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 is an economist with a life-long interest in the disability sector. He co-founded with Dr Rhonda Galbally the National Disability and Carer Alliance (2009-13) which auspiced Every Australian Counts campaign for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). He was the inaugural Chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) 2013-16, former President of Philanthropy Australia (2006-13) and former Chairman of Yooralla (2001-13). Prior to working in the not for profit sector, Bruce held senior positions in the funds management and insurance industries with ANZ Investments, BT Funds Management and the National Mutual Life Association. His early career was as an economist and econometrician in both the private sector and the Commonwealth Treasury.
Professor Anne Kavanagh is Australia's first Chair of Disability and Health at the University of Melbourne and the Academic Director of the Melbourne Disability Institute. Anne is an internationally renowned scholar in the field of health inequalities with specific expertise in disability, gender, the built environment and employment. From a disciplinary perspective, she is recognised for her strengths in epidemiological methods and is a leading academic in social epidemiology in Australia and internationally. Her major research focus is on the health of people with disability. She focuses on how social determinants such as employment, housing, poverty and education influence the health of people with disability. Her work identifies potential policy solutions to reduce disability-related socio-economic and health disadvantage.
In addition to this role, Anne is the Head of the Disability and Health Research Unit in the Centre for Health Equity, and is Director of the NHMRC funded Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health (CRE-DH). Anne is also a member of the Independent Advisory Council to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Tessa de Vries has a particular interest in the effective translation of research findings into policy and practice, partnerships with the disability community and transparent communication. She has a background in project management, research administration and business development, with a specific interest in developmental disability research programs. Tessa brings to the MDI a passion for new ideas, seeking out creative or proven ways of doing things, and implementing innovations.
Joseph Connellan has a successful career spanning more than thirty years in leadership positions in the affordable housing and disability in not for profit, mutual and Government organisations. For the last ten years, he has worked as a consultant with the last three focused predominantly on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) through his company, MC Two Pty Ltd. In 2018 he published “Two Hands: Delivering More and Better Housing for Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Participants”.
Joseph has been CEO for a number of not for profit organisations including those providing housing and disability advocacy. He has worked on policy development within Government and has held positions on Government advisory bodies.
He has served as a director on a number of not for profits organisations and, on two occasions, been the Chair of the Board. Joseph has an acquired hearing disability.
After graduating, Georgia took up a position as a psychologist in the Department of Neurology at a major hospital in Greece. As a psychologist Georgia provided patient investigation, assessment, treatment and counselling for a range of patients. She was also involved as a researcher in several clinical research projects.
A spinal cord injury in 2010 ended her career as a psychologist.Georgia returned to the workforce as a Community Researcher on the “Choice, Control and the NDIS” project and since then she has been involved in several disability focused projects as a Co-researcher at the University of Melbourne.
Georgia is now working with the Melbourne Disability Institute to coordinate a training program that provides the skills and knowledge for people with disability to be co-researchers and research assistants.
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.