Institute Staff

The small team at the MDI work closely together to strengthen and spark interdisciplinary research into disability related issues. They are committed to translating research into policy and practice.

Professor Bruce Bonyhady AM

Executive Chair and Director

Enterprise Professor, Disability Economics

Professor Bonyhady is a disability reformer, economist, one of the key architects of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and was the inaugural Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) from 2013 to 2016. Professor Bonyhady began his career in the Australian Treasury and also worked in economic consulting, funds management and insurance in Australia and the UK, before becoming a non-executive director. His non-executive roles include President of Philanthropy Australia (2006-13). Professor Bonyhady is the father of three adult sons, two of whom have disabilities and in the 2010 Queen's Birthday Honours, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for services to people with disabilities, their families and carers, and to the community as a contributor to a range of charitable organisations.

Kirsten Deane

General Manager, Melbourne Disability Institute

With more than 15 years of experience in the disability sector and a background in research, policy, advocacy, campaigning and communications, Kirsten brings lived experience, passion, commitment and resilience to driving disability policy and practice change, underpinned by a deep commitment to co-design.

As a strategic and dedicated leader, Kirsten has been a powerful advocate through Every Australian Counts (EAC), the grassroots campaign that fought successfully for the introduction of the NDIS. With her ability to bring people together and her clear communication skills, Kirsten played a critical role in building political and public support for this world-leading reform. Since then, she has continued to push for the NDIS to achieve its original vision.

Kirsten has also worked as an executive director at the National Disability Insurance Agency and served on numerous ministerial councils and advisory committees, including Co-Chair and Deputy Chair of the National People with Disability and Carer Council.

  • Campus: Parkville

Tessa de Vries

Coordinator, National Disability Research Partnership

Tessa de Vries has a particular interest in the effective translation of research findings into policy and practice, partnerships with the disability community and clear communication. She has a background in project management, research administration and knowledge translation, with a specific interest in developmental disability research programs.

Sue Olney

Dr Sue Olney

Research Fellow, Public Policy

Dr Sue Olney is a Research Fellow in Public Policy at the Melbourne Disability Institute at the University of Melbourne, a Visiting Fellow in the Public Service Research Group in the School of Business at UNSW Canberra, and an Honorary Senior Fellow in the Melbourne School of Government at the University of Melbourne. Her research examines market-based reform of public services with particular focus on welfare-to-work and disability services.

Sue has worked in the Victorian Government Departments of Education & Training, Victorian Communities, Planning & Community Development, Human Services and Health and in the not-for-profit sector, and been involved in a range of cross-government, cross-sector and interdisciplinary research projects, government and community sector initiatives, committees and working groups to promote access and equity in employment, education, training and disability services in Australia. Her academic experience includes teaching and research on governance and public administration at the University of Melbourne, UNSW Canberra and the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG).
She is also on the editorial board of the Australian Journal of Public Administration and co-director of the social policy discussion platform Power to Persuade. Sue holds a PhD in Public Policy and a Master of Public Policy and Management from the University of Melbourne.

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Sara Donaldson
Sara Donaldson

Communications Manager

Sara Donaldson has a background in communications, advocacy and design with 13+ years experience driving communications for high-impact policy, political, corporate, and philanthropic initiatives. At MDI, she is responsible for communicating the core mission and providing operational and administrative support across all aspects of Institute.

Campbell Message
Campbell Message

Program Manager

Campbell has a multidimensional perspective on disability informed through living with a disability and working with people with disabilities for many years.

His perspective of disability includes high expectations of potential of people with disabilities, which have been learnt and experienced through many years playing elite level wheelchair basketball, and through being involved in Paralympic Games (where he was part of the Silver Medal winning Australian Wheelchair Basketball Team).

He has also worked for 14 years in sub-acute and community rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injuries as Leisure Specialist, and has built personal and professional networks in disability, health and para sport.

Campbell is passionate about developing individuals own, and the broader communities sense of potential of people with disability.