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MND Australia's people

Meet the staff, board, patrons, ambassadors and members of MND Australia.


Carol Birks – Chief Executive Officer
Carol had a career in nursing before joining MND NSW as Manager Family Support Service in January 2000. Carol left MND NSW in October 2006 to take on the role of Chief Executive Officer for MND Australia. Carol represented MND Australia as a director of the board of International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations from 2010 and as chairwoman from 2013 to 2017.

Janet Nash – Acting Director of Research
Janet had a career in neuroscience research before joining the MND Association of New South Wales in 1995 as their first Care Coordinator. This was the beginning of the MND NSW Family Support Service. Janet left MND NSW in 2005 to take up the role of Executive Officer of the MND Research Institute of Australia (MNDRIA).  MNDRIA amalgamated with MND Australia in 2010 and Janet continued as Executive Director Research until 2017 when she took on the role of Executive Officer. Janet stepped back into the Director role last year managing the operations of MNDRIA, the research arm of MND Australia.

Laura Birks – Research Coordinator, 0.6 FTE 
Reporting to the Executive Director Research as part of the MND Australia research team Laura’s work involves managing research grants and overseeing research finances as well as keeping the research section of the website up to date and assisting with organising the annual research conference. 

Laura completed a Bachelor of Marine Science at The University of Sydney in 2002 and has since undertaken a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Law and a Masters of Education. While studying at University, Laura worked part time at MND NSW. She then worked in the Marine Science labs at the University of Sydney and subsequently as a teacher. 

Since moving to Canberra in 2009 Laura has worked in a policy role at an industry association; was employed by the Department of Parliamentary Services to do committee work at Parliament House; and has worked as an editor at a Canberra-based publisher. Laura joined MND Australia as Research Coordinator in November 2018.  

Morag Millington – Communications Manager, 0.6 FTE  
Morags work involves communicating MND care and research activities to the wider MND community, managing the MND Australia website and developing effective campaigns to strengthen influencing priorities and to raise understanding of MND. 

Morag is originally from New Zealand, where she completed a Bachelor of Communication Studies at the University of Waikato. Since moving to Australia in 2006, Morag has held a variety of marketing and communications roles. She initially started out in the book publishing industry, working for Random House Australia, before moving into the public health and research sectors.

In 2009, Morag began working as a Communications Officer at a cannabis research and information centre, which was part of the Department of Medicine at the University of NSW. While at UNSW, Morag discovered that she really enjoyed working in the health and research sector, and so decided to expand her knowledge in this area by undertaking a Master of Public Health part-time, completing it in 2012. In 2018, Morag moved with her family to Canberra. In Canberra, she completed a six-month contract role as part of the quality management division of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, before joining MND Australia at the end of February 2019. 

Ben O’Mara – Information Resource Development Manager, 0.6 FTE 
Ben’s work involves updating MND Australia’s website, fact sheets and other information materials with the latest evidence based information, as well as writing content for newsletters, blogs and media engagement.

Ben works at the intersection of research and practice to try and make health information easy to understand, and evidence-based. Previously, Ben was a Science Writer for the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, and wrote stories and developed information resources for Palliative Care Australia, Sane Australia and Quit, Cancer Council Victoria. Ben has also written for The Conversation, The Guardian, The Mandarin and other news and online media.

Ben’s research has explored ways of improving health promotion with people experiencing homelessness, and refugees and migrants from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Australia. Ben currently holds an Adjunct Research Fellow position in the Department of Health, Art and Design at Swinburne University of Technology. Ben joined MND Australia in April 2019. 

PhD (Deakin University)
BA - Honours (Deakin University)

Komal Upadhyaya – Administration Officer, 0.6 FTE
Komal’s work involves managing office administration, dealing with fundraising enquiries and managing donors and supporting the successful delivery of MND Australia conferences and meetings.

Komal is originally from India and migrated to Australia 13 years ago. She has a Bachelors in Arts degree and further studied a Masters in Human Resource Management back in India. She also completed a  Certificate II in Customer Service and Certificate III in Business Administration in Australia. 

She started her career in Australia back in 2009 with Telstra as Inbound Customer Service & Sales Representative, after that she worked for Dept. of Education as Project Officer in Melbourne (Victoria) for fixed term contract. 
Komal moved to Canberra in 2011 and worked with fire companies Chubb and Wormald Australia as Admin officer and Service Coordinator and also supervised a team of five members at Wormald.

Komal possesses wide-ranging experience mainly within Office Administration and has experience in dealing with clients, stakeholders and vendors at various levels, she also has experience in managing customer database system and has extensive administrative, customer service and management experience. Komal joined MND Australia in April 2019. 


The board of MND Australia consists of an independent elected President and a nominated representative from each state MND association board, up to three Independent Directors and the Chairman of the Research Committee.

MND Australia is the sole member of the MND Research Institute of Australia and as such is responsible for the operations of MNDRIA. The board of both organisations comprise of the same directors.

President – David Ali
David has been a Director of MND Australia since 2006 and was elected National President in November 2013.  He has also been a Director of MND Victoria since 2000 and State President from 2006 to 2013. David is currently Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria), and previously a management services consultant and a senior public sector executive.  David has over 25 years experience as an Executive and non-Executive Director on government and not-for-profit Boards.

Vice President – Lara Kirchner
Lara has worked in local government and public sector for over 20 years, principally in senior management roles.  Her professional background includes extensive strategic and operational experience, in organisational change, service delivery, financial management and community engagement. She has a strong personal commitment to making a significant contribution to MND Australia through her professional skills. Lara is currently the President of MND NSW. 

Treasurer - David Lamperd
David has been involved within the MND Community in the capacity of Director/Board Member since his father-in-law died of MND in 1999, firstly in Western Australia and then Victoria from 2001. David became Secretary of the MND Research Institute from late 2001 until 2005 and has held the roles of Treasurer, Vice President and more recently, State President of MND Victoria.  He has a finance background with over 20 years at National Australia Bank in a variety of roles. For the last 13 years David has been a Partner within a successful Finance Broking business in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. 

Secretary - Joyce Schuringa
Joyce has been involved with the Tasmanian MND Association since her father died of MND in 1998. She has served on the Boards of a variety of NGO's for 23 years and as the MND representative on the Neurological Alliance of Tasmania since its inception in 2006. She is a Senior Physiotherapist in the Tasmanian Health Service. Joyce is currently the President of MND Tasmania. 

Professor Samar Aoun
Samar is Professor of Palliative Care, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine and Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Health sciences, Curtin University, Australia and Adjunct Professor, Monash University and La Trobe University, Australia. She is a palliative care researcher with a public health approach and a focus on under-served population groups such as people with MND, terminally ill people who live alone and family caregivers pre- and post-bereavement. Samar is currently the Vice-President of MND WA.

Peter Denham
Peter is the President of MND Queensland. Peter had a career in the Australian Regular Army and Defence Force. He saw the effect of neurological diseases upon the Veteran Community and has served in Legacy, RSL, Rotary and Muscular Dystrophy Association. Peter is dedicated to bring the very best services and research to people with MND.

Geoff Thomas 
Geoff is President of MND South Australia 

Professor Matthew Kiernan
Matthew is the Chairman of the MND Australia Research Committee. He is the Bushell Chair of Neurology at the University of Sydney, Co-Director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute and Professor of Neurology at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Matthew and his research team have established methods to investigate and diagnose neurological diseases, the latter particularly in relation to MND. He leads the ForeFront Motor Neurone Disease Research Clinic at the University of Sydney. He is also the Vice President of the Australian Brain Foundation and the Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

Independent Directors

Mark Grey 
Mark Grey is a professional company director with a background in national and international strategic marketing and Research and Development in the e Commerce, agribusiness and the health sector. He is currently Chairman of EyeCo; a Canberra based R&D group specializing in the development of intra ocular drugs. He is also the Chairman of ScanCare an IT company specilaising in the tracking of all consumables, equipment and time in the health and professional services sector to meet compliance and finance management challenges.

He was a NED for Guide Dogs Queensland and supported their marketing and fundraising committee and also served on the audit committee. He was also Chairman of Industrial Relations Law Group, Livingstones Australia, Chairman of Melbourne’s private Eye and Ear Hospital, VPSC, Chairman of risk mitigation company Verifact Group and was a director of global accounting and finance group CPA Australia.

Andrew Halter
Andrew is Legal Counsel and Company Secretary to PayPal Australia, managing this ASIC, APRA and AUSTRAC regulated entity’s independent Board of Directors and its Audit, Risk, and Remuneration subcommittees. Andrew also advises PayPal on the full spectrum of Australian financial services law, as well as on competition and consumer law, privacy law, IP law and contract law.

Andrew’s background is in commercial litigation, managing equity investor class actions, contractual disputes and high value commercial debt recovery.

Andrew has also served as in-house counsel to BPAY and eftpos, advising on financial services law, competition and consumer law, privacy law, IP law and contract law.

Jemma Scott
Jemma has 10 years corporate governance and strategic procurement experience within ASX-20, Professional Services and government environments. Jemma currently works as a Senior Manager at the Westpac Group, where she is responsible for the development and execution of strategic procurement strategies to deliver on productivity targets and service delivery objectives.

Jemma is admitted to the Supreme Court of NSW as a solicitor, holds formal corporate governance qualifications from Harvard University and has previously held positions at PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Defence Materiel Organisation.

Jemma’s mother passed away from MND in 2012, and she is extremely passionate about supporting those touched by MND. 


Judith Durham AO, OAM
Judith is a singer, pianist, composer and lyricist and was Australia’s first international pop princess as lead singer with The Seekers. Together with her fellow Seekers she was named as Australian of the Year in 1967. Judith’s husband Ron Edgeworth died from MND in 1994. Since that time, Judith has been Patron of MND Australia and has helped raise many thousands of dollars for MND at The Seekers’ concerts.

Sir Gustav Nossal AC, CBE
Sir Gus Nossal became patron in 1993.  He is synonymous with science in Australia.  As the then Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Sir Gus encouraged and assisted greatly in the creation of the first scientific research conference on MND in Australia.


Young Ambassador: Brittany Elmslie OAM
Brittany Elmslie is an Olympic swimmer who at just 18 years of age won a gold and two silver medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Brittany hopes to use her profile as an Olympian to raise awareness about MND and those people impacted by the disease.

MND Australia' s Members and associate member

MND Australia is a national federated body.  The members of MND Australia are the state MND associations. MND New Zealand is an associate member.

Members of MND Australia
Motor Neurone Disease New South Wales
Motor Neurone Disease Queensland
Motor Neurone Disease South Australia
Motor Neurone Disease Tasmania
Motor Neurone Disease Victoria
Motor Neurone Disease Western Australia
Associate member – Motor Neurone Disease Association of New Zealand Inc

Proud member of:

International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations

ACNC Registered Charity


MND Australia would like to advise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users that this website may contain images or names of deceased persons.