DV West’s Board of Directors make a significant contribution to the organisation’s culture, strategic focus, effectiveness and financial sustainability. They each bring a high level of skill, experience and knowledge to meet the governance and strategic directions of the organisation.

Mary Gleeson (Chairperson)

Solicitor, Legal Aid Commission

Mary has had a long-standing relationship with DV West since 1996. She has held board positions at different times during this period and is currently the Chairperson.

Mary’s is a practicing Lawyer and contributes her legal skills and knowledge to the governance of DV West. She is the manager of an Early Intervention Family Law program within Legal Aid NSW and has 25 years of experience as a Family Lawyer. She commenced her career in private practice before moving to Legal Aid NSW in 1998. She is an experienced litigation lawyer who has worked for parents as well as an Independent Children’s Lawyer.

The focus of her current practice is providing service to Aboriginal clients against a history of poor access and use of the Family Law system.Mary is a member of the Indigenous Issues Committee of the Law Society of NSW on legal policy and practice issues concerning Indigenous Australians.She is passionate about early intervention legal services and has a professional understanding of the legal needs and circumstances of women and children when they are experiencing domestic or family violence. Mary brings this comprehensive knowledge to her role as a valued director on the Board of DV West.

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Mary Gleeson

Toni Milne (Treasurer and Vice-Chairperson)

Executive Director Service Funding Strategy Department of Community Services (now retired)

Toni has over 30 years’ experience in the NSW and Local Government in areas including finance and funding, policy development and implementation, corporate and business planning, research and information management. She led the NSW Governments negotiations with the Federal Government for homelessness services funding, including domestic violence services, known as the SAAP Agreement from 1998 until she left in 2009.

Toni is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD). She has the expertise and skill to provide the Board with sound financial and governmental relations advice.

She would like to see DV West further develop, including reaching further into the Hawkesbury and providing increased services to Aboriginal women and children escaping domestic violence. To this end she would like to see DV West funding for Wirrawee Gunya reinstated from the Department of Communities and Justice. She would also like to see women with disabilities gaining greater access to our services.

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Toni Milne

Nita Dowel

Senior Policy Officer, Aboriginal Family Violence

Nita has worked for 30 years within justice services including probations and parole, working directly with inmates and their families and in policy. She is currently a Senior Policy Officer at NSW Police focusing on Aboriginal Family Violence. Nita brings her valuable policy knowledge to the governance of DV West and her in-depth understanding of culturally safe service provision to the organisation.

As an Aboriginal woman Nita has an in-depth knowledge of the effects of domestic violence in the Aboriginal community and the difficulties that Aboriginal women face in accessing culturally competent services.

Nita believes the DV West will continue to grow in its capacity to provide quality, culturally safe services to increased numbers of Aboriginal women and other culturally marginalised women. Nita is passionate about DV West’s expertise and ability to provide flexible and innovative services.

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Nita Dowel

Vanessa Barnes

Acting Service Delivery Manager and Aboriginal family worker, Junaya Family Development Services

As a proud Bundjulung woman Vanessa brings a range of knowledge and skills to her governance role, as a director on the Board of DV West.

Vanessa has worked in management, counselling and mediation. She is currently employed in a management and development role with Junaya Family services. Vanessa works to strengthen Aboriginal families and increase parent’s capacity to have their children restored to their care or to prevent the removal of children. DV is commonly a factor in the removal or the threat of child removal.

Vanessa brings knowledge and guidance to DV West’s approach to working with Aboriginal families. She is committed to the work that DV West undertakes and the services it provides.

She hopes to see DV West fulfil its mission and one day see a society free of violence against women and children.

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Vanessa Barnes

Joanna Schofield

Child Protection Case Worker, The Department of Communities and Justice

Joanna has a background in business, and training to the business sector and contributes relevant aspects of this knowledge and expertise to the governance of DV West.

In recent years Joanna changed career paths. She graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Human Sciences Degree, majoring in Community Service and Counselling. She completed this qualification to allow her to follow her ambition to work in a helping profession, to empower vulnerable people and address inequality in her community.

Joanna currently works as a child protection caseworker for The Department of Communities and Justice. The primary focus of the position is to ensure the wellbeing, safety and protection of children and young people.

Joanna is a feminist with a passion for social justice and equity. Her work on the Board of DV West is to support the vision for a society where women can live free from domestic and family violence. She is especially committed to inclusive and accessible services and contributes to the Board’s continual improvement of access and equity to DV West’s services. Joanna is excited to be part of this innovative and important service.

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