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.

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Peter Murray, Head of Development


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!


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Kierre Williams, Head of Exercise Services


I joined the SCIA family as a physiotherapist in 2009 and have led our Exercise Services since 2012. I have a passion to maximise the functional potential of a person with a neurological deficit by pushing the boundaries of their capacity through innovative and intensive exercise. It is wonderful to share this passion with our team of dedicated, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff who naturally engage with our clients as if they were family. The department has expanded significantly to now offer a suite of exercise services tailored to the individual needs of any person with a neurological condition. I am so proud of the positive energy that our staff and clients create in each of our gym environments and it is incredible to see our clients putting in plenty of hard work and gaining such awesome results!

I have had experience as a Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist working with people with neurological conditions, ranging from very young toddlers through to very old adults and everything in between. I absolutely love the close working relationship that is built with a client on their journey to improved function, quality of life and independence and I will ensure this is maintained as our services continue to expand.

In my spare time, I am usually chasing my one year old around the house or teaching him how to shake his booty to the likes of Hendrix or Dylan. I also love to dance, run, play touch footy…Actually, I’ll try any sport and, oh…I love to bake (and eating the baked treats…which ultimately means more running!).


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Chris Nicholls, Head of Operations

ChrisNicholls

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).

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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.

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    Jodie Burling, Head of Corporate Services

    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!


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    Fiona Jackson, Head of Marketing & Fundraising

    Jodie BurlingI am an experienced fundraiser and marketer and have worked in agencies in London and Sydney before transferring to the NFP sector 15 years ago. Since then I have worked with a number of clients including Alzheimer’s Research UK, ActionAid, World Vision and Muscular Dystrophy UK. Prior to joining SCIA I was Head of Fundraising for Barnardos Australia and most recently Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

    As the recently appointed Head of Marketing and Fundraising for SCIA I am really keen to increase current levels of fundraising and develop new revenue streams to fund more services in the community for people with spinal cord injury. I am passionate about social inclusion so want to highlight this through my role and increase overall awareness of SCIA. With the changes in the disability sector on the horizon it is an exciting time to join the team at SCIA.

    When I am not work I love to cook, travel and play with my two spoodles Hank and Hector.


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