The board of Deafness Forum Australia, elected by and representing a national membership of individuals and organisations, sets the direction and policy on key issues.
The board ensures that Deafness Forum 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.
The Executive in 2023
David Brady, chairperson
David joined the board in 2011 and was first elected chairperson in 2012.
He was born with 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.
Michelle Courts, vice chair
Michelle became a director of the Deafness Forum in 2014.
She 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.
Jennifer Clemesha, director
Jennifer joined the Board in 2023.
Jen is an experienced professional in the not-for-profit and public healthcare sector. She is a qualified chartered accountant and started her career in big 4 accounting specialising in not-for-profit and middle market entities, advising businesses on audit compliance and process improvements.
Having a special interest in hearing from her family history of hearing loss, she then retrained as an Audiologist and has spent 8 years working with adults and children with severe to profound deafness in some of London’s busiest hospitals. Her work there inspired her to complete certificate II in British Sign Language. She returned to Australia in 2021, and after a short stint at the National Acoustic Laboratories, now works for Cochlear Ltd.
She has two young children, one of whom is on the autism spectrum. Her personal experiences have fuelled her passion for evidence-based, patient-centred, and neurodiverse affirming disability services.
Catherine Morgan, director
Catherine was elected to the board in 2022.
She is a passionate audiologist with more than 15 years’ experience encompassing clinical practice with hearing impaired children and adults, clinical evidence generation for hearing technology innovations – leading international multicenter studies, more recently executive leadership of NAL’s Clinical Trials business model creating functional strategies, sound governance.
The role excited me both with respect to the individual challenges associated with attending to the growing issue of hearing health and wellbeing and the collective opportunity to make a difference across the wider community.
“I have worked in range of industries within health operating in highly regulated areas, both for-profit listed and not-for-profit organisations, I have an appreciation for the requirements associated within each, specifically, a high number of stakeholders, policy frameworks, long-term strategic thinking and analysis and integrity.”
Rhonda Locke, director
Rhonda joined the board of Deafness Forum at the 2020 Annual General Meeting to represent the views of people with ear and balance disorders.
She is the Director of a commercial marketing agency and has consulted to government and industry on strategies to increase company, product and personal brand equity, establish and reposition brands, launch new products, increase market share and grow digital and social media influence.
She has lived with Meniere’s for 20 years.
Dwin Tucker, director and treasurer
Dwin joined the board in 2020.
He has been a CEO of eight organisations from large to small, especially bringing financial, strategy and technology background to the roles. He has also been a director and chair of many other organisations including his current role as Vice President of Medecins Sans Frontieres Australia.
He funds two annual prizes for best HSC student in NSW with a hearing impairment and best tertiary paper in the field of hearing research.
Dwin has a Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business and FAICD.
He became involved in the deafness community first when working as an Interim CEO of the Australian Communications Exchange which then ran Australia’s National Relay Services. He subsequently became an owner of Clearasound which is the supplier and servicer of TTY’s and a leading installer of hearing loops and school hearing systems.
Raelene Walker, vice chair
Rae Walker joined the board in 2018.
She 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 tinnitus 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.
Barry MacKinnon, director
Barry became a director of the Deafness Forum in 2022.
He has been actively working on behalf of Deaf and Hearing Impaired people for more than 30 years.
He was a key figure in the establishment of an organisation called ‘Parents United to Support Hearing Impaired Children’. He was until recently the President of the Deafness Council, and also a chair of the state’s Disability Services Commission.
Barry continues to provide advice, guidance, and policy suggestions to various Deafness Forum policy papers and positions to the Commonwealth Government.
He spent 6 years as leader of the West Australia Liberal Party and Leader of the Opposition between 1986 and 1992.
In 1997 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to people with hearing impairment. He also received a Centenary Medal in 2001. He is an Hon. Life Member of Deafness Forum Australia.
Steve Williamson, chief executive
Steve Williamson is the 4th chief executive officer of Deafness Forum Australia.
Before this, he headed corporate relations and marketing for the peak bodies representing the road freight sector and the engineering profession; and was government liaison for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV Marketing. He was a journalist and presenter for the ABC, and co-winner of a United Nations Association of Australia Media Peace Award. Steve has also worked as a supermarket shelf-stacker, a brickworks labourer, cross-country ski instructor, and is a volunteer for Vinnies.
His job is to represent Deafness Forum in the:
- World Hearing Forum, a group within World Health Organization
- editorial committee of the WHO publication, “News from the World Hearing Forum”
- International Federation of Hard of Hearing People
- National Disability Insurance Scheme CEO Forum
- Hearing Health Sector Alliance
- Paediatric Competency Standards working group; and
- speaks for consumers through the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.