Our Board

Bruce Manefield FAICD – Chair

bmprofilepicBruce brings to the Gunawirra Board over 20 years of governance experience. He has served on a range of commercial and ‘for-purpose’ boards. His interest in the social and economic value of early intervention programs developed during his 13 years on the Board of KU Children’s Services, six of which he was the Chair.

Bruce is a keen proponent of the work of Prof. James Heckman and the ‘Heckman Equation’, which enumerates the economic value of early intervention programs.

Bruce has held a number of senior executive positions across a range of industry sectors including technology/online, early education and the services sector.


Graham Toomey – Director

attachment-1I am an Australian Aboriginal man from the Wiradjuri and Wongaibon Aboriginal nations of Western NSW. I work for Gunawirra as their Senior Cultural Manager and Artist.

What I bring to Gunawirra is my Australian Aboriginal culture, my knowledge and skills along with my life experience as being an Australian Aboriginal person. I consider my role as guiding, educating and assisting Gunawirra’s professional clinical staff, students and volunteers with understanding my culture and people. I’m involved with many of Gunawirra’s amazing programs and I also manage and facilitate the program I designed called the, ‘Journey to Learning’ program.

Another role I enjoy greatly is engaging with other Aboriginal people, their families, communities and organisations throughout Sydney and NSW as they seek support from the Gunawirra. I cherish my role at Gunawirra immensely and value the work, care, passion and commitment that everyone provides at Gunawirra.


Valerie Villiere – Director

Valerie graduated as a veterinarian in France. She holds a Master in pharmacology from the University of MontrealValerie photo high res and a PhD in neuro-electrophysiology from the University of New South Wales.

She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Valerie has worked in the public and private sectors. She held senior positions in the Australian Public Service for 20 years and represented the Australian government on various national and international committees.

She lived in France and Canada, and has been in Australia since 1991. She has a strong commitment to multiculturalism and loves mixing with people from different heritages.

She has three children who have been brought up learning different languages.

She joined Gunawirra in October 2017.


Mukesh Parekh:  B.Com (Acc), Dip. Marketing MBA (Cum laude), GAICD  – DirectorDSCF8769

Mukesh joined the Board in August 2017. He has over 42 years experience as a senior executive and business consultant. He has worked across several industries – predominantly in Banking and Finance as well as in private health insurance, retail pharmaceutical software, wholesaling and fashion.

He has deep experience in business transformation, strategy development, finance, operations management, sales and marketing management, business and process optimisation and technology, He has led some of the largest business transformation programs in domestic banking during the past decade.

Mukesh holds a B.Com degree and the MBA from the University of Durban –Westville in South Africa and is a Graduate member of the Australian Institute of Directors.

Mukesh is Chairman of the Board’s Finance Committee.


Ram Akella, PMP, MAICD – DirectorRam

Ram is a strategic business partner with 17 years of experience working with c-level and senior management on major strategies and transformational initiatives to develop operational plans with sustainable outcomes. He is privileged to work with great leaders and great teams over the number of years and cherishes the quality of relationships with the leaders, and their senior teams for his achievements.

He believes that the advancement of human race is directly linked to the progress of the young and upcoming generations of the society we live in. In order to affect this.

“It is vital that early intervention programs are designed and delivered through the right platform as an ongoing community development”  


Carol Barton, MBA – Director
Carol Barton is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company DirectorsCarol Baton.

She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Leeds, UK, and an MBA from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

With wide-ranging experience in the NSW and New Zealand public sectors, her career focus has been government departments that grow businesses and employment for community economic and social wellbeing. A former manager in strategic, innovation and industry policy in NSW Trade & Investment, she brings to the table skills and experience in high-level Ministerial and government servicing together with knowledge of startup development.  Mid-career she worked in the Ministerial unit of a NZ Government department on child, youth and family and community organisation funding issues.

Growing up in Zimbabwe and as a student anti-apartheid activist in South Africa Carol has seen close-up the impact of colonisation and oppression on Indigenous people and societies. Being the mother of three she also understands the potentially profound effect of Gunawirra’s work in the lives of young mothers who have suffered trauma, in helping them heal and form the emotional bonds with their babies that are foundational for children’s wellbeing and learning.


Glennis Spence, BA, LLB – Director

Glennis was admitted as a solicitor after graduating from the University of Sydney with an Arts/Law degree.

She conducts a law practice at Bankstown, with special emphasis on Family Law/Conveyancing. As an appointed Independent Children’s Lawyer Glennis represents children in Family Law proceedings.

She has formerly served on the Boards of the Betsy Wares Refuge and of Creating Links, an aged and disability services provider under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Married to John Spence, she has three children.

Glennis is Chair of the Board’s Governance Committee.


John Spence, BA (Hons), LLB – Director

Having graduated from the University of Sydney with a BA (Hons) and an LLB, John is a solicitor specialising in intellectual property and commercial law.

He has extensive experience and involvement serving on committees having been (among other things) on the Management Committee of the Sydney University Sports Union for thirty-one years and President of the Balmain-Drummoyne District Junior Cricket Association. He is an honorary life member of both those organisations.

Currently John is on the Board of Allevia (the Bankstown Handicapped Children’s Centre), a not-for-profit organisation. He is both impressed and attracted by the aims, objectives and ideals of Gunawirra and he hopes to make a contribution by assisting it to attain its goals.



The Gunawirra Board also wishes to thank the following people for their services to Gunawirra: Chris Commens (former Chair), Carol Flanagan, Paul Davis, Margaret Hetherton, Fiona Beith, Anne Gorman, Phil Costa, Charles Handmer, Gail Hilton, Jeff Nelson, Ian Hansen, David Ward and Arthur Tateossian.