Our People

Dr Nicole Bluett-Boyd brings her experience in community development, strategic governance, and intersectional policy work to Alola Australia.  Nicole is a criminologist with extensive research history in gender-based violence in Australia, and in Timor-Leste.  She was inspired to contribute to the work of Alola Australia after witnessing the innovative ideas of Timorese communities during several visits to Timor-Leste, including living there for most of 2014.  Her work on community-led responses to family violence in Timor-Leste bolstered her belief that enhancing the strengths and capacities of women is central to the development, and prosperity, of communities. Nicole joined the Board in March 2015.

Maria Bohan joined the Board in July 2011 and is the Co-Chair of the Board.  Her interest in Timor-Leste began in 1975 when Indonesia invaded and she was active in the Australian based campaign for independence.  She has education and community development qualifications and worked for eight years in development education of Australians about issues of global injustice.  Maria was the CEO of the state-wide peak body Carers Victoria for seventeen years.  She is keen to contribute her governance, advocacy, and education and training expertise to support Alola Australia’s work.

Nandy Gurr’s interest in Timor-Leste began in 2004 when her husband, Steve, went there to work for 5 years.  Whenever Nandy herself visited she would go to Fundasaun Alola and it was through Steve that she met Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmão AO. Nandy encouraged her church community and her friends to support fundraising ventures in Timor-Leste, as for example, school feeding programs, books in Tetum, building a preschool, new classrooms for schools, and children’s activity centres at Dili and Baucau Hospitals. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 Nandy co-hosted with Kirsty, Study Tours to Timor-Leste offering participants opportunities to meet Timorese leaders and learn about the country.  Nandy contributes diverse skills and energy to assist Alola Australia’s important partnership with Fundasaun Alola.

Breanna Guterres joined the board in September 2020. Breanna’s connection to Timor-Leste is through her father, who came to Australia in 1975 as a refugee after the Indonesian invasion. Breanna is a Communications professional in the NFP sector and has a history of working in strong, female-led organisations. Breanna is currently the Communications Manager at Eating Disorders Victoria. Breanna brings her marketing, communications and fundraising experience to Alola Australia and is supporting the elevation of Alola’s digital presence.

Stephen Lavender joined the Board in August 2017 and has been appointed Treasurer of Alola Australia. Stephen has a decades long interest in issues of international justice, including with Timor-Leste one of our nearest neighbours. Stephen believes that Australia has a unique link and special responsibility to support Timor-Leste.  Knowing that supporting women achieve justice and equitable development is recognized as being of crucial importance, Stephen is keen to support the work of Fundasaun Alola and Alola Australia.  Stephen has over 20 years’ experience in financial management in the Not For Profit sector and currently volunteers and serves on Boards in several Not For Profit agencies, inc Oxfam, New Internationalist and the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre.

Jacky Mandelbaum joined the Board in October 2016. During her time at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment in New York, she worked on projects in Timor-Leste looking in particular at how to leverage the oil investments for sustainable development. Jacky learned of the important and high impact work done by Fundasaun Alola after having her first child and is keen to support the women in Timor-Leste. She has worked as a lawyer in corporate law for 15 years on litigation, commercial law and governance. When in New York Jacky looked at how to maximise the impacts of international investment for sustainable development.

Natalie Savin joined the Board in June 2014.   She is Company Secretary and Convenor of the Audit and Risk Management Committee. Natalie became involved in Timor-Leste issues in 1975. Her background is in health and welfare, with senior executive roles in local and state government followed by similar roles in a number of not for profit organisations.  Natalie has maintained a long interest in oral health and continues to advocate for increased access to affordable services.  She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of North Richmond Community Health Limited.

Helen Skinner is Co-Chair of the board and has a general interest in development across the Asia-Pacific region, particularly as it relates to the lives of women and children. She is passionate about promoting gender equality, diversity and inclusion and is excited about contributing to strong governance in the Not-for-Profit sector. Helen currently works in PwC’s Risk Assurance practice and has 13 years’ experience in providing internal audit, risk management and compliance services across pubic and Not-for-Profit organisations. Helen is an active member of PwC’s gender equality committee. Helen joined the Board in February 2016.

Sue Lee is Alola’s Administration Manager and works in the role for 8-hours per week. In 2010 Sue Lee read a magazine article about Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmāo AO.  She immediately purchased Alola Australia vouchers as gifts for friends.  Not long after this there was a notice in Alola’s newsletter seeking someone to assist with its publication.  For 8 years Sue designed the newsletters – all the time learning more and more about the women and children in Timor-Leste. Sue became the Administration Manager in November 2020. Sue brings 40 years of administration experience in not-for-profit organisations to the role.

Avo Advisers are respected elder women who have or have had, a particular association with Timor-Leste and/or Fundasaun Alola. They are appointed by the Board and their role is to provide wise counsel on Alola Australia’s activities, especially on matters that may require sensitivity and reconciliation. The term ‘avo’ is from the Tetum term avo feto meaning grandmother or avo ferik meaning old woman, it is a term or respect.

Avos may meet as an advisory group or may be approached individually.

Unless the Board determines otherwise, the appointment of Avos will be until the resignation of the Avo.

Alola Australia’s Avos are:

Christine Perkins met Timorese refugees in Melbourne in 1980 and has had an interest in Timor-Leste’s struggle for self-determination and development ever since. She has been involved in various organisations supporting the people of Timor-Leste as an activist and community development worker and has designed and managed NGO Capacity Building Projects as well as managing a volunteer program for Timor-Leste.  Christine believes in the dignity of each and every person. As an experienced development practitioner, knowledgeable in contemporary development theory, she has been involved in providing training in a variety of development contexts. Christine returned to the Board in February 2015 (she was the first Chair of the Board in 2008) after stepping down in December 2014 from the role as Alola Australia’s Administration Manager. Christine stepped down from Alola Australia board in May 2021.

Jill Forsyth is one of the founders of Alola Australia and was on the Board for four years until 2012.  She is a former midwife and business women and has contributed these skills significantly to Alola.  She is a member of the Rotary Club of Kew and leads the bi-annual Garden DesignFest which supports Alola.  She is also coordinator of the MILK campaign and is passionate about Alola’s Maternity Packs.  She also supports women’s business initiatives in Timor-Leste including the Baucau soap producers and the recycled paper enterprise KorTimor.

Rosalie Sword is a teacher and her belief is that education is the right of all citizens, regardless of ethnic or socio-economic background. Her commitment to social justice has stood her in good stead in providing support to her daughter, Kirsty Sword Gusmão.  When Kirsty set up the Alola Foundation to contribute to the development of women and children in Timor-Leste, Rosalie was there from the beginning, calling on Australians to do what they could to assist Alola’s work in Timor-Leste. Rosalie was also a mainstay of the Australia East Timor Friendship School Project and in 2002 together with Kirsty set up the ‘Nio-Rosalia’ Pre-school near Dare in Timor-Leste. She personally mentored and assisted the local teachers to provide a child-centred and stimulating learning environment.

Melanie Atkins has been involved with Alola since 2006.  After a volunteering holiday in Timor-Leste she began working with the then Alola Foundation in Melbourne. She then went on to work with a great group of women to establish Alola Australia in its own entity and with the aim of supporting Fundasaun Alola’s work in Timor-Leste.  She was on the Board for three years until 2010 and now continues her significant voluntary involvement in fundraising events and support with administration management.  She continues to visit Timor-Leste.

Jan Donovan joined the Board in March 2010 and was formally the Deputy Chair. Jan has visited Timor-Leste many times and lived there in 2008/09 while working at the Dili International School as the English Language Coordinator. She is committed to the alleviation of poverty in Timor- Leste and to supporting women’s and children’s access to education. Jan has held several senior policy and executive positions in the community sector and is skilled in governance through her work on not-for-profit health Boards. Jan is currently a member and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of the Consumers Health Forum Board and was recently appointed by the Minister for Health to the Ehealth Implementation Taskforce Steering Committee. She is a health consumer advocate and an advocate for women’s and children’s education.

Wendy Mayne was a member of the Board from 2010 to 2014 and has remained an active volunteer and Avo since then. Wendy is committed to Alola Australia continuing to practice a genuine and respectful partnership with Fundasaun Alola, is keen to promote awareness and to facilitate the participation of the Australian community in supporting the great work of Fundasaun Alola. Wendy is a member of the newsletter production and facebook administration teams and the project group set up to promote the sale of Timorese handcrafts in Australia. Wendy studied international community development at Victoria University. Her expertise lies in children’s rights and child protection.

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