

She brings extensive experience in government programs and service delivery to the organisation, including working with community organisations and partners.

Therese has managed many programs in state government including health and mental health roles, Aboriginal affairs, multicultural affairs, social cohesion and aged care. Currently she is Director, Aged Care and Community Performance, Victorian Department of Health.

In addition to her work with us, she is also a Board member and past President at the Rotary Club of Central Melbourne.

Therese holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Public Administration, and Bachelor of Biochemistry. In 2009, she was awarded the National Emergency Award in 2013 for participation in the bushfire response.

Adam Scheinberg

Adam Scheinberg

A/Prof Adam Scheinberg is a paediatric rehabilitation specialist and state-wide medical director of the Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service.

Adam trained in Sydney at the Children’s Hospital Westmead before relocating to Victoria in 2009. Adam has over 25 years’ experience in paediatric and young adult rehabilitation.

Adam joined the Very Special Kids Board in 2018 and also serves on the Clinical Risk and Governance Committee, and the Hospice Rebuild Committee. Adam’s clinical interests include paediatric and young adult rehabilitation particularly affecting those with spinal cord injury, brain injury , chronic fatigue syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Adam is an active clinical researcher and educator, honorary fellow at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Associate Professor in the school of Paediatrics University of Melbourne. Adam is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Leadership

Michael Wasley

Chief Executive Officer

Michael Wasley

Chief Executive Officer

Michael commenced as Chief Executive Officer at Very Special Kids in 2016, following many years working within the disability and socio-economic disadvantage sectors. Having worked within surplus generating not-for-profit initiatives, Michael understands the important balance required to innovate services towards the key purpose, while maintaining accountability and long-term sustainability.

Michael initiated a review of the existing children’s hospice, the first of its kind in Australia, in late 2016.  The review resulted in the design of a new world-class facility, and despite the challenging COVID-19 impacted years of 2020-22, the doors to Very Special Kids House opened in 2023.

Michael has completed a Bachelor of Science, Postgraduate Diploma in Rehabilitation Counselling and a Master of Business Administration. He is also a Graduate of the AICD Company Directors and recognises his time playing professional cricket in the low socio-economic communities of northern England as a significant influence on his intrinsic connection to supporting community and addressing disadvantage.

Michael is currently Vice President of the Werribee Football Club (Victorian Football League) and served as President of Carranballac College School Council (2010-2018) and Director of the National Employment Services Association (2012-2016).

Marcia Christmas

General Manager, Fundraising and Marketing

Very Special Kids nurtures and fosters a culture of care internally as well as for the children and families in our care.

Marcia Christmas

General Manager, Fundraising and Marketing

Marcia is a passionate marketing, fundraising and finance professional with more than 15 years’ experience in delivering successful, resource-efficient and creative, fundraising programs and marketing campaigns, primarily in the not-for-profit space.

With roles at Make-A-Wish Foundation and Kidney Health Australia, Marcia was drawn to Very Special Kids because of its holistic approach to helping children and their families, walking alongside them throughout life, death and beyond.

“I enjoy knowing I play a small part in supporting our service delivery team to help families navigate childhood illness or cope with the death of their child.

“One of the most poignant memories for me at Very Special Kids came from a young boy Noah who spoke at an event and explained that he celebrates his life every day because he knows he may die soon. Instead of having a ‘bucket list’ he has a ‘life list’ of all the things he wants to do while he can. It was a very powerful reminder to embrace life no matter what our situation may be.”

Marcia holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing and Accounting from the University of Otago.

Matt Dunshea

General Manager, Business and Finance

What do I enjoy about work? The people! Colleagues, volunteers and of course the kids and families.

Matt Dunshea

General Manager, Business and Finance

Matt started with Very Special Kids in November 2019 and his role is to ensure the organisation is effective and financially sustainable.

Matt has always worked in finance and joined Very Special Kids because he wanted to work with an organisation which shared his values of working for those a little less fortunate.

“Every now and then I need to get up from my desk (and calculator) and visit with the practitioners or hospice staff. One memory I have was going down to the old hospice to remind myself of why I work here, and an adorable little girl in our care remembered me from my orientation months earlier. It was very touching, and we had some fun playing together.”

Matt is a qualified chartered accountant and before working at Very Special Kids held a similar role with Basketball Victoria.

Donna Durston-McKenna

General Manager, People and Culture

I enjoy working for a purpose led organisation with values that align to my own, with collaborative and supportive people.

Donna Durston-McKenna

General Manager, People and Culture

An experienced people and culture and HR professional with considerable experience in the health sector, Donna joined Very Special Kids in 2022 to work for a purpose-led organisation.

With senior roles at Monash Health and Palliative Care South East, Donna was motivated to join the team based on the scope of the role and the ability to make a true impact and difference in the lives of children and their families.

“At Very Special Kids I enjoy working alongside a group of inspiring leaders in an organisation that has stayed focused on its purpose.”

Donna holds a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources.

Julia McAlpine

General Manager, Clinical Services

Julia McAlpine

General Manager, Clinical Services

Joining the team in early 2024, Julia is thrilled to be leading Very Special Kids’ clinical services team.

Julia is a qualified Radiation Therapist who worked in public and private radiation therapy services in Victoria and England, with experience in paediatric care while working at Peter Mac.

She spent eight years managing radiation oncology centres in Melbourne and Ballarat and enjoys leading multidisciplinary teams to provide excellent care for clients and their families.

Her interests include service development and implementation to improve and expand services for children and their families.

Julia holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Radiations) from RMIT University and a Master of Business Administration from LaTrobe University.

Katie Moore

Chief Medical Officer

There is a beautiful phrase which I treasure – that a doctor should act as “a witness and an ally”. To me this means tending to more than the merely physical needs of a child; but also acting with compassion and empathy, bearing witness to the impact of a child’s illness on the entire family and walking alongside them to offer understanding and support in the broadest sense. With the team at Very Special Kids, I feel that I can put this into action every day.

Katie Moore

Chief Medical Officer

Dr Katie Moore is Chief Medical Officer at Very Special Kids and a paediatric oncologist with the Paediatric Integrated Cancer Service of Victoria.

After training at Guys and St Thomas Hospital in London, Katie moved to The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne where she undertook fellowships in paediatric oncology and bioethics. She continues to practice as a consultant paediatric oncologist providing care at Monash Children’s Hospital and The Royal Children’s Hospital, specialising in the field of cancer survivorship.

Katie is passionate about providing holistic support to children and their families, particularly acknowledging the toll that childhood illness can have on the mental health of all family members. To this end, Katie is also a family therapist and runs a small psychotherapy practice dedicated to families whose children have serious or life-limiting illness. She has additional qualifications including a Masters of Clinical Bioethics and a Masters of Family Therapy.

At Very Special Kids, Katie is director of medical care for children in the hospice. She leads a team of doctors who provide round-the-clock medical cover, every day of the year. She considers this role a culmination of all her training and medical interests, and a true privilege.

Patron

Sister Margaret Noone

Patron

Very Special Kids House has a soul, a heart, a spirit. It emanates love and care and if one listens with the heart, lots of laughter and some tears will be heard bubbling under the surface.

Sister Margaret Noone

Patron

Sister Margaret Noone is a Loreto Sister, former teacher and junior school principal, and the first employee of Very Special Kids.

Joining Very Special Kids in 1985, Margaret set to work advocating the need for holistic palliative care outside of acute hospital care. At the time, no service existed for Australian children and young people with life-limiting conditions that provided active total care of the child’s body, mind and spirit, while also supporting their families.

As a Churchill Fellowship recipient, Margaret studied children’s hospices across the United Kingdom in 1989, and returned to Australia with invaluable insights and a real desire to build Australia’s first children’s hospice – a home away from home that offered respite and end-of-life care. Margaret opened Very Special Kids House in 1996.

Margaret’s advocacy for paediatric palliative care has seen her become a member of the first committee for the Palliative Care Association of Australia, and the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement. Recognised in 2000 with a Member of the Order of Australia award, Margaret led Very Special Kids until her retirement in 2002.

Margaret remains very active in her role as Patron and regularly visits the children staying at Very Special Kids House.

Foundation

Glenn Carmody

Foundation Chair

Glenn Carmody

Foundation Chair

Glenn Carmody joined the Foundation Committee in 2014 and has been Chair since 2018. A passionate supporter and advocate of Very Special Kids for many years, Glenn has been instrumental in creating several major partnerships with some of Australia’s leading organisations including Henley, Petstock and Victorian Racing Club.

Glenn is Ernst and Young’s Assurance Leader for Oceania and part of the firm’s leadership team with more than three decades of audit experience. He has worked all over the world with some of the largest companies in the sector. Having achieved a high level in his career both as an auditor and business advisor, Glenn is now committed to developing the next generation of leaders.

A graduate of Swinburne University of Technology and member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, Glenn is also a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Director of Victoria Racing Club.

Phil Endersbee OAM

Phil Endersbee OAM

 

David Gibbs AM

David Gibbs AM

 

Claudia Haeger

Claudia Haeger

Claudia Haeger is General Manager & Director of Finance at Gorman Allard Shelton. A chartered financial analyst, Claudia holds a Master of Arts in Economics and Geography. Her extensive Board and C-suite experience in finance, wealth management, risk and governance spans across several sectors including banking, real estate, education and sports.

Prior to joining the Foundation Committee in 2019, Claudia had participated in and supported Very Special Kids fundraising events such as the 24-Hour Treadmill Challenge. She continues to challenge herself, even completing the Melbourne Marathon in support of Very Special Kids.

Claudia is a non-executive director having held positions in wealth management, education and not for profit boards.

Andrew Macmillan

Andrew Macmillan

 

Patrick Prendergast

Patrick Prendergast

 

Hamish Rotstein

Hamish Rotstein

 

Justin Whitford

Justin Whitford

Justin Whitford is an experienced CEO, with over two decades’ experience in executive management and senior operations in the Automotive, Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial sectors for some of Australia’s leading brands including Mercedes-Benz, Fuso, Deutz Fahr, KIOTI, McHale, Kverneland and Coachair.

His expertise in delivering transformational growth strategies through high performance team environments and the modernisation and restructuring of businesses has established Justin as a leader in his industry.

Justin has been a member of the Foundation Committee since 2016. He has been deeply involved in the creation of new corporate relationships for Very Special Kids, including a partnership with Hyundai ‘Help for Kids’ program, as well as the success of many fundraising events including Gather to Give and Footy Fever Debate.

Join our team