Client Reference Group

Board of Vision Australia convenes a Client Reference Group to gain advice and feedback on specific matters relating to the experience of our clients and direction of the organisation. This Group operates under Vision Australia's Client Reference Group Charter (Word, 45KB)

The Client Reference Group was established in October 2015. The Vision Australia Board appoints members to the Group for a three year term. The Client Reference Group meet in person with Vision Australia’s Board twice a year, and at other times via teleconference.

Expressions of Interest in becoming a member of the Client Reference Group are invited through Vision Australia's website and social media platforms, in the FYI electronic newsletter, throughout the blindness and low vision community, through email lists and our Local Vision Australia Centres.  Expressions of Interest are sought as vacancies become available.

Meet Vision Australia's Client Reference Group

The Vision Australia Board has appointed fourteen members to the Client Reference Group across 11 portfolios.

Select below to skip to a portfolio:

Portfolio: Employment

Katrina Stewart

Hi, my name is Katrina Stewart, and I have the portfolio of employment on the CRG. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in psychology. I have worked for 18 years as a rehabilitation consultant and more recently as a case manager. In between I have held voluntary roles in Blind Citizens Australia, and I am a  member of Women with Disability Victoria.

I am a mother of three grown children and so now I find myself assisting my two youngest children aged 20 and 17 to get work. Having recovered from back surgery in 2018, my goal is to get back into the workforce, or even start my own business as a psychologist/counsellor. To that end, I have become a portfolio partner for Vision Australia’s employment services, and will be doing a graduate diploma in psychological science at Deakin University in July this year.

I am totally blind and have been since the age of two, I have a seeing eye dog named Allie. I would be very happy to talk to anyone about finding and keeping work and the skills involved. My numbers are: 0438 103 541 and 03 9762 9385 or you can email me at: katrina.stewart7@bigpond.com

Portfolio: Education

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Stephen Belbin

My name is Stephen Belbin and I have had the privilege of working in the field of education for over 25 years. I have followed my passion in teaching and worked at all levels in education, teaching a diverse range of students who are blind or have low vision. Being blind myself, my own lived experience has provided me with a unique understanding of the challenges that can be linked to education through blindness or low vision.

I have always been a strong supporter of assistive technologies as I uniquely understand the benefits associated with their use. This knowledge led me to create my own business which focused on providing access and training in the use of these technologies. I was fortunate in this endeavour as it provided me with the opportunity to immerse myself in new technologies and share this knowledge in the pursuit of improved access to education, employment, and recreation for my clients.

I gain great satisfaction from helping others achieve improved outcomes in their endeavors. Their success encourages me to continue learning new approaches to tackle common goals in the pursuit of equity. I find great pleasure in investing considerable time into regularly undertaking new training and professional development. This allows me to continually broaden my understanding of the education sector and changing demands in the modern workplace.

I have always maintained a commitment to lifelong learning and I pride myself on being not only a skilled teacher but also an exemplary learner and advocate for providing equity. I encourage everyone to follow their passions and seek out assistance where needed as I uniquely understand the benefits that can be gained through accessing the diverse support networks available for people who are blind or have low vision.

Email: stephen.belbin@tafensw.edu.au
Phone: (m) 0409 000 100

Portfolio: Youth

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Jane Britt

Hi, I am Jane and I am one of the Client Reference Group's members, representing the youth portfolio. 

I have an educational background in psychology, completing my Honours in psychology at the Australian National University. I am also actively involved in the low vision/blind community through mentoring, advocacy and running. 

I have long-term ambitions of working with individuals with low vision or blindness to improve the quality of life for all individuals with vision loss, so I am excited to be able to contribute to the low vision/blindness community through my involvement with the Client Reference Group.

Email: c/o clientconsultation@visionaustralia.org

Portfolio: Youth

Profile photo of BridieBridget (Bridie) Cochrane-Holley

Hello. I am an 18 year old university student from Melbourne, and a Vision Australia Bursary recipient. I have accessed numerous Vision Australia services since I was 6 months old and have enjoyed participating in a Vision Australia Tertiary Education Quality Living Group.

I have considerable knowledge of and experience with the services that Vision Australia provides, and I am studying a Bachelor of Art at the University of Melbourne.

Email: bcholley@optusnet.com.au

Portfolio: Indigenous

Nicole Damarra

Biography and image coming soon.

Email: nicoledamarra@gmail.com

Phone: (m) 0404 011 815

Portfolio: Social Inclusion

Trudy Ryall

I’m Trudy Ryall and I look after the portfolio of Social Inclusion. I have been involved in disability advocacy for over 20 years. I am currently a director on the board of Women with Disabilities Victoria, and a committee member of the Melbourne Council and Casey Council disability advisory committees. I am a co-founder of DeafBlind Victoria (DBV) which has been running for over 10 years and is run by people who are deafblind. DBV promotes self-advocacy, and networks with a wide variety of organisations such as Self Advocacy Resource Unit and Department of Human Services which is a powerful way to promote social inclusion.

Social inclusion to me is about advocating for the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, so that groups or individuals can have equal access to resources within the community we live in. This includes access to employment, education, health care, recreation places, adequate housing, training and so on. I also enjoy volunteering for DBV as a memberships, communications and events manager. I get great enjoyment out of achieving successful advocacy outcomes for people who have fought for their rights.

I always look for ways to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities, for example participating in a project about improving the City of Melbourne environments so all people are able to walk safely around the city. I am interested in finding ways to improve the environments for people who are blind, have low vision or are deafblind, and strongly encourage self-advocacy to improve the quality of life for everyone. I have a beautiful dog, Tyson, and love going for long walks with him along the beach or through parks. I enjoy movies, coffee, books, getting creative with multi-media arts and trying out different exotic foods.

I am happy to provide support to anyone from Vision Australia in the area of social inclusion. You can contact me via email on trudy.ryall@bigpond.com

Portfolio: Parent

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Melissa Fanshawe

Hi. I am Melissa Fanshawe and I am so honoured to hold the parent portfolio on the Client Reference Group. I have been an advisory teacher having the privilege of working with many children who are blind or vision impaired since 2000.  In 2007, I had my third son who was blind.  I now understand the complexities of the families more than ever. I started accessing services with Vision Australia when he was just 9 days old and was provided with such incredible support, not just with therapy and activities, but also with emotional support. Assisting children and families with vision impairment has now become a passion so I completed a Masters of special education in vision impairment to help get a better understanding of how to support children and their families. Parent to parent, I would love to help you through your journey or just provide advice, encouragement or advocacy should you need it. 

Email: melissa.fanshawe@eq.edu.au
Phone: (m) 0439 820 495

Portfolio: Rural/Remote

Profile photo of Katrina Taylor

Katrina Taylor

HI, I’m Katrina and I’m a freelance social worker, writer and tactile artist. I live in Western Victoria, halfway between Melbourne and Adelaide. I have spent most of my life living in rural or regional towns across three states. Also, I’ve had varying levels of low vision since birth. I’m passionate about country life and am eager to embrace all that it has to offer which is why I put my hand up for the Rural and Regional portfolio on the CRG.

Country life has a lot to offer everyone, not just people who have full sight. People who are blind or have low vision should not feel that moving to the city is The only way that they can obtain what they need to live the life that they desire. I believe that Vision Australia can play a key role in assisting country people who are blind or have low vision to take hold of all that country life offers. I am keen to work with the CRG, Board members, Vision Australia staff and country people who are blind or have low vision to explore ways to make this happen.

Portfolio: Older Adult
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Brenda Murray OAM

Hello, I’m Brenda Murray. I served as a local government councillor for over 20 years, and have been active with a variety of community groups, particularly as a facilitator. I am both a client and volunteer with Vision Australia since losing most of my vision 8 years ago. I am especially passionate about the provision of services to seniors. My professional background includes secondary teaching, and helping with farm duties.

Email: brenke@bigpond.com
Phone: (h) 03  51 52 9445

Phil Sheridan (further information coming soon).

Portfolio: Seeing Eye Dogs Australia

Nadia is sitting on the grass with her black Labrador Seeing Eye Dog, Olympia, sitting in front of her.

Nadia Mattiazzo

Hi, I’m Nadia and I look after the portfolio of Seeing Eye Dog (SEDA) users. I have been a handler for eight years and my current dog is a Labrador/golden retriever cross named Olympia. In the past, I have been a member of Vision Australia’s SEDA Client Advisory Committee. I also enjoy volunteering for SEDA at open days and public awareness events. As a member of SEDA’s volunteer speakers network, I derive great pleasure from talking to groups about the work that goes into training a Seeing Eye Dog and the independence which I experience as a handler. I am very passionate about the amazing work which SEDA does but am also keen to ensure that we strive for service excellence.

I am also a founding member (and current Vice President) of Dog Guide Handlers Australia. DGHA is a consumer group which provides a national voice for people who use dog guides and we are committed to achieving a consistently high level of support to all dog guide handlers across Australia.

I am keen to support you in any way I can in your journey as a SEDA client. And yes! I have cats too!

Email: cathouse@bigpond.net.au
Phone: (m) 0407 887 366

Portfolio: Technology 

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Paul Hedley

My name is Paul Hedley and I am one of the Technology Portfolio  CRG members. I have worked in manufacturing, in many different industries over the past 40 years and have always been interested in understanding and using technology to enhance our lives. I am currently working as a Product Support Engineer and since losing my vision around 3 years ago,armed with a can do attitude, I have embraced technology to help me get on with life. Vision Australia, has given me much support, to help get me mobile and back at work full time. VA have also provided a broad range of support in other aspects of my life.

I am excited to be part of the CRG and look forward to helping VA and everyone in the blind and low vision community, be the best  that they can be. 

Phone: 0439 912 156
Email: paul.hedley@metso.com


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Marilyn Embelton

My name is Marilyn Embelton. I have been legally blind since the age of 15. I grew up in Kenya but have lived the majority of my life in Australia. My lived experience of vision loss has been challenging.  The support of family, friends, professionals and services that offered creative solutions to my concerns have been extremely helpful. 

I have worked in various sectors of government and non government and have, for the last 25 years worked in schools as a counsellor. My qualifications are in welfare, social work and I have a Masters of Counselling.  

I am very pleased to be a member of the Client Reference Group representing the portfolio of technology.  I am very passionate about using this opportunity to help people of all ages with vision loss to have access to excellent choices for technology  and the ability to use it successfully. I look forward to hearing your ideas and suggestions.

Email: Marilyn.Embelton@visionaustralia.org

Portfolio: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (“CALD”)

Dino Farronato

I am a lawyer based in Melbourne and am passionate about equality of opportunity for all. My parents migrated to Australia in the early 1950s from Italy and I grew up in the cultural melting pot of Canberra in the 1960s and 1970s. Having lived and worked in Indonesia for 3 years and in Hong Kong for 8 years I have a broad understanding of cultural diversity.

I cherish the values of a multicultural Australia and have deep respect for the contributions made by members of the community from culturally diverse backgrounds. It is obvious that overlaying a disability with English as a second language can create additional hurdles to a full participation in community life.

The CALD portfolio has been newly created. I see my role on the CRG as being the voice of people with low or no vision who have a culturally diverse background or English as a second language. I am keen to communicate directly with individuals or organisations on how to improve the services offered by Vision Australia.

Email: dino@566.com.au
Phone: (m) 0407 887 366

Portfolio: Accessible Information Solutions

Sean Murphy speaking in front of a wall with the words Power Talks

Sean Murphy

My name is Sean Murphy and I hold the portfolio for Accessible Information. I lost majority of my Vision in the early 80s. For the last 30 plus years my career and passion in the area of accessible information permitted me to pursue different career opportunities and a range of interests. These include a range of technical areas, accessibility software compliance, massage, access to unavailable books in the Vision Australia Library, cookbooks, music, etc.

My career in information and technology has provided opportunities for me to work for local and international organisations which support vision impaired individuals, as well as develop assistive technology and high tech products for the main stream. I am on the International Association for Accessibility Professionals Global Leadership Advisory Council, director on the Digital Gap Initiative board and a member of the Expert Reference Group for the Human Rights Future Technology project on Artificial Intelligence.

This diverse experience provides me with insights into the challenges, concerns and gaps in the area of accessible information. In conjunction with my passion in relation to technology, assistive technology and accessible information, I am open to share my knowledge and learn from others' experiences with accessing information, and using technology to improve our lives as a vision impaired community.

Email: smur7241@bigpond.net.au
Mobile: 0405 129 739