Our people

The board of Deafness Forum sets the direction and policy on key issues, based on the consensus of our members. It ensures the organisation is focused on its purpose and strategic objectives, and manages its resources efficiently and effectively for the future. The composition of the Board reflects the broad nature of the deafness sector. The directors’ various life experiences and professional expertise, coupled with the Deafness Forum’s activities and consultative processes, ensure the organisation has the authority to respond to key issues common to the entire deafness sector.

Deafness Forum chairpersons since its inception in 1993

  • Libby Harricks AM
  • Dereck Ward
  • Cath Bonnes AM
  • Stan Batson
  • Margaret Roberston
  • Alex Jones
  • David Brady

The Executive in 2019

David Brady, chairperson

David Brady

David was born with a profound hearing loss and wears two hearing aids. He was raised in Armidale in country NSW and remains a passionate New Englander.

He has a Master of Science and Graduate Diploma in Project Management. He is the chief executive of an organisation that provides mentoring programs for deaf teenagers.

David represented Australia at the 2005 Deaflympic Games in water polo and has coached in mainstream sports at the representative level.

David is Deafness Forum’s 7th chairperson.

Jordanna Smith, vice chair

Jordanna Smith

Jordanna’s family knew she was profoundly deaf at one year old. She learnt sign language as her main mode of communication.

After completing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, she decided to make the move from her home in the U.S. to Australia. She then transitioned from American Sign Language to Auslan.

Jordanna works in employment coordination.

She has a child with cochlear implants and her daughter has access to Auslan as well as listening & speech.

Beatrice Tarnawski, vice chair

Beatrice Tarnawski

Beatrice was diagnosed in 2007 with the ear disorder Ménière’s Disease. She has unilateral hearing loss, tinnitus and vestibular damage, so in addition to hearing impairment Beatrice is challenged by an ever-present sensation of disequilibrium.

It is this balance dysfunction and associated symptoms that she most wishes to highlight as she represents ear disorders on the executive board.

Beatrice has worked in advertising creative for Saatchi & Saatchi, Y&R, McCann Erikson and DDB.

Michelle Courts, director

Michelle Courts

Michelle is a parent of two sons, one of whom experienced unilateral hearing loss at the age of seven.

A Registered Nurse, Michelle holds a Master & Bachelor of Nursing and a Diploma in Management. She specialised in Paediatric and Community nursing, with a sound understanding of the disability sector and the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. She has worked in community aged care, specialising in supporting individuals at home with health and social engagement taking a social view of health and welfare.

Michelle represents Deafness Forum on the Australasian Newborn Hearing Screening Committee.

Alexander Phillips, director

Alexander Phillips

Alex was born profoundly deaf. With little success with powerful hearing aids, he received a Cochlear Implant at three and a half years of age. The success of his Cochlear Implant enabled him to attend mainstream schooling and university where he completed a bachelor and master’s degree in Economics, Finance and Accounting.

Alex is determined to ensure that deaf and hearing impaired people are empowered to achieve their potential and enjoy the same quality of life afforded to hearing people. His first opportunity to contribute to this goal was co-founding a youth mentoring group in Adelaide known as WHISPA (Web of Hearing Impaired Students and Peer Alliance).

Alex currently leads Deafness Forum’s Finance and Audit committee. His service in this role was recognised by the Commonwealth Bank Awards to Treasurers in the Not For Profit Sector.

Jeff Johnson, director

Jeff was a mathematics teacher at Wesley College, South Perth and with his wife Lesley, taught language to their deaf son Rhys to the point where he now speaks publicly to other deaf people.

In the 1970’s he attended London University where he studied mathematics at Birkbeck College. He also ran the sports gymnasium/swimming pool at University of London Union in Bloomsbury.

Jeff has always taught his students to trust themselves and their decisions after getting all information needed for their individual situations.

Raelene Walker, director

Rae Walker is a career STEM educator with extensive experience teaching in Secondary and University education. She currently works as an academic specialist and pastoral care support Teacher of the Deaf at Shenton College Deaf Education Centre in Western Australia.

Rae was born hearing but an illness left her profoundly deaf as an adult. She also suffers from severe tinnutis and episodic vertigo.

She has a Degree in Education – Science/Math Specialist, Diplomas in Human Resource Management and Auslan and is currently enrolled in a Masters of Education at the University of Western Australia.

Her particular interests as a Director of Deafness Forum are inclusive education, mental health and access to services.


Anthony Whelan, director

Anthony Whelan

Tony is the National President of Better Hearing Australia, a not-for-profit organisation providing information, advocacy and support for people with hearing loss.

With a professional background in psychology, Tony has more than two decades’ experience in human services in such diverse areas as youth, justice, housing & homelessness, refugee settlement and disability.

He is training for the Boston Marathon in 2019.

Tony is a member of Deafness Forum’s Finance and Audit committee.

Steve Williamson, chief executive

Steve (at right) is Deafness Forum of Australia‘s chief executive officer.

He represents Deafness Forum on the WHO World Hearing Forum, National Disability Insurance Scheme’s CEO Forum, Hearing Health Sector Alliance executive; and speaks for consumers through membership of Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

Before this he headed corporate relations and marketing for the peak bodies representing the road freight sector and the engineering profession; and government liaison for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV Marketing unit.

His career began as a journalist. He was a co-winner of a United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award.