Details of the key members of the Polio Australia Team are given here. All are knowledgeable about polio and its late effects and demonstrate the ability to think analytically and strategically in steering Polio Australia as it achieves its goals on behalf of Australia’s many thousands of polio survivors. The key members have a range of career backgrounds and bring a diverse set of skills to Polio Australia.

Gillian Thomas

President & Business Manager


Gillian Thomas

President & Business Manager


Responsible for: Governance, business management, website and IT training and support, mentoring.

Based: Sydney, NSW

Working at Polio Australia since: 2007

Professional Experience: • 25 years experience in federal government agencies, including 20 years at management level, with expertise in logistics and in community operations
• 30 years governance, managerial, financial management and accounting experience with statewide and national community organisations, including 11 years to date in these roles with Polio Australia
• 23 years to date as a company director of a small business, particularly undertaking financial management
• 40 years experience in computer operations, including 17 years to date experience in web design and maintenance

Personal Experience/Interest: 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.

Awards: 2002: an inaugural recipient of David Bodian Memorial Award from the International Post-Polio Task Force in recognition of my work for polio survivors.
2009: Australia Day Community Service Award from Randwick Council for my outstanding service to polio survivors and the community.

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: I am a puzzle tragic. I also enjoy reading, and volunteering as an admin on various internet forums.

Shylie Little

Administration Officer


Shylie Little

Administration Officer


Responsible for: Bookkeeping including payroll and superannuation processing, accounts receivable and payable, referring polio survivors to State Networks.

Based: Sydney, NSW

Working at Polio Australia since: 2013

Professional Experience: 20 years experience in the general insurance industry.

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: Lawn bowls and fishing.

Michael Jackson

Clinical Health Educator


Michael Jackson

Clinical Health Educator


Responsible for: Clinical Practice Workshops, liaising with Clinical Advisory Group, developing and promoting professional materials, finding and providing answers.

Based: South East QLD

Working at Polio Australia since: November 2019

Qualifications: Master of Physical Therapy, Bachelor of Education

Professional Experience: Taught in QLD primary schools 1995-2002, then moved to US to travel and study. Obtained masters in California, then worked in a Colorado rehabilitation hospital for 9 years.

Personal Experience/Interest: Because I didn’t want to be a classroom teacher forever, I rode my mountain bike for 100 days from Healesville VIC, to Brisbane, QLD in 2001. I like to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, and to help others become better versions of themselves.

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: Since abandoning TV in 1993 I have had much more time for my hobbies - this being significant enough that I have an ‘alternative resume’.

Rachel Ingram

Program Manager


Rachel Ingram

Program Manager


Responsible for: written educational materials, website maintenance, social media, marketing, administration, grant writing and advocacy

Based: Melbourne, Victoria

Working at Polio Australia since: August 2017

Qualifications: Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion)

Professional Experience: I have worked in a variety of administration roles since 2010 and in the fitness industry since 2012. Upon finishing my university degree, I began my career in health promotion here at Polio Australia, to combine my skills in administration and health promotion with my passion for health and wellbeing.

Personal Experience/Interest: I am passionate about health, fitness and ensuring every individual can achieve positive wellbeing.

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: I love group fitness - I instruct a group fitness class of either weights, cycling or high-intensity interval training every day!

Darlene Felsch

Resource Manager


Darlene Felsch

Resource Manager


Responsible for: Finance, Administration and Governance

Based: Melbourne, Victoria

Working at Polio Australia since: August 2019

Qualifications: CPA (Certified Practising Accountant)

Professional Experience: I have 30 years broad-based accounting and business management experience in Not for Profit, Government and Commercial organisations. I love working at NFP organisations as they are values-based. I joined Polio Australia because of the inspiration of a friend who is a polio survivor. I am constantly amazed at all she has achieved in her life.

Personal Experience/Interest: I am passionate about personal growth and mental health and wellbeing.

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: Adventure Activities, reading, watching a good movie, any excuse to Eat Out

Steph Cantrill

Community Engagement Officer


Steph Cantrill

Community Engagement Officer


Responsible for: Information for the post-polio community; communicating with state organisations; grant-writing; advocacy

Based: Melbourne, Victoria

Working at Polio Australia since: May 2018

Qualifications: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy; Master of Public Health

Professional Experience: Many years’ experience as an OT, mainly in rehabilitation hospitals; managed a community development project in India

Personal Experience/Interest: Worked on a research project exploring exclusion for people with psychosocial disability

A fun fact / what I like to do in my spare time: I have been knitting a scarf since 2015 – I really hope to finish it soon…

John Tierney AM

National Patron


John Tierney AM

National Patron


In the 2019 Queens Birthday Awards, John received an AM (Member of the Order of Australia); ‘For significant service to people with polio.’ This followed on from 2012 Australia Day Awards, where John received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM); ‘For service to the Parliament of Australia, to education, and to the community.’

John Tierney gave 14 years of distinguished service to the Australian Parliament, where he served as a Federal Senator from 1991 to 2005. During his time in Parliament, he was a member of the Coalition Executive and served as a Shadow Assistant Minister for Communication, IT and the Arts. John also chaired a number of Senate Standing and Select Committees and Parliamentary Party committees over a range of portfolio areas. During this time he took 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.

Whilst in the Senate, he served on the Council of the National Library of Australia for 13 years & the Council of the Australian National University for four years. In the early part of this century, Senator Tierney also led Australian Parliamentary delegations to South Africa, Nigeria, The European Union and the United Nations in New York where he addressed the General Assembly of the UN in 2004.

Prior to entering the Senate, Dr. Tierney was Senior Lecturer in Education and Course Director at the University of Newcastle. He was also Chairman & Patron of St Phillips Christian College in Newcastle. John holds the degrees of PhD, MEd & BEc from the Universities of Sydney and Newcastle. John has undertaken pro bono government advisory work for Lifeline Australia, National Patron (2005-11) & Polio Australia, National Patron since 2010 and National President (2012-17). John was made a Polio Australia Life Fellow in 2019.

John and Pam have been married for 51 years and live in Newcastle East. They have six children and eight grandchildren – so far.

Jill Pickering

Volunteer


Jill Pickering

Volunteer


Jill was born in England in 1946, contracted polio in 1955 and qualified in Occupational therapy during 1968. After working for 2 years in England as an OT she immigrated to Melbourne, Australia and worked in several different areas using her Occupational Therapy skills before retiring in 2000 due to limitations from Post-Polio Syndrome.

After a few months adjusting to her new situation Jill found a satisfying life style mixing voluntary work with other interests. She came to Polio Australia in February 2011 as a volunteer after volunteering one day a week for 10 years at Polio Network Victoria (a service of Independence Australia). In addition to volunteering with Polio Australia, Jill is also a member of Post Polio Victoria.

Jill has been passionate about horses since learning to horse ride as part of her polio rehabilitation and enjoys providing voluntary support as President of the Australian Brumby Alliance (ABA). The ABA is made up of dedicated volunteer groups across Australia who take on gentling and re-homing Australia’s brumbies (wild horses). Jill's additional hobbies include horse riding, gardening, travelling and keeping up with friends in Australia and family in England.

Jill volunteers with Polio Australia doing a range of administrative tasks, and is also a significant financial contributor to the organisation

Maryann Liethof

Volunteer


Maryann Liethof

Volunteer


Maryann Liethof worked as the Coordinator of Polio Network Victoria from mid 2004 to December 2009. During that time, Maryann was one of the Victorian representatives on the Management Committee of Polio Australia.

Following a small philanthropic donation and a private donation, Maryann was appointed as Polio Australia’s National Program Manager in early January 2010 on a part time basis, which increased to full time in January 2011 thanks to a 3 year donation from The Balnaves Foundation. Maryann retired from her position at Polio Australia in December 2019.

Maryann’s qualifications include a Diploma in Community Development as well as a Graduate Diploma in Education (Careers). In April/May 2008, Maryann visited 10 post-polio related services across North America on a Churchill Fellowship Study Tour grant, the purpose of which was “To identify techniques to better manage the late effects of polio”. Read about Maryann's Churchill Fellowship Study Tour here: Churchill Study Tour.

In April 2009, Maryann travelled to Roosevelt Warm Springs in Georgia, USA for Post-Polio Health International’s 10th International Conference: Living with Polio in the 21st Century and Wellness Retreat to learn the benefits of the holistic chronic condition self-management model. She was able to draw on this experience to conceptualize and coordinate Polio Australia’s first Late Effects of Polio Self Management Residential Program (also known as a Polio Health and Wellness Retreat) in April 2010.

Polio Australia regularly participated in and presented at post-polio conferences in Europe and the USA and Maryann was always the standard bearer at these conferences. She reports extensively on them in her daily blog posts, in Polio Oz News, and by giving talks at State Network Seminars and other events. Maryann is often joined at the conferences by other Australians who are also keen to learn what’s new and bring back information to share with their peers in State Networks and regional Support Groups.

You can access the growing series of Maryann’s daily blog posts from the conferences she has attended here. (Before Maryann joined Polio Australia she attended the PHI Retreat and Conference in Warm Springs in 2009 – read her Warm Springs 2009 Retreat and Conference blog.)

Maryann now volunteers for Polio Australia as the editor of the quartlery newsletter Polio Oz News.