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Our people

Board of Directors

Phil Cave AM - Chairman

Phillip is a merchant banker beginning his career as an Executive Director of Macquarie Bank Limited. He is an accomplished Chief Executive Officer, Director, Chairman, and Board Member and has over thirty years experience with a proven track record in major corporate turnaround projects, structured finance and corporate advisory services within Australasia. Companies that Phillip has been a major shareholder in and either a Director or Chairman of include: Parbury Limited, Wormald, Sunbeam-Victa and Hygienic Lily. He was formerly Chairman of Golden Circle, Dick Smith Electronics Limited and Bisalloy Steel Group and is currently Chairman of Excelsia College, Solgen Energy Group, Scotts Refrigerated Logistics and Chairman and Founding Partner of Anchorage Capital Partners.

He has been involved in Disability Services for over 30 years and was Chairman of Northcott Disability Services for seven years. He has participated in 25 Variety ‘bashes’ and in 2006 was admitted into the Hall of Fame of Variety, for the Children’s Charity. In 2007 Phillip was awarded by the Australian Government, a Member of the Order of Australia (A.M.) for service to the community, particularly through the provision of support services to Children and Young Adults with Disabilities and to business as a Company Director.

Andrew Rowley – CEO

Andrew joined Ability first Australia as Managing Director in 2012. Andrew comes with over 20 years’ experience in the not-for-profit, education and commercial sector. He has extensive experience in strategy and establishing and securing revenue streams. While being passionate about helping those less fortunate, he is focused on ensuring accountability and outcomes whilst maintaining core values and mission.

Under Andrew’s leadership, Ability First Australia (AFA) has established itself as the only strategic alliance in the disability industry. AFA is playing a critical role in supporting 14 large service providers transition into the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), one of Australia’s largest social reforms since the introduction of Medicare in the 1980s. Andrew is a fellow of ADAPE Australia, a member of the CEO Circle and serves on the Board of Rowing Australia.

Liz Cohen

Liz has led Cara through a period of significant change, transformation and celebrated organisational milestones since joining Cara in 2015. Under Liz’s leadership, Cara has transformed from a block funded ‘Not for Profit’ to a values driven, commercially thinking ‘Profit for Purpose’ that is committed to providing high-quality services so that people with disabilities can lead fulfilling, everyday lives.

Cara now works alongside more than 700 children and adults with disability and employs more than 1000 staff, known as Possible People. Liz has led the organisation towards a new vision, business model, brand and promise, while welcoming record numbers of staff to the organisation, growing revenue and expanding Cara’s services to new customers.

Liz has more than 30 years’ experience in the disability, education and health sectors. In 2017, Liz was named a finalist in the SA Telstra Business Women’s Awards. She is the Deputy Chair of the Health, Disability, Aged Care and Community Services Industry Skills Council SA. Liz has been elected to the board of Ability First Australia, which is a strategic alliance of leading disability service providers, and she is on the board of the YMCA of South Australia. Liz is also a member of the SA State Committee of National Disability Services (NDS).

Jo Jessop

Jo has been the Chief Executive Officer of Multicap since 2006, leading organisational renewal and transformational change including the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. She has extensive senior management experience across a number of not-for-profit and commercial purpose-driven sectors.

She is a Director of both the Brisbane South Primary Health Network and National Disability Services. Jo is passionate about providing high-quality human services outcomes and improved opportunities for vulnerable people, especially those living with disability.

Michael Tait

Michael has spent over 28 years in senior management positions within the health, hospitality, property development and disability sectors. During this time he has operated in Polynesia, Indonesia, Australia, UK and Europe for both national and internationally based organisations.

Michael is Chief Executive Officer of Rocky Bay, a leading disability services provider in Western Australia with a proud 80 year history. Employing 700 staff and volunteers, Rocky Bay provides a range of services and support to over 3000 children and adults (and their families) living with disability. Services are offered to individuals and families within the home and in the community, focusing on individual needs and supporting families and primary carers and include accommodation, respite, employment, therapy services and a range of assistive technology options.

Since joining Rocky Bay in 2006, Michael has been actively involved in the sector with representation on several Boards, committees and project groups. Michael was Deputy-Chair for the WA branch of National Disability Services (NDS), the Peak Body for Disability Services in WA for seven years; a member of the NDS governance and workforce planning subcommittees; Chairing the WA Children and Youth committee whilst sitting on the national committee for children and youth; a member of the DSC CEO Round Table; a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) health forum; and involved in the Premier’s Community Sector Reform.

Michael is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Directors and the Australian Institute of Management; holds tertiary qualifications in business and a Masters in Business Administration.

Guy Cowan

Guy Cowan has been a non-executive Director for the past 9 years. He is currently Chairman of Queensland Sugar Limited and a Director of Santos Ltd. He is also a Director of two private companies. Previously he was a Director of Coffey International and Ludowici Limited. He was a Shell appointed alternative director of Woodside between 1992 and 1995. Guy had a 23 year career with Shell International in various senior Commercial and Financial roles.

His last two roles were as CFO and Director of Shell Oil US and CFO of Shell Nigeria.Guy was CFO of Fonterra Co-operative Ltd between 2005 and 2009. He holds a BSc ( Hons ) Engineering from the University of Sussex and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

Julie White

Julie White has over 35 years experience in both not-for-profit and corporate sectors. She is currently Chair and Director of Reach Out; Chair and Director of Hamlin Fistula (Ethiopia) Australia; Member of the Centre for Social Impact Advisory Council and a member of Chief Executive Women and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Prior board roles have included Founding board member of Women’s Community Shelters; Founding member, Advisory Board of Health Industries SA , Board Member Social Enterprise Finance Australia, Chair of Coca Cola Australia Foundation and member of the Salvation Army Eastern Territorial Advisory Board. Alongside her non-executive roles Julie is a strategic adviser on social investment to business and to not-for-profits in strategic planning, corporate governance and corporate and community engagement.

From September 2012 through to April 2014, Julie was inaugural CEO of Chief Executive Women. Prior to this role, Julie was global head of the Macquarie Group Foundation for just under 12years, where she oversaw the growth of the Foundation to become one of Australia’s leading corporate foundations, whilst building its international presence.

Julie was named as one of the Australian Financial Review BOSS Magazine’s True Leaders in 2008 and was named in January 2009, by ABC Limelight magazine, as one of the top smart arts 09 executives. Julie was also named as a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards for 2009.

Previously, Julie has worked as a community social worker in local government in Australia and overseas, established state-wide community legal education programs for the NSW Government, and has worked in educational development and fundraising.

Ability First Australia Executive Committee

Andrew Rowley – Ability First Australia
Jacquie Thomson – Ability WA
Cheryl De Zilwa – annecto
Liz Cohen – CARA
Rhys Kennedy – CPL
Matt Kinnane – Cootharinga North Queensland
Natalie Forsyth-Stock – LiveBetter
Joanne Jessop – Multicap
Kerrie Mahon – Montrose
Liz Forsyth – Northcott
Greg Ward – Novita
Michael Tait – Rocky Bay
Dr Jennifer Fitzgerald – Scope
Andrew Billing – St Giles

Ability First Australia Team

Andrew Rowley – CEO and Managing Director
Jennifer Luff – Chief Operating Officer

Michael Bink – National Program Manager
Simone Power – Development Manager
Jessica Hempton – Government Relations and Communications Manager
Sarah Kannis – Executive Assistant to CEO