Our People

We rely on the diverse proficiency of our people to maintain and build on the accomplishments of our organisation.

Peter Perry - Chief Executive Officer

I joined Spinal Cord Injuries Australia as Corporate Services Manager in 2006 after 30 years at senior levels in both corporate and not for profit organisations, where I specialised in financial management, change management and human resources development. Organisations I have worked for include Mirvac Funds, Schroders Australia, State Bank of NSW, University of Sydney Union, and EDS. I have also contributed as a volunteer to Guide Dogs NSW and Humane Society International.

The organisation I now lead has a proud history of removing barriers in society, and facilitating independence for people with a disability. Despite the organisation’s specialist origins, its work encompasses issues and outcomes that are of relevance to all people with a disability. These issues, including accommodation, respite, care, carers, transport, employment, and community participation are of fundamental importance to our organisation.

I am keen to ensure that whilst promoting and supporting innovation, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia does not lose touch with its roots and its proud history, and is constantly finding ways to better engage with its members and the broader community. Too many charities end up looking like businesses, treating people like objects similar to chess pieces; while a commercial mindset and commercial practices are important to ensure maximum bang for the buck, commercial outcomes should never become more important than community and individual outcomes. Whilst I am CEO, Spinal Cord Injuries Australia will always play a leading role in ensuring viability, sustainability and diversity of services for those who are at risk of being marginalised in our society.

Please feel free to contact Peter: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Lesh Dhesi, Executive Support Manager

My aim has always been to work for not-for-profit organisations and I joined SCIA in September 2006. My role here is to provide executive support to the CEO and the board of directors along with managing a thriving administration team that provides essential admin support to the staff at our Little Bay and William Street offices. My goals for the organisation are to increase efficiency and provide effective leadership to our administration team by initiating training and developing education tools to implement continuous improvement.

I feel proud to be a part of an organisation that is continually developing programs and services to create independence for people living with a spinal cord injury in Australia.

Outside of my work at SCIA, my friends and family describe me as a shopaholic. I’m obsessed with trying out new cuisines or creating my own. Apart from that I love travelling and shopping … oops did I mention that already!

Please feel free to contact Lesh: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Peter Murray, General Manager - Development and Strategic Projects

I joined SCIA in February 2010 to oversee four areas of the organisation: Geo & Data—an area delivering a key contract for the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), SCI Workforce—a registered Disability Employment Service assisting people with disabilities to find employment, including a specialist service for people with SCIs, Accommodation and Emergency Services—providing accommodation and emergency services for people with SCIs, and Walk On—the intensive exercise recovery program designed to assist a person with a SCI to maximise their functional recovery.

I find working with a great team at SCIA and supporting our members very rewarding and, since joining the organisation, I am much more aware of the challenges faced by people living with a SCI.

Outside of my work at SCIA I enjoy sailing, golf, keeping fit (walking, running, swimming), riding my motor scooter, movies and good wine!

Please feel free to contact Peter: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Kierre Williams, Manager - Exercise Rehabilitation

I joined SCIA in November 2009 as a physiotherapist after finding out about Walk On - the incredible SCIA Activity Based Therapy program for people with a spinal cord injury. I could feel the potential of the program and am proud to have been a part of the development of Walk On which has led into this role of National Manager, Walk On. I now oversee the four Walk On sites – Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Melbourne.

The majority of my physiotherapy and exercise physiology experience has involved working with people with neurological conditions, ranging in age from toddlers through to older adults. I absolutely love the hands-on nature of my role and the close working relationship we build with our clients on their journey to improved function, quality of life and independence. It is certainly an inspirational experience. Our clients put in plenty of hard work, but the results are worth it! There is an extremely motivational energy about the Walk On program at any site you visit and I am passionate about continuing to develop SCIA’s provision of activity based therapy and exercise to make it accessible by all with a spinal cord injury.

 I love to dance, run, surf… Actually, I’ll try any sport and in touch football season there is rarely any skin left on my knees! Oh…and I love to bake. So, come and visit one of our four Walk On sites for a home-made morning tea whilst experiencing the awe-inspiring action that is Walk On!

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Chris Nicholls, General Manager - Transitional Services


After serving in an airborne regiment of the British Army, I joined the corporate sector, specifically, News International. There I had a number of different jobs in the IT arena, culminating with an IT Management role. In 1998, I was seconded to our sister company, News Limited, here in Sydney and promptly fell in love with Australia.

Unfortunately a few months after I immigrated to Australia in 2000, I was waiting behind a couple of cars at a set of traffic lights, on my motorbike, when suddenly a truck hit me from behind. This resulted in complete T6 paraplegia.

It was during my rehab that I had my first experience of Peer Support, something that quite simply changed my life and made me realise all was not lost. Here were people "getting on with it".

In fact it had such an impact on me that I abandoned the corporate rat race and In Feb 2007 I became part of SCIA's Peer Support Team. Since then I moved through the ranks of Team leader and Operations Manager to my present position of General Manager of Transitional Services, where I head up Peer Support, Emergency Services, Accommodation, Funding (grants) packages, Team Safe, Adventures and Jesters programs, oh... and I still keep my IT hand in with the ConnectAbility (Wi-Fi & iPad) project.

I am a board director of Wheelchair Sports NSW, a panel member of Sydney HMMS (Home Mods & Maintenance Scheme), an Access Consultant and, along with my wife, run our own Access Consultancy and Occupational Therapy company.

What little spare time I have is spent with my 4 kids who are boys aged 5 & 3 years and 5 month old, boy and girl twins (as at July 2013).

Please feel free to contact Chris: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Shirley Carpenter, Information Services Manager

I joined SCIA in December 2009 and manage Information Services within SCIA.  

In my previous working life I have been working in the information and library field for about 25 years now, starting my library career in a primary school library in Alexandra – a small town in the southern part of the South Island of New Zealand. I then moved on to a large public library in Auckland which was a lot of fun and made me think working in libraries and with information might be an interesting career choice.  By this time I had pretty much “done” NZ so came over to Sydney and started work as a law librarian in the private sector. Moving on I worked as a librarian and researcher for an economic consultancy firm for a few years which then lead me to SCIA.   

Working for a non-profit organisation such as SCIA has been a big change for me from the corporate life and one that I am finding very satisfying.  

They say knowledge + action = power.  Being knowledgeable about everything sci and disability is going to be extremely important in the future in Australia, as under the NDIS people will have the ability to make their own decisions about the type of support and services they access, equipment they buy, and generally everything sci related that impacts on their life.  For this scheme to work properly, people will need to educate themselves as much as they can so that they have the knowledge to make informed decisions.  My main goal here at SCIA is to make sure that everyone who is affected by spinal cord injury – either directly or indirectly, has access to all of the resources they need so that they can live the best informed life they can.   

Outside of SCIA I enjoy cooking, watching movies, adding to my shoe collection!, inline skating and just generally enjoying life.

Please feel free to contact Shirley: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Leanne Cowan, Regional Services Manager

Leanne Cowan

Having spent almost 20 years working for health, community services and private consulting organisations across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, I joined SCIA in October 2014. 

I have had the opportunity to develop a wide-range of skills and experiences including service and program delivery; change, quality, project and program management; business analysis and IT solution development - all the while successfully maintaining a focus on who was the intended recipient of any outcomes achieved, be they patient, client, consumer, staff or volunteer.

I am proud to lead a team of dedicated staff and Peer Support Volunteers outside the Sydney metropolitan region. The Regional Services Team delivers information, education, advocacy, case management, support and understanding to people with spinal cord injuries as well as those in contact with someone with a SCI including carers, family, friends and other members of their local community.

While the NDIS looms large, we will continue to strive to build and improve the services we offer to ensure long-term sustainability, relevance and responsiveness. Exciting times indeed.

Please feel free to contact Leanne: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Melissa Russell, Head of Customer Experience

Melissa Russell

I’ve had a 20-year career spanning multiple countries and sectors including Government, international and domestic corporations, United Nations and not for profit organisations.

I joined SCIA to be part of an organisation committed to making a real difference in the lives of others. After some years in the corporate world I was keen to work in a role that had a clear purpose and a positive human impact.

I’m Head of Customer Experience and it’s my intention to build positive, collaborative working relationships with other SCIA managers and teams, so that we can collectively understand and strive to meet (even exceed!) the needs of our customers, members and other stakeholders.

I generally work in:

    Customer experience - including system and process design for complaint handling, voice of the customer etc.

    Capacity building - including change management, project management, stakeholder engagement/participation, process design, and learning design.

    Human resource management - including HR strategy/organisational development, cultural change programs, employee attraction and recruitment, learning and development, talent management, coaching and mentoring programs, performance management, reward and recognition/retention

    I’m an avid traveller, I love to ski and scuba dive, I’m learning to ride a motorcycle, I’m known to be besotted with animals of all kinds, I’m not a green thumb at all but I love to be surrounded by lush plants and flowers, and my music tastes are wildly varied. I do draw the line at trance music though. I confess, I just don’t get it.

    Please feel free to contact Melissa: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Jodie Burling, Human Resources Manager

    Jodie Burling

    I have a passion for working within not-for-profit organisations and providing effective back office support so that staff can thrive and continue to deliver innovative and quality services to people accessing an organisation.

    I have a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters in Human Resources and Industrial Relations. I commenced my career as a Social Welfare Worker working in a Women’s Refuge for The Salvation Army. I have also worked for various other not-for-profits including NCOSS, Centacare and Positive Life, in both service delivery and HR/organisation development roles. My most recent role prior to joining SCIA, was as the HR Manager at Matrix on Board.

    I was drawn to SCIA not only because of the diverse range of services the organisation provides to our clients but also because of the staff culture which is intrinsically people centred. I look forward to continuing to build solid and effective back office solutions to support the future growth of the organisation.

    On my days off I am busy looking after my beautiful young children and entertaining my mischievous puppy!

    Please feel free to contact Jodie: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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