Advisory Council biographies


Jane Spring AM (New South Wales)

Jane is Chair, Australian Disability Strategy Advisory Council, Chair, Disability Council NSW, Chair, Sydney University Sport & Fitness and Director of Royal Rehab, and Venues NSW. Jane is a Vice President of the Institute of Public Administration NSW and Member of the Audit & Risk Committee of the Office of Sport in NSW. Jane is NSW Co Chapter Leader of the Minerva Network.

Jane has previously held non-executive roles at the University of Sydney Senate, Western Sydney Local Health District, Venues NSW, Paraplegic Benefit Fund, Wheelchair Sports Australia, and the Combat Sports Authority. Recent executive roles include Assistant Commissioner NSW Public Service Commission and Deputy CEO, Jobs for NSW. 

Jane is passionate about sport and highlights of her career include six years at the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and a stint as CEO of the NSW Institute of Sport.

Jane is a Fellow of the Governance Institute of Australia and the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration and the University of Sydney. Jane is a member of Chief Executive Women. Jane holds a Masters of Public Administration, Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of Sydney. 

Jane has over 30 years’ lived experience of paraplegia following a car accident in 1990.

photo of Jane

Cindy Liu (Victoria)

Cindy (She/Her) is a passionate young disabled person of colour, advocating and living on stolen Wurundjeri Land. 

Through Cindy’s work centring on lived experience, looking through an intersectional lens and advocating for self-determination, Cindy has worked with various organisations exploring intersectional spaces, in both advisory and co-design capacities, including Youth Disability Advocacy Service and Commonwealth Officer for Youth as a Steering committee member. While also highlighting the strengths, concerns and challenges of young people with disabilities from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds as the founder and Co-chair of Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network's Youth Disability CaLD Collective.

Cindy Liu

Seriako Stephen (Queensland)

Seriako (Seri) Stephen was born in the Torres Strait and is a descendant of the Ugaram Le from the Magaran Tribe. 

Seriako was born with Cerebral Palsy due to a traumatic birth. His family were unable to raise him, leading to Seriako being Island Adopted to a family in Cairns with a lot of experience raising children with various disabilities. Seriako considers his adopted family as his biggest inspiration, who always supported him, treated him no differently to anyone else and pushed him to achieve anything he put his mind to.

Seriako is a proud Indigenous person, whose motivation in life is to speak up for everyone, whether Indigenous or not, and be a voice for those who can’t speak up for themselves.

Seriako sits on the board of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN). He was the first Torres Strait Islander with disability to be invited to Parliament House at 18 years of age, and was a finalist in the Disability Rights Young Leadership category at the 2009 National Disability Awards. Seriako was also invited to speak at the United Nations as part of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2019 conference on the inclusion of Indigenous persons with disability in society through participation in cultural life.

Seriako Stephen

Natalie Wade (South Australia)

Natalie is a prominent disability rights lawyer and advocate in Australia.

As the Founder and Principal Lawyer of Equality Lawyers, Natalie is a leader in providing premium legal advice and representation to people with disabilities and their families.

Natalie has received state and national awards in recognition of her contribution to disability rights law reform in Australia including Australian Young Lawyer of the Year and South Australian Young Lawyer of the Year in 2016.

Natalie holds several senior roles committed to advancing the rights of all Australians with disabilities, including as Expert Advisor on the Disability Royal Commission to the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and Vice President and Disability Rights Subcommittee Chair of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. Natalie is the author of Disability Rights in Real Life, a law handbook informing people with disabilities, their families and allies of their every day legal rights.

Natalie Wade

State and Territory Representative Members

Dr Katherine Elliston (Tasmania)

Katherine is the Deputy Community Chair of the Premier’s Disability Advisory Council Tasmania. Katherine volunteers for a governance team running a specialist disability accommodation site and is involved in various mental health and community organisations. Katherine is passionate about ensuring people with disability have an opportunity to participate in everyday life.

Katherine holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Tasmania, her research focused on individual and environmental influences to behaviour change.

Professionally, Katherine works as a Psychologist and Behaviour Support Practitioner and aims to foster collaboration and support among the systems people with disability encounter. Katherine works to reduce systemic barriers to participation in society and serves to empower people with disability to create meaningful lives.

In her personal life, Katherine supports her younger brother, who lives with a cognitive impairment. Growing up around disability has taught her the importance of accessible and inclusive practices and the need to foster independence and choice wherever possible. Katherine believes this is particularly relevant in rural communities where access to formal supports is lacking.

photo of Katherine

Renée Heaton (Australian Capital Territory)

Renée (she/her) is the current Chair of the ACT Disability Reference Group, providing advice to the ACT Minister for Disability and bringing issues affecting the lives of people with disability to the attention of the ACT Government. As a person with life-long disability, Renée has a range of lived experience from therapy and supports, education, health, and employment.

Renée often says that getting a job was the hardest thing she has ever done, but also the most important and life changing. Renée understands the difference that meaningful paid employment can make to the enjoyment and quality of life, including good mental health, choice and control, and being able to have fun! As such, Renée is particularly keen to improve employment outcomes for people with disability, and to increase the level of accessibility within the community to ensure all people can access the services they need and have a fulfilling social life.

Renée is a typical Canberran in that her “money work” is in the Public Service where she works in strategic HR. 

Renée is a collector of red lipsticks, a lover of native bees, and an avid knitter.

photo of Renee

Dr Rita Kleinfeld-Fowell (Western Australia)

Rita practices as a Supervising Solicitor in her various legal roles, specialising in Disability and Human Rights.

Rita has lived experience with disability from being a Deafblind Person and is an NDIS participant with a Guide Dog, Joel. Rita has had hearing loss since birth, and started to develop sight impairment in her early twenties. Later Rita was formally diagnosed with Usher Syndrome.

Rita is the Chair of Valued Lives Foundation, Chair of Deafblind West Australians, board member of Everability and a Committee member of the Western Australia Disability Advisory Council.

Rita won a Scholarship with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, where she hopes to gain further skills to enhance her Board roles to make a difference for people with disabilities and for their families who would otherwise be disadvantaged without her advocacy support.

photo of Rita and Guide Dog Joel

Nigel Webb (Queensland)

Nigel has been a social justice advocate in his community for the past 35 years. Nigel is a trusted voice, advisor and leader across the community services sector, business and government.

Nigel’s extensive knowledge and experience have guided state and national advisory and representative groups, boards and community organisations.
Nigel’s strength is his strategic advice and direction on the social and economic inclusion of people with disabilities, and a range of issues of importance to the disability and carer sectors around National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and reforms to employment.

From 2018-2019, Nigel was Co-Chair of the National Disability and Carers Advisory Council for the Department of Social Services.

On a part-time basis, Nigel works as a Client Liaison Officer at CPL – Choice, Passion, Life (formerly the Cerebral Palsy League) and Peer Mentor with Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN).

Nigel has Diplomas in Community Services, Justice Administration, Certificate SAI Global – Lead Auditor Quality Management Systems and is a Qualified Justice of the Peace (Qld.)

photo of Nigel

Special advisers

Kathy Hough (Western Australia)

Kathy is the CEO of Far North Community Services and has worked in rural and remote parts of Western Australia with, and for, people with disability for 35 years, with experience in a variety of civic, voluntary and paid roles including 13 years as a host family in an ILO arrangement.

Championing rights, inclusion and equity have been a driver for Kathy to take on roles such as a Board member (2010-2014) and then Deputy Chairperson of the Disability Services Commission (2014-2017). Kathy currently chairs the Council for Regional Disability Services in WA.

Passionate about learning, equity of access and quality of life for people who live in rural Australia, Kathy has a Masters in Regional Development and post graduate Certificate in Australia Rural Leadership. Kathy believes the voices of people who live in rural and remote Australia are full of rich and valuable insights that should be heard.

Kathy Hough

Helen McDevitt, PSM, GAICD

Helen is Chair of the ACT Disability, Aged and Carers Advocacy Service and is on the Board of the Older Person’s Advocacy Network. Before this, Helen was a senior Australian Public Servant and has extensive experience in social policy and Commonwealth-State relations.

Helen played a key role in the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, led social policy in the department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and supported the Government’s Social Inclusion Not-For-Profit sector agendas. Helen brings leadership, management and negotiation skills, and extensive experience in policy reform and delivery.

Helen’s earlier career was in the community sector working in regional development, education and youth services. She has a particular passion for supporting and improving the lives of people with disability and young people through promoting their social inclusion, education and workforce participation.

Helen is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and was awarded the Public Service Medal in 2020.

Helen McDevitt