Board and Staff

Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) is managed by a Board that is elected each year at the Annual General Meeting. The WWDA National Secretariat is managed on a day to day basis by an Executive Director, who reports directly to the WWDA Board. Members of the WWDA Board and WWDA staff are detailed below.

WWDA Board Members 

President – Karin Swift

Photo of Karin Swift who has short black/ red hair and is wearing glasses with a black red floral top on. She is sitting in her wheelchair which trees in the background.
Photo above: Karin Swift

Karin (she/her) has had an extensive career in the disability, advocacy and social policy space where she is committed to people with disability living valued lives in the community. Karin is a past President of Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and has an extensive background in governance roles for other non-government organisations (NGOs). Karin has represented the Australian Government and WWDA at the Commission on the Status of Women 57 (CSW 57) held at the United Nations, New York, providing high level, strategic advice to on women with disability and violence and presenting at various side events. Karin has also led training alongside the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and been a keynote speaker for WWDA in Indonesia and South Korea on gender and disability and the elimination of violence.

Karin has previously worked at Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) in various roles and provided strategic high-level advice and analysis on many contemporary disability issues and other social policies including: human rights, gender issues, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Disability Royal Commission, housing, transport, welfare reform and employment.

Karin currently works as an independent consultant providing strategic high level advice, policy analysis and giving presentations to a diverse range of audiences on a range of key disability social policy issues.

Secretary – Kat Reed

Photo of Kat Reed.
Photo above: Kat Reed

Kat (they/them/theirs) has been a local queer advocate & community builder in the ACT for the last eight years. They are currently the CEO of Women With Disabilities ACT – a systemic advocacy and peer support organisation for women, girls and non-binary identified people with disabilities. Kat was recently awarded 2021 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year and one of Out for Australia’s 30 Under 30 for 2021.

Their activism and community building work spans many different intersections. Since the age of 17, they have advocated for the rights of people of colour, queer youth, trans and non-binary people and people with disabilities. They’ve held positions of leadership in both local and national organisations including the ANU Students’ Association and led the Australian Queer Students’ Network as the National Co-Convenor. Kat was a Council member on the ACT LGBTIQ+ Ministerial Advisory Council and advised on issues affecting queer youth from 2015-2018.

Kat is also a political performance artist and through their arts persona they recently finished work on Australia’s very first all trans and gender diverse original musical titled Lost in Transit with a cast of six local trans and gender diverse artists.

Treasurer – Pamela Menere

Photo of Pamela Menere.
Photo above: Pamela Menere

Pamela lives in Corryong in North East Victoria and has been involved with WWDA for many years, having held positions of Secretary and Treasurer of the Management Committee. Pamela has been involved with several advocacy and disability related groups including the Victorian Women with Disabilities Network, Towong Shire Community Access Committee and the Hume Region DHS Disability Advisory Committee.

Pamela is also actively involved with numerous other community organisations in her local area. She has worked part-time as an outreach employment counsellor with a disability employment agency.

Board Member – Jessica White

Black and white picture of a woman with pale skin, long dark hair wearing large funky glasses and smiling looking directly at the camera.
Photo above: Jess White

Professionally, Jess has previously worked in government and the not for profit sector in policy roles. She is now a lawyer who works for a national firm and is also a legal researcher, contributing to peer-reviewed articles on violence against women. 

Jess lives with disability and has been involved with WWDA for a number of years. Jess also has relatives living with disability and has been a carer.

Jess actively volunteers her skills with other organisations/committees and is passionate about her kids, gardening, live music and good governance.

Board Member – Maria Scharnke

A picture of a woman with pale skin and short brown hair wearing glasses looking at the camera.
Photo above: Maria Scharnke

Maria Scharnke is a proudly Disabled young person and a lifelong self-advocate.  Maria is a vehement and persistent voice for disability rights and disability justice as a writer, public speaker, and youth leader, both independently and through her roles in many Disabled People’s Organisations. She presented evidence at the Disability Royal Commission, in October 2020, as a Disabled high school student.

Maria is working towards the full and practised realisation of disability rights worldwide.  She has an interest in the interrelation between perceptions of disability and the concept of monstrosity.  Maria dislikes bioethics, but studies them anyway.

Maria is Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.

Board Member – Casey Gray

A woman with pale skin, with brown dreadlocks smiling at the camera
Photo above: Casey Gray

Casey lives on the Central Coast NSW, located on Darkinjung Country.

Casey has psychosocial disability and is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Casey holds a Bachelor of Social Science and is currently studying a Master degree in Disability Practice and a Diploma in Creative Arts in Health.

Casey has worked in the disability sector since the beginning of 2004 and currently sits on the NSW Disability Council where she has opportunity to participate in additional advisory groups.

Casey is an advocate for people with disability and has a particular awareness of hearing the voices of people receiving disability services, those who have profound and multiple learning disability and those who do not use words to communicate.

Casey’s current personal work is focussed on raising the profile of women, feminine identifying and non-binary artists with lived experience of disability and increasing the inclusion of people with disability in the LGBTQIA+ community by increasing the presence and contribution of individuals in our community.

Casey has just joined the campaign to introduce a NSW Human Rights Act to enable human rights protections and increase government accountability.  

WWDA Staff 

WWDA Executive Director – Carolyn Frohmader

A woman with pale skin,  blue-green short hair and blue eyes looking into the camera.
Photo above: Carolyn Frohmader

Carolyn Frohmader is the Executive Director Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and has held this position for more than 20 years, working at the national and international levels to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls with disabilities. Under Carolyn’s leadership, WWDA has received a number of prestigious awards for its ground-breaking work including the National Human Rights Award and a number of national and state violence prevention awards. Carolyn also has an extensive background in women’s health, health policy, primary health care and community development.

Carolyn has a Masters Degree from Flinders University where she won the inaugural Michael Crotty Award for an outstanding contribution in Primary Health Care. In 2001, Carolyn received the ACT Woman of the Year Award in recognition of her contribution to the promotion of women’s rights in the ACT. In 2009, in recognition of her human rights work, she was inducted into the Tasmanian Women’s Honour Roll, joining her late mother Wendy, who was posthumously inducted into the Roll in 2008 for services to education. In late 2009, Carolyn was selected as a Tasmanian finalist for the Australian of the Year Awards (Tasmania). On International Human Rights Day, in December 2013, Carolyn was announced as the winner of the National Human Rights Award [Individual] for her work for and with women and girls with disabilities at the national and international levels. Carolyn is based in Hobart, Tasmania.

WWDA Director of Policy and Advocacy Heidi La Paglia Reid

Photo above: Heidi La Paglia Reid

Heidi La Paglia is an Autistic young woman with disability, community activist and new mum. Heidi has worked at Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) since the beginning of 2019, in which time she has worked on and co-managed a number of projects and represented women and girls with disability at local, national and international levels.

Heidi is currently the DIrector of Policy and Advocacy at WWDA and has particular interest in ensuring that women with disability are included in mainstream efforts to address inequalities between genders.

Heidi has previously completed Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Philosophy and Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degrees with the University of Tasmania (UTas) and has nearly a decade of experience advocating for the rights of all women and girls.

In her spare time, Heidi enjoys listening to audio books, going for bush walks and spending time with her family and three cats.

WWDA Director of Media and CommunicationsJacinta Carlton

A woman with pale skin, long blonde hair smiling at camera.
Photo above: Jacinta Carlton

Jacinta (she/her) has worked in marketing and communications in various industries for over seven years. She completed a Bachelor of Business (Marketing and Management) at the University of Tasmania (UTAS) and has since developed her digital marketing and branding skills.

While Jacinta is relatively new to advocacy, she is passionate about improving the lives and involvement of women, girls, feminine identifying and non-binary people with disability. She looks forward to making a positive contribution.

WWDA Youth Development Officer – Margherita Dall’Occo-Vaccaro

A young woman with white skin and long brown hair smiling in front of a cream brick wall.
Photo above: Margherita Dall’Occo-Vaccaro

Margherita is a young disabled woman who lives on Ngunnawal and Ngambri land. She is passionate about intersectionality and youth representation within human rights issues. 

She has experience with representing young women at a variety of forums, events and through various organisations, including Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA) and Children and Young People with Disability Australia (CYDA). She is currently working towards a Degree in Law with a Human Rights Major at the ANU. Margherita also volunteers across a multitude of human rights issues including for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) and does individual consulting on intersectional issues. 

In her free time Margherita likes to make art, see her friends and hang out with her black cat, Andrea. 

WWDA Youth Development OfficerClaire Bertholli

Photo above: Claire Bertholli

Claire Bertholli she/her , currently lives on the lands of the Awabakal people in Newcastle. She is a youth worker and disability advocate.  She uses her education and practice in sociology and anthropology in tandem with her lived experience of being a wheelchair user with a physical disability to influence social and community change. She has involved herself in many advocacy projects  in various disability, intersectional feminist and youth centric NGO’s  across Australia and internationally. 

 In her spare time she enjoys getting her wheels dirty on outdoor walks or in her beach wheelchair , enjoying food with friends and family, sharing pop culture recommendations with anyone who will pay attention  and being in the thick of it at live music events.

Claire is extremely excited to start her journey as youth development officer, as she has been passionately engaged in many ways WWDA initiatives since 2020/21 and knows what power and resilience can come from providing young people with platforms and opportunities to share valuable parts of themselves.

WWDA Content Development OfficerCat Standley

Photo above: Cat Standley

Since 2018, Cat has been working in the health industry as a clinician and health educator. More recently, Cat ventured into the adult sexual health education sector as she is passionate about the sexual and reproductive health rights of all people, with a particular interest in advocating for the sexual and reproductive health rights of people with disabilities and LGBTIQA+ communities and how these communities intersect with one another.

Cat completed her Bachelor of Health Science in 2018 and in 2022 gained her Master of Science in Medicine specialising in Sexual and Reproductive Health from The University of Sydney.

In her spare time, Cat loves spending time with her family, gardening, and reading.

WWDA Project: LEAD

Project Manager – TBC

Project Officer – TBA

WWDA Project: Our Site 2.0

Project DirectorZoe Houstein

[Image: Head shot of Zoe, Zoe is wearing a green jumper, has brown hair and white skin, and has a slight smile on her face.]
Photo above: Zoe Houstein

Zoe lives in southern lutruwita / Tasmania and has worked in the human rights and environmental justice sectors for the past couple decades locally, nationally, and internationally. She has predominantly focussed on project management in grassroots organising and leadership development. 

Zoe has a Bachelor of Arts and a postgraduate Honours degree in Gender Studies from the University of Tasmania. She has worked on human rights campaigns with women and girls, as well as with individuals and groups from the communities of First Nations people, refugees and asylum seekers, LGBTIQA+ people, and more.

Zoe is passionate about working with people to increase individual and community engagement. She champions exploring the diverse ways we understand and realise leadership. Zoe thrives on identifying and creating opportunities for accessible and meaningful participation.

Gender Based Violence Practice Manager – Tanya Sinclair

A woman with tanned skin, curly short hair, wearing glasses, smiling at the camera.
Photo above: Tanya Sinclair

My name is Tanya Sinclair. I am currently working as a counsellor and have degrees in both law and social work. I have lived much of my life by the mantra “have degree, will travel” and this has lead to a range of adventures around Australia and overseas. I am currently in Perth. In my spare time, I’m involved in a local brass band, tennis and ice hockey, and I also enjoy photography, gardening and cooking. I live with two very spoilt cats. I am passionate about the rights of people with disabilities and ensuring their rights are upheld to the same standard as people without disabilities.

If you would like to get in contact with someone at WWDA please visit the Contact Us page.