The MHFA Australia Team | Mental Health First Aid

Dr Shona Bass

With a PhD in Medicine from the University of Melbourne, and a Master’s in Applied Science Research from RMIT University, Shona brings a wealth of experience in evidence-based and scientific research and in health leadership and advocacy to her role as MHFA Australia CEO. Shona was previously Head of the Exercise and Nutrition Science School at Deakin University, and was also the owner and managing director of Early Life Foundations, an international consultancy that delivered expertise and support to parents, educators, local government and private organisations to create optimal learning environments for children aged 0-14 years.

Sharon Rayner

General Manager
BA (Melb), MPH (La Trobe), MHlthSci (La Trobe)
Sharon oversees MHFA Australia’s operational and corporate support functions, including having responsibility for business development, and leading the finance, information technology, administration and marketing functions. With a background in public health / health policy, Sharon has worked in leadership positions across the education, health and not-for-profit sectors. Sharon’s focus is on supporting organisations to grow and improve through executing strategic plans and implementing a continuous improvement approach.

Dr Claire Kelly

Director of Curriculum
BA(Hons) (ANU), PhD (ANU)  Adjunct Fellow (Deakin)
Dr Claire Kelly is the Director of Curriculum at MHFA Australia and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. Claire has been involved with MHFA since 2003, when she first became an instructor while completing her Doctorate at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the program was first developed. Prior to her current position, Claire was the Youth MHFA Programs Manager for 10 years and also worked on the MHFA Guidelines used to develop Edition 2 of MHFA and YMHFA. Claire's PhD thesis was written on the mental health literacy of Australian adolescents. Her main passion is the mental health of young people and minimising the impacts that mental health problems can have on development, educational outcomes and long-term functioning. Claire has suffered episodes of depression and anxiety since adolescence, which has been a driver for this work.

Louise Kelly

Specialised Programs Manager
BA. Comm (USQ), MA. Ed (USQ), GDipPsych (Monash)
Louise Kelly is the Manager of Specialised Programs at MHFA Australia, where she is developing and overseeing the roll-out of a number of specialised courses including MHFAider refresher training, MHFA for Gambling Problems and MHFA for Non-suicidal Self-injury. Louise’s previous experience is in the higher education sector, working to champion mental health within tertiary settings. Louise is a passionate advocate for mental health and well-being literacy as well as models that promote prevention and early intervention. She is an accredited Standard MHFA Instructor.

Eliza Pross

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Curriculum Consultant
BA (Psychology and Social Policy) USYD, BSW (Hons) USYD, Master of Policy Studies (Human Services) USYD, Cert IV TAA
Eliza Pross is a Yuin/Nuenonne woman and joined the MHFA Australia team in February 2017 as a consultant curriculum developer. She co-developed the Talking about Suicide course that is soon to be launched, and is currently working on material for a new specialised course on Non-suicidal Self-injury for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Eliza has extensive experience working with Aboriginal communities across urban, rural and remote settings, and within the mental health, aged care and disability service settings. She is a qualified Social Worker, and an accredited Aboriginal and Older Person Mental Health First Aid Instructor, passionate about supporting communities to support each other, and particularly ‘growing up’ strong and well youth.

Leonie Marks

Older Person Program Manager & Instructor Coordinator
BA Psychology, Dip Management, Dip Community Service Work, Cert IV TAE
Leonie is an experienced trainer/facilitator, with qualifications in psychology, counselling and management and a background in private practice and community service work. She is a Principal Master MHFA instructor, accredited to deliver Standard, Older Person, Tertiary, Blended and Tailored MHFA courses. Leonie is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of mental health, as everyone’s business. An advocate of personal recovery, she views MHFA as a highly valuable and effective tool in inspiring individuals and communities to new levels of insight, responsiveness and care for self and others.

Kathryn Elkins

Manager of Instructor Training
Coming soon.

Gloria Claessen

Consultant Instructor Trainer
CertIVTAA (Lifeline), CertIVCommMed (RS), BAMed (Macq), DipEd (La Trobe), MEd (UC), GradDipPDEd (UC) Director, RICO Training, Processes & Strategies 
Gloria Claessen is a highly experienced and qualified education/training professional. She is a Principal Master MHFA Instructor and a National Trainer of Instructors for Standard and Youth MHFA Programs. Gloria also attends to queries from Standard MHFA Instructors about their MHFA courses and extensions. In her role as MHFA Instructor and MHFA Trainer of Instructors, Gloria has adapted the course to the particular needs of a number of contexts including community, university, NGO, corporate and government agencies. Her company, RICO (Resilient Individuals, Communities and Organisations) provides a range of training, processes and strategies, which promote resilience in individuals, as well as communities and organisations.

Katrina Dart

Consultant Instructor Trainer & AMHFA Instructor Coordinator
BA (CSU), MSocWk (Deakin), MChildProtection (CSU)
Katrina Dart is a Barkinji woman from far west NSW. She has worked in many different areas including mental health (child and adolescent and Aboriginal Child and Adolescent Mental Health), case work, child protection and disability. Currently, Katrina is a Consultant MHFA Trainer of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructors and AMHFA Instructor Coordinator. She is very passionate when it comes to mental health, given she has many family members and extended family members, who have diagnosed mental health issues. Katrina is committed to improving the mental health of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and is passionate about reducing stigma associated with mental illness and psychotic illnesses in particular.

Nathan Campbell

AMHFA Consultant Instructor Trainer
Nathan is both an Aboriginal (Yidindji – Gordanvale, Nth QLD) and Torres Strait Islander (Komet – Mer (Murray Island)) man who has been a Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Instructor since Feb 2013. He has been training instructors in AMHFA since Oct 2015. Nathan has been working as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advanced Health Worker with Child and Youth Mental Health Service on the Gold Coast since 2012 and is currently studying a bachelor degree in Psychology. He is passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and spreading the message of the importance of achieving and maintaining strong Social and Emotional Wellbeing through the community.

Denise Warmington

Instructor Trainer and Youth & teen MHFA Instructor Coordinator
B Nurs (Deakin), PGDip MH Sc (Melb)
Denise is a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse and Lecturer in Nursing at Deakin University who completed her instructor training in 2012. Denise has worked in the area of mental health for over 16 years and is a passionate and enthusiastic Principal Master MHFA Instructor who is accredited to deliver Standard, Youth, Teen, tailored and blended versions of the MHFA course. Denise is dedicated to increasing participants mental health literacy, confidence and willingness to offer support to those experiencing a mental health problem or mental health crisis.

Dave Segal

Standard Instructor Coordinator
MMgmt (ANU), BComms - Media Multimedia Production (UC), Graduate Certificate Community Counselling (UC), Cert IV TAE
Dave Segal is a Principal Master Instructor facilitating courses since 2011 and is accredited for Youth & Refresher, Standard & Refresher, Non Suicidal Self Injury, Suicidal Person. Dave has a diverse background as a qualified chef, scuba instructor, 12 years in the tertiary sector and 8 years as a ‘solopreneur’. Now working part time as Standard Instructor Coordinator Dave hopes to encourage and support all standard instructors to achieve their goals whether it be running the first course, fine tuning facilitation skills or developing a thriving business to provide high quality, evidence-based mental health first aid education to everyone.

Alena Farrugia

Consultant Trainer Youth & Teen programs
BA. Artistic Philosophies (WSU), DipEd (WUS), Dip Professional Interior Design (AID)
Alena Farrugia is a National Consultant Trainer of Youth and Teen programs at MHFA Australia, as well as a recognised Principle Master MHFA Instructor. An experienced educator with over a decade within the educational field, she has work in a number of varied settings with a particular focus on Special Needs. Alena is the Founder of Beyond Limits Learning Clinic, aligning her personal mission with that of BLLC, in looking towards actively breaking down stigma, and championing the improved support, early detection and treatment of mental health illnesses in our community by providing relevant, ‘down to earth’ learning opportunities for all.

Tony Hoare

Consultant Instructor Trainer
RN BA (Melb), BAppSc (La Trobe) MNSt (La Trobe) Director, Action Education
Tony Hoare is a Director of Action Education Consultants, with a diverse nursing and education background. His professional interests are gerontology and mental health, and he is a Consultant National Trainer and Principal Master Instructor with MHFA Australia. Tony has for many years held a part-time contract with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs as their National Aged Care Adviser, and for the last year has redesigned and rewritten their Men’s Health Peer Education training program and materials. Tony is passionate about slow food, fast music, his young family and edgy comedy. And MHFA.

Margi MacGregor

Consultant Instructor Trainer
Cert IV in TA, Grad Dip Psych, M Couns (Monash)
Margi has a passion for raising mental health awareness and combines this with her training background to deliver engaging, interactive Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid training. She strongly believes that education is the key to destigmatising mental illness and enhancing community support. Margi holds a Certificate IV Training and Assessment, a Graduate Diploma in Psychology and a Master of Counselling degree from Monash University and is currently completing a Double Diploma in Vocational Education and Training and Training Design and Development.

Ian Goodhardt

Consultant Instructor Trainer
M Counselling and Human Services; M Conflict Resolution; Cert IV TAE
Ian has been an MHFA Instructor since 2007. He is accredited to deliver the Standard, Youth, Older Persons’ and Gambling courses. Ian runs his own consultancy business Goodhardt Consulting which offers training (especially MHFA courses), individual and couples therapy, and mediation and conflict resolution services. He has worked in a number of roles, including several years in Family Law mediation (which included setting up one of the first Family Relationship Centres), and many years as the rabbi in various synagogues both here and in the UK where he was born. He was also Registrar of the Melbourne Beth Din (Jewish Court) from 2012 to 2018.

Mark Smith

Consultant Instructor Trainer
B. Sc. Biological Sciences (La Trobe) Dip Ed. Secondary (La Trobe), MA Special Education (Sydney)
Mark is an educator and Master Instructor of the Youth and teen MHFA programs from 2010. In 2018 Mark joined MHFA as a Consultant Trainer in the Youth Program Team. Mark has over 18 Years’ experience as a secondary special education teacher and deputy principal. Prior to this Mark worked in health, disability support and advocacy. Mark and his husband Jonathan are the founders of Safer Communities – our mission is to raise the mental health literacy of communities through education. Safer Communities primarily focusses on school communities delivering MHFA courses and consulting with educational leaders to advocate for MHFA in educational settings. Mark is passionate about many things, especially travel, human rights and education. Mark grew up in Melbourne but now resides in the Byron Bay Hinterland. He feels blessed!

Leanne Northausen

Senior Finance Officer
CertIVBkpg (IBI)
Leanne Northausen has been a part of the MHFA since 2005 and has watched it grow steadily over the years. She believes in the MHFA Program and has seen over the years that MHFA courses make such a difference to so many people, including people affected by mental illness and those around them. Leanne feels privileged to work for MHFA Australia and continues to have great passion for the Program. Leanne enjoys her fur-kids and her country living lifestyle.

Emiliano Fernandes

BCom, CPA Australia
Emiliano Fernandes joined MHFA Australia in June 2013 as an Accountant. He has robust experience in financial management and accounting and has worked in various private and public sector roles in Melbourne.  Prior to relocating to Australia in 2010, he worked as a senior accountant for several years for a multinational company in Dubai. Having recently made Victoria his home, Emiliano perceives his current role in MHFA as an opportunity to contribute positively to the Australian community.

Amanda Taylor

Inventory Coordinator
Prior to moving to Melbourne in 2017 Amanda worked in logistics, warehousing and distribution in the Brisbane market for a global company distributing leading market brands. Amanda’s role with MHFA is Inventory Coordinator. She is excited for a change of industry and is looking forward to gaining a greater understanding of mental health and how to support others.

Dr Kathy Bond

Research Officer
BSc (Towson), GDipCouns (TC), MHSc (Sexual Health) (Sydney), PhD (Sydney)
Kathy Bond joined MHFA Australia in 2012. She is currently our Research officer and holds an honorary position at the University of Melbourne. Kathy first developed a passion for assisting those with mental health problems when working for an organisation that helped people with injuries, illnesses and disabilities enter or re-enter the workforce. She developed a passion for research when completing her Master’s and PhD. Her current position with MHFA Australia is the perfect marriage of these two passions. Her other interests include fostering neonatal kittens, spending time with family and reading.

Fairlie Cottrill

Research & Project Officer
BC (Professional Communication), MPH (Melbourne)
Fairlie joined the MHFA Australia Team in April 2017. She is currently completing her Masters of Public Health at the University of Melbourne, majoring in program evaluation. Fairlie's role with MHFA enables her to combine her interests in project coordination and research to support the evaluation, development and growth of MHFA Programs. She is passionate about the importance of prevention and early intervention approaches to improving population health, and has particular interests in mental health and homelessness.

Frank Skender

Consultant MHFA Stock Storage & Dispatch
Director, FS Pack and Mail Services
Frank Skender has been working for the MHFA Program since it moved to Melbourne in 2005. Frank's company, FS Pack and Mail Services (conveniently located in the same building as MHFA Australia), specialises in providing professional packing and courier services. He does a wonderful job of storing all of the MHFA stock, sending out all orders of MHFA materials from Instructors and members of the public, and packing and sending materials for our Instructor Training courses.

Spencer Lai

Program Coordinator (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander & Older Persons)
BFA Hons (VCA)
Spencer began working with Mental Health First Aid in September 2016. While maintaining a career as a professional artist, they are interested in mental health, psychology and LGBTIQA+ rights. Spencer has experienced mental illness and believes in the promotion and implementation of mental health awareness and support services to reduce stigma. They are currently the Program Coordinator of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander & Older Person Programs, as well as providing ongoing customer support.

Anna Salamy

Program Coordinator (Standard & Specialised Programs)
Anna joined the MHFA team in April 2018, after completing a dual degree in Applied Public Health and Global Studies at Australian Catholic University. Anna’s studies reflect her passion for health and wellbeing on a local and global level. She is excited to be working at MHFA Australia and contributing to the improvement of support for people experiencing mental health problems.

Erin Healy

Personal Assistant
BA Hons, (Nutrition and Dietetics), GDip (Health Promotion)
Erin joined the MHFA team in July 2017 after completing a Graduate Diploma in Health Promotion. She has previously worked as a Research Assistant and a Private Practice Dietitian in her home-town of Adelaide, South Australia, and has since followed her passion to begin a career in Mental Health. Erin has a strong passion for reducing the stigma that surrounds mental health and is excited to assist the team at MHFA to make a positive impact on the health of our community members.

Toby Davis

Marketing Manager
Toby joined MHFA Australia as our Marketing Manager in January 2018 having relocated to Melbourne from the UK with his family. He brings with him over 15 years experience of growing brands and engaging audiences. Toby is passionate about inspiring and bringing people together around the work that we do. Through the use of innovative marketing and story telling, he is working hard to emotionally connect our many audiences with our programs and activities. He feels honoured to be working at MHFA Australia and to be playing a part in helping to change the narrative around mental health and improve the wellbeing of our population.

Belinda Hood (Azzaro) (Maternity Leave)

Marketing & Communications Officer
DipFArts&AppDes (RMIT), CertIIIAccAdm&Bkpg (Monash), CertIVBkpg&Acc (Monash)
Belinda Hood comes from a background in Marketing, Design and Advertising. She first developed a passion for those affected by mental illness when she experienced the effects first hand and saw how life debilitating mental illness can become. She is a big believer in our program and passionate about promoting mental health awareness. She feels that it is a great privilege to be part of our cause to reach those in need by educating the wider community and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Sarah Morrison

Workplace & Communities Engagement Manager
MSHRD (Monash), BA (Bond)
Sarah joined the MHFA Australia team in May 2018. She brings with her over ten years experience in human resources; specifically in workplace wellbeing, training & culture. With a Masters in Human Resource Management, Sarah is passionate about the positive role work can play in people's lives. Before coming to MHFA, Sarah saw first hand the impact our programs had, through delivering the MHFA program to leaders and others in her previous workplace. She is so excited to support other organisations to realise the same impact.

Sunny Yiu

Manager, Technology & Development
CSM (ScrumAlliance); B Software Engineering (ANU)
Sunny joined the MHFA Australia team in 2014 to work on the continued development of the MHFA website and the Web Instructor Management System (WIMS 2.0), as well as MHFA's cloud hosting infrastructure. He has been working as a professional Drupal Developer and Linux Administrator since 2010. He has a great interest in computer security and applied cryptography. In his spare time Sunny is an avid Tai Chi practitioner, and enjoys a good paleo style meal, as well as other interesting cuisines around Melbourne.

Rene Hostettler

Drupal Developer
BA, Multimedia/Media - (Swinburne)
Rene has been a Drupal developer professional since 2008 this experience has given him exposure to most areas of the stack and he is particularly well versed in drupal as a commerce platform. He is delighted to be part of such a great organisation like MHFA where he can use his development skills and experience to build technological tools and solutions that are helping to improve the lives of people affected by mental health problems in our community. When he isn’t working he is on an eternal quest to find Melbourne's best dumplings or tinkering with addressable led sculpture electronics and programming.

Cassandra Tam

Web Developer
BDes (MultimedSys) (RMIT University)
Cass is a web developer who joined MHFA in 2017. She has a discerning eye, and aims for all her work to be flawless - be it frontend or backend. Prior to working in the IT industry - you’ll never guess it - she was a dispensary technician in a pharmacy! With a background in healthcare, she has grown a passion for helping others take care of their physical and mental health, making a goal of putting smiles on people’s faces. Outside of the screen, Cass enjoys singing, baking, and going out on social adventures (ranging from trying out new cafes to hiking). Her Google calendar is constantly filling up with events - please book in advance. Last note: While she enjoys tea and coffee, she will kindly decline your offer if the coffee is instant.

Maria Tsoulakas

Drupal Developer
DIT (SD) (Holmesglen)
Maria joined the MHFA Australia team in July 2017. Touching base with Drupal for the first time in 2008, she has grown to be a professional Drupal developer and is excited to share her experience and skills for others to benefit. She feels thrilled when she sees people improving their lives and feel at ease. When she is away from the computer, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, listening to music, cooking, as well as making her favourite traditional sweet, galaktoboureko.

Brendan O'Keefe

Digital Media Officer & Tech Support
Brendan has a passion for life-long learning, especially informal learning, eLearning, and the promotion of 21st century skills. Brendan comes to MHFA Australia with a wealth of experience in digital production, web development, social media, and small business management. He also has six years experience working in community services as a youth worker. Brendan's role at MHFA Australia is full time, and is designed to support the roll-out of new MHFA eLearning courses and other digital media projects. Brendan also looks after technical support for eLearners, Instructors and MHFAiders. He has been impacted on many levels by mental health through family, friends, and as a youth worker, which is why he springs out of bed in the morning knowing his role will make a difference.

Leisa Pratt

Tech Support Officer
Coming soon.

Karen Bates

Manager of AMHFA Program Delivery
Karen Bates is a Barkindji woman originally from Menindee in the far west of New South Wales along the Darling River, and is the Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander MHFA Program Delivery. She has spent her working career committed to Aboriginal community, with a strong emphasis on empowering people to realise they are the experts of their own lives. Her work has been in the area of Aboriginal Health and Education, with the majority of that time specialising in the area of Aboriginal mental health. Karen is a strong advocate for the needs of Aboriginal people and is passionate about decreasing stigma and improving social and emotional wellbeing and mental health in community. She has worked within the government and community-controlled sectors in a variety of roles that have included cultural consultancy, clinical services, policy, workforce development and education, research, project work and community development.


MHFA Mascot
The MHFA mascot, ALGEE, has been with the MHFA Program since 2004. ALGEE is passionate about promoting mental health literacy and decreasing stigma surrounding mental illness. The initials of his name stand for the MHFA Action Plan: Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis, Listen and communicate non-judgmentally, Give support and information, Encourage the person to get appropriate professional help, Encourage other supports (more information on what we do can be found here).