The Supporting Communities Forum

An initiative to build a collaborative partnership between the WA Government and the community services sector, a key contributor to economic growth, employment and community wellbeing, particularly for vulnerable Western Australians.

The WA Government is committed to working with the community services sector to deliver quality services by building a relationship based on partnership, collaboration and mutual respect.  

The Supporting Communities Forum supports the directions of WA Government reform - structural changes aimed at creating collaborative departments focused on whole-of-government objectives to deliver better outcomes for Western Australians. 

Its function is to support implementation of the WA Government’s Supporting Communities Policy.

Expressions of interest are now invited for membership of the Supporting Communities Forum 2020-2021. Please see below for more information. 

Working groups

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Seven working groups were established to focus on each of the Premier’s identified priorities for the Forum in 2018.

These priorities are:

  1. provide advice on collaborative practice between the government and community services sectors
  2. work with Department of the Premier and Cabinet to develop an outcomes framework for the community services sector
  3. support reforms to procurement practice including a review of the Delivering Community Services in Partnership Policy
  4. work with the Department of Communities to trial new approaches to service design to develop a State homelessness strategy
  5. support the WA Government’s commitment to strengthening data sharing and linkage
  6. inform the structure, tone and reporting areas of the biennial Our Communities Report
  7. identify ways for the Forum to engage with the broader community to communicate its work.

See the working group membership list and secretariat contacts list, and status and key milestones plan.

Collaboration working group

Co-Chairs: Ross Wortham and David Russell-Weisz 
Purpose: To develop guiding principles for collaboration between the government and community services sector.

To identify practical ways to apply these guiding principles and translate learnings into action and changes to approaches to collaboration that achieve more efficient and effective service design and delivery and better outcomes for people.

Collaboration Working Group documents

Communication about the forum working group

Co-Chairs: Helen Creed and Emily Roper  
Purpose: To ensure that the Forum will promote engagement in support of its work plan and those of its working groups, to communicate about its activities and report on its achievements.

Supporting Communities Forum Working Group - Communication about the Forum

Data sharing and linkage working group

Co-Chairs: Pip Brennan and Darren Foster 
Purpose: The Forum and  State Government are committed to strengthening safe data sharing and linkage. This includes sharing of data for evidence-based policy making and improved government service delivery.

Data Sharing and Linkage Working Group Project Plan

Our Communities report working group

Co-Chairs: Dan Minchin and Lisa Rodgers  
Purpose: The working group will produce a document outlining options to improve and increase investment and progress in areas of greatest need. To develop a transparent, open and accessible report identifying what difference is being made and what is still to be done, being the voice of the people to Government.

Our Communities Report 

Outcomes framework working group

Co-Chairs: Louise Giolitto and Adam Tomison 
Purpose: To develop an 'Outcomes Measurement Framework' to drive a more consistent approach to identifying key indicators to measure outcomes.

Outcomes Framework Working Group documents

Procurement reform working group

Co-Chairs: Vicki O’Donnell and Tim Marney  
Purpose: To develop a project plan that provides an overview of four sub-projects to enable effective implementation of the Delivering Community Services in Partnership Policy 2018. 

The project areas include:

  1. Co-design in a procurement context
  2. Practice review
  3. Co-commissioning/group buying and integrated services.
  4. Outcomes based procurement practices (on hold)
  5. Project Plan

State homelessness strategy working group

Co-Chairs: Debra Zanella and Michelle Andrews  
Purpose: To develop a 10-year strategy on homelessness that will:

  • provide an overarching framework for government, the community services sector and the community to work together to address homelessness
  • set strategic direction and priorities
  • articulate outcomes to be achieved at the systems level, service level and for people
  • guide activity and investment.

Directions Paper
Community organisations, government agencies, local government and members of the community are invited to provide feedback on the Directions Paper developed by the SCF Homelessness Working Group for the 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness Western Australia 2019–2029. Feedback will be used to inform the Strategy, which will be finalised in mid-2019.  

Consultation Reports

Project Plan



The Forum members and positions

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Membership of the Forum was announced on 6 December 2017.

The Forum is chaired by Michelle Scott and the Deputy Chairperson is Helen Creed.

Membership consists of senior leadership from government agencies and 14 leaders from the community services sector.

Our Role

The Forum is committed to working with the community services sector, to improve the way services are delivered to individuals, families and communities most in need. Its role is to explore effective ways of engaging with the sector, to enable positive change to complex issues impacting on the lives of Western Australians.

Core values have been identified to encourage strong relationships between the WA Government and the sector. These are:

  • collaboration
  • cultural competence
  • transparency
  • accountability
  • building on strengths
  • evidence based.

The Forum and its working groups aim to identify opportunities for better designed services, and help guide future priorities.

Forum Members

Photograph of Michelle Scott

Michelle Scott - Chair

Ms Scott was appointed the inaugural Director of the McCusker Centre for Citizenship at UWA in October 2015. The Centre is focused on building greater capacity in the community to understand, contribute and positively impact on social issues. Ms Scott has over 30 years’ experience leading and influencing government and community organisations to address and reduce contemporary, complex social challenges. She has also been an independent statutory officer, including as WA’s first Commissioner for Children and Young People (6 years), and Public Advocate for WA (5 years).

Helen Creed - Deputy Chair

Headshot Helen Creed

Ms Creed recently stepped down from her role as the Executive Director of the Community Legal Centres Association, having previously worked at the WA Council of Social Service. Originally a social worker, Ms Creed was the WA Secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers Union during the 1990s and went on to represent working people at both the national and international level. She has held a number of senior State government positions including Director of the Office for Women’s Policy and Executive Director, Children and Families in the Department for Communities.


Michelle Andrews

Michelle Andrews Deputy Director General

Ms Andrews is the Director General of the Department of Communities. Previously she was leading the Policy and Reform Division in the Department of Premier and Cabinet appointed in January 2018. She recently headed the secretariat supporting the State Government's Service Priority Review, a wide-ranging independent review that recommended a blueprint for reform of the public sector. Prior to commencing at DPC, Michelle worked at the former Department of Mines and Petroleum, in which she focused on resource development policy and strengthening the department's relationships across government, industry and the community. Michelle is an environmental scientist with 30 years' experience in the public sector, including at the then Department of State Development and the Environmental Protection Authority. She has also worked as a senior policy advisor for several State Government Ministers. She has served as Deputy Chair of the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia and is on the Board of the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute and the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

Pip Brennan 

Photograph of Pip Brennan

Ms Brennan began working in the community services sector in 1999 as a maternity advocate volunteer, and progressed to paid advocacy work at the Health Consumers’ Council in 2006. She returned to the Health Consumers’ Council in 2015  to take up the role of Executive Director. In the intervening decade Ms Brennan worked at the Office of Health Review conciliating health complaints, Reclaiming Voices advocating in the victim services sector, Community Midwifery WA providing childbirth education services, and at the WA Council of Social Service on the Better Health Outcomes project.


Suzi Cowcher

headshot Suzi Cowcher

Ms Cowcher is a respected leader within the community services sector with particular expertise and passion in disability, aged and social services. Until early 2018, she was CEO at Ability Centre Australasia Ltd. She has over 30 years’ experience leading not-for-profit organisations to become sustainable and resilient in a changing world. Prior to joining Ability Centre, Ms Cowcher was Chief Operating Officer and deputising CEO at Amana Living, Principal Consultant at Absolute Efficiency, and Donor Services Manager (WA/NT) Australian Red Cross Blood Service. She also held key roles at Silver Chain.


Commissioner Chris Dawson APM     

Photograph of Commissioner Chris Dawson AMP

Mr Dawson is Western Australia's Commissioner of Police. Prior to this he headed up the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, and was Deputy Police Commissioner for 10 years. Mr Dawson has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, and has served in both country and metropolitan positions throughout Western Australia.



Jonathan Ford 

Photograph of Jonathan Ford

Mr Ford is a Noongar man, and CEO of Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre since 2012. He was previously Programs Manager of Aboriginal Health with the Rockingham Kwinana Division of General Practice, and held senior positions with the South Metropolitan Public Health Unit and Department of Housing. Mr Ford has experience in justice, housing, natural resource management, education, employment and Aboriginal economic development. He is a member of the Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Service Board and Chairperson of the national Aboriginal Young Leaders Council.


Darren Foster

Darren Foster photograph

Mr Foster joined the Department of the Premier and Cabinet in March 2017 and was appointed Director General in July 2017. Mr Foster has over 30 years of public sector experience as a senior policy and strategy adviser in Commonwealth, State and local governments, in areas as diverse as environment, treasury and finance; energy; health; education and training; tourism; racing and gaming and Native Title. Mr Foster has held senior roles in the Department of Fisheries and the Office of the Environmental Protection Authority, and the National Native Title Tribunal.


Kate George    

Photograph of Kate George

Ms George is a Martu woman who resides in Perth but maintains connections to and works in the Pilbara. Her work focuses on community development, including Indigenous investment and business initiatives and working with Pilbara communities. Ms George has been involved in Aboriginal affairs for over 35 years and has held senior public service positions, including Ministerial Advisor at a State and Federal level. She has worked in the private, public and non-government sectors.


Louise Giolitto

Photograph of Louise Giolitto

Ms Giolitto is CEO of the WA Council of Social Service, leading the organisation’s policy and advocacy work. She has been part of the community services sector for over 22 years. Her experience includes management of homelessness programs, housing, youth services, Aboriginal support programs, employment, education, training, mentoring, drug education, seniors, and emergency relief.



Neil Guard  

Photograph of Neil Guard

Mr Guard was appointed CEO of the Richmond Wellbeing in 2016, following a career that includes more than 15 years in the corporate sector in the UK and 18 years in human services in both the government and not-for-profit sectors in WA.

In October 2018 he was elected Chair of two community services organisations and stepped back from the CEO position to focus on these roles and consultancy options.

His previous roles include Executive Director of the WA Drug and Alcohol Office (during which period he was seconded to lead the establishment of the Mental Health Commission); Executive Director of Healthway; Director of Accommodation Services in the Disability Services Commission; and Executive Director Professional Services at Communicare. 


Jennifer McGrath 

Jennifer McGrath headshot

Jennifer was appointed Acting Commissioner of the Mental Health Commission in June 2019. The Commission strives to establish mental health, alcohol and other drug systems that meet the needs of Western Australia's population and deliver quality outcomes for individuals and their families. The Commission also plans, purchases or provides services, with a budget of $942.1million in 2019-20.  Ms McGrath most recently held the position of Deputy Director General, Education Business Services at the Department of Education and has worked in the Western Australian public sector for 14 years, holding senior executive positions in the Departments of the Premier and Cabinet and Finance, as well as the former Department for Child Protection and Family Support.


Dan Minchin

Photograph of Dan Minchin

Mr Minchin is the CEO of Chorus, an organisation which builds on the legacies of Volunteer Task Force, Community First International and Care Options. Previously, he was Silver Chain’s Head of Strategy and General Manager, East Coast where he led the expansion of Silver Chain beyond WA. He has also worked as a strategy advisor and consultant to a number of organisations in WA.

Mr Minchin is a member of the Volunteering Community Reference Group established by the Minister for Volunteering.


Tricia Murray   

Photograph of Tricia Murray

Ms Murray was appointed to the position of CEO of Wanslea in 2004. She has worked in the community not-for-profit sector in NSW and WA for over 30 years, primarily in management positions, with a focus on child protection, homelessness, family violence and children’s services. Ms Murray is the Chair of the Children and Family Welfare Agencies Association; a member of the boards of Community Employers of WA and Families Australia; a member of the General Council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA and the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Child Protection; and a director of SHINE Community Services.



Vicki O'Donnell 

Photograph of Vicki O'Donnell

Ms O’Donnell is a Nyikina Mangala Aboriginal woman from Derby, where she grew up. She has significant experience as a strategic leader in the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, focusing on the delivery and ongoing support of Aboriginal programs at a regional, state and national level. She brings extensive expertise and understanding of Aboriginal health, and multiple perspectives on Indigenous issues.

Ms O’Donnell currently holds the position of CEO for the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service in Broome, and was CEO of the Derby Aboriginal Health Service for 12 years.


Maria Osman 

Photograph of Maria Osman

Ms Osman has over 30 years' experience as a senior policy adviser on the intersections of gender equality, multiculturalism and human rights. She has previously held the role of Executive Director of WA's Office of Multicultural Interests and Office for Women's Policy and led the development of equity and access policies and programs in partnership with diverse communities for over 20 years. In 2015 Ms Osman was an Australian delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. She is currently a director on the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Peoples Trust, the Humanitarian Group, the National Harmony Alliance for Migrant and Refugee Women and the WA Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Interests' Multicultural Advisory Group.


Carol Pettersen JP 

Photograph of Carol Pattersen JP

Ms Pettersen was born at Gnowangerup Mission and raised in the bush at Jerramungup in a family of 17, but has lived most of her life in her traditional country of Albany. She has worked across many government agencies dealing with and advocating for Aboriginal issues at State and Federal levels, and implementing programs at local level. Ms Pettersen currently sits on the Aboriginal Advisory Board to the WA Attorney General and WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. She is a former President of the Women's Advisory Committee to the Premier of Western Australia on women's issues, and was named National NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year 2008/09. 


Lisa Rodgers 

Photograph of Lisa Rodgers

Ms Rodgers is the Director General of the Department of Education appointed in January 2019 and brings to the role nearly 20 years' national and international experience in education. As former chief executive officer of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), Ms Rodgers led the national agenda on strengthening school leadership with a focus on principal preparedness, and supporting teacher quality through the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. As Deputy Secretary, Early Learning and Student Achievement and Deputy Secretary, Evidence, Data and Knowledge in the Ministry of Education in New Zealand, Ms Rodgers led significant reforms in assessment innovation, curriculum and the use of evidence for impact at the classroom and national level. It is this commitment to improving outcomes for students that now sees her lead education in this State, with responsibility for both public and non-government education services. Ms Rodgers is also Chief Executive Officer of the School Curriculum and Standards Authority. Ms Rodgers has held substantial posts in justice, health, serving in the British Army, and lecturing and leading research in child mental health at the University of Wales.


Photograph of Dr David Russell-Weisz

Dr David Russell-Weisz 

Dr Russell-Weisz is the Director General of the Department of Health. He attained his medical qualifications in Scotland before moving to Australia, where he worked as a General Practitioner for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and in regional and remote WA. He has held several leadership roles in the health system, including the Chief Executive of the North Metropolitan Health Service and Fiona Stanley Hospital Commissioning.


Dr Adam Tomison 

Photograph of Dr Adam Tomison

Dr Tomison is the Director General of the new Department of Justice. Previously he was Director and Chief Executive of the Australian Institute of Criminology, and held various senior executive positions within the Northern Territory Department of Health and Families. Throughout his career he has been active in advising and working with sectoral groups and not for profit agencies, and is recognised for his expertise in the prevention of child abuse and family violence, and the development of child protection and family support systems.



Julie Waylen   

Photograph of Julie Waylen

Ms Waylen is the State Manager of National Disability Services (NDS) Western Australia. She began her career as a Social Trainer working with people with disability with complex needs. She has worked for over 30 years in a range of senior executive roles with both the State government and community services sectors, encompassing disability services, child protection, family support, homelessness, domestic violence, community services and health.


Ross Wortham 

Photograph of Ross Wortham

Mr Wortham is CEO of the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia, the peak body representing young people and all those who support young people in WA. His career has primarily been in leadership positions with not-for-profit organisations, both in Australia and overseas, focusing on community development, human rights, child protection services, youth work and community relations.



Debra Zanella 

Photograph of Debra Zanelle

Ms Zanella is the CEO of Ruah Community Services which provides services principally in the areas of mental health, homelessness and housing, family, justice and domestic violence services. Ms Zanella brings over 30 years’ experience in senior leadership roles in health and community services, particularly in complex areas of service delivery. Her previous leadership experience includes senior roles in specialised Drug and Alcohol Services, not-for-profit private hospital executive management, and other related health and community services. Other key roles include President of the WA Council of Social Service and Board member for the Australian Council of Social Service.

2020–2021 Expression of interest

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Expression of interest invited for membership of the Supporting Communities Forum 2020–2021: community services and academic membership.

The community services sector is a key partner with Government in the delivery of services to the Western Australian community, and a significant contributor to economic growth, employment and wellbeing, particularly for vulnerable Western Australians. 

The Government is committed to working with the community services sector to maximise opportunities to deliver quality services to the Western Australian community. 

A key element of this commitment is the establishment of the Supporting Communities Forum which comprises membership drawn from both government and the non-government sectors, reflecting the diversity of the sectors and the Western Australian community to which services are provided. 

Information about the Forum, including its function and operation is available on the Forum’s webpage. Please note that, priorities for the Forum to work on in 2020–2021 will be published on the this webpage prior to the Expression of Interest closing date. The current Forum’s Terms of Reference may be amended for the new two-year term of the Forum, to reflect the priorities identified for the new Forum. 

Expression of Interest are sought for community services and academic membership of the Supporting Communities Forum for 2020–2021, including Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, and 14 members drawn from the community services and academic sectors. 

All appointments will be for a two-year term.

To ensure continuity of the Forum’s work, its expertise and the relationships built by the current Forum, it is anticipated that a number of existing Forum members will be reappointed for a further two-year term. However, as it is also important that the Forum’s membership reflects developments in the community services sector, potential new members are encouraged to apply, including new and emerging leaders in the community services sector. Researchers and academics whose work focuses on the community services sector are also encouraged to apply.

The Forum will hold regular quarterly meetings, and members are expected to attend the majority of these meetings. The Forum may also hold other special meetings, at which attendance will be optional. Every effort will be made to facilitate attendance using appropriate information and communications technology systems. 

Instruction for applicants

Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson

An Expression of Interest for the position of Chairperson and/or Deputy Chairperson can be lodged by submitting a curriculum vitae, along with a covering letter of no more than three pages clearly indicating the position/s you wish to nominate for and indicating how you meet the following criteria:

  • significant and successful senior leadership experience in human service delivery or research, including relevant board (or similar) experience;
  • extensive knowledge and experience of service delivery issues in one or more of the following areas: community services; youth services; services for Aboriginal people and communities; regional and remote services; disability services; health and mental health services; and services for culturally and linguistically diverse groups and communities or systemic advocacy in one or more of the aforementioned areas;
  • experience in driving reform and/or innovation processes within and across community services organisations; 
  • demonstrated ability to foster collaboration amongst board (or similar) members and to provide balanced, well-informed advice; 
  • ability and willingness to draw on sector networks to consult on behalf of the Forum and to engage support for the Forum’s work; and
  • expertise in corporate governance.

Please ensure you provide the contact details of two current referees.

Community services and academic membership

An Expression of Interest for community services and academic sector membership can be lodged by submitting a curriculum vitae, along with a covering letter of no more than two pages indicating how you meet the following criteria:

  • successful leadership experience in human service delivery within the community services sector or in sector-related research;
  • knowledge of service delivery issues in one or more of the following areas: community services; youth services; services for Aboriginal people and communities; regional and remote services; disability services; health and mental health services; and services for culturally and linguistically diverse groups and communities or systemic advocacy in one or more of the aforementioned areas; 
  • ability to work constructively with others and provide balanced, well-informed advice; and
  • ability and willingness to draw on sector networks to consult on behalf of the Forum and to engage support for the Forum’s work.

Please ensure you provide the contact details of two current referees.

How to apply

Submit your application online: 

It is recommended that attachments be in one of the following formats:
MS Word, MS Excel, Adobe PDF, JPEG or GIF.

Submit your application by post:

Supporting Communities Forum
Department of the Premier and Cabinet
Level 2, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street

Closing date:     5.00pm (Western Standard Time) on Tuesday 8 October 2019  

Please note: Late applications will not be accepted.

For further information, please contact the Secretariat on

This document can be made available in an alternative format on request.  
An Expression of Interest can also be accepted in alternative formats, please contact for more information.


2020–2021 Topics for the Supporting Communities Forum

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In conjunction with the Terms of Reference for the Forum, four topics have been identified for the Supporting Communities Forum to address in 2020 – 2021.

  1. Child Wellbeing Strategy
  2. Implementation of the 10-Year Strategy on Homelessness 2020 - 2030
  3. Further Development and Implementation of the Community Services Outcome Measurement Framework
  4. Digital Inclusion

Please note that these topics are still draft and subject to final approval. 

Page reviewed 8 January 2020