Our Team

Leading practitioners, policy-makers, researchers, business innovators and civic leaders.


Aleem Ali
CEO, Welcoming Australia

Aleem has spent the past 20 years seeding and mentoring the development of leading initiatives and social enterprises that advance welcoming and inclusive communities.

He is a mentor and advisor to various startups, community enterprises and government agencies; including Immigration New Zealand, the Council on Economic Participation for Refugees, and Regional Opportunities Australia.

As the CEO of Welcoming Australia, Aleem is working with leaders and organisations across the country to cultivate a culture of welcome and advance communities where people of all backgrounds can belong, contribute and thrive.

Sebastian Geers
Manager, Welcoming Cities

Sebastian has spent over 10 years starting and working in new initiatives that support more welcoming and inclusive communities.
Sebastian has worked within the immigration detention centres, helped start family mentoring programs, provided support to local, state and federal governments build their innovation capacity and led Australia’s largest corporate diversity initiative – A Taste of Harmony.
As the Manager of Welcoming Cities, Sebastian is working with councils and leaders across the country to continue to grow Welcoming Cities and ensure that we are delivering the best benefits to our members.

Bel Schenk
Coordinatior (Victoria), Welcoming Cities

Bel Schenk is a writer, editor and community development practitioner based in Melbourne. She is currently leading the Welcoming Cities initiative in Victoria - supporting local governments and communities to be more effectively networked and resourced.

Bel is also the author of three poetry collections and has worked as the Artistic Director of Express Media, the Arts and Cultural Development Officer at the City of Darebin and at Kids’ Own Publishing, harnessing the power of books and the publishing process to connect children, families and their communities.

Jane Jennison
Coordinator (Queensland), Welcoming Cities

Jane has been working in the community sector as a facilitator, manager, artistic director and community-worker for the past 18 years. Focussing on using the arts as a method for engaging with communities she has worked with all levels of Government and has an extensive work history with Brisbane City Council.

Jane is highly skilled in cross cultural practice and has worked consistently with Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander and recently arrived migrant and refugee communities.

She is currently the Queensland Coordinator for Welcoming Cities and in this role supports, engages and connects with local Councils, shires, municipalities and communities to develop and maintain diverse and thriving communities.

Turkan Aksoy
Coordinator (New South Wales), Welcoming Cities

Turkan Aksoy is a diversity inclusion specialist, and leads the Welcoming Cities initiative in NSW – supporting local governments and communities in social, cultural, economic and civic participation to thrive.

Her experience is in the government and non-government sectors and includes building the capacity of small and emerging communities, cultural diversity training, employment skills development, supporting diverse women, collaborating with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and youth mentoring.

Kate Leaney
Campaigns & Communications Manager, Welcoming Australia

Kate Leaney is an experienced and passionate advocate, campaigner and communications professional. She has worked alongside refugees and people seeking asylum for the past ten years, advocating for change in refugee policy, and developing initiatives such as the Welcoming Centre and Welcoming Careers. Kate actively supports emerging campaigners and leads the Refugee Justice team for Common Grace.

As Campaigns and Communications Manager for Welcoming Australia, Kate shares the stories of everyday Australians committed to cultivating a culture of welcome and to realise a future where all people have equal opportunity to belong, contribute and thrive.

Governance Committee

The Welcoming Cities Governance Committee provides strategic oversight and advice to ensure the Welcoming Cities initiative sustainably grows its reach and impact. The Committee also includes the people outlined above.

Anthea Hancocks
CEO, Scanlon Foundation

Anthea Hancocks has an extensive background in community service, business development, education, communications, relationship and services marketing and strategy through senior leadership experience in private, government and not for profit organisations.

Anthea is the Chief Executive Officer of the Scanlon Foundation, a private philanthropic organisation committed to enhancing social cohesion in Australia through research, community grants and projects.

Con Pagonis

Con’s career focus has primarily been migrant and refugee settlement policy and planning, access & equity, and social cohesion. Through the 1990s to 2015 he worked in various roles, including:

  • Senior Adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister & Cabinet’s Office of Multicultural Affairs;
  • a national community programs and humanitarian settlement Director for the Immigration Department;
  • Managing the Immigration Department’s settlement and multicultural affairs branches in NSW and then in Victoria; and,
  • Multicultural Policy Adviser with the Victorian Multicultural Commission, and the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Now retired, Con also volunteers with the Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria, the Communities' Council on Ethnic Issues (Eastern Melbourne), and the Blackburn English Language School Council.

Advisory Committee

The Welcoming Cities Advisory Committee provide expert feedback and advice on the development and implementation of The Welcoming Cities Standard.

Dr Sev Ozdowski AM [Chair]

Sev Ozdowski is an Australian human rights advocate and social researcher, former senior civil servant and Human Rights Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian government from 2000 to 2005. Dr Ozdowski is known for his defence of human rights of refugees, especially child asylum seekers detained in Australia and people with disabilities and mental illness as well as for his contribution to multicultural policies in Australia.

He is currently the Director, Equity and Diversity, at Western Sydney University and Adjunct Professor, Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies at University of Sydney.

Dr Ali Nur
Refugee Council of Australia

Dr Ali Nur holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor Medicine and Surgery from Somali National University. He has more than 20 years experience developing policy and programs for the Department of Health in the Northern Territory; specialising in services for Indigenous Australians, the aged, people with disabilities and people from refugee backgrounds.

Ali has also worked with Oxfam’s Humanitarian emergency responses team in East Timor; the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat (India) and the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.

He is a member of the Refugee Council of Australia, Secretary of its Board and the Governance and Finance Committee.

Allan Mills
Deloitte Australia

Allan is the national lead for Civil Government services and works with Government Agencies and the NFP sector deliver against their strategic intent balancing the economic, financial and customer experience. He has worked on some of the most important reforms including the Countering Violent Extremism program in NSW, the NDIS both at a state and federal level as well as a number of government business transformations. Allan is also a mentor on the High Resolves leadership program which provides high school children with the opportunity to build leadership and social connectivity across our communities.

Dewani Bakkum
Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA)

Dewani is the Chair of the Settlement Council of Australia and the Chief Executive Officer of the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT Inc. She has been involved in the community and charitable sectors for the past 30 years in Australia and in Fiji, and has an extensive background in developing and delivering services for disadvantaged and vulnerable communities, with a strong focus on breaking down cultural and linguistic barriers to facilitate settlement and community participation.

Migrating to Australia from Fiji in 1982, Dewani has a strong understanding of the migrant experience and a passion for helping migrants, refugees and humanitarian entrants to participate in their new communities and to become proud and engaged members of a diverse Australian society.

Dewani was awarded the FECCA Multicultural Award and the ACT International Women’s Award for Multiculturalism in 2008.

Huss Mustafa OAM
Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Huseyin (Huss) Mustafa is a Senior Executive at Commonwealth Bank of Australia with more than 40 years experience in the financial services sector. He is currently General Manager of the Multicultural Community Banking Australia team.

Huss has a Turkish Cypriot heritage and migrated to Australia at 10 years of age. He is a passionate community leader, pioneering and championing a diverse work force at the Commonwealth Bank.

In 2011, he was appointed by the Victorian Government to the position of Commissioner to the Victorian Multicultural Commission for a 4 year term and also appointed as Chairperson to the Victorian Multicultural Commission Regional Advisory Council in Eastern Victoria. Huss played a leading role in establishing The Australian Turkish Business Council of which he is currently the President.

In 2014, he was awarded the Medal of the Order Of Australia for his services to Multiculturalism and Business.

Nadine Liddy
Multicultural Youth Advisory Network (MYAN)

Nadine Liddy is the National Coordinator of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN Australia) and has worked in the youth and multicultural sectors for over 20 years.

Nadine has a background in service delivery and program management with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and has worked extensively in policy, advocacy and sector development in relation to multicultural youth issues. This work includes developing Australia’s first Youth Settlement Framework. She has also contributed to many research projects, publications and advisory committees to government and the NGO sector.

Nadine has also worked in the international context, undertaking research and advocacy on refugee and asylum seeker issues, with a focus on promoting the rights and needs of young refugees, and supporting youth engagement in regional and global opportunities.

Rebecca Wickes
Monash University

Rebecca Wickes is an Associate Professor at the School of Social Sciences at Monash University where she also leads the Population, Migration and Social Inclusion Focus Program. She is the Chief Investigator of the Australian Community Capacity Study (ACCS), a multi-million, multi-site, longitudinal study of 298 urban neighbourhoods in Victoria and Queensland.

Her research focusses on the spatial concentration of social problems with a particular focus on how physical and demographic changes in urban communities influence social cohesion, the informal regulation of crime, crime and victimisation.

Dr Wickes has published extensively in leading criminology and sociology journals. She is the Associate Editor for the Australian New Zealand Journal of Criminology and is the Vice President for the Australian New Zealand Society of Criminology.

Peter Morris
Reconciliation Australia

Peter is the the General Manager of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Program, Reconciliation Australia where he leads a team that works with a network of over 1,100 organisations driving social change across Australia. The RAP network directly impacts over 20 percent of the Australian working age population advancing reconciliation by building relationships, respect, and opportunities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and the broader community.

Prior to his role at Reconciliation Australia, Peter served for eight years in various leadership roles at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the representative body of tribes and Native peoples in the United States. During his time at NCAI, he led engagement with the Obama White House to implement the annual Tribal Nations Summits, strengthened partnerships with corporate and civil rights organisations, directed a tribally-driven think tank, and oversaw strategic communications.

Peter has served in various staff and board roles in higher education, youth and children’s policy, and community development. He holds a Bachelors in Aboriginal Studies from the University of New South Wales and a Masters in American Indian Policy from the University of Arizona.

Kathryn Arndt
Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA)

Kathryn is the CEO of the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA). The VLGA is a high profile independent (NGO) governance organisation supporting councils and councillors in effective local governance. As a peak body, the VLGA supports the local government sector through leadership, advocacy and professional development.

Kathryn currently sits on the boards of Diabetes Victoria and is Company Secretary of the Royal Melbourne Tennis Club. Kathryn was a Member of the inaugural Victorian Ministerial Council on Women's Equality which concluded its term in mid-2020. In her capacity as CEO of the VLGA, Kathryn is a member of the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Women Women’s Roundtable for Local Government.

Kathryn has a track record in leading teams and delivering success working at a senior and high profile level in the Victorian local government sector; with a demonstrable ability to quickly grasp the issues facing a sector with multiple stakeholders and the legislated responsibility to provide oversight and governance to, and the delivery of, critical services on behalf of state and federal government to Victorian communities.

Trudi Bartlett
Regional Development Australia Darling Downs and South West (RDA DDSW)

Trudi Bartlett is the Director of Regional Development for Regional Development Australia Darling Downs and South West (RDA DDSW) and currently lives in Toowoomba. Prior to her current role she was the Economic Development Officer for Western Downs Regional Council and the CEO for Dalby Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Trudi has a passion for supporting business and industry in regional, rural and remote areas. During her time with RDA DDSW she has been involved in the Centre for Policy Development Cities and Settlement Initiative and facilitated the Darling Downs Migration Roundtable. RDA DDSW are involved in projects across the region that support secondary settlement to rural areas.

Dai Le

Dai founded DAWN six years ago to help progress the conversation and shift the dial on social impact and leadership representation across Australia’s mainstream institutions. Its media channel, DAWNCast, focuses on stories of socially conscious movers, makers and shakers, shining the light on businesses and leaders who are the social impact drivers in our world. Dai also created the South West Entrepreneurial Hub (SWEH) a forum for business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs living in Sydney’s South West, to meet, collaborate and share their experiences and learn from one another.

Dai currently serves as an Advisory Board Member to Multicultural NSW, a Government statutory body; She is also a director on the Local Government NSW Board. Dai is an Ambassador for Fairfield Relay for Life and NSW Cancer Council Greater Western Sydney. Dai is also a councilor on Fairfield City Council, one of the most culturally diverse Councils in Australia.