Our People

Banksia Gardens Community Services continues to impress with its track record of excellence in the delivery of community programs. The organisation’s work has been recognised both at a state and national level. This relatively small but dynamic organisation has managed to recruit some of the most inspiring and dedicated staff, who help to attract a wide range of local residents to get involved in the services offered.

Critical to the success of the organisation is the quality and commitment of its 40+ staff, who gather 290 years of experience in community development and education, speak 12 languages and who have allowed Banksia Gardens to partner with dozens of organisations of varying types and sizes over the last 10 years. The following section provides a summary of the skills and experience that the Banksia Gardens team bring to work every day.

Executive Management

Gina-DougallGina Dougall – CEO

BA Recreation, Dip Education, Dip Business Management, Dip Counselling

Gina brings extensive community, health and leadership experience to her role as CEO of Banksia Gardens Community Services. Her background has been in recreation management, community health and juvenile justice. Prior to commencing at Banksia Gardens in 2001, Gina spent 7 years living in Alice Springs where she was employed as Manager for Education and Training for Family Planning Northern Territory. Her role included much remote area work with indigenous Australians in remote communities. Her goal is to grow Banksia Gardens Community Services into the most innovative community services organisation in Victoria.


Jaime-de-Loma-Osorio-RiconJaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon – Deputy CEO Manager Community Development and Action Research

M.Sc. Applied Physics, Master of Engineering

Jaime has had a long association with Banksia Gardens, where he started volunteering as a Mathematics tutor almost a decade ago. In his role, Jaime has been responsible for the establishment of many of the organisation’s current programs and he has played a pivotal role in the $1.4m redevelopment of the organisation’s headquarters. Jaime’s interests are quite diverse and include social and environmental issues, science and languages. Jaime has been a volunteer translator with Greenpeace International for over 10 years and has sat on a number of not-for-profit boards.

Department of

Administration and Business Services

Samantha-DonaldsonSamantha Donaldson – Manager Administration, HR and Communications

Dip Business Management

Samantha came to Banksia Gardens in 2000 and over this time has watched its amazing development into the thriving and buzzing organisation it is today. Starting as a work for the dole participant, Samantha soon became the Administration Assistant. To her current role of Manager Administration, HR and Communications, Samantha brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her 14 years in the community sector. Outside of Banksia Gardens, Samantha’s background is in professional dance and choreography. She is a proud mum of two boys, and has a passion for graphic design.

Natasha-HarbyNatasha Harby – Administration Assistant (Payroll/ACFE)

Cert III Business Administration

Natasha commenced at Banksia Gardens in 2004 as a work for the dole participant. With her contagiously warm and friendly personality and open hearted customer service skills, she joined the Banksia Gardens team as the Administration Assistant, furthering her skills to encompass payroll and ACFE student reporting. Natasha has recently moved with her family and is enjoying her new home and in the process of organising her upcoming wedding.

Dhammika-JayawardeneDhammika Jayawardene – Administration Assistant (Special Projects)

Adv Dip Business Management

Dhammika’s first involvement with Banksia Gardens was in mid-2013 as the placement component of her studies. We quickly noticed her exceptional customer service skills and dedication to her work with all encompassing warm and welcoming nature; thus leading her to join the team as Administration Assistant. Dhammika recently completed her Advanced Diploma of Business Management with RMIT.


Department of

Training and Employment

Rana-TbailehRana Tbaileh – Manager Training and Employment

PhD Engineering, Adv Dip Business Management, Cert IV TAE, Cert IV TESOL

Rana was first involved in Banksia Gardens as a volunteer tutor, soon becoming a Project Coordinator in the Community Development Department. Working at Banksia Gardens has allowed Rana to pursue her passion in the education and teaching field, demonstrated through her role as an adult trainer and extensive experience, which led her to her current role as ACFE Training Manager. Rana enjoys the friendly, supportive and team spirit that shines at Banksia Gardens, and is looking forwards to future development both personally and professionally  through her career.

Carlos-AcevedoCarlos Acevedo – Work Skills Coordinator

Carlos joined the Banksia Gardens team in early 2014 as the Work Skills Coordinator. Before this, Carlos worked with National Green Jobs Corp and ADE’s for 5 years in the landscaping and maintenance industry, conducting courses that empower young people to want to be employed. Carlos now brings his skills to older people who seek a career path to achieve employment or gain skills and attitude required to be a part of the employed sector. Carlos has a TAFE background in teaching automotive mechanics and understands that the needs for individuals are far different than running a program that suits one person. This  flexibility allows  for  a wider scope of training for job seekers.














Miriam Johnson – Computers Tutor

BA, Grad Dip TESOL, Assoc Dip Social Science, Dip Programming Technology, Cert IV TAE

Miriam has been training students in computers for 13 years, the past 9 years at Banksia Gardens. She started her working life as a nurse and has extensive experience in the community sector. As a nurse, Miriam had little knowledge of computers, she trained as a programmer and was opened to the amazing potential. Miriam strongly believes her two fields are not so disparate as good health is about connectedness and computers are a great way for people to connect.

Jamil-El-SabaynJamil El Sabayn – Tutor


Jamil came to Australia as a skilled migrant in 2005 with a Masters in Engineering. Jamil worked as an electrical engineer for more than 16 years. Settling was a very stressful and challenging time for his family, where they were faced with many life changes. Though he enjoyed the technical aspects of engineering, Jamil wanted a better work/life balance, and chose the teaching industry to help new migrants and refugees overcome the hardship of a new life in Australia. He wanted to assist people to participate more in Australian life through acquiring English skills, and make a positive difference in peoples lives. Jamil is now part of the Banksia Gardens team as an EAL and computer tutor.

Department of

Community Development and Action Research

Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon – Deputy CEO / Manager Community Development and Action Research

Please see Executive Management


Mandy-EllisMandy Ellis – Education and Youth Development Coordinator

BA Arts, Dip Edu, Grad Dip Dance and Movement Therapy, Grad Dip Librarianship and Information Management

Mandy commenced in the role of coordinating Study Groups and the Holiday Program at Banksia Gardens in mid-2013. Her career has always involved working with children and young people in a variety of professional fields including teaching, disability services, child care, welfare work, librarianship and community development. She is passionate about the development of young people’s literacy. She loves interior decorating and photography, as well as winter holidays at the beach doing a bit of whale watching!



Kelly Alexander – Community Development Projects Coordinator

BA Women’s Studies, Dip Youth Work, MA Creative Arts (Choreography)

Kelly began volunteering with Banksia in 2012 and in her current role oversees the organisation’s Community Development projects including the Good People Act Now and Girls Group programs. She has a long history of working with young people in the arts and social justice and is a passionate feminist. In her spare time Kelly is learning how to build things out of wood.


Georgina Wheeler – Youth Pathways Coordinator

Georgina’s involvement at Banksia Gardens began in early 2015 as a volunteer assisting with the development of a social enterprise hub at the centre. Currently Georgina is employed to coordinate and co-present Environmentality (a radio program with an environmental/social justice theme), to manage the Bicycle Hub and the Community Garden, and to coordinate the development of the social enterprises. While working at Banksia, Georgina is completing a double undergraduate degree in Public Health and International Development. Georgina loves animals, travelling and learning languages. In the future she would like to pursue a career in social enterprise, as she strongly believes that training and employment opportunities are powerful means for transforming lives.

NaomiNaomi Brouwer – Aiming High Coordinator

BA Creative Arts, MA Education (Applied Theatre)

Throughout her career Naomi has worked with young people in creating arts and community based projects, events and intitiatives. With a background in theatre making and education, she is passionate about providing opportunity and support to young people. She is pretty happy about being able to do both these things in her current role as Aiming High coordinator.

Nicole-BlythNicole Blyth – Family Learning Partnership Coordinator

BA Humanities, BSW (hons)

Nicole is a social worker with a background in the Arts and a passion for social justice. Her practice is supported by feminist principles and she’s previously worked in women’s housing, family violence, mental health and employment services. Nicole has spent the past 2 years focusing on linking primary school families in Hume with universities across Melbourne and is excited to join Banksia Gardens in partnership with BVPS. Nicole loves yoga, the Balkans, film and spending time with her family.


Michael Mansour – Kenley Court Neighbourhood House Coordinator

Master of Social Science (International Development), Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

Michael is a community development practitioner with a background in engineering. Currently with BGCS and through the Edge Learning Alliance, Michael works at two school community hubs focusing on parents and community engagement. Previously, he was a Project and Community Development Worker in Sudan for three years working with marginalized and ethnic groups in the education, health and social sectors. Michael also volunteered in several community development projects in Egypt, Philippines and Australia. His practice is influenced by participatory principles and approaches to development.  He has a strong passion towards social justice that he participated in the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. Michael loves reading, travelling and connecting with different people from different backgrounds cultures.

Paul-LaidlawPaul Laidlaw – Youth Engagement Officer

Cert III Education Support

Paul first started at Banksia Gardens as a volunteer in the Disability Ambassadors Project, and commenced volunteering in the Study groups at the end of 2013. Paul joined the team in early 2014, Coordinating the Craigieburn Library Study Group and supporting the Study Groups based at Banksia Gardens. He enjoys working in different programs with a variety of students and environments.

beltana-handyBeltana Handy – Youth Engagement Officer

Beltana started at Banksia Gardens in late 2013. She led previously worked in administration roles but in the future plans to study in a degree related to children such as child care or youth services. In her work with the Study Groups she enjoys “helping all the kids out from all different walks of life and meeting new people along the way”. She lives locally with her sister and son, and loves going back to the country to see her family. She enjoys photography, art, netball and horror films.


Igor Pejic – Youth Engagement Officer

Igor joined the Banksia Gardens team to facilitate the youth Computer Clubs and the Boys Zone group, he also supports the School Holiday Program. Igor is currently studying a Bachelor Degree in Paramedicine with the aim of becoming a paramedic. He has lived in Broadmeadows for years and was a past participant at Banksia Gardens as a young person.

Tash-AlabakovTash Alabakov – Youth Engagement Officer

BA Public Health and Health Promotion

Tash started at Banksia Gardens in 2012 as a volunteer running basketball sessions for kids attending the Centre on Friday afternoons, and has since been involved in many youth related activities and outreach programs. Tash’s passions lie in sport and youth work, but has since found a keen interest in disability after being a part of the successful Disability Ambassadors Project. She ran a fantastic sports carnival during Youth Week 2013 and currently facilitates a recreation class for VCAL students from Hume Valley School, along with helping out at the Study Groups and Holiday Program.




Cecilia-De-Los-SantosCecilia De Los Santos – Girls Circle Facilitator

Cert IV Community Services Work

Cecilia first came to Banksia Gardens to undertake her student placement with the Girls Circle program in early 2013, and joined the team in 2014 to now facilitate the program. She is currently completing a Diploma of Community Services Work, and thoroughly enjoys the energy of Banksia Gardens and working with its culturally diverse clients. Cecilia loves summer holidays at the beach with family and friends.

Sheena-MathiesonSheena Mathieson – Facilitator

BA French, MBus Organisational Behaviour, DA Visual Arts

Sheena is a Melbourne based artist who is passionate about the beauty found and stimulating the creation and appreciation of art amongst others. As a parent of a 20 year old women with a ‘disability’, Sheena has incorporated into her business the facilitation of the creation and appreciation of ‘art’ (in the broadest sense of the word) amongst people of all abilities and all ages. She is skilled at promoting a love of art and life through interaction, facilitated art (one on one or group) and other events.