Meet the Team

Micaela Cronin

Micaela Cronin is an outstanding contributor to her field, having begun her career as a family violence social worker, she has held leadership and service delivery roles across a broad range of fields, both in Australia and internationally.She comes to the FSSI Director’s role from Hagar International, where she has been the global CEO for three years based in Asia, building service delivery and strategic partnerships across the Asia Pacific region to tackle human trafficking and human rights abuses.

Micaela is a past CEO of MacKillop Family Services and has extensive leadership and governance experience including being President of both the Victorian Council of Social Services, and the Australia Council of Social Services. Micaela is also an alumnus of RMIT and a past President of its Student Representative Committee.

Paul Ramcharan
Deputy Director Research
Associate Professor Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University

Paul Ramcharan has been involved in research for and with people with disability for over 20 years and has maintained an interest in self advocacy, including acting as an Australian Research Council link with colleagues at La Trobe University and Reinforce (a self advocacy group). 

Since arriving in Australia in 2006 from the UK Paul has undertaken research around the views and experiences of people with disability and family carers of restrictive practices and has  developed a Roadmap for Achieving Dignity Without Restraint.  Paul maintains a keen interest in disability research, human rights and inclusive research practice.

Dr Jess Lee-Ack
Deputy Director

Jess’s own life changing experience of higher education has been the key driver shaping her career. A passionate believer in the potential of higher education to broaden horizons and create opportunities, Jess dabbled in lecturing and tutoring roles while she was studying for her PhD at Monash University. While Jess did not pursue an academic career, universities have always felt like “home” so she moved into advisory and managerial roles in the higher education sector focusing on guiding and supporting the development and implementation of projects and organisation-wide initiatives.

During her time at RMIT, Jess has worked across several areas including research planning and policy, project management and academic governance including serving as Secretary to RMIT’s Academic Board and Education Innovation and Quality Committee from 2015-2017. Project managing the development of RMIT’s Research and Innovation Plan 2011-2015 and being part of the #ShapeRMIT Project Team that developed the Ready for Life and Work Strategy in 2015 are among Jess’s career highlights. Prior to joining RMIT in 2008, Jess worked in State Government and Local Government in the UK in project management roles.

Jess brings a wealth of corporate know-how, intimate knowledge of RMIT’s strategy and well-established networks to her role as Deputy Director. In this role, Jess will work with colleagues from RMIT, VCOSS, service providers and government to develop and implement projects to support the growth and transformation of the social service workforce.

Lee Newnham
Coordinator – FSSI

Lee Newnham provides executive and administrative services to the FSSI Director and staff, and acts as a liaison between FSSI, RMIT University and VCOSS.  Lee was previously Business Development/Marketing Manager at Moores, a legal firm with a focus on the not-for-profit sector.  Lee has a strong understanding of both the opportunities and the challenges faced in the sector and is passionate about assisting FSSI in achieving its goals.
Dr Rick Ede
Senior Advisor

Rick joined FSSI in 2019 in a part-time capacity to support the development and implementation by FSSI and RMIT of the “Higher Apprenticeships in the Social Service Sector” pilot project working with DET and industry partners. He also provides support to other FSSI collaborative projects.
Rick has over 11 years’ experience as a CEO of major public vocational education providers in New Zealand and latterly Australia. Building on this experience he now focusses on providing support to education providers, government and industry for the development of education and training  partnerships involving innovative education delivery models, deep integration of working and learning experiences, and delivering better outcomes for both learners and employers. He previously held senior research management and business development roles with the CSIRO, and was a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry with the University of Waikato in NZ.

Dr Shefton Parker
Project Developer and Educator
Shefton Parker has a background in clinical health research and higher education teaching. His research has been in evaluating integrated care delivery and quality of life benefits for patients. He has worked with various health and social service sector organisations in delivering research projects with impact.

Shefton is an active member of various external health organisation governance committees and is an advocate for consumer centred service delivery. He is a past Director of the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) and has a strong interest in enhancing collaboration and engagement between the health and social service sectors to better address complex community needs.

Natalie Jacobson
Lead Evaluator
Natalie has a background in social work and international community development. As a Social Worker she worked primarily in the fields of correctional services and drug and alcohol. Natalie has held leadership positions in various settings both in Australia and Pacific countries within government and not-for profit organisations.

Natalie has tried to create opportunities for community members, particularly those who are often excluded, to influence decision makers and have their voices heard. In the last few years, Natalie has pursued her interest in social research and evaluation to support evidence informed policy and programming decisions.

Alyssa Warland
Project Officer
Alyssa Warland joined FSSI in late March 2020 as the Project Officer supporting the Leadership Intensives. Alyssa brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from a range of previous roles in higher education. A natural collaborator, Alyssa enjoys working with others and has developed a diverse professional network.

A career highlight for Alyssa was supporting the implementation of a new Learning Management System (Canvas) across RMIT. This project was a major shift in learning and teaching at RMIT, and Alyssa played a critical role overseeing the project for the School of Science. Alyssa is also a keen practitioner of agile working and will bring an agile approach to the design and delivery of the Leadership Intensives.

Holding strong personal passions for the work being done by FSSI, Alyssa comes into the team with a strong desire to support the growth, quality and adaptation of the social service sector for the benefit of everyone in our community.
Steve Bruechert
VE Program Manager

Steve has more than 35 years’ experience in the health and community services sector in leadership and management roles. His sector experience includes disability, aged care, and health service provision, at state and regional levels.

Steve has been involved with a range of consultancies providing advice and operational responsibility for development and design of new commercial projects. He is an experienced workplace consultant educator in the development of leadership and management programs focused on community service workforce strategies. Academic interests include fundamentals of community service workforce development and the relationship between workplace culture and learning.

Michelle McCann
VE Teacher and Project Officer

Michelle is an experienced community services and disability professional with a commitment to social justice and human rights. In her career she has worked with marginalized members of the community including people with disabilities, complex mental health issues and ex-prisoners. She is currently the Chair of the Newlands and East Coburg Community Hub.

Michelle teaches into the Future Social Service Institute VE programs in Certificate IV in Disability and Certificate III in Individual Support. She has an ongoing commitment to the inclusion of people with disability in all aspects of society, including education. She remains focused on people with disability influencing curriculum and delivery through a co-design process.


Lola Nicolouleas
VE Lead Teacher

Lola has extensive experience in the disability sector, including 15 years at Interchange Western (now Gateways Support Services), and 5 years working within disability employment services as both an employment consultant and a marketing coordinator.

Through these positions, she has developed a strong background in supporting people with disabilities to live empowered lives through recreation activities, and real-life insight into barriers people with disabilities face with employment and education. Lola has taught at a broad range of RTO’s, Boutique RTO’s and now RMIT University.  She is also on the Board of management for the South Kingsville Community centre and volunteer with Wear for Success.


Manu Atwal
VE Lead Teacher

Manu is an experienced registered nurse who worked in the residential aged care industry as nurse in charge and care manager. In her career, she has focused on holistic care of her aged care residents and has tried to make their life a bit more comfortable in their final moments.

Manu has also worked as palliative nurse where she enjoyed embarking on the journey of aged care nursing. She has a wealth of experience in the aged care industry as an advocate for the residents and now she is ready to share these experiences with her students.