RISE team

RISE logo

About the RISE Team

DCA Team

Dr Virginia Mapedzahama (PhD, Sociology) is the Member Education Director at Diversity Council Australia. She is a first-generation Black African migrant woman and a critical race Black feminist scholar in the broader field of sociology of difference. Her research interest is in understanding the social construction of all categories of difference. She explores this interest in the context of subjective experiences of race, racism and ethnicity, migration, diaspora, Blackness and Black subjectivities, sexuality, hybridity, intersectionality and gendered violence. Virginia has published extensively in these areas as well as the broader fields of cross-cultural identities, African feminisms, post-colonial feminisms, the new African diaspora in Australia and African women diaspora. 

Jane O’Leary provides a range of research, advisory and consulting services to assist Australian employers to drive business improvement through successful diversity management. 

In 2008 she took on the role of Research Director to oversee DCA’s mission to work in partnership with members to generate groundbreaking diversity research that enables Australian organisations to fully leverage the benefits of a diverse talent pool. Since then, Jane has established DCA’s research function and worked with Australia’s leading diversity employers to design and deliver diversity research that is ahead of the curve, speaks to the Australian context, drives business improvement and, importantly, leads public debate. 

Jane has a PhD, undertaken through the University of Queensland Business School. Her thesis investigated how Australian managers can most effectively manage workforce diversity. Jane also has a Master of Education degree, which focuses on the area of women in leadership. 

Prior to joining DCA, Jane worked in the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) assisting employers on issues relating to D&I. She held the senior policy position in EOWA, with responsibility for developing the policy framework for interpreting and administering the amended Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986 and overseeing the development of accompanying educational guidelines for employers. On the basis of her work in this role, she was awarded a Medal for Significant Contribution to the Australian Public Service in 2001. 

Sheetal (she/her) is passionate about leveraging platforms and privilege to connect ideas, people and opportunities that amplify and empower underrepresented experiences. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and political science from the University of the Fraser Valley (Canada) and a Juris Doctor, Master of Laws and Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from Bond University (Australia).

She is the Principal and Founder of Shakti Legal Solutions; an award winning innovative low-bono law firm designed specifically to improve access to legal assistance for everyday people through a unique ‘pay what you can’ model. She also works with the College of Law as an adjunct lecturer, and volunteers her time on various not-for-profit organisations and boards, including the Centre of Legal Innovations Emerging Leaders Advisory Board and the Queensland Law Society.  Sheetal was awarded the 2022 Multicultural Queensland Awards for her outstanding contribution as a new Queenslander.

Shalani (she/her) brings a diverse range of experiences to the RISE project management team. Her experience includes six years of crafting state-of-the-art industrial telecommunication solutions which include network design, router configuration, and data center design for global clients. Through the Teach for Australia Leadership Development Program, Shalani championed for equity in education in low-socioeconomic communities as a STEM educator for three years. She is fiercely passionate about diversity and inclusion, and in particular, initiatives that support culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) communities.

In her free time, Shalani enjoys bushwalking and gardening. She is a flower enthusiast and enjoys identifying native flowers.

Settlement Services International

Settlement Services International (SSI) is a community organisation and social business that supports Australians to achieve their full potential. They work with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, to build capacity and enable them to overcome inequality. They have a strong focus on the advancement of women, with a notable female leadership team. SSI will provide cultural responsiveness training to organisations, support career advancement of women of CARM backgrounds and provide relevant activities including program mentors.

SSI Team

Juliana is the Manager, Gender Equality and Women’s Safety at Settlement Services International.

Her work experience in gender equality and Women’s Human Rights spans over 30 years including experience with CSO activism at the national, regional and global levels. She has a deep commitment to Refugee and Migrant women’s empowerment; especially providing access for migrant and refugee women to relevant spaces for expression of their voices; leading to the founding of African Women AUstralia. Juliana led Australia’s response to the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and continues to conduct training around this from a Human Rights angle.

Juliana’s contribution to Multicultural Australia includes membership of the Eminent Group to review the Australian Citizenship Test, advisory committees membership in several multicultural agencies including FECCA, and the Regional Advisory Council of Multicultural NSW and the NSW Police Force’s Police Multicultural Advisory Committee (PMAC). Juliana has sat on several Boards including the Board of the Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW), YWCA NSW and YWCA Australia and currently, Sydney Women’s Foundation. Juliana is the winner of the 2023 Human Rights Medal.

Juliana is a passionate and persuasive public speaker and excellent trainer and facilitator who leaves audiences inspired to action.

Dr Astrid Perry is the Head of Women, Equity and Domestic and Family Violence at SSI (Settlement Services International) a leading multicultural not-for-profit organisation providing a range of services in the areas of humanitarian settlement, accommodation, asylum seeker assistance, foster care, and disability support in NSW.

As a senior leader at SSI, Astrid is leading the implementation of the Women and Girls Strategic Plan that she has developed with her team to increase the focus on outcomes for women. Her passion to address Domestic and Family Violence led her to develop several DFV projects for multicultural communities to intensify the focus on advocacy for migrant and refugee women and their children.

Astrid has held numerous positions on advisory councils such as TAFE Community Advisory Board, Australian National Council of Refugee Women, National Multicultural Advisory Committee Department of Human Services and Police Advisory Council on Ethnic Communities, to name a few.

Astrid holds a PhD in Sociology, a Bachelor of Social Science and several other qualifications, including a Diploma in Health Leadership. Astrid’s PhD thesis focused on gender equity in Australian schools. She brings years of leadership experience in the multicultural and women sectors to RISE. Being of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds herself she has lived experience as a migrant who migrated in her adult years to Australia.

Nata has Master degree in Economy and Finance and she has completed a Certificate IV in Accounting at TAFE NSW. She has over 19 years of experience in Finance and Economics, her first job was in the State Treasury of Ukraine.

Before Nata moved to Australia in 2013 she was helping her husband back in Ukraine as interpreter. Her husband had difficulties with the Russian language (he is Australian) in Ukraine and as he was working on a major contract opening new restaurants whilst also running existing restaurants in Ukraine. Nata left her employment to assist him as an interpreter.

Nata is multilingual. She appreciates the difficulties faced when interacting with those of non-English speaking backgrounds and is sensitive to people’s needs. She understands cultural diversity issues and values the views of other people.

Her experience in Australia includes working as a Team Administrator in an accounting firm in Sydney, Team Leader in Manila, Philippines and Online Customer Service Department at David Jones before joining SSI to support Ukranian refugees and now the RISE team.

Nata is also a very active volunteer supporting Ukrainian women and children. She has built a big and strong team of volunteers which organise different fundraisers and Bunnings sausage sizzles, taking part in the different markets. All the raised funds she transfers to support misplaced Ukrainian women and children and to help Ukrainians to fight for their freedom.

Chief Executive Women

Chief Executive Women (CEW) CEW’s Leaders Program is a bespoke development program encouraging women leaders to truly be themselves. It is designed and facilitated by CEW members who share their wisdom and lifelong experiences. It is independent, intimate, challenging, collegiate and reflective in nature. Learning happens through continuous dialogue and experimentation with structured leadership competencies. Upon completion of the Program, alumni are welcomed into the Connect Women Community where they join over 2,500 women leaders in a professional network. 

CEW Team

Sarah’s unique career starts in HR, initially with UK retailer Marks & Spencer and progressing into leadership with global pharma giant, GSK, Sarah’s corporate foundation gives her operational bench strength as a leader today.

Taking the plunge to fulfil a life-long passion in coaching and counselling, Sarah started her own coaching practice in 2002, initially as an Executive Coach while training to become a fully qualified Relationship Therapist.

After moving to Australia in 2013, Sarah was presented with the opportunity to combine her dual passions for people and leadership as General Manager with Relationships Australia NSW, where she lead a program of business transformation in order to realise significant operating efficiencies and create a truly customer-centred delivery model. Passionate about the social purpose of RA, Sarah’s goal was to maximise funding utilisation via continuous improvement to deliver the best possible services to the stakeholder community.

Sarah has seized the irresistible opportunity to build on a 18 year legacy to grow the bespoke CEW Leaders Program developed to inspire and equip women to become unique and distinct leaders.

In addition to holding a Masters in Relationship Therapy and a Bachelor degree, Sarah also holds memberships with the Australian Counselling Association, the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.

Sarah is married with two children and is a proud Australian Citizen.