Our Team

We have a team of passionate and professional people ready to help. We will work with you to provide the information and support you need. We listen, we understand and we help. Call us: (02) 9841 4444
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Chief Executive Officer

Sherie Avalos
Sherie joined us in August 2021 with over 20 years of leadership experience in disability organisations. Most recently, Sherie has been employed in a senior capacity role at the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission.  

Sherie has a deep understanding and experience of the disability landscape, ranging from broad industry and organisational issues around policy, project and program management, strategy, and compliance, to the everyday life and routines of people and their families living with disability.   

Sherie has extensive experience working with both State and Federal Governments, playing an active role in various working groups overseeing and contributing to the development and review of program guidelines, and the implementation of innovative new directions. 

Sherie is passionate about and committed to our members and their families.

Emily Caska

Chief Strategy Officer

Emily Caska
Emily joins us with 20 years of executive leadership expertise in the disability, child protection, foreign affairs and corporate sectors across Australia, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Vietnam and the UK. Emily was the UP! Club Coordinator from 2002-2004, following which she served on the DS NSW Board.

Specialising in strategy, governance, policy and business development, Emily has a long history with DS NSW and is passionate about embedding authentic consumer centric approaches and strengthening the NFP sector as a central mechanism to build social capital.

Emily’s extensive experience includes Policy Director at National Disability Services, Executive Advisor to the NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation, Deputy CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong, Macau and China as well as Executive Leader Strategy at Lifestyle Solutions, and Strategic Projects Director at Achieve Australia. Having attended Harvard University and the University of Sydney, Emily has founded a number of social enterprises employing people with disabilities and mental health. Emily advises Dementia Australia on quality care in response to the Royal Commission, as well as holds an executive position in the hospitality industry. She is also President of Rafiki Mwema, a charity in Kenya providing housing, schooling, court support, therapeutic care and community outreach services children who have been sexually assaulted.

Emily is known for her strategic vision, operational optimisation and business development acumen all aimed at having a measurable impact and positive change in the lives of those we support, the systemic framework and the community at large. Emily has lived experience of disability and is very close with her sister Lucy.

Miriam

Director – Inclusion and Education

Miriam Philomena
Miriam Philomena is the behaviour specialist at DS NSW. Miriam is a passionate advocate for people with Down syndrome and their families. She draws on her knowledge as a Social worker, her lived experience as the mother of a thirty-year-old daughter who has Down syndrome and is a talented artist, and fifteen years of working with our families. She has a wealth of knowledge on the NDIS and planning processes. Miriam provides training workshops on understanding Down syndrome in all settings across all life spans.

Director – Engagement

Nicola Hayhurst
Nikki is our Director – Engagement at DSNSW and oversees our UP!Club and Up, Up and Away programs. Nikki has 12 years of experience working with adults with a moderate level of intellectual disability within open employment settings as well as leading life skills programs in recreation settings within the Sydney region, many of whom have Down syndrome. Within the UK, she had a background in social work and education, working as a hospital case manager and associate university lecturer on a diploma level health and social care program. Nikki applies a person-centred inclusive approach to innovate, implement and evaluate programs that will support members to engage, participate and develop skills. She also brings additional expertise in neuro-linguistic programming and positive psychology.

Ellen Hester

Specialist – Administration

Ellen Hester
Ellen is our Administration specialist and is involved with data entry, administrative support to all staff and helps keep our office running smoothly.  She is also a valued team leader at UPClub and teen camps.

Specialist – NDIS Finance and Collaboration

Sophie Cuthbertson

Sophia is our NDIS Finance and Collaboration specialist. Sophia works through the finances and administration in supporting our Up Clubbers. With a background of senior administration and finances Sophia skills and knowledge are a great asset to our organisation.
Sophia’s lived experience with her son Mitchell who just happens to have Down Syndrome and her knowledge on the NDIS and processes has made her valued member of our team

Specialist – Business Administration

Christine Pegram

Christine is our Business Administration specialist and has experience in a wide range of industries and roles mainly focused on administration and sales management.  Most recently she had 11 years in a senior administration role for a large NFP providing services to young people who are at risk, disadvantaged, vulnerable or had a disability.  The role covered all facets of administration ranging from finance, website and creating marketing materials to a variety of admin support for the manager and a team of 30 staff.  Christine is passionate about people with disabilities having as many opportunities as possible to work, play, socialise and live a life that they find fulfilling.


UP!Club Coordinators

Atlanta Finch

Atlanta is a coordinator of Down Syndrome NSW Up!Club events, Up!Club weekend camps and Staying Connected online sessions. Atlanta is also working full time as an Occupational Therapist and has over 6 years’ experience as a disability support worker. Atlanta has been with DSNSW for over 2 years and is enthusiastic about promoting a more accepting and inclusive community for people of all abilities.

Amanda Simpson

Amanda Simpson

Amanda is a Support Worker Assistant for Social & Participation Activities & a Support Worker Coordinator of Down Syndrome NSW UP! Club events.  Currently She is studying Mental Health Counselling at TAFE & has always been passionate about empowering people, especially in the area of Mental Health & Mindfulness. 

Amanda has 5 years’ experience in the field of Disability Services has an extremely creative background specialising working in Floristry & Events.  She is looking forward to being able to share her knowledge with the members of UP! Club.

Up, Up & Away Coordinator

Melissa Cotterill

Melissa Cotterill

Melissa is a coordinator on our Up Up & Away team.  This program, which started in 2018, brings children who have Down Syndrome together along with their siblings and parents.  Melissa is passionate about families and seeing them socialise, network and have fun together.  Melissa has a teenage daughter who has Down Syndrome and is an active member of the community connecting with other parents and children. Melissa has organised fundraising events for Down Syndrome NSW to help bring about awareness of Down Syndrome in the local community.