Our People

CRSA’s staff, board of directors and ambassadors draw on their breadth of experience and knowledge to implement the organisation’s vision.

Jump to:  Our team | Our Board of Directors | Our Ambassadors

Our Team

Lisa Button

Lisa Button

Chief Executive Officer

Lisa has been leading the work of CRSA and its predecessor, CRSI, since she instigated its establishment in 2018. She began her career as a commercial lawyer and has been working in refugee law and policy for more than a decade with organisations such as the Centre for Policy Development, Save the Children and Refugee Legal. Lisa is also a Fellow with the Centre for Policy Development and has been a director of a number of refugee-led organisations. Lisa holds a Masters in Public and International Law in addition to her BA/LLB(Hons) from the University of Melbourne. Lisa is one of the seven members of the Settlement Advisory Council advising the Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs. She lives in Melbourne and is the proud mum of three boys.

Sophie Bosch

Sophie Bosch

General Manager

Sophie is an Operations and Project Manager who specialises in helping to scale early stage startups. She also has a long standing passion for refugee and human rights issues with a particular interest in programs that offer employment, language and literacy support to new Australians. Sophie holds Masters degrees in Journalism and Management from the University of Sydney. She enjoys using her creative and analytical skills to support the sustainability and growth of innovative organisations who are shaping the future.

Romy Vitalien

Romy Vitalien

National Program Director - CRISP

Romy has spent more than a decade working in refugee settlement, leading a range of government, philanthropic and participant-funded programs that enable people with refugee backgrounds to establish a home in Australia and to participate fully in all aspects of the Australian community.

Romy has a Master of Social Work, a Bachelor of Law and a Bachelor of Arts, and has worked extensively with people with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds including with Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, Australian Red Cross, AMES Australia and the Legal Aid Scheme in Ghana. She is a proud mother of two and is driven by the sheer joy of welcoming people with refugee experiences to Australia, and the opportunity to harness the enormous contributions that this resilient cohort can offer to Australian society.

Blaise Itabelo

Blaise Itabelo

National Manager - Community Partnerships & Engagement

Blaise was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sadly the 1996 war in DRC forced Blaise and his family to flee and for the next decade and a half, Blaise and his family called a Refugee Camp home. Blaise migrated to Australia in 2011 and he’s a proud Australian citizen. He has extensively worked on assisting newly arrived migrants, refugees, and people seeking asylum in their settlement journey in Australia. Blaise has over ten years of experience in Community Engagement and Development with a particular interest in community capacity building and mobilisation and has held various roles with local and International NGOs including Access community services Ltd, SSI, and WorldShare.

Coco Cherian

Coco Cherian

Program Engagement Coordinator

Coco is a recent graduate who is motivated to create a positive social impact. She is particularly interested in responses to forced displacement, with a passion for human rights issues and social inclusion. She is excited to facilitate a participatory approach to community development through her role as Program Support Officer. Coco holds a Masters of Development Studies and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne.

Nicole Watkins

Nicole Watkins

National Manager - Community Learning and Development

Nicole is a community development practitioner with ten years experience working in not for profit and government agencies. Nicole completed a Masters of Social Development from UNSW and has extensive experience working in the refugee sector with agencies such as Australian Red Cross and Settlement Services International. She is passionate about building community capacity to drive long lasting and sustainable change that delivers meaningful outcomes for the community.

Shabnam Safa

Shabnam Safa

National Training Lead - Community Learning and Development

Shabnam is a driven community development practitioner passionate about cultivating true partnerships between communities and structures of power to create lasting solutions. Inspired by her own experience of forced displacement from Afghanistan, she is a strong advocate for meaningful participation of refugees in addressing the complex challenges of resettlement, inclusion, and belonging. She has founded and led multiple initiatives in Australia and abroad supporting refugees and host communities, particularly focusing on strengths-based and capacity-building approaches. Shabnam is the inaugural chairperson leading the National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG), a refugee-led organisation creating spaces for effective elevation of voices with lived experience in key decisions, policies, and discourse about refugees. She was recently inducted to the Victorian Honour Roll of Women for her tireless work in promoting refugee rights and social cohesion.

Vivienne Chew

Vivienne Chew

National Policy & Advocacy Advisor

Vivienne has more than 15 years of experience in forced migration policy advocacy, research, and program implementation in the Asia Pacific region. She has worked with diverse groups inside and outside of government to develop and implement complex strategies to support migration policy reform. In her previous roles at the International Detention Coalition and Asylum Access, and as former chair of the Immigration Detention Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Vivienne has led advocacy and research initiatives on migration governance, immigration detention, and alternatives to detention at the regional and global levels. Vivienne holds a Law degree from the University of Cardiff, Wales, and a Masters in International Human Rights from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. Prior to joining the humanitarian sector, she practiced as a corporate finance lawyer for Clifford Chance LLP in London and Thailand.

Renata Kanagasabai

Renata Kanagasabai

CRISP Community Liaison Officer

Renata joins the CRSA team with fifteen years of experience in refugee protection and forced migration in Australia and internationally. She has previously worked on the delivery of social programs at Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre, Australian Red Cross and Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project as well as international humanitarian projects in Greece, Lebanon and displacement-related research on Sri Lanka. Renata has postgraduate degrees in Community Development and Social Work, while also pursuing further study on the intersection between gendered violence and forced migration. She is a strong believer in people power and the active role of communities in working toward social change.
Kash Wall

Kash Wall

CRISP Community Liaison Officer

Kash joins the CRSA Team with 8 years of experience in refugee protection and casework support for people seeking asylum in Australia and internationally. After completing a Master of International Development at La Trobe University Kash worked as a Family Reunification caseworker in Northern Greece and as an Operations and Protection Officer on Lesvos Island. Kash also worked at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in the Detention Rights Advocacy Program where she provided complex casework support for families and individuals held on Nauru and Papua New Guinea throughout their time offshore, and during their medical evacuations. Kash also lectures for the Diploma and Bachelors of Community Services at Stotts College in Melbourne and provides student placement liaison support. Kash is dedicated to the refugee sector in Australia and believes in making our community stronger through education, student placement opportunities, and partnerships with key stakeholders and everyday Australians.

Our Board of Directors

CRSA’s Board currently comprises the following individuals.

Noel Clement

Noel Clement

Director & Chair

Noel is a not-for-profit sector leader with over 30 years experience across a diverse range of social causes, with a particular depth of experience in migration and emergency management. He recently left Australian Red Cross after 20 years, most recently as Director of Australian Programs, and is now pursuing a range of new opportunities to contribute his knowledge and skills.

Noel has extensive experience in asylum seeker and refugee program implementation, advocacy and policy. He’s sat on Ministerial Advisory Councils, presented to Senate Select Inquiries and has implemented programs at scale including humanitarian settlement services, immigration detention monitoring, and asylum seeker community care. He was a co-chair of the Global Red Cross Movement’s Migration Leadership Platform and has worked on migration issues at local, national, regional and global levels.
A critical thinker, Noel looks to unpack organisational and community issues to shape strategic and tactical responses. He has substantial experience in building effective relationships and collaborative partnerships.

Noel is a qualified Social Worker (PIT 1988) and holds a Masters in Social Policy (RMIT 2000).

Dr Ali Reza Yunespour

Dr Ali Reza Yunespour

Director

Ali Reza Yunespour works as Academic Internships Coordinator in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He has completed his PhD in International and Political Studies at UNSW Canberra in which he studied admission practices in Afghanistan’s higher education and their ensuing (in)equities. Ali Reza’s research interests are education politics in fragile contexts and asylum seeker and refugee issues in Australia. He has extensive community development experience in conflict societies and, since 2007, has helped around 10,000 students in 45 rural schools in Afghanistan through his volunteer work with Indigo foundation Australia. Previously, Ali Reza has worked in DFAT and as a lecturer at American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. Ali Reza was a People of Australia Ambassador in 2012 and 2013 and was awarded the National Volunteer Award for his works with refugees and migrants in Australia and his contributions to indigo foundation’s education programs in Afghanistan. Ali Reza arrived as a refugee in Australia in 2005.

Naomi Steer AO

Naomi Steer AO

Director

Naomi is a longstanding advocate for  refugees and other  forcibly displaced people  from her early days as an Australian diplomat working on human rights at the United Nations  in New York  and then for 22 years  as National Director  of Australia for UNHCR , the UN Refugee Agency’s National Partner  funding  UNHCR’s international humanitarian work.

Naomi has  worked and travelled to many refugee situations and conflict zones  sharing the experiences , stories and voices of refugees she has met to help promote  greater understanding  and support in the Australian community . In a parallel career, Naomi has been a longstanding Trustee of superannuation funds and is currently Chair of the Sydney Financial Forum.

Since retiring from Australia for UNHCR in 2022, Naomi has continued her work supporting refugees locally and globally including supporting refugee women in Uganda through her initiative Connectors For Good.

Naomi has a BA (Hons) and LLB from UNSW and  an MSc in Conflict, Security and Development  Studies from Leicester University, UK.

Cindy Carpenter

Cindy Carpenter

Director

Cindy is Chair of The Bread & Butter Project, Australia’s first social enterprise artisan bakery, investing 100% of profits to provide training and employment pathways for refugees and asylum seekers.

Cindy also Chairs the advisory groups supporting two refugee-led social enterprises, Aunty’s Ginger Tonics and CommUnity Construction Group, convenes a knowledge sharing group of about fifteen refugee-focused social enterprises, and sits on the work-integrated-social enterprise Hub to promote payment for outcomes models. She is also a Director on the Board of Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, and coordinator of a neighbourhood group mentoring two young refugees.

Cindy sits on the National Judging Panel for Westpac Foundation’s Social Change Fellowship and is a member of the Steering Committee for the RISE program that connects business mentors to social enterprises impacted by COVID-19.

Cindy was a Principal strategy consultant and then General Manager Aust/NZ for the Boston Consulting Group before co-founding the consulting firm, Cast, 12 years ago. She thrives on helping organisations achieve their boldest aspirations and has advised many corporates as well as not-for-profit and public sector organisations. She has an MBA from AGSM where she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship, with an exchange to the Wharton School of Finance in University of Pennsylvania.

Ian Smith AM

Ian Smith AM

Director

Ian Smith is the founding partner of corporate and political advisory firm Bespoke Approach, working with national and international blue-chip companies. He is also a Senior Adviser to Albright Stonebridge Group, a Washington-based strategy consultancy. Ian is deeply involved in refugee advocacy, chairing Barefoot to Boots, a charity assisting refugee camps and their host communities. He is a member of the University of South Australia Council. He became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in June 2018. He is married to former Senator and Ambassador Natasha Stott Despoja and they have two children, Conrad and Cordelia.
Cam Venables

Cam Venables

Director

Cam is an Anglican Bishop who loves people and music; and using his little gifts with the gifting of others, to make the world a better place. Born in Northern Ireland, and educated in England, Cam spent many formative years in Papua New Guinea working in Christian education and Community Development.

In Australia Cam has worked in Parish, School, and University contexts and has seen great synergies between these in caring for the homeless (Lismore Soup Kitchen), supporting those in the wider community (Anglicare Central Queensland, and Anglicare Southern Queensland), and assisting those who come to Australia as refugees through community-based settlement (Sanctuary-Northern Rivers; Sanctuary-CQ; Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Service).

Now based in multi-cultural Toowoomba Cam is very much aware that regional and rural communities are fantastic places for refugees to find welcome and friendship, education and employment, and ultimately… a new sense of ‘home’.

Our Ambassadors

We are grateful for the public and behind-the-scenes support of the following esteemed individuals.

Professor Peter Shergold AC

Professor Peter Shergold AC

Peter led a government-commissioned independent inquiry into Integration, Employment and Settlement Outcomes for Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants in Australia in 2019. He is currently the Coordinator General for Refugee Settlement in NSW and Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney.

Watch Peter Shergold on Community Refugee Sponsorship

Libby Lloyd AO

Libby Lloyd AO

Former Director & Chair

Libby has a strong background working with refugees. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2022 for her distinguished service to the community, particularly to women and refugees, through a range of social welfare initiatives. This followed her earlier appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia in 1992 for her contribution to refugees and to the international community in Iraq and Kuwait. She co-founded the White Ribbon Foundation in 2007 and is currently patron of the Indigo Foundation and the Chair of CRSA’s board of directors.

Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol is an Australian lawyer and human rights advocate, who was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, of a family fleeing the Second Sudanese Civil War. She currently works for the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety and is also a writer, speaker and media commentator. In addition to her role with CRSA, she is Chair of The Harmony Alliance.
Andrew Kaldor AM

Andrew Kaldor AM

Andrew arrived in Australia in 1948 as a refugee from Hungary. He went on to become a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist and, together with his wife Renata, established the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales.

Watch Andrew Kaldor on Community Refugee Sponsorship

Phoebe Wynn-Pope

Phoebe Wynn-Pope

Phoebe is a senior executive with over 25 years’ experience in the humanitarian sector. She has worked extensively with government, business, academia, the media and the public to promote human rights and develop excellence in humanitarian practice. She is currently Head of Business and Human Rights at Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Watch Phoebe Wynn-Pope on Community Refugee Sponsorship

Tim Costello AO

Tim Costello AO

Tim is the Chairman of the Community Council of Australia. He is Director of Micah Australia and a Senior Fellow for Centre for Public Christianity. He is well known as a leading spokesperson on social justice issues including problem gambling and homelessness.

Watch Tim Costello on the Role of Faith Communities in Community Refugee Sponsorship

Om Dhungel

Om Dhungel

Om, a former engineer, is now a consultant and a practitioner of Strength-Based Approach to refugee settlement and community engagement, offering his services as a trainer, mentor and a speaker. A Graduate and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, he is currently a Director on the Board of Asylum Seeker Centre, a Member of NSW Police Multicultural Advisory Council and has served on a number of other boards. Formerly a refugee from Bhutan, Om is the founding President and currently a senior member of the Association of Bhutanese in Australia (ABA) Sydney. Om is a recipient of the 2017 University of Technology Sydney (UTS) International Alumni Award and 2016 NSW Premier’s Multicultural Community Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Watch Om Dhungel on Community Refugee Sponsorship

Arash Bordbar

Arash Bordbar

Arash Bordbar is a former Refugee originally from Shiraz in Iran. Arash is the Co-ordinator of the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council and is also currently working with the CMRC as a Youth Employment and Enterprise Officer. He has just finished his Bachelor of Civil Engineering(Hons). Arash is the Chair of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN). He was awarded the Young People’s Human Rights Medal in 2016 for his advocacy on human rights in Australia and the Asia Pacific, chosen to be an Australian Ambassador since 2018 for Australia Day.