In 2008 the six Australian State Networks signed a Memorandum of Understanding which in turn lead to the development of a Constitution for a national organisation, Polio Australia, and its incorporation later that year.

Two representatives from each Member Network are appointed to the Board of Polio Australia, each for a two-year term. (A second organisation representing polio survivors in Victoria signed the MOU in 2015. Each Victorian organisation now has one representative appointed to the Board.)

At least one of the Board members nominated by each Member Network must be a polio survivor, so that at least 50% of the Board are polio survivors. It is the intention of the Member Networks that at least 75% of the Board be polio survivors.

The Board also has option of appointing an additional three independent Directors. As at the 2016 Annual General Meeting, two of these positions are filled.

Brief profiles of the current members of the Board are given below.

John Tierney OAM
President (New South Wales)

From 1991 to 2005 John Tierney gave 14 years of distinguished service to the Australian Parliament, where he served as Senator for NSW. During his time in Parliament, he was a Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Leader in the Senate and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts. John also chaired a number of Senate Standing and Select Committees over a range of portfolio areas, with a particular focus on education, employment, industrial relations, communications, information technology, health and welfare issues. John has taken a passionate interest in the area of disability, having contracted polio at birth, and was a special parliamentary adviser to the Minister for Community Services on disability matters from 1998 to 2001.

In 2005 John became a Partner at Government Relations Australia Advisory, a position he retired from in 2011. However, he found it hard to completely retire and is now working part-time as Special Counsel at 1st State Government and Corporate Relations. John provides strategic advice on government matters to corporate clients across a wide range of industries at both a federal and state level in NSW. Additionally, he has undertaken pro bono advisory work for Lifeline Australia, Polio Australia and the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented.

In the 2012 Australia Day Awards John was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM): For service to the Parliament of Australia, to education, and to the community.

John was elected President of Polio Australia at the 2012 Annual General Meeting. In addition, John continues as Polio Australia's National Patron.

Gillian Thomas
Vice President (New South Wales)

For 25 years I have worked for the Post-Polio Network (NSW) [now Polio NSW] on a voluntary basis. I was a member of the original Working Party set up in 1988 to establish the Network, was subsequently elected as Secretary, and in 1997 became the Network's President. I was also the Editor of the Network’s highly regarded quarterly newsletter Network News from 1989 to 2012.

In 2002 I was honoured to receive an inaugural David Bodian Memorial Award from the International Post-Polio Task Force in recognition of my work for polio survivors, while in 2004 I was invited to serve on Post-Polio Health International's Consumer Advisory Committee. In January 2009 I was delighted to be awarded an Australia Day Community Service Award from Randwick Council for my outstanding service to polio survivors and the community.

I passionately believe in the need for a national voice for polio survivors and my efforts culminated in the highly successful meeting of all Australian State Polio Networks in May 2007 and the unanimous agreement to form Polio Australia. Polio Australia is now a reality and in 2008 I was elected its inaugural President. At the 2012 Annual General Meeting, having served two consecutive terms as President and being constitutionally ineligible to re-stand at that time for this position, I was elected as Vice President.

Jenny Jones
Secretary (Western Australia)

I was born in 1955, a healthy baby girl who loved to play all of the time. In January 1960, I was hospitalised with polio for some time before my mother was told by the doctors to take her daughter home to die. Luckily, neither my mother or our family GP gave up on me. I eventually started the school year but only in the mornings. I liked to read and sew and I went on to qualify as a Home Economics teacher with a Diploma in Education and Diploma in Home Economics. Later on I completed my Bachelor of Education and taught in the country for 2 years and 1 year in Perth.

I married my husband Keith in 1978. We were blessed with 2 daughters and 1 son. After starting our family I only ever worked part time as my health and energies were always compromised by a heavy load. I ran my own swimming and coaching business for 12 years and had a lot success in training young swimmers. At this stage I was enjoying playing golf at least once a week and swimming a 2 kilometre swim and competing as a swimmer.

At the age of 47 years old, fatigue impacted on me in a big way. I had given up all activities and all physical movements were painful and slow. Fortunately for me Keith was playing golf with a few buddies and one of the chaps asked if I had had polio. From that conversation, I contacted our Post-Polio Clinic and with Tessa Jupp's advice on what supplements to take and talks given by our physiotherapist, Jega, I now have a much improved quality of life. I am now a qualified Holistic Counsellor and work part time in this field, enjoy a walk and swimming again - just not the same distances as before Post Polio Syndrome. I am a Committee Member for Post-Polio WA. In February 2013 I was appointed as Secretary of Polio Australia, consequent upon Brett Howard (South Australia) vacating the position when appointed as Treasurer.

Brett Howard
Treasurer (South Australia)

I was born in 1948 and diagnosed with polio in 1952. The progression of my disease was pretty simple for me, my right leg was smaller and weaker than my left, and a District nurse visited our house and set a series of physiotherapy exercises for me. At night my leg was bandaged into a half cast to support my foot/ankle.

I was always last in running races at school, and did not play competitive sport until I played Baseball at high school (not very well). I enjoyed bush walking and completed several walks in the Adelaide Hills. In 1966 I was selected to start an apprenticeship as a Fitter and Turner, and worked as a Fitter/Turner, Toolmaker, Heat Treater and Apprentice Trainer. I have two great sons Chad 33 and Todd 30 but now live alone.

In 2005, the late effects of polio caused me to leave the heavy work involved in that trade. A friend of mine then employed me as a telephone sales person but after six months I could not even complete those tasks without much pain and discomfort. My doctor of fifteen years suggested that I should retire which I agreed to do.

However, I still have an interesting lifestyle as I've been an Australian Referee in the Australian Power Boat Association since 1982, while hydrotherapy, Pilates and gym as well as being President of Polio SA also keep me very busy. I was elected Secretary of Polio Australia at the 2012 Annual General Meeting but took over as Treasurer in February 2013 owing to the illness of Michael Judson (Victoria).

Arthur Dobson
(Tasmania)

I contracted polio in November 1952 at the age of 6. After leaving hospital, I was transferred to St Giles Home for Crippled Children where I resided for several years before returning home and attending the local school in callipers. I was later appointed to the Board of St Giles and have now been a director on that Board for over thirty years.

In 1972 I had a motor accident which resulted in multiple breaks in both legs requiring me to learn to walk for the third time. I was a self employed farmer, specialising in dairying but I had to leave the farm in 1998 due to the late effects of polio.

Earlier that year I was involved in the formation of the Post Polio Network - Tasmania Inc, taking on the role of Public Officer and several years later I took on the additional role of Secretary and continued to hold both positions until that organisation was wound up in 2012. I am continuing to publish a quarterly newsletter 'TAS POLIO NEWS' which is available on subscription and the members of the former Post Polio Network are hoping to keep in touch through an informal social network requiring no administration.

Since attending the Polio 2000 and Beyond Conference in Melbourne I have been a strong supporter of a national body and am proud to have been elected as the inaugural Vice President of Polio Australia. At the 2012 Annual General Meeting, I was constitutionally ineligible to re-stand at that time for this position, having served two consecutive terms.

I was honoured to be nominated for the Australian of the Year Awards for 2013 and was one of four finalists in the Tasmania's Local Hero section.

Ron Exiner
(Victoria)

Ron has an extensive background in local government and a wealth of experience in corporate governance, strategic planning and accountability.

Ron is the Secretary of Post Polio Victoria, the Deputy Chair of the Inner North Community Foundation, and is on the committee of the Hanny Exiner Memorial Foundation. He was previously a Director of North Yarra Community Health.

Ron's qualifications include a BA, BEc, BSW, and Dip Ed.

Tessa Jupp OAM
(Western Australia)

Registered Nurse (RN) – married for 20 years to Colin Jupp, a wheelchair-bound polio survivor (polio in 1954) with a permanent tracheostomy on a Bird Respirator (deceased aged 46 in 1989 of respiratory failure due to polio). Mother of two sons and six grandchildren.

  • Started and ran the Post Polio Network Western Australia Inc (PPNWA Inc) in 1989 on a voluntary basis until 1992
  • PPNWA has had 2,075 registered polio members over last 21 years – currently around 1,250 due to natural attrition
  • Employed as RN and CEO by PPNWA Inc since 1992
  • Editor of quarterly WA Polio Newsletter
  • Run free in-house Polio Clinic WA
  • RN for Polio Clinic WA research
  • Fundraiser for PPNWA
  • Conducts metro and country polio clinics in WA
  • One of three authors for forthcoming book on history of polio in WA
  • Foundation Member of Polio Australasia since 1990 and Polio Australia 2007

Sue Mackenzie
(Independent)

Sue contracted polio in 1948. She missed a lot of primary school due to the many operations needed to alleviate the effects of polio on her right leg. Sue’s primary school lunch hours were taken up with physiotherapy. She wore a calliper until age 13, and was eventually able to lead a reasonably active but hardly ‘normal’ life.

Teacher qualified, Sue spent her early career in New Zealand and Sydney. She moved from teaching to a very successful sales career in skin care and cosmetics before switching to advertising and becoming the first female Station Manager for a regional television station. Following this, Sue was appointed as Operations Manager for Pay TV, Austar, when it was first launched in Mt Isa. During this time she established the “Make a Wish Foundation” in Mt Isa and raised a large sum of money for a leukaemia project that Austar was sponsoring. Sue has also recently completed a 'Diploma of Interior Design'.

Sue has been married for 50 years and has 3 children and 8 grandchildren. Over the last decade, she has been living with the late effects of polio. However, overall, Sue has found medical professionals have little understanding of the late effects of polio. They sent her to expensive podiatrists and physiotherapists, who also have little understanding of the condition.

Sue believes that survivors, medical professionals, and government need to know more about the late effects of polio, all of which requires financial support to provide appropriate resources.

Gary Newton
(Independent)

Gary Newton was a toddler, just fifteen months old when he contracted polio in the early mid 1950’s, prior to the arrival of the Salk vaccine in Australia.

He spent thirty two days in an isolation ward at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Victoria without his parents or siblings able to visit but fortunately has no memory of this time.

“I only know about my early polio history as a result of looking up my medical records last year. I became really curious about the disease when the anti-vaccination movement started to gain ground. I wanted to try and understand why anyone would risk having their child go through the sorts of things I went through as a child and continue to endure each day.”

Gary’s polio has meant he’s had several hospitalisations over the years and more than six major operations. He’s also lost the use of about 80-90% of his legs and about 30% of both arms.

As a child Gary attended Yooralla Special School and every year went to the Channel 9 studios when they ran their annual telethon raising funds for the school.

“One year, when I was 12 or 13 a mate and I wandered off and found ourselves outside the 3AK radio studio. We thought the man in the booth was waving us in and we couldn’t believe it – the man was Pete Smith – turns out he was waving in the two fellows behind us but he was really generous with us.”

That chance encounter turned into both an important friendship and a later a career in commercial radio.

Gary has four children and six grandchildren and is so thankful that they’re all protected against polio.

Michael Powell
(Queensland)

Michael is the Chief Executive Officer of Spinal Life Australia and joined the Polio Australia Boards in 2016. He has held senior management and leadership roles with five major non-profit organisations in the aged and community sector, including as Chief Executive Officer of Tasmania’s largest aged care provider.

An experienced business leader, Michael's success lies in developing growth strategies for organisations as they move towards greater client engagement, involvement and empowerment in all aspects of service delivery.

A qualified accountant, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants and Australian Institute of Management, and Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has also held a range of directorships with community and charitable organisations.

Billie Thow
(Tasmania)

I was born in 1949 and contracted polio 2 years later. I came home from hospital in a Thomas splint then wore callipers on both legs until my teens. I qualified as a hairdresser and worked full time for six years, then married and had three sons. I returned to hairdressing part-time in hospitals and age-care facilities, which lead to 34 years in this area. I have seen many changes in the way residents are now cared for.

I have been a volunteer with Life-Link Samaritans Tasmania for twenty years in the roles of phone befriending, team-leader, Board Member, and Vice President, and find this very rewarding and helpful in my work and personal life.

In my late forties, my GP diagnosed that I was experiencing the onset of post polio, which I had no knowledge of. He was able to find and pass on information he found from New South Wales and Victoria.

In 1998 I was at the formation of the Post Polio Network - Tasmania Inc. and have since enjoyed the Support Groups and Conferences. I am pleased to represent Tasmania on the Management Committee of Polio Australia.

Dr Christine M Tilley
(Queensland)

Christine contracted polio in 1950 during the third and most serious Queensland epidemic and had respiratory, or bulbo-spinal polio, not the mild, summer flu-like symptoms most people experienced. She required many months in an iron lung before moving to the newly opened Xavier Home for Crippled Children in Coorparoo. Her childhood schooling was interrupted by repeated surgery.

Christine has retired as an associate of Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Brisbane. She had lectured at QUT and other tertiary institutions for some two decades, and served as an adviser and board member for numerous QUT committees. Additionally, she was the manager of the QUT Faculty of Information Technology Computer Managed Learning facility; a member of the Preservation Sub-committee, Australian Council of Libraries & Information Services (Queensland branch); a member of the State Committee, Australian Council of Libraries & Information Services (previously Australian Advisory Council of Bibliographic Services); and coordinator of the Early Imprints Project Queensland (EIPQ).

Christine has extensive experience in disability issues, and has been active in disability and other such community organisations including:

  • Telecommunications and Disability Consumer Representation [TEDICORE], 2003 – 2004
  • Women with Disabilities Australia, 2000 – to date [executive responsibilities 2001 – 2002]
  • Physical Disability Council of Australia Ltd, 1995 – to date; Inaugural President, Post Polio Support (Queensland), 1991 – 1995
  • Vice-President, Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Association of Queensland [now known as Spinal Life Australia], 2001 – 2003 and Board Member, 1991 – 2003
  • Rehabilitation Advisory Panel [Post Polio Working Group], Queensland Health, 1997 & again 2000/1
  • Queensland Disability Advisory Council [QDAC], Office Of Disability, Queensland Department of Families, Youth and Community Care, 1997 – 2000
  • Departmental Employment Equity Advisory Committee, Department of Employment, Vocational Education, Training and Industrial Relations, Queensland, 1992 – 1996.

Christine published widely in this area; e.g. “A Sense of Control: virtual communities for people with mobility impairments”, | Christine Tilley | ISBN 9781780631448 store.elsevier.com › Social Sciences.

Her research work has included information and communications technology and disability, information literacy, community information use and the EIPQ. Furthermore, she has 32 years experience as an Approved Commonwealth Valuer [books] for the Taxation Incentives for the Arts/Cultural Gifts Program, Australian Government, Attorney General’s Department, Ministry for the Arts, Canberra.

Bev Watson
(Victoria)

Bev contracted Polio in April, 1956 at the age of six and a half.

Initially treated in Fairfield Hospital, Bev spent considerable time in Hampton Hospital for rehabilitation. Over the years, school holidays were spent at Lady Dugan Home. More rehabilitation, equipment checks and hours of Physio were part of the daily routine.

Bev completed her Leaving Certificate at Preston Technical College and commenced work as a secretary to the Company Secretary of a local car retailer, where she was for four years until her marriage in 1971.

After living in the eastern suburbs for four years, Bev moved to Woodend in 1975. She has three children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.

In 1996 Bev completed her Bachelor of Social Work and has worked in the fields of Mental Health Support, General Counselling, Relationship Counselling and Community Development and has worked as a Rural Access Co-ordinator with the Moorabool Shire Council for eight years.

Bev is a member of the Bendigo Polio Support Group, and the Chair of Polio Network Victoria. She is the PNV rep on the Board of Polio Australia.

Peter Wierenga
(South Australia)

I was diagnosed with polio at the age of 8 in 1954 in Edmonton Alberta Canada. I spent 2 months in hospital isolation unable to walk. I gradually regained strength and was transferred to a recovery hospital and became a great wheel chair racer. I was involved in setting up a library for the polio patients there. I am one of the luckiest polio survivors as I went home 2 months later able to walk and with no physical disabilities.

I moved to Adelaide in 1974 to marry this lovely Aussie girl Anne. We have 2 great children Todd and Lauren. I became a High School History Teacher and Faculty Coordinator and enjoyed this for 30 years at a number of schools in South Australia. I played and coached baseball for a number of years and tried to play some golf as well.

Anne noticed I was getting more easily fatigued in the evenings and I felt fatigue was starting to affect my work as well. So I retired at 62 and a Physiotherapist friend introduced me to post polio effects and I joined Polio SA in 2008. In 2011 I was elected treasurer of Polio SA.

I still do occasional relief teaching as well as mentoring Tabor College student teachers when they do a practicum. I no longer golf but walk for 30 minutes each day and participate in hydrotherapy 1 hour a week.