Our Team

Board of Directors

Rare Voices Australia’s (RVA) Board comprises dedicated and passionate people who have lived experience of rare disease. The Board meets regularly and oversees RVA’s strategic direction and purpose.

Joanna Betteridge

CHAIR, Rare Voices Australia (VIC)

Joanna Betteridge, Principal of Betteridge Legal Consulting, is an employment and workplace safety lawyer and consultant and an accredited mediator. Joanna is also a Senior Fellow at Monash University and lectures in its Law Faculty post graduate program including lecturing in anti-discrimination law. Joanna is the immediate past Chair of the TEAR Australia Board (a global aid and development organisation) and has held a number of Board roles in a variety of not-for-profit and Government Boards since 2003. Joanna sat for many years on the committee of the Australian MPS Society, becoming involved soon after her two nephews, Jack and Tom, were diagnosed with MPS III, Sanfilippo Syndrome, in 1998.

Kane Blackman

DEPUTY CHAIR, Rare Voices Australia (WA)

Kane is a senior executive with the Western Australian Government at the Insurance Commission, which provides injury and liability insurances, and related investment functions. Prior to the public sector, Kane worked in various Australian and international resource companies and in private equity. Kane is a non-executive director of Therapy Focus, the largest provider of therapy services to people with disability in WA. He is an advisory council member of the WA Future Health Research and Innovation Fund, a member of the WA Minister for Health’s Precision Health Council and a member of the WA Minister for Disability’s Advisory Council. Kane is also a State Committee member of the Governance Institute, a lecturer in corporate governance, a chartered company secretary and MBA graduate. Kane has a son with Angelman Syndrome and is the Deputy President of the Angelman Syndrome Association Australia. Kane is also the Chair of RVA’s Nomination Committee.

Raymond Saich OAM

Director, Rare Voices Australia (NSW)

Raymond is the President of the Australian Pompe Association and a Director of the International Pompe Association. He is a Pompe patient and started treatment for his Pompe disease with enzyme replacement therapy in 2007 and is now one of the longest treated Pompe patients in Australia. Raymond has been a strong advocate for people living with a rare disease since receiving his diagnosis in 2002. Prior to retirement, Raymond was a senior manager with an Australian multinational diagnostic imaging company and played a major role in the introduction of both CT and MRI scanning in Australia.

Robert Hendriks

Director, Rare Voices Australia (NSW)

Robert Hendriks graduated as a medical doctor from the University in Amsterdam and as a Master of Business Administration in Rotterdam. Robert has over 20 years’ experience as an international senior executive in the Pharmaceutical, Biotech, Natural Medicines and Medical Devices industries and currently is the Chief Executive Officer of global healthcare company SFI. Robert’s connection with rare diseases began in 2010 in his role as Managing Director of a pharmaceutical company that pioneered the development and delivery of therapies for patients affected by rare diseases. Robert worked with the Department of Health and Ageing to ensure patients have access to the products needed to treat their rare diseases. He is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Dr Carol Wicking

Director, Rare Voices Australia (QLD)

Dr Carol Wicking received her BSc (Hons) and MSc from the University of Melbourne and her PhD from the University of London. She has over 25 years of research experience, primarily investigating the molecular and cellular basis of a number of rare diseases including cystic fibrosis, naevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome and a class of rare diseases known as ciliopathies. Carol is a past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology, and is the Independent Scientific Adviser and ex officio Board Member of Phenomics Australia, a capability of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. She is currently an independent consultant and an Honorary Associate Professor at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. Carol is also a member of RVA’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee.

Prof Eric Morand

Director, Rare Voices Australia (VIC)

Professor Eric Morand is Professor and Head of the School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, Monash University’s largest clinical school. He is also a specialist rheumatologist, and Head of the Monash Health Rheumatology Unit, the largest in Australia. He specialises in research and clinical care of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as well as complex rheumatic diseases and rheumatoid arthritis. He is the founder of the Monash Lupus Clinic, Australia’s largest research-grounded clinic for patients with SLE, a founding member of the Australian Lupus Registry & Biobank, and Chair of the Asia Pacific Lupus Collaboration.

Viswanathan Narayanaswamy (Vishy)

Director, Rare Voices Australia (NSW)

Vishy is a Chartered Accountant by profession and has over 18 years’ worth of experience in accounting, auditing and taxation. Vishy is a member with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He is currently working as a senior manager in a public accounting firm in Sydney. Vishy supports the Board with finance and accounting related matters. Vishy was diagnosed with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) disease, a rare blood disorder, in 2008 and has been receiving treatment since then.

Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee

RVA’s Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) provides the organisation with medical and clinical perspectives, guidelines and information as needed.

SMAC Terms of Reference (PDF)

Prof Adam Jaffé
BSc (Hons), MBBS, MD, FRCP, FRACP, FThorSoc

CHAIR, UNSW/Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, Respiratory Disorders, CF, Consumers, Clinicians & Clinical Trials (NHMRC) (NSW)

Professor Adam Jaffe is the John Beveridge Professor of Paediatrics and Head of the School of Women’s and Children’s Health, UNSW Medicine, and a Paediatric Respiratory Consultant at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. Professor Jaffé was appointed as Consultant in Paediatric Research at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and headed up Respiratory Medicine research at the Institute of Child Health London in 2001. Adam chairs the Young Lungs program of Lung Foundation Australia and is on Lung Foundation Australia’s Rare Lung Diseases Committee. He is the Chair of the Research Advisory Committee of Asthma Australia. He was on the Lung Foundation Australia committee writing the National Strategic Plan for Lung Conditions (2019). His interests lie in the areas of asthma, cystic fibrosis, childhood respiratory infections and rare “orphan” lung diseases.

Dr Carol Wicking
BSc (Hons), MSc, PhD

Independent Consultant (QLD)

Dr Carol Wicking received her BSc (Hons) and MSc from the University of Melbourne and her PhD from the University of London. She has over 25 years of research experience, primarily investigating the molecular and cellular basis of a number of rare diseases including cystic fibrosis, naevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome and a class of rare diseases known as ciliopathies. Carol is a past President of the Australian and New Zealand Society for Cell and Developmental Biology, and is the Independent Scientific Adviser and ex officio Board Member of Phenomics Australia, a capability of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. She is currently an independent consultant and an Honorary Associate Professor at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland. Carol is also an RVA Director.

Clin/Prof Gareth Baynam

Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies, GSWA, WADoH, Centres of Expertise, Phenotyping, Digital Health (WA)

Professor Gareth Baynam is a Head of the Western Australian Register of Developmental Anomalies (birth defects and cerebral palsy registers); Clinical Geneticist and Program Director of the Undiagnosed Diseases Program WA; Board Member of the Undiagnosed Diseases Network International; and Adjunct Genomics Policy Officer in the Western Australian Health Department. He is affiliated with the University of Western Australia; Curtin University; Murdoch University; Notre Dame University; Melbourne University; and Telethon Kids Institute. He is the Founder of an integrated suite of cross-sector and community engaging initiatives to improve the lives of people living with rare diseases including Project Y, Cliniface and Lyfe Languages. He Chairs and/or is one of the Executive or Advisories of multiple international rare diseases initiatives and has personal connections to rare diseases.

Dr Kaustuv Bhattacharya

Metabolic Paediatrician, Genetic Metabolic Disorders Service (NSW)

Dr Kaustuv Bhattacharya is a UK trained metabolic physician. He moved to Sydney, Australia in June 2008 and became the department head of metabolic services at Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network before completing a sabbatical at Queensland Lifespan Metabolic Service in 2019. He returned to Sydney in 2020. He is a conjoint senior lecturer for Sydney University having completed a range of published therapeutic research for rare conditions. He has strongly advocated for rare disease therapeutic research and clinical infrastructure and will be the chairperson for the International Congress of Inborn Errors of Metabolism in Sydney in 2021.

Prof Alan Bittles
AM, PhD, ScD

ECU/Murdoch, Community Genetics, Consanguinity, Intellectual Disability (WA)

Prof. Alan Bittles received his PhD from Queen’s University, Belfast, ScD from Trinity College, University of Dublin, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. He is Emeritus Professor of Community Genetics in the School of Medical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University and Adjunct Professor in the Centre for Comparative Genomics, Murdoch University in Perth, Australia. His present research centres on the impact of consanguinity and genetic sub-structure on disease gene expression, haemoglobinopathies, and intellectual and developmental disability, with projects in Australia, India and the UK. Prof. Bittles was Inaugural Chair of RVA’s SMAC from 2015-2017 and in 2017 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services in Medical Genomics.

Dr Lisa Ewans

Clinical Geneticist (NSW)

Dr Lisa Ewans is a Clinical Geneticist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Sydney Children’s Hospital and a Clinical Lecturer at The University of Sydney. She obtained her MBBS and BSc (Neuroscience) at Imperial College London before moving to Sydney to continue paediatric training, and received her Fellowship of the RACP in clinical genetics. In her practice, she sees a range of patients with rare genetic disorders of all ages, advocating for their care. She is completing a PhD in genomics applied to the diagnosis of rare genetic disorders through the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and UNSW. Her research and clinical interest is to help individuals with suspected but unsolved rare genetic disorders to find a diagnosis, and is co-leading a new undiagnosed diseases program through the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network.

Dr Paul Lacaze

U Monash U/Alfred, Genomics, Cohort Studies, Biobanking, Rare Disease Registries (VIC)

Dr Paul Lacaze is a geneticist and Head of Public Health Genomics at Monash University. He conducts research into the role of genetic data in public and population health, through large-scale cohort studies, biobanks, clinical trials, and registries. He leads genomics for the ASPREE study, Australia’s largest clinical trial and study of healthy ageing in >15,000 Australians and works with the Monash Registries Science Unit in the area of rare disease registries. He conducts research into the ethical, legal and social issues associated with the use of genomic information in society. He founded the Australian Non-Genetic Discrimination Working Group, a national body advocating for regulatory change around the use of genetic test results in life insurance. He is passionate about developing a National Plan and Alliance for Rare Disease Registries in Australia.

Dr Kristen Nowak

Director, Office of Population Health and Genomics, WA Department of Health (WA)

Dr Kristen Nowak has over 20 years’ experience as a medical researcher in the rare diseases field, focusing on finding new disease genes and evaluating potential therapies. Her office has a strong focus on the translation of evidence-based genomic and screening technology into the health system, and a longstanding emphasis on improving the healthcare journey of people with rare diseases. Kristen is a member for the Standing Committee on Screening, and the Project Reference Group on Health Genomics. She is also chair of the national Newborn Bloodspot Screening Program Management Committee. Kristen is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia.

Dr Lemuel Pelentsov

Senior Lecturer, University of South Australia, RDs, (SA)

Lemuel Pelentsov is Program Director for the Bachelor of Nursing (Theory), University of South Australia. Since his eldest son’s diagnosis of a rare disease in 2008, Dr Pelentsov has been a passionate nurse-researcher investigating the support needs of parents and families with rare diseases. In his PhD, he developed the Parental Needs Scale for Rare Diseases (PNS-RD) – a tool which is now being used by researchers and clinicians in numerous countries. He has multiple publications and has presented his research at numerous national (Australian) and international conferences.

Prof John Rasko
AO, BSc (Med), MBBS (Hons), PhD, FFSc (RCPA), FRCPA, FRACP

Director, Department of Cell and Molecular Therapies, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the Gene and Stem Cell Therapy Program, Centenary Institute, University of Sydney (NSW)

Professor John Rasko is an Australian pioneer in the application of adult stem cells and genetic therapy, and President (2018-20) of the International Society for Cell & Gene Therapy. He is a clinical haematologist, pathologist and scientist with an international reputation in gene and stem cell therapy, experimental haematology and molecular biology. In over 170 publications he has contributed to the understanding of stem cells and blood cell development, gene therapy technologies, cancer causation and treatment, human genetic diseases and molecular biology. John has served on a number of hospital, state and national bodies. He is the recipient of national and international awards in recognition of his commitment to excellence in medical research, including appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Prof Jeff Szer

U Melbourne/Peter Mac and Royal Melbourne, Hbopathies, Bone Marrow Transplantation (VIC)

Jeff Szer AM is a senior haematologist in the Clinical Haematology Department at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) and Director of the Western and Central Melbourne Integrated Cancer Service. He established the first adult BMT centre in Melbourne in 1984 and has clinical research interests in all areas of haematology in particular improving the outcomes of treatment for leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and the non-malignant conditions of Gaucher disease and paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria. He is Past President of the Worldwide Network for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (WBMT) and is current President of the World Marrow Donor Association (WMDA). Jeff sits on a number of national and international committees and organisations involved in haematology and was a member of the Gaucher Disease Advisory Committee and chaired the PNH Disease Advisory Committee of the Life Saving Drugs Program of the Australian Department of Health and Ageing until the committees were disbanded in May 2014.

A/Prof Yvonne Zurynski
BAppSc, MAppSc, MHpol, PhD

A/Prof of Health System Sustainability at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University (NSW)

Yvonne Zurynski, in addition to her role at Macquarie University, leads the Coordinating Centre of the NHMRC Partnership Centre in Health Systems Sustainability. She is Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Tasmania and Honorary Associate Professor at The University of Sydney and Curtin University, in Perth, Western Australia. As a mixed methods researcher, implementation scientist, epidemiologist, program evaluator and policy analyst, she consolidates broad knowledge and understanding of complex systems from different viewpoints. Using novel co-design approaches she has led evaluations of complex integrated care interventions for children and adults with chronic, complex, and rare disease. She was instrumental in the call for a national rare disease strategy in 2009 and contributed significantly to the Care and Support Pillar of the National Strategic Action Plan for Rare Diseases.

RVA Staff

RVA’s staffing team is dedicated to working towards the best outcomes for Australians living with a rare disease.

Nicole Millis

Chief Executive Officer (VIC)

A qualified social worker, Nicole has both personal and professional experience in the rare disease sector. Nicole has over 12 years’ worth of experience in rare disease advocacy, particularly regarding access to treatments. Since 2018, Nicole has held the role of consumer nominee on the Life Saving Drugs Program Expert Panel. Under Nicole’s guidance, RVA led the collaborative development of the National Strategic Action Plan for Rare Diseases, the first nationally coordinated effort to address rare diseases in Australia.

Louise Healy

Education and Advocacy Manager (QLD)

Louise has post-graduate qualifications in psychology and has managed a consulting business for the past seven years. Her connection with rare conditions began when her first child was born with a rare metabolic disorder. Louise has been involved in rare disease support and advocacy for over 10 years and she is the current Vice President of the Metabolic Dietary Disorders Association (MDDA). She has led successful advocacy campaigns for access to medicines and support programs for people with rare disorders of protein metabolism. Louise is a previous RVA Board member, current member of the Queensland Genomics Community Advisory Board and a founding board member of the Global Association for PKU.

Sarah Cannata

Communications Manager (VIC)

Sarah is a passionate storyteller, a qualified journalist, and has over 10 years’ worth of experience working in Communications. A published author, Sarah has extensive experience across a range of sectors, particularly in the not-for-profit space. She is committed to using her skills to benefit Australians living with a rare disease.

Anne Hunter

Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer, Administrative Manager (VIC)

Anne works for RVA as our Administrative Officer and is based in Victoria. Anne has a personal connection with rare disease and lives with Fabry Disease. She also cares for a child living with Fabry Disease. Anne is on the Fabry Australia committee.

Falak Helwani

Research and Evaluation Officer (QLD)

Falak is a former research scientist with a PhD in molecular cell biology from the University of Queensland and postdoctoral experience in hematopoietic stem cell and bone marrow transplant biology at the Mater Medical Research Institute. She has co-authored several publications and has presented her research both in Australia and overseas. Falak paused her research career to care for her daughter who has a rare congenital heart defect and later learned that her youngest son has a rare auto-inflammatory disease. As RVA’s Research and Evaluation Officer, Falak is committed to ensuring that evidenced-based understanding of rare disease biology drives advocacy and policy reform.

Freya French

Project Officer — Mental Health & Wellbeing (VIC)

Freya is passionate about mental health and wellbeing and applying her skills and experience to her work with RVA and the rare disease community in her role as a Project Officer. Freya has tertiary qualifications in a Bachelor of Health Sciences, Master of Occupational Therapy Practice. Freya has over 8 years’ experience working in the health sector, with previous roles in health service evaluation projects and research as well as clinical roles in occupational therapy. Primarily, Freya’s clinical experience has been in the field of mental health, having worked in both hospital and community based mental health settings.

Cara Philpott

Project Officer — Western Australia (WA)

Cara has an extensive background in human resources and organisational development with global and national experience across many industries. She has tertiary qualifications in psychology, commerce and management along with a Master of Finance and is currently pursing studies in health economics. Cara’s passion for disability and health advocacy and inclusion developed when her son was diagnosed at two and a half years of age with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. She is actively involved with many rare disease support organisations globally and serves on the board of Muscular Dystrophy WA. As RVA’s Project Officer in Western Australia, Cara is engaging in projects aimed at strengthening consumer involvement to drive systemic change for people living with a rare disease.