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Our People

Banksia Gardens Community Services continues to impress with its track record of excellence in the delivery of education and community programs. The organisation’s work has been recognised at a local, state and national level.

This 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 75+ staff, who gather 500 years of experience in community development and education, speak 23 languages and who have allowed Banksia Gardens to partner with dozens of organisations of varying types and sizes over the last 44 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
M. Public HeaLth, Australian institute of comany directors Graduate, BA Recreation, Dip Education, Dip Business Management, Dip Counselling

Gina serves on several boards an committees in the region, with roles on the board of Broadmeadows Revitalisation, North West Metropolitan Partnership, Neighbourhood House Victoria and Hume Jobs Taskforce. Gina has held previous positions as Chair of the Hume Victoria and Hume Jobs Taskforces, Chair of the Hume Whittlesea LLEN and Chair of the Hume early years partnership. Gina holds a Masters of Public Health, along with formal qualifications in arts, education and business management. She has been admitted as a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is passionate about Health and loves her role as a board member on Sunbury Cobalt Community Health. Gina is a passionate supporter of the Saints, has three adult children and is a grandmother.

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.

Georgina Wheeler

MANAGER PEOPLE, FINANCE AND OPERATIONS
M.Health and human services, B. Health Sciences (Public Health), B. International development, Cert IV Training and Assessment

Georgina has worked at Banksia Gardens for over six years across diverse areas including youth education sustainability and social enterprise. Between 2020 – 2023, she travelled as an English teacher in primary schools in Thailand. Currently Georgina manages the Business Services Team at Banksia. She loves the work environment at Banksia Gardens and the close connection that the organisation has with the community

Peter Ewer

Manager Economic Participation and Social Enterprise
Adv Dip Business Management

Paul Atkinson

Manager Community Development and Youth
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.

Dr 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.

Seral Fehmi

Project REAL Manager

Management

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.

Dr Edgar Caballero Aspe

Education and Sustainability 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.

Georgia Ransome

Good People Act Now 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.

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.

Dhammika Jayawardene

Finance & Payroll Coordinator

Bodhi Sweeny

Study Group & School Holiday Program Team LEader

Tash Alabakov

Youth Transitions Coordinator
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. 

Tess Cheetham

Youth And sustainability officer

Jonathan Chee

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.

Dr Eric Dommers

Co-Director, Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement (NCESE)
Doctor of education, HDipTeachSec, Cert Health Prog Eval, Cert ProjManagement

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

Georgina Wheeler

Manager People, Finance and Operations

Dhammika Jayawardene

Finance and Payroll Coordinator

Kylie Aloi

HUMAN RESOURCEs OFFICER
Thishali-Arangallage

Thishali Arangallage

Office coordinator

Parwana Ahmadzai

administration assistant

Siyoda Jayawardene

communications officer

Dana Ghawi

Early Years Community Worker

Training and Employment Team

Rana Tbaileh

Manager Training and Employment

Jamil El Sabayn

English Tutor

Fatme Al Rai

Sewing tutor

Usama Al Ogidi

IT Tutor

Mathew Colbourn

English Tutor

Kenley Court Neighbourhood House Team

Michael Mansour

Kenley Court Neighbourhood House Coordinator
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Nella Centorbi

Study Group Tutor (KCNH)

Thaera Yonan

Client Support Officer & Towards Equality Facilitator
Gargandeep Sharma

Gagandeep Sharma

Towards equality facilitator

Community Development and Youth

Paul Atkinson

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MANAGER
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Melodie Radatti

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR

Emma Solai

YOUTH AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT WORKER

Tash Alabakov

Youth transitions coordinator

NCESE & Project REAL Team

Jaime de Loma-Osorio Ricon

Deputy Chief Executive Officer, co-director NCESE
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Dr Eric Dommers

Co-Director Northern Centre for Excellence in School Engagement

Seral Fehmi

Project REAL Lead Teacher
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Astrid Decloux

project real teacher

Fakaoho Tupou

Youth Engagement Learning Mentor

Gender Equity Team

Georgia Ransome

GOOD PEOPLE ACT NOW COORDINATOR

Tash Giusti

GENDER EQUITY OFFICER

Study Group Team

Tess Cheetham

Youth and sustainability education officer

Bodhi Sweeny

Study Group & School Holiday Program Team LEader

Edgar Caballero Aspe

Education and Sustainability Coordinator

Aiming High VCE Support Team

Dilini Patibendage

Aiming High program coordinator

Luyee Bai

Aiming high program Tutor

Community Development Programs Team

Ann Pavlovic

Great Young Movers coordinator

Dana Ghawi

Early Years Community Worker

Common Bean Cafe Team

Jason Pribadi

Common bean cafe Manager

Jason is a cafe assistant/chef who works at the Common Bean Cafe based in Kangan. He has worked as a qualified chef in the hospitality industry for 15 years now and has gained a lot of experience which he applies within the cafe.  He has worked in restaurant environments such as cafes, restaurants, hotels and fine dining restaurants. Jason has experience in bulk cooking, special meals in the airline industry and pre-opening a 270 seat restaurant as head chef at Marnong Estate in Mickleham. In the past Jason has thoroughly enjoyed all his roles and has appreciated being in a leadership role. 

“I would like to teach and coach junior staff and pass my experience that I have. I enjoy being busy at work and most important thing for me is to grow with the company to the next level with my experience in the past.” 

Ann Pavlovic

Andrew Tomlinson

Common bean cafe chef

Pinar Akgol

Common bean cafe ASSISTANT

Maddisyn Lang

Common bean cafe assistant

Maddie has been a cafe assistant at the Common Bean Cafe since 2022. She was one of the first cafe assistants in the new Common Bean Cafe at the DPV health clinic when it opened.  Maddie looks after opening and closing of the cafe and well as making phenomenal coffee. She has had previous experience working in the hospitality sector bringing experience from working in Bakers Delight. She brings her knowledge from working in these environment to make superb coffee at the Common Bean Cafe. 

“Working in the Common Bean Cafe is different because it is an environment which more relaxed and has allowed me to grow in so many different areas.  My mentors and supervisors have taught me so much and I always feel like there’s a notion of leaning and expanding my knowledge one way or another.”

Antonia Barnes

Common bean cafe assistant

Toni is a cafe assistant working at the Common Bean Cafe based in the DPV health clinic. This is her first time working in the hospitality industry and so far she has learnt an array of skills including how to operate an espresso machine to make all sorts of coffee. She enjoys working in the cafe as it allows her to meet a wide range of people while working with Terina. 

“As a trainee,  I feel like I’ve gained a lot. I’ve learnt how to make different types of foods and how to prepare espresso-based drinks – lots of iced coffees for summer! And meeting new people each day has helped build my confidence and working as part of a team has been fun. I actually feel pretty confident in my skills now which has helped build my confidence for future work in the industry.”

Facilities Team

Puspa Acharya

Lead Maintenance Officer

Ambar Chhetri

Maintenance Officer

Harry Sahin

Hallkeeper

Sumitra Dhimal

maintenance officer