About Us

Who We Are

Board Members

The Board of Management is made up of highly qualified business people from the Sunraysia area as well as members of different cultural groups who are a vital part of the Mildura community.

Ian Japp

President

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Bio to come.

Belinda Clarke

Committee Member

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Charles Albanese

Secretary

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I was born and raised in Robinvale on a fruit block. I attended the local schools in Robinvale where I completed my VCE. After completing my VCE, I spent some time travelling and working on the family vineyard. I became a manager and partner at Freshbest Vineyards (the family business) where I completed my first degree, a Bachelor of Business Agriculture.

I started my career with Ambulance Victoria in Robinvale as an Ambulance Community Officer (Volunteer/Paid position) in 2011 whilst working on the farm. This piqued my interest in a career change to paramedicine. I completed my Bachelor of Paramedic Science through Flinders University Adelaide at the age of 35. I have been based in the region, working as a paramedic for the last 8 years.

In my time working for Ambulance Victoria, I have performed a number of different roles, one of which brought me in contact with SMECC in the form of a community engagement liaison. Many of the patients that I attend do come from many different cultures and have English as a second language which I find a rewarding challenge.

Outside of my work, I have a passion for community engagement and inclusion. I thrive on and actively seek out different ways be involved in the local community. I have a wide range of experience, working with boards and committees. In the past I have held senior committee positions with The Robinvale/Euston Suicide Prevention Network, Mildura Base Hospital Community Consultation Committee, Robinvale Lawn Tennis Club, and Robinvale Ambulance Auxiliary.

John De Luca

Treasurer

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My name is John De Luca

I am 2nd generation Italian and grew up on a vineyard in Mildura.

I am an accountant by trade and have worked for a large fuel organisation as their Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for 17 years.

I am passionate about community involvement and have served 15 years with the State Emergency Service Mildura, where I assisted the community doing anything from hot dog drives, storm safety, to Road Crash Rescue services.

Coming from a multicultural background, I have seen first hand the need for community and collaboration.

When a community comes together, great things can be accomplished and life long friendships formed.

Lyle Short

Committee Member

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Born and raised in Healesville in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, my early careers included pizza boy, mechanic, and garbo. In my late-twenties I joined Victoria Police, where I served for 16 years at various locations throughout the state. For over a year, I’ve been applying the skills and experience gained at Victoria Police in an Emergency Management capacity with Mildura & Swan Hill Rural City Councils.

As a Victoria Police member, I worked closely with CALD communities and gained some insight into the adversities experienced by this varied and valuable group. My recent experience with MRCC has seen me connect with SMECC in Mildura to support the delivery of COVID relief to this part of the Sunraysia community. During the most recent flood emergency in our riverine area, I’ve been part of the coordinated regional response, linking agencies and working towards positive outcomes for those affected communities along the riverine area. I strongly believe in celebrating and elevating the multicultural sectors of our community and advocating on their behalf.

I relocated to Sunraysia in 2021 but have strong ties with the Mallee community through my partner and her family.

Claire Kelly

Committee Member

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It has been the privilege of my life to have worked with CALD families for the past 23 years as a teacher in the EAL New Arrivals Program. Witnessing refugee and immigrant families enter Australia to start their new lives is a blessing.

Over the years I have worked and been adopted by the Ethiopian, Sudanese, Bosnian, Serbian, Karen, and Tibetan communities. Although my only language is English, I attempt to learn a few words in each of the languages at my school.

Moving to Mildura in 2019 to take up the position of Assistant Principal of the Mildura English Language Centre (MELC) has been an amazing opportunity. Although I have travelled, I’ve spent my life in Victoria, growing up in Mallacoota, then working in Melbourne, and now Mildura.

As a member of the SMECC Board I am hoping to offer insight into working with non-English speaking peoples and assist in planning programs and processes which keep SMECC a strong and reliable support to the Mildura CALD community.

Staff Members

Akesa Kei

Chief Executive Officer

(Tonga)

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Born in Mildura, I completed my schooling in Robinvale before continuing my tertiary education in Ballarat at Federation University Australia. My motivation for this role stems from my lived experience as a ‘second generation Australian’ growing up in regional Victoria. Since returning to the region, I have been fortunate to have experienced a variety of roles that have equipped me with the skills and local knowledge that will strengthen our advocacy and work towards SMECC’s vision for an Empowered and harmonious community.

Professional Background: Bachelor of Sports Management & Bachelor of Business (Marketing), Jobs Victoria Employment Network (Swan Hill Rural City Council), Game Development Officer (National Rugby League Ltd.) Community Facilitator (Our Place – Colman Education Foundation) and now, a role that is a combination of them all and more.

Cultural Heritage: Kingdom of Tonga

Maree Buckingham

Corporate Services Manager

​(Australia)

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Trish Fotheringham

Program Manager

(Australia)

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David Nteziryayo

Facilities Assistant

(Congo)

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Stephanie Thomson

Youth Worker

(Australia)

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Juvelina Guterres

Community Programs Coordinator

(Timor Leste)

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My name is Juvelina, I have been working at SMECC since 2010 and my role is Community Programs Coordinator. These programs include, Playgroup, Driving Program, Client employment services, and Youth support (Supervisor). I am originally from East Timor and I am fluent in 4 Languages these include, Tetum, Indonesian, Malay, and English. I also speak some Portuguese.

Samia Fox

Client Services Worker (Swan Hill)

(Morocco)

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Karen Becker

ACFE Educator

(Australia)

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Walaa Sabri

Client Services Worker 

(Iraq)

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My Name is Walaa and I have been working at SMECC since October 2017. I am originally from Iraq, which is an Arabic speaking background and have been living in Australia since 2002. My Role at SMECC is- Client services case worker for the following programs- Settlement Engagement and Transition support, Aged Care Systems Navigator and Family Strengthening project.

Emmie Dowling

Strategic Engagement Coordinator

(Australia)

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My name is Emmie and I started work at SMECC in September 2020. I am an Australian and I speak French and English. My position at SMECC is Outreach Worker.

Lynda Zuriani

Playgroups Assistant

(Malaysia)

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Kunnika Powell

Family Violence Educator

(Thailand)

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My name is Kunnika and I started work at SMECC September 2020. I am from Thailand. I also speak Cambodian and Lao too. I am a full time Pastoral Care Worker at SMECC. I love to talk with people and help the community to be strong with a happy life in Australia.

Evelyn Cowling

ACFE Educator

(Australia)

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My name is Evelyn, I am the ACFE teacher and I returned to SMECC in February 2021 (I previously worked as the ACFE teacher from 2015 to 2017). I am an Australian, but my father and grandmother were migrants from England who arrived during the 1940s. I only speak English! I am a qualified ESL teacher (TESOL qualification and Cert IV TAE) who loves to teach and help students from all over the world to achieve their learning goals! Currently I am teaching SMECC ACFE courses. I love my job!

Jackson Mugenzi

Youth Worker

(Congo)

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Nina Ciszkowski

Administration & Finance Officer

(Australia)

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Abida Elahi

ACFE Educator

(Pakistan)

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Mitchell Rayson

Food Hub Coordinator

(Australia)

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Mannfred Payen

Food Hub Worker

(Mauritius)

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Michael Mack

Driver Mentor

(Australia)

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