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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 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 15 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 Dougall GAICD

Chief Executive Officer
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 seven 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. Her goal is to grow Banksia Gardens Community Services into the most innovative community services organisation in Victoria. In 2017, Gina graduated from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon

Deputy Chief Executive Officer, co-director NCESE
M.Sc. Applied Physics, Master of Engineering

Jaime has had a long association with Banksia Gardens, where he started volunteering as a mathematics tutor a decade ago. In his role, Jaime has been responsible for the establishment of many of the organisation’s current programs and he played a pivotal role in the 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 11 years and has sat on a number of not-for-profit boards.

Management

Samantha Donaldson

Manager People, Finance and Operations
Adv Dip Business Management
Samantha came to Banksia Gardens in late 2000 as a work for the dole participant, and quickly became the Administration Assistant. To her current role, Samantha brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from her 17 years in the community sector. With a strong passion for graphic design, her self-taught skills are put to use at Banksia. Samantha loves reading, architecture and interior design. Outside of work, she is a proud mum to two boys.

Rana 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 education trainer and extensive experience, which led her to her current role. Rana enjoys the friendly, supportive and team spirit that shines at Banksia Gardens, and is looking forward to future developments, both personally and professionally through her career.

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. Before joining Banksia Gardens, Michael was a project and community development worker in Sudan for three years, working with marginalised and ethic 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. His strong passion for social justice led him to participate in the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. Michael loves reading, travelling and connecting with people from different  backgrounds.

Edgar Caballero Aspe

Education and Youth Development Coordinator
PhD Philosophy, Master of Science (Environmental Biology), Grad Cert Marine and Coastal Sciences, Bachelor of Science (Marine Biology)

Edgar has a strong background in education and biological sciences. He has many years of experience teaching and working with multicultural youth from Mexico, the United States and Australia. Edgar complete his PhD in Environmental Education, researching his interest in creating innovative and educative experiences and opportunities for young people. He is part of a network of emerging environmental leaders after participating in the ‘Global Environmental Summer Academy’ in Switzerland. He loves speaking languages, like his native Spanish, about different cultures of the world and sharing his Mexican food skills. Edgar also has a moving background that includes acrobatics and dance, and firmly believes that movement and creative expressions are essential elements for learning.

Seral Fehmi

Lead Teacher at Project REAL
BA Youth Studies, Grad Dip Education (Secondary)
Seral joined the Project REAL team in 2019 and has an extensive background in student wellbeing, re-engagement programs and community partnerships. Her 15 years in mainstream schools have included a diverse range of roles starting out in education support before completing her studies and moving into teaching and student wellbeing, and then taking on a leadership position in Student Wellbeing and Community Partnerships. Seral has also worked with many schools across Victoria during her time working for Hands on Learning as a Schools Partnership Manager, where she assisted schools to set up and implement their own onsite re-engagement programs for students needing an alternative learning experience to strengthen their connection with school. Seral brings with her a love for experiential learning and her passion for improving the lives of children, young people and families through school engagement. You will also find Seral supporting many of our local community members at Banksia Gardens as she has a strong commitment to social work and social justice.

Christie Sinclair GAICD

WHS Officer & COVID-19 Safety Officer, Facilities Maintenance Coordinator
Dip Frontline Management, Cert IV TAE, Cert Training and Development, Cert Effective Personal Leadership, Cert HR Management

Christie came to Banksia Gardens in 2016 on a work for the dole program. He has had a vast and varied background and brings a wealth of experience, including two decades in the entertainment industry, leadership, human resources and senior management roles, and 10 years as a self-employed learning and development consultant where he designed and facilitated learning programs for thousands of participants. Christie is also considered to be extremely hands on which gives him the ability to build just about anything. In his spare time he enjoys music, computers and spending time with family, especially jamming with his son.

Naomi Brouwer

Social cohesion through education Engagement officer
BA Creative Arts, MA Education (Applied Theatre)

Naomi is an artist and educator with a socially engaged practice who has taught, directed and collaborated with community and cultural organisations such Signal, City of Melbourne, Footscray Community Arts Centre, St Martins Youth Arts Centre, Melbourne City Mission and Canberra Youth Theatre. Her work is grounded in a humanistic philosophy and an inclusive participant-centred approach to creativity and learning.

Her role at Banksia Gardens for the Social Cohesion through Education Project involves conceiving and delivering responsive, school-based arts and education programs, events and initiatives. She is currently the Artistic Director of Flag Inc., a performance-making arts collective with a focus on pursuing cross-cultural and intergenerational connections.

Georgia Ransome

Gender Equity Coordinator
Bachelor of Health Sciences

Georgia first came to Banksia Gardens in 2017 as a volunteer for the GPAN Project. She undertook her final university placement in the same year with the Community Development team. She continued to volunteer for GPAN for a number of years and first stepped into the role of Gender Equity Coordinator in 2020. She is a passionate feminist and committed to helping create a gender equitable future.

Georgia loves travelling,  DIY home renovations and spending time with her family, friends and her dog, Ollie.

Tash Alabakov

Youth Engagement Officer
Bachelor of Health Promotion, Cert Education Support

Tash first came to Banksia Gardens Community Services as a volunteer in mid 2012, assisting in Study Groups and encouraging friendly competition in weekly pick up games on the outdoor basketball court with local youth. She has since become one of Banksia Gardens’ Youth Engagement Officers, leading the Youth Transitions Program and supporting newly arrived young people into work, study and volunteer opportunities. Tash also helps facilitate various primary and high school activities as part of Social Cohesion Through Education projects.

Tash has worked in schools and local councils, and she loves all sports. Tash hopes to empower and engage local youth in making lifestyle choices that impact positively on their health, and encourages youth-led participation in projects and programs. 

Paul Atkinson

Youth Justice and Community Support Coordinator
Master of Peace and Conflict Studies
Paul is a social worker with 20 years’ experience in community service organisations. During that time Paul has worked in direct service roles, policy and advocacy and leadership. Paul moved to Melbourne from Western Australia in 2006 and has worked predominantly in housing and homelessness, including crisis accommodation and with justice-involved people of all ages and their families. Paul has a masters of peace and conflict studies and is a trained mediator, interested in transformational conflict resolution. Paul started working at BGCS in August 2020.

Jonathan Chee

Chief Storyteller and WPI Coordinator
BA (Philosophy), Grad Dip Ed, AssocDeg Prof Writ & Edit, Cert IV TAE, CELTA
Jono has been part of the Banksia family for most of the last decade, and prior to that worked in education and community services for the preceding six years in Victoria and New South Wales. Jono now oversees communications at Banksia Gardens, the first time in the organisation’s forty-plus years of operation that a dedicated role has existed, and loves to share the extraordinary stories of achievement, resilience and impact at Banksia. Jono is also the local coordinator for Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) Melbourne Project Centre, and helps to coordinate 18 teams of WPI students each year to do projects with organisations in Melbourne.

Eric Dommers

Co-Director, Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE)
Doctor of education

Prior to taking up a role as Co-Director, Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE), Eric worked at the Brotherhood of St Laurence Research & Policy Centre as Principal Research Fellow, Inclusive Education – where he also worked on the evaluation of Project REAL. Prior to that, Eric worked at the University of Melbourne, as Barr Research Fellow, School of Social and Political Sciences, and as Evaluation Manager – Social Inclusion Projects, Queensland Department of Communities.

In addition to working in evaluation and research roles, Eric also has an extensive background in health and education, with roles including Manager, Organisational Health, Queensland Department of Education; Principal Policy Advisor, Primary Health Care & General Practice, with Qld Health; Director of Strategic Research; QDGP; CEO, Brisbane Inner South Division of General Practice; Director, National Nutrition Education in Schools project, Queensland University of Technology; and Schools Programs Manager, National Heart Foundation (Vic).

Eric has a doctorate in Education, as well as qualifications in evaluation from Melbourne University, and Project Management.

Business Services Team

Samantha Donaldson

Manager Business, HR and Communications

Dhammika Jayawardene

Business Assistant

Natasha Downes

Business Assistant

Mark Rice

IT Consultant

Training and Employment Team

Rana Tbaileh

Manager Training and Employment

Jamil El Sabayn

Adult Education tutor

Fatme Al Rai

Adult Education Tutor
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Nella Centorbi

Adult Education Tutor

Usama Al Ogidi

Adult Education Tutor

Mathew Colbourn

Adult Education Tutor

Miriam Johnson

Adult Education Tutor

Miriam Johnson

Adult Education Tutor

Kenley Court Neighbourhood House Team

Michael Mansour

Kenley Court Neighbourhood House Coordinator
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Nella Centorbi

Adult Education Tutor

Thaera Yonan

Toward equality and beyond facilitator, Administration Assistant

Soni Baidar

Toward equality and beyond facilitator
Gargandeep Sharma

Gagandeep Sharma

Toward equality and beyond facilitator
Vivian Haya

Vivian Haya

Youth Justice and Community Support team

Paul Atkinson

Youth Justice and Community Support Coordinator

Melodie Radatti

Youth Arts & SCTE Engagement Officer

Emily Sporik

Case manager, gender equity Officer

Channa De Silva

Youth Engagement Officer

Naomi Georgiadis

Youth engagement officer

Saida Nur

Youth and Community Support WOrker

NCESE & Project REAL Team

Seral Fehmi

Lead Teacher

Claudia Spinnler

Family and Student Support Worker

Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon

Deputy Chief Executive Officer, co-director NCESE
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Eric Dommers

Co-Director Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement

Eamonn Murphy

Project REAL Teacher

Fiona Kerr

Project REAL Teacher

Ta Tupou

Youth engagement officer

Belinda Lee

Project REAL Teacher

Lilian Walker

Youth engagement officer
Family and Student Support Worker

Stephanie Bruce

Youth engagement officer

Gender Equity Team

Georgia Ransome

Gender Equality Coordinator

Emily Sporik

Gender Equality Officer

Study Group Team

Edgar Caballero Aspe

Education and Youth Development Coordinator

Chun Liang

education tutor

Aiming High VCE Support Team

Chun Liang

education tutor

Marie Spyros

Aiming high program coordinator

Social Cohesion Through Education

Naomi Brouwer

SCTE Engagement Officer

Tash Alabakov

Youth Engagement Officer

Melodie Radatti

Youth Arts & SCTE Engagement Officer

Community Development Programs Team

Ann Pavlovic

Great Young Movers coordinator

Derya Secgin

Great Young Movers Assistant Facilitator

The Common Bean Cafe Team

Filiz Arslan

Cafe Trainee

Hansani Patabendige

Cafe Trainee

Tod Myles

Facility Team

Puspa Acharya

Cleaner

Ambar Chhettri

Cleaner

Harry Sahin

Hallkeeper