Disability Advisory Committee

Hand cupping a cut out of 5 people one in wheelchair

The Brimbank Disability Advisory Committee monitors the implementation and progress of actions outlined in the Disability Action Plan (DAP).  It is responsible for ensuring the DAP remains relevant and responsive to changes in policy or community needs. The Committee will include people with lived experience of disability, carer and disability service provider representation.

The objectives of the Committee are to:

  • improve access and inclusion
  • help break down barriers to participation for people with disability, their families and carers
  • share information and build relationships to foster a deeper understanding of disability issues
  • provide feedback on the Disability Action Plan Implementation Plan and annual Community Report Cards.

Current Committee Members

Councillor Maria Kerr (Chair)

Head and shoulders photo of Cr Maria Kerr

Councillor Kerr was elected to represent the people of Taylors Ward in 2020.  She has lived in the West all her life and in Brimbank since 1986.  She has watched the West continuously neglected, and the gap between East and West widen. Furthermore watching the community online demand change and louder voices, motivated her to put her hand up, to make a difference.  

Councillor Kerr is passionate about securing better services for people living with disability and their carers, as well as other disadvantaged and minorities in Brimbank.

Peter Thomson (Co-chair)

Head and shoulders photo of Peter Thomson

Peter’s pronouns are he/him and he has been a proud resident of Brimbank all of his life. He played and coached local sport for 20yrs which sadly ended after being left with disability from a vehicle related accident. Peter has since dedicated his time to advocating for people with disabilities and for better outcomes for Brimbank residents. Peter is a current Brimbank Disability Network Group member (which he co-chairs) and also a Brimbank City Council Volunteer.

Peter wanted to become a DAC member because he felt like he had something to offer the committee, particularly given his firsthand experience of living as a person with and without disability. During his time as a DAC member, Peter hopes to see the rights of people with disability improve. If Peter could possess a super power it would be to have power in his legs so he can walk and kick a football again. His favourite saying is ‘see the person not the disability’.

Janet Curtain

Head and shoulders photo of Janet Curtain

Janet’s pronouns are she/her, and for the past 15 years, she has been a disability advocate and activist in Brimbank, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Janet is Chinese and has cerebral palsy, giving her unique insight into the barriers and discrimination experienced by people with disability from non-English speaking backgrounds. Janet founded the group ‘Power in Culture and Ethnicity’ (PCE) in 2019 to empower people to speak up for themselves, saying that ‘self-advocacy is like a muscle; if you don't use it you lose it!’

Janet wished to join the DAC because she has lived all her life in Brimbank. She wants Brimbank Council to lead the way in equality and co-design and have people with disability shaping and making decisions. Janet would like to see the DAC be a useful resource for Brimbank Council to use when making decisions about community structure, service and strategy.

Janet’s claim to fame was being on Family Feud (as the captain) and losing the sudden death because the buzzer was too high for her to reach. If Janet could have a superpower, it would have to be having a magic wand to create world peace and more ramps.

Fiona Denmark

Head and shoulders photo of Fiona Denmark

Fiona’s pronouns are she/her and she grew up in outback NSW. Fiona has lived in Brimbank for the past ten years and loves Brimbank’s rich tapestry of cultures, cuisines and personalities. Despite being legally blind, Fiona never says “No” to a challenge or opportunity, never letting her disability prevent her from achieving the things she sets her mind to. Fiona is a qualified social worker, resilience coach, keynote speaker and chairperson of the Department of Transport Employee Accessibility Network. She is also on the Client Advisory Committee for Vision Australia and is a member of various disability advocacy groups.

Fiona wanted to be a DAC member to advocate for others. She wants to give her voice to actions that Council take and to improve community access and inclusion for those with a disability. During her time as a DAC member, Fiona would like to see inclusion and accessibility as a key consideration in future actions Council take. She is proactively seeking accessibility as an initial part of project consultation processes and having people with disability provide relevant feedback on Council services.

Fiona is an adventure junkie, which has included going 300km p/h on the back of her husband’s motorcycle at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. She was a finalist in the 2022 Holman Prize for the Blind and loves to pole dance for fitness.

Reece Gains

Head and shoulders photo of Reece Gains

Reece’s pronouns are he/him and he works in Brimbank after growing up on Phillip Island. Reece has a background in Social Work and Arts; being dyslexic helps him to think creatively, develop resources and work with systems to increase inclusion. He has spent time living in Holland and the Philippines during Student Exchange and Student Placement, learning about Social Work and Community Development approach to working with people with disability in the community.

As a person with lived experience of physical disability and being neurodiverse, Reece wanted to be a DAC member to support the work of Council to improve employment outcomes for people with disability in education and employment in Brimbank. During his time as a DAC member, Reece would like to see increased opportunities for people with disability to gain and develop employment skills at Council in a range of industries via work experience, industry engagement, apprenticeships and engaging in the services delivered by the Council. Reece’s favourite saying is ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and his proudest achievement is learning to read and write after being diagnose with dyslexia at the age of 18.

Tony Hooper

Head and shoulders photo of Tony Hooper

Tony's pronouns are he/him. He grew up in country Victoria and moved to Melbourne over 20 years ago. Tony has studied at Latrobe University, Bendigo and has worked in accountancy, business management and marketing roles across a wide range of medium enterprises throughout Victoria.  Tony currently works in Sunshine at Possability, empowering people with disability to navigate service supports. Tony has also previously been an elected councillor at Wyndham City Council and a Director of a Community Bank, in the Western Suburbs. During his spare time, Tony has volunteered in Relay for Life, Lions Club, Tax Help, Action Groups, and Clean Up Australia Day.

Tony wanted to become a DAC member as he sees a need for greater support for those living with a disability, including building awareness of the hidden barriers people face. What we take for granted is something many can’t access, and through the DAC, he hopes to shine a light on these and help create concepts that Council can take on and be an industry leader in Disability Support. The growth in the NDIS has shown that many people live with disabilities in our communities. Each of them needs to be allowed to take opportunities to thrive.

As a DAC member Tony would like to see Brimbank become known as the place for holistic services, access, and community assets and for other councils to reach out and learn from what Brimbank successfully implements. This includes access to work and meaningful career opportunities; a human right of equality and connectedness.

Sharlene Howard

Head and shoulders photo of Sharlene

Sharlene moved to Brimbank to live in 1995 after beginning her life in central Victoria. She has lived experience of disability (including hidden) and is a qualified and accredited Access Consultant assessing the built environment. Sharlene also volunteers for a charity organisation and previously worked for 10 yrs in a Brimbank located educational setting for children with disabilities.

Sharlene wanted to be a DAC member because she wished to be more involved in the local community and to give back/pay forward the positive experiences of living in Brimbank. During her time as a DAC member, Sharlene would like to see Council's implementation of the Disability Action Plan, greater access for people with disabilities in our community, and the adoption of the goals and principles of universal design to benefit everyone. Sharlene’s favourite quote is ‘My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn't accessible’, by Stella Young 1982-2014.

Spencer Morgan

Head and shoulders photo of Spencer Morgan

Spencer’s pronouns are he/him, and he has lived, worked, and learned in Brimbank his whole life. Spencer is very active and involved in the community space, which includes being part of Brimbank Council's Crystal Queer program, raising money for charity, taking art classes, participating in ANZAC day and Pride marches and being a representative on a Trans Awareness panel. Spencer was also nominated for Young Brimbank Citizen of the Year.

Spencer wanted to be a DAC member because of his lived disability experience and desire to share and contribute to a bigger group to create something bigger than everyone. Spencer hopes for change to occur during his time as a DAC member. Spencer’s favourite quote comes from John Lennon – ‘Everything will be ok in the end, if it’s not okay it’s not the end’, and a song that could be a soundtrack to his life is ‘Call Me What You Like’ by LoveJoy.

Jo Szczepanska

Head and should photo of Jo Szczepanska

Jo’s pronouns are she/her, and she is a maker, organiser and award-winning designer who wants to live in a fair and healthy world where services are co-designed with communities. Jo is also a refugee, person with disability and LGBTQIA+ ally who has worked in Australia and abroad. She is a ‘Design Practice Lead’ working in design and community engagement for Cohealth, with her work in Brimbank currently focusing on the community design of the ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing Local services’. She volunteers at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival and teaches at RMIT University.

Jo wanted to be a DAC member to support the design of accessible information, plans, products, and services for people in Brimbank. Jo looks forward to collaborating with other people with disabilities, Council and communities to improve inclusion. During her time as a DAC member, Jo would like to see the involvement of people with disabilities in decision-making and design and would also like to see members learning together and leveraging the skills, talents and ideas they have in the area. Jo’s favourite quote is ‘Give ordinary people the right tools, and they will design and build the most extraordinary things’ by Neil Gershenfeld. If she had a superpower, it would be teleportation.

Rulz Tsimiklis  

Head and shoulder photo of Rulz Tsimiklis

Rulz's pronouns are she/her, and she has lived in St Albans from 10 years of age, attended St. Albans Primary School, then finished Secondary School at St. Albans High. Rulz is a busy mum of two grown-up children. Having lived in Brimbank for most of her life, Rulz has been an active member of local community Sports clubs, the Greek Orthodox Community of St Albans and, of course, school communities.

Rulz has worked with Star Victoria in formulating guidelines for schools and communities for Inclusivity for "Children with Disabilities in Schools and Community" and has worked tirelessly with local schools - Kealba Secondary College, St. Pauls Catholic School in Kealba and Deer Park North Primary School, to support students with disabilities in mainstream school.

Rulz wanted to represent her community in being a DAC member to provide her shared learnings of disability arts and culture and her knowledge of cultural awareness and multicultural communities, education and supporting family members living with disability.

Connecting with her community has provided Rulz with an awareness and understanding of the community as a whole. Rulz will be doing what she can to share her personal and professional experience to develop a better understanding of the challenges met by people with disabilities in our community and how we can keep our community accessible and inclusive for all. Thank you for the opportunity to represent the people of Brimbank.

Jenny Willis

Head and shoulders photo of Jenny Willis

Jenny has been caring for her son for 28 years, and due to the pressures from caring over time, Jenny now identifies as a person living with disability as well. Jenny has in-depth knowledge gained from a dual perspective of being a carer and a person living with disability in many areas, including NDIS funding, public health issues, community attitudes, social programming, supports and services.  Jenny also has extensive experience in the design and development of educational programs, where Jenny has been able to deliver and support Council events and programs on disability and public health issues over the last ten years.

Jenny wanted to be a DAC member as she is passionate in raising awareness around the need for equality and equal opportunity, with an emphasis on people living with a complex disability. Jenny encourages all community members to create social attitudinal changes towards disability, by educating and creating a greater understanding in sharing her lived experiences in her local community.

Jenny has also been an active member of the Brimbank Disability Network Group for the past 10 years, spending the last four years as Co-Chair. Jenny enjoys being out and about with her son in their van, making memories and sharing visual stories through social media.

Last updated: 2 January 2024 - 6:23pm