Meet the team
For over 25 years ConnectAbility Australia has been supporting people throughout the Hunter, focusing on the strengths and abilities of individuals and connecting people with their communities.
We recognise the importance of choice and control over decision making in ensuring your life is your own, and promote and respect your wishes, aspirations and goals.
ConnectAbility Australia has a strong focus on governance. We are led by a Board made up of volunteer members from the community who each bring a particular skill set and breadth of experience to the Board. Meeting bi-monthly, the Board work to ensure that not only does ConnectAbility remain a vibrant, viable organisation delivering quality services but that the organisation looks at continuously improving all aspects of the service so that we stay abreast of current trends and community expectations.
The board is further supported by a series of sub committees where subcommittee members provide specialist advice in the areas of Finance and Risk, People and Culture, Fundraising and Marketing.
Nathan Franks – Chair
Nathan joined the CoM in 2015 to support ConnectAbility through sharing his ICT skills. He has expertise in cloud computing, information technology and managed services, Nathan is constantly seeking new ways to bring the future of ICT to ConnectAbility. Nathan has a strong commitment to the community and has been integral in developing strategic measures to allow advances in the way that ConnectAbility works as an organisation.
Bernie Garrett – Deputy Chair
Bernie Garrett has over 25 years of corporate leadership and sales management roles in Australia and 10 years working and living in China. Today, Bernie focuses on developing professional teams through his leadership principles and making a difference in their business and personal lives. His vision is to be recognised as an Inspiration Speaker for Leadership growth, to individuals, teams, organisations and educational institutions.
Scott Brooks – Treasurer
Scott Brooks has over 15 years of experience in the accounting and financial services industries, including 7 years working in London, returning to Newcastle in 2014. Scott is currently with Maxim Accounting & Business Advisors and is also a director of the Hunter Business Chamber.
With family using similar service organisations within NSW, Scott is a keen supporter of the industry and committed to ensuring ConnectAbility continues to provide valuable services to the local community.
Kate’s early career was spent in banking, small business administration and management. This background has provided her with a strong commercial acumen and a sound understanding of the challenges facing small business. Kate has spent the last 22 years in recruitment working as a consultant for National and International companies in the local recruitment market. She has a Diploma in Management, is an active committee member with the Newcastle Business Club and becoming a board member of ConnectAbility provides her with an opportunity to donate back to the community.
Suzie Leask is an Associate Director at Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors (part of the NSW Business Chamber group of companies) where she leads the Newcastle Corporate + Commercial Practice. Suzie is a trusted advisor to local and international businesses and is passionate about corporate governance and assisting businesses and boards by sharing her legal expertise and experience, which includes over 10 years in private practice, previous roles at a top-tier international law firm and in house legal counsel for a global company with responsibility for subsidiaries across Asia Pacific.
Suzie is a proud Novocastrian and sits on a number of local not-for-profit boards and committees, including the Hunter Young Business Mind Awards, Women Lawyers Association of NSW, is a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Governance Institute of Australia, and was a Finalist for the 2018 Australian Law Awards – Regional Lawyer of the Year and 2018 Newcastle Business Club Awards. Suzie is delighted to be involved on the Board of such a vital and community focused organisation and is looking forward to working with the ConnectAbility team.
Luke is a born and bred Novacastrian, attending Merewether Heights Primary and Merewether High School before completing tertiary studies in education and then law at the University of Newcastle. Luke is the principal of Sessions Legal and an experienced property and commercial lawyer. He established Sessions Legal was in 2013 after working for more than 10 years as a lawyer in local and national law firms. Luke is a keen surfer and mountain bike rider and loves getting outside on the weekends with his family including his 3 children. Luke enjoys being a lawyer because he does interesting work in an environment where you are able to help people achieve their goals. A desire to help people and contribute to the wider community is the reason Luke jumped at the chance to join the ConnectAbility Board.
David Carey – CEO
David brings with him a strong background in in supporting people to achieve having worked in the areas of disabilities and children’s services for over ten years. “The most valuable resource of any organisation are its people” David said “Whether you are talking about our customers, families or staff. Each individual presents a unique opportunity to achieve a goal either personally or professionally that together support ConnectAbility to remain a leader within the sector.”
Scott Harvey – Operations Manager, Community Disability
It has almost been 20 years since Scott first walked through the door of ConnectAbility as a very green volunteer. Over this long association with the organisation Scott has fulfilled many roles from providing community supports to customers, developing programs and resources to his current role as Operations Manager for ConnectAbility. Scott has an Arts Degree specialising in Psychology, Cert 4 in Workplace Training & Assessment and Cert 4 in Frontline Management.
Scott says of his role:“Each and every day poses a new challenge, but I am very proud to have been part of the organisations journey. It is these challenges which drive my motivation to inspire change and the opportunity for greater community participation, inclusion and opportunity for people living with a disability. I continually ask myself “what have I done to improve the quality of someone’s life today”?
Over many years I have made many long-standing relationships with customers, their families and many staff. These are very important to me and drive my motivation “to do better” every day. My passion has always been to ensure a positive approach to support is provided without focusing on an individual’s limitations and ensuring we have a skilled and knowledgeable workforce to deliver the best outcomes to people using the service. I have a strong belief in human rights and equity for all. We must look at each person’s vision to maximise their independence and social and economic participation as the benefits for the people using ConnectAbility and their families/carers are huge if we get it right.”
Kathryn Watts – Manager Community Aged Care
Kathryn commenced with ConnectAbility in November 2016 with the scope to build and develop the Aged Care division of the organisation. Kathryn has a Bachelor of Health, Ageing and Community Services, Diploma of Management and Cert IV in Mental Health and over 16 years’experience working in a variety of roles within the Aged Care sector from Support Worker, Case Manager, and then moving into Management and Senior Management positions.
With the Ageing population high on the Government’s agenda there has been and will continue to be many changes to the Aged Care system. Advising our customers on a daily basis on what is available and how to access services is a key component of our day to day practice. Kathryn has a commitment to ensuring our aged care community have opportunities to maintain their independence, community connections and to stay in their homes for as long as they are able.
Brenda Gledhill – Hunter Valley Disability Services HVDS
Brenda has 34 years’ experience in Supported Accommodation in the public sector.
In 2016 she took a 12 months secondment to work with a Support for Decision Making project which was a joint project between FACS and St Vincent De Paul Society.
Brenda is passionate about making a difference in the lives of the people we support and ensuring our workforce has the drive and commitment to making the transition from Public sector to Private sector a success.
She currently manages 20 SIL models of accommodation support and an In Home Support model.
The challenges of the NDIS have provided a steep learning curve for all of us but our focus is on working through the challenges, facing them head on and getting the best outcomes we can for the people we support.
It is an exciting time for the sector and I am happy to be part of the Connectability family.