Our people

The board of Deafness Forum, elected by and representing the broad membership base, sets the direction and policy on key issues. 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 2020

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.

Cameron Miller, vice chair representing Auslan users

Cameron joined the board of Deafness Forum in November 2019.

He holds a Bachelor of Education and has taught at a number of schools in England and South East Queensland, most recently at Toowong State School.

Cameron has been on the organising committee of the last three Deaf Festivals, has worked with Queensland Association of the Deaf (QAD) and was the secretary for Queensland Deaf Rugby League. He is also a member of the Queensland Teachers Union and a Board Director of Deaf Culture Council Queensland.

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 the commericial advertising sector.

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.

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 represents Better Hearing Australia on the Hearing Health Sector Alliance.

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 in the:

  • World Hearing Forum, a group within World Health Organization
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme CEO Forum
  • Hearing Health Sector Alliance executive
  • Disability Support Services Committee, convened by the Department of Social Services
  • Paediatric Competency Standards working group
  • Hearing Services Inter-agency Communications Working Group (other members represent Department of Social Services, Health, Hearing Australia and NDIS); ​Disability Gateway Reference Group for the Department of Social Services; and speaks for consumers through the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations.

He is a member of Deafness Forum of Australia and a life-time member of Deaf Australia.

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

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