Tenants' Union Board and Staff
Tenants' Union Board and Staff
Melissa Brooks • Chairperson
Melissa has a background in social policy, with experience in the community housing, homelessness and domestic violence sectors. She has governance and government relations experience in state government, and served as a Councillor on Marrickville Council from 2012-2016. Melissa believes everyone has the right to a safe, affordable home. She is a private tenant.
Julia Davis • Secretary
Julia joined the Tenants' Union Board in 2014. Julia is a solicitor and policy officer at the Financial Rights Legal Centre. Julia has a Masters in Human Rights Law from the London School of Economics and a juris doctorate from the University of Florida. She is passionate about helping consumers and tenants in NSW.
Hayley Winchcombe • Treasurer
Hayley joined the Tenants' Union Board in 2021. Her professional career is in strategy, economics and policy consulting and her academic background is in the social sciences. She has a keen passion for social justice, inclusive and fair policy and is excited to support the Tenants' Union's work to promote safe and affordable housing for all.
Maree joined the Board in 2017. She has a background in education, industrial relations and social security law and is currently a solicitor in private practice. Maree has qualifications in governance as well as education and law. Maree believes in systemic advocacy and wants to help change the legal system to improve rights for renters.
Giancarlo de Vera
Giancarlo de Vera (they/them) is a disability, racial justice, and LGBTIQ+ advocate. They currently head up policy and advocacy at People with Disability Australia, the national peak body that represents all people with disability. Additionally, they serve as Treasurer and inaugural Secretary of the Australian Centre for Disability Law and the Disabled Australian Lawyers Association respectively. They are also the Immediate Past President of the Australian GLBTI Multicultural Council, the national peak body that represents LGBTIQ+ people from multicultural and multi-faith backgrounds. Giancarlo was recently listed as one of Pro Bono Australia's #Impact25 for 2022, a publicly voted list that honours the social sector's most influential people for their significant and positive impact in Australia and around the world, and was also named as one of the 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians for 2021. Giancarlo looks forward to providing a disability focus to the Board of Tenants' Union of NSW!
Olli Wynyard Gonfond
Olli joined the Tenants' Union Board in 2022. Olli is an Aboriginal man of Dhurug descent, born and raised on Biripi Country in NSW. Olli works as a designer for an Indigenous-led consulting firm, where he works with communities, governments, and organisations to design sustainable and equitable solutions. He is passionate about social justice and the important role that safe, affordable, and inclusive access to housing plays in the lives of all Australians.
Brendon joined the Board in 2019. Brendon currently works in Human Resources in the Media industry and has a Masters of HR Management & Industrial Relations and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney. Brendon is a firm believer in promoting fairness and equality for renters and tenants as well as supporting those at risk in all aspects of society, having volunteered with Lifeline and UnLtd in various capacities.
Linda has worked across government, academia, civil society, and non-profit organisations. She is undertaking a PhD in the ethical development, regulation and use of artificial intelligence. Her research focuses on the role of automated decision-making in competitive essential services markets and the development of effective regulatory solutions to prevent consumer harm. As a renter herself, Linda has experienced the process of applying for a property, only to receive a mysterious score that rates apparent suitability for the rental. She passionate about improving consumer protections to make renting fair, and ensuring that opaque technologies don't cause harm.
Lauren is a solicitor in the Pro Bono Practice at Mills Oakley and at Everyday Justice (Mills Oakley’s in house Community Legal Service). Prior to this she worked as a solicitor at Legal Aid NSW in their civil law team. Her main areas of practice are tenancy/housing, discrimination, sexual harassment, employment law and victim/survivor of abuse matters. Lauren is an experienced public interest litigator and has represented vulnerable clients in a range of Tribunals and Courts across Australia. In 2022, Lauren was listed as a finalist in the Lawyers Weekly 30 under 30 awards in the pro bono/community lawyer of the year category.
Leo Patterson Ross • Chief Executive Officer
Leo has worked in housing justice and community development for over 15 years. He has spent more than a decade assisting renters, their advocates and the broader public understand and navigate the housing system. He has a strong media profile speaking to the experience of renters in NSW.
Keisha Galbraith • Administration Coordinator
Keisha joined the Tenants' Union in 2022. She has previously worked in state government, book publishing and medical administration, after studying at the University of Sydney. Keisha has been a renter in Sydney since she was 17. As a disabled woman, she is passionate about accessible and safe housing.
Isobel Stockler • Administration Officer
Isobel has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of Sydney and worked in a variety of administrative roles before joining the Tenants’ Union in 2022. She has been a renter in Sydney for nearly a decade and is currently living on unceded Wangal land.
Grant Arbuthnot • Principal Solicitor
Grant worked for the Tenants' Union for two years in the 1990s and rejoined in 2002. Grant has a Bachelor of Arts from Sydney University and a Diploma of Law from the Legal Practitioners Admissions Board of NSW. Previously, Grant has worked as a marine engineer, laboratory technician, registry clerk, tenants advocate and Tribunal legal officer.
Lehana De Silva • Solicitor – Aboriginal Support
Lehana has a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) from the University of Sydney and a Juris Doctor of Law from the University of Technology, Sydney. Before joining the Tenants' Union, Lehana worked as a solicitor for a Supply Nation certified legal and consulting firm and as a paralegal for a national not-for-profit organisation.
Olivia Nielsen-Gurung • Advocacy Officer
Olivia has worked in social justice and human rights-based organisations both in Australia and Southern Asia for over 15 years. For the past seven years Olivia has worked in the community legal sector as an advocate for renters in NSW, with a focus on the prevention of homelessness and removing barriers to accessing and maintaining safe housing. She has a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts (major politics) and a Master of International Social Development.
Eloise Parrab • Land Lease Communities Officer
Eloise Parrab joined the Tenants' Union in 2020. Eloise has been working in the Tenants Advice and Advocacy Program in NSW since 2003. The majority of this time was at the Inner West Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service as a Tenant Advocate and then Coordinator of the Service. She has a Bachelor of Arts from University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Social Work from UNSW.
Daen Thomas Phillips • Aboriginal Paralegal
Daen is a proud Gamilaroi and Yorta Yorta man. He is studying Law and Commerce at UNSW and hopes to learn skills to act and respond within the community to make a real change. Preceding his role at the Tenants' Union, Daen gained experience as a paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills and completed an internship with the Commonwealth Bank. Daen has broad experience as a volunteer for community organisations, including with a homelessness service and as mentor to high school students in the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience program.
Paul Smyth • Land Lease Communities Solicitor
Paul Smyth joined the Tenants' Union in 2010. Paul previously worked in private legal practice for over ten years in both the Republic of Ireland and in NSW. Paul has a Master of Laws from Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland and Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the National University of Ireland, Galway.
Cass Wong • Solicitor – Strategic Litigation
Cass started at the Tenants' Union in 2013. She was previously a member of the Tenants' Union Board. She has a Master of Laws and a Bachelor of Law/Commerce from the University of NSW.
Jemima Mowbray • Policy and Advocacy Manager
Jemima joined the Tenants' Union in 2014. Working initially in the Residential Parks team, she moved to the Tenants' Union policy team in 2016. She has extensive research experience in the university sector working on projects around politics of multiculturalism, community and identity. Jemima has a Bachelor of Arts and PhD from the University of Sydney. She's passionate about housing justice, is a long-term renter and imagines she'll be renting for life.
Jack Moon • Data and Research Officer
Jack has worked in mathematics research, education and data science for over eight years and has a strong background in communicating maths and data to a variety of audiences. He has a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in mathematics from the University of Sydney and is keen to tell renters’ stories through data.
Dr. Robert Mowbray • Advocacy Officer – Older Renters
Robert’s involvement in tenancy extends over 48 years. He was the Tenants' Union's first Secretary in 1976 and awarded Life Membership in 1996. He received the Law & Justice Foundation Justice Medal in 2004. Robert is a social worker with two postgraduate qualifications in housing from the University of Sydney. He now has a focus on older renters.
Education and resources
Patrycja Arvidssen • Learning and Development Coordinator
Patrycja has worked in a number of roles at the Tenants' Union since 2007. Patrycja is a deeply committed member of the Tenants' Union team who is passionate about adult education. She has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters in Slavic Philology as well as 40110 Cert IV in Training and Assessment, and a Graduate Certificate in Adult Education from Charles Sturt University.
Justin Dowswell • Technology Coordinator
Justin joined the Tenants' Union in 2022, gaining most of his professional experience working in the IT team at a not-for-profit medical research institute. Previously, Justin has also worked as a telecommunications linesman, bicycle messenger, and support worker.
Jeremy Kerbel • Communications Coordinator
Jeremy started with the Tenants' Union in 2013 and has worked in communications, research and campaigning in the non-profit sector for over 15 years. He has a Bachelor of Communications (Hons) from the University of Technology Sydney, and a Diploma of Graphic Design from Enmore Design Centre. He's a tenant in Dharawal Country.
Charlie Wilde • Community Education Coordinator
Charlie has a background in law, teaching and disability advocacy. She passionately believes in the power of community legal education to improve tenants’ access to legal rights and help them fight back against injustices. Charlie holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Master of Teaching.