About Us

The National Centre for Childhood Grief is run by Clinical Director Dr Elizabeth Mann.

Liz is supported by the Board of Directors and a core group of highly qualified staff and trained volunteers, as well as the patronage of the past Governor of NSW, Dame Marie Bashir.

Our Ambassadors

Darren Percival
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Darren Percival
CHARITY AMBASSADORS

Darren Percival has achieved an outstanding reputation in Australia as an accomplished entertainer, recording artist, musician, vocal coach and singer with natural talent, imagination and skill. His voice is warm and powerful and he consistently delivers astonishing performances in a variety of different settings. Audiences everywhere are mesmerized by his stage presence, his music and his charm.

25 years ago, in the middle of his artistically inspired high school days Darren studied piano, singing and acting at a performing arts center in his hometown, Sydney Australia. By the time he had graduated in 1989 Australian Jazz Icon James Morrison had discovered Darren and they began a decade of musical adventures.

Throughout his career Darren’s voice has featured on numerous recordings, jingles and voice-overs. He released several solo albums of original music, toured as a backing vocalist and is credited on many albums by well know Australian artists. He gained a reputation as the dynamic solo vocal looping artist around the music festival circuit since 2004 as Mr. Percival with his shows ‘Out Of The Loop’ and ‘Microphones’.

These days Darren is best known to audiences around the country for his phenomenal, soul-stirring performances on the first season of The Voice Australia, where he was coached by Keith Urban and became the 2012 runner up. His album ‘Happy Home’ debuted at number 3 on the ARIA chart and Darren went on to sell out his national tour.

Darren and his wife Amanda live with their two young children in Coolum on The Sunshine Coast and his love for cooking, painting and swimming continues to inspire him. Currently writing and recording his own music while touring with his band he has created singing programs for children and adults in an endeavor to change the way people think about being in a choir. Few artists paint with sound – Darren Percival is art for the ears…

Rachael McLennon
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Rachael McLennon
CHARITY AMBASSADORS

Rachael co-founded People for Purpose to enhance the capability of the, for purpose (not for profit) sector in Australia through the placement and support of leaders. Rachael is committed to the sector and its leaders and has had the privilege to work closely with many for purpose organisations and well known leaders.

Prior to establishing her own business Rachael was founding CEO of Australian Philanthropic Services (APS), an organisation also connecting people to the sector, through philanthropy. She learnt a lot about leadership and functional boards working closely with the high profile APS board, but also with the boards of 50 philanthropic foundations.

Inspired by people around her, including her mother who was raised by the Salvation Army, Rachael made a conscious move into the not-for-profit sector in 2004. Initially working at the coalface of a small but national UK charity, the Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity, she raised $1m in 3 short years.

Rachael began her working life in the corporate sector in business development, marketing & communications, rising through the ranks in organisations such as Stamford Hotels & Resorts, Prudential and PKF. She spent 8 years in London working for Clariden Private Bank and Chelsea Village (home of Chelsea Football Club), gaining an enormous amount of experience – and a very interesting network.

Our Board of Directors

Mark Steinberg
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Mark Steinberg
Chairman of the Board

Mark Steinberg is a Chartered Accountant who has worked in CFO or equivalent roles for the last 15 years in a number of industries and geographies. He is currently the Group CFO for Cover-More Limited, an ASX listed company.

Mark qualified as a Chartered Accountant in South Africa in 1989 and subsequently spent 11 years in the profession, 4 with PwC in Johannesburg and 7 with E&Y in Sydney, doing a mix of audit and corporate advisory work. He became an Australian Chartered Accountant in 1990 and a member of Finsia in 1991.

Following his time in the audit and accounting profession, Mark spent almost 10 years in the telecommunications industry, and a further 10 years in financial services. During this time he has worked with organisations that include Optus, Vodafone, Macquarie Bank and Commonwealth Bank.

During his time at Commonwealth Bank, Mark worked as a committee member of the Staff Community Fund, the vehicle through which the bank collects contributions from current and former staff and provides support to a variety of not for profit ventures.

Dr Elizabeth Mann
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Dr Elizabeth Mann
Clinical Director

Dr Elizabeth Mann is Clinical Director of the Centre. After finishing school, Liz studied Medicine at the University of Sydney and worked as a GP for many years. Her special interest in Palliative Care and Bereavement Care led her to retrain as a Bereavement Counsellor. She completed a Postgraduate Diploma in General counselling, and subsequently specialised in Bereavement Counselling for adults and children under the tuition and supervision of Mal and Di McKissock.

Liz is married to Steve and is the proud mother (and mother-in-law) of five amazing children. In her leisure time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, going to the beach, travelling and reading.

Robert McRobbie
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Robert McRobbie
Board Member

Robert McRobbie has practiced law in New South Wales in private practice and in the financial markets for several years. He is a Director in the Legal Risk Management Division of Macquarie Bank’s Commodities and Financial Markets group.

During his 10 years at Macquarie, Robert has been involved in a number of philanthropic projects, including as a member of a team providing assistance to the Tiwi Land Council in relation to various commercial enterprises in the Tiwi Islands. In this role Robert has spent time in the Tiwi Islands learning about business and social initiatives being developed for the benefit of the Tiwi community. Robert has also been proud to participate in a number of Macquarie Group Foundation initiatives, including as a mentor and judge in a social entrepreneurs Kick Starter program coordinated by the Macquarie Group Foundation and The School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia.

Robert has degrees in law, arts and social sciences from Queensland University and the University of New South Wales. He has also completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Finance at Macquarie University. Robert lives in Sydney with his wife, Louise and three children.

Andrew Marchant
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Andrew Marchant
Board Member

Andrew is a financial services professional with more than 17 years of experience across advice, investment research, asset allocation, tax, trustee responsibilities and governance. Andrew’s current role is Head of Advice for Commonwealth Private. Andrew is also a member of the Commonwealth Private Investment Committee.

Andrew’s interest in philanthropy was sparked during his career at Perpetual Private Clients, Australia’s largest professional trustee, where he was fortunate to support many high net worth families, charitable trusts and for purpose institutions in developing and managing their investment portfolios for the benefit of their beneficiaries. Andrew was also a member of the Perpetual Private Clients Investment Committee.

Andrew is a member of the Sydney Eisteddfod Investment Committee and is qualified with a Bachelor of Commerce, a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and Investments and a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning.

Dr Heidi Coupland
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Dr Heidi Coupland
Board Member

Heidi’s connection to the NCCG was initially through her husband Peter Coupland who worked as a counsellor and Board member. Since his death in 2015, Heidi and her two teenage daughters now have personal experience of the profound impact of grief on a family and the invaluable support provided by the NCCG. Heidi is keen to help ensure the NCCG continues to provide high quality bereavement support to families into the future.

Heidi has spent 15 years working as an occupational therapist in school, community and hospital settings, with people of all ages including students with learning difficulties, young adults with acquired brain injuries, strokes and other neurological problems. Heidi has also worked for ten years as a qualitative researcher and ethnographer in the field of public health, to inform the development of policies and interventions that prevent disease and support the health of communities.

Deborah Clay
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Deborah Clay
Charity Ambassador

As the National News Director for the Australian Radio Network, Deb manages a team of journalists and anchors drive news on KIIS and WSFM. A highly experienced journalist, she has reported from the scene for numerous breaking news stories and events. Her sustained contribution to radio journalism was recognised in 2013 when she received the Brian White Memorial Award. She is also a weekly contributor to Channel Seven’s Sunrise and appears on the ABC’s The Drum as a commentator.

Deb is pleased to contribute to the charity “A Friend’s Place” which grounds itself in the values of empathy, integrity and authenticity.

Emmanuelle Delannoy
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Emmanuelle Delannoy

Emmanuelle is a Division Director at Macquarie Group. She started her career in Financial Services, before working as a strategy consultant, primarily for High Tech and Pharma/Biotech clients. She spent a few years as a partner in a small Silicon Valley brand strategy and innovation consultancy, and is passionate about bringing creativity and lateral thinking to problem-solving.

She became involved informally with the NCCG in 2010, after meeting one of Centre’s counsellors and hearing first-hand about the critically important work this organisation and its counsellors perform every day. After a few years of running a small-scale fundraising effort for the charity through work, she joined the Board in 2017 in order to broaden her impact.
Emmanuelle was educated in the US, earning her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and German Studies, and graduate degrees in International Studies and Business. She lives in Sydney with her husband and children.

Rick Taylor
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Rick Taylor
Board Member

Rick has a wealth of experience in financial management and corporate governance. He qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen in London in 1999 and has a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Oxford University, England. Rick is also Chief Financial Officer and Director of Healthcare Australia. He previously held the position of Chief Financial Officer at Ambition Group Limited (a listed global recruitment firm), Chief Operating Officer at the Australian subsidiary of Experian plc (FTSE 100), and was Financial Controller of Maxxium Australia and Infomedia.

Our Team

Dianne McKissock
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Dianne McKissock

Dianne McKissock is a sociologist, Master Clinician with the Australian Association of Relationship Counsellors, and grief therapist who began her counselling career in 1968. She has worked in various roles in Government services and acted as a consultant to numerous community organisations. Dianne has taught counselling in overseas countries, presented at national and international conferences and published many books and articles on the subject of death, dying and bereavement. Her special interest for the past 25 years has been working with bereaved children and their families and acting as their advocate in the wider society. In 1996 she was awarded the Medal of The Order of Australia for her work with the bereaved community.

Mal McKissock
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Mal McKissock

RGN, RPN, FRCNA (HON), FCN (NSW), GRAD DIP AD ED (SYD), CT (ADEC USA)

One of Australia’s best known and respected bereavement counsellors and educators. A Certified Thanatologist with the Association of Death Education and Counselling (USA), he is on the Board of Directors of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement. He began his career in the health field in 1965 and in 1975 was appointed as the first full time bereavement counsellor with the NSW Department of Health.

A founding member of the National Association for Loss and Grief, Mal was state chairperson of the Association from 1980-1982, and the National President from 1982-1985. He has studied in Israel, Canada, the United States of America, Greece, Hong Kong and New Zealand to further his knowledge and skills in the area of death, dying and bereavement and has been an invited presenter at international conferences and in overseas community settings.

For over thirty years Mal has taught bereavement counselling skills throughout Australasia and has received wide acclaim for his innovative therapeutic interventions, particularly with bereaved children. He has acted as grief and bereavement consultant to a number of government departments and community organisations, including The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, and his book ‘Coping with Grief’ (currently in its fourth edition) has been an invaluable resource for people experiencing loss. In addition, Mal has co-authored other books on grief and loss issues, as well as a variety of articles on death, dying and bereavement published in professional journals.

Ann Mulheron
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Ann Mulheron

I was originally a nurse, later trained as a psychologist and have specialised in bereavement counselling since 1986 when I completed Post Graduate training with Di and Mal McKissock. I also completed an intensive 2 year course in clinical Supervision at the Bereavement C.A.R.E. Centre, and have continued to divide my working week between the BCC and my private practice.

Another professional interest is working at The Institute of Counselling as a counselling skills teacher, trainer and group facilitator. I have been involved with the NCCG from its beginning in early 1994. My role has primarily been with bereaved families and I facilitate the support groups for bereaved partners (parents of children in support groups). In all of my roles I have found my nursing training and experience invaluable. That background helps me to understand many aspects of the process of terminal illness that create pain and distress for grieving families, and to interpret medical and coronial reports when necessary.

My husband and soul mate Richard and I have experienced the richness of family life with our two children, an adopted son called David and a foster daughter named Suz-ann. David was born with Progeria and died when he was nine years old. Suz-ann was born with an intellectual disability and is now a delightful 21 year old, living in a protected, semi independent environment close to our home. Richard and I both love out door holidays involving camping or house boats, and often return from these adventures with stories of getting lost on waterways, or tents being flooded with torrential rain. We love spending time with our large extended family, with friends, and enjoy reading, playing cards and competing at Scrabble.

Lillian Markovic (Lil)
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Lillian Markovic (Lil)

I became interested in bereavement counselling some years ago when I was completing my Diploma course in counselling, and heard Mal McKissock speak about loss and grief. I subsequently trained with Di and Mal and was moved by the way they helped children learn to live with the pain of grief. I later became a volunteer member of the team facilitating support groups, and continue to enjoy relating to the children who come to ‘A Friend’s Place’. I respect their courage.

I recently deferred studies in my Master’s Degree in counselling because of the hours involved and the difficulty of earning a living at the same time. I currently work in the hospitality industry. In my spare time I love to spend time with family and friends, and really enjoy gardening and cooking. It gives me great pleasure to give to others the results of my efforts, gifts of flowers and food, which I am assured are enjoyed and appreciated. I guess I really enjoy giving TLC to others.

Mary Ashton
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Mary Ashton

Born in New York City, I swapped my favourite landmark from the Statue of Liberty to the Sydney Opera House in 1982 when I met and married my Australian husband Rick. My original educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Sociology and Education and a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning Disabilities.

I have had some interesting employment: working at the Watergate, tutoring the child of a Hollywood Cinematographer, and living in a historic mansion as I taught learning disabled students at a private residential school.  In 1995, my brother Raymond died from cancer and my focus took on a new direction. I became involved with palliative care and bereavement as a volunteer at Calvary Hospital in Kogarah. I became a facilitator for both the Rainbows and Season’s for Growth Programs for Children and received a special award in 2001 from the Prime Minister recognising my volunteer work in this area.

In 2004 I completed both the Adult and Children Bereavement Counselling Courses at the Centre. I have been here since working with individual children and in a group setting. I am filled with love and admiration for ‘A Friend’s Place’ and all those who pass through the front door each week.

I am a self-confessed course-a-holic and spend much of my spare time studying.  I have completed my Masters in Counselling, Qualifications in Mediation, and courses in Ethics, Leadership, and Creative Engagement.  I also love spending time with my husband Rick, our three children and their wonderful partners.

Ada Stanton
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Ada Stanton
Coordinator of Creative Therapies

Ada has been a volunteer support worker with ‘A Friend’s Place’ since 2007, having completed the “Working with Bereaved Children” and “Bereavement Counselling” workshops under the tuition of Mal and Di McKissock. Prior to joining ‘A Friend’s Place’, Ada earned two Masters Degrees from the University of Sydney – A Master in Behavioural Health Science and a Master of Applied Science. She has participated as a member of the Sydney Children’s Hospital health care team, conducting research on caregivers of chronically ill adolescents with Cystic Fibrosis, and has worked with the Bone Mineral Analysis Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women. Ada also has a Bachelor of Arts from La Trobe University.

Born in Italy, Ada is fluent in Italian and holds a certificate from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

As a mother of two, Ada has been a very active volunteer member of her daughter’s school, coordinating and supervising creative projects in the classroom and organising fund raising activites.

Ada has a passion for the creative arts and spends her spare time quilting, sewing, drawing and cooking and is thrilled to be able to further pursue these passions at ‘A Friends Place’ in her role as Co-ordinator of Creative Therapies. 

Wendy Grant
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Wendy Grant

I feel very privileged to be a part of the NCCG team and work as a Children and Adult’s Counsellor at the centre. Prior to this I worked as an Early Childhood School Counsellor in a co-educational school on the lower north shore. I worked as a school counsellor for nearly twenty years and love working with children of all ages.

My original career was in nursing and after leaving school,  I qualified as a General and Midwifery Registered nurse.

I am the proud mother of three adult sons and grandmother of four beautiful children. As my children grew up I decided to retrain and did a Post Graduate Dip in counselling and then Masters in Counselling. I am also now a qualified Children and Adult’s Bereavement counsellor. I feel very blessed to love my work.

My favourite things to do when I am not working are spending time with my family and friends, going to concerts, opera, ballet and the movies, reading,  yoga and walking.

Betsy (Elizabeth) Hill
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Betsy (Elizabeth) Hill

Betsy Hill originally trained as an English and Special Education teacher. She taught English and some drama for almost 10 years during which time she began volunteering as a Lifeline telephone counsellor. She enjoyed this work so much that she left teaching for full time school counselling which she has now been doing for over twenty years. She is loving being involved as a support worker at ‘A Friend’s Place’ and getting to know the wonderful children who come along to groups.

Kerri Hamer
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Kerri Hamer

It was in the mid 80’s when I first met Mal McKissock at a workshop I attended to help me gain an understanding of students coping with grief. At the time I was a new school counsellor and wanted to know how to support students and school communities that were impacted by loss. When attending another workshop in 2008 with Di McKissock I decided I wanted to become more involved at ‘A Friend’s Place’.

I enjoy my two roles at the centre: both individual counselling and leading a team of support workers in our fortnightly children’s group. Both types of involvement with children offer their own unique support and I find a lot of personal reward in what I do. I also enjoy working with a great group of people who are compassionate, skilful, energetic, talented and fun to be with.

Now that I have recently retired from my 35 years in school counselling and teaching I can give more time to my other interests: lawn bowls, community involvement and travel. I am supported and encouraged by my husband Gary and three adult sons.

Carolyn Johns
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Carolyn Johns

I am a psychologist currently working part-time as a school counsellor. I have been working as a support worker at ‘A Friend’s Place’ since late 2010. I have 2 young children.

Scott Andrews
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Scott Andrews

I first became aware of the McKissock’s through the ABC radio program Step by Step – Coping With Grief when I was about 12 years of age. Although most of the content went over my head at the time, my mum gained a great deal of comfort through listening to the program. She had also bought one of the first editions of Mal and Di’s book (Coping With Grief), back when it was much smaller than it is now, and a well-thumbed copy was kept on the family bookshelf for many years.

I started my counselling training through the Australian College of Applied Psychology while I was working at Optus as a Dispute Resolutions Officer. I left Optus prior to graduating and worked for two years in a funeral home. During this time, I obtained a thorough knowledge of the funeral industry and was dedicated to assisting families in a meaningful and personalised funeral experience. The majority of my undergraduate field placement was completed at the Homicide Victim’s Support Group (HVSG), and I continued to work there as  a volunteer on the 24-hour telephone support line until I was offered a full-time position shortly thereafter. While working at HVSG, I completed both the adult and children’s bereavment counselling training at NCCG, and am now involved as a support worker in one of the fortnightly children’s groups as well as being an adults counsellor.

My current roles at NCCG involve counselling adults and children, and working on various research projects that focus on the childhood bereavement experience. I also hold a master’s degree in social work. Hobbies include going to the beach, cooking, Bikram yogo and fantasizing about buying a motorbike and learning to paraglide. Our 2 young children keep my wife and I entertained and exhausted in the most enjoyable way.

Joke Klein-van Exel
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Joke Klein-van Exel

My name is Joke (english: Yokuh) and as the name suggests I have an international background. I was born and raised in the The Netherlands and my husbands’s work has taken us overseas since 1990. We lived in Germany, Singapore, and all together 12 years in Australia. Our two sons were also born in The Netherlands but raised internationally.

In 1977 I graduated to become a registered nurse and have practised in The Netherlands, Singapore and Australia. What I loved most in my 30 years of working as a nurse, was the interaction with patients and the difference I could make by providing them with the very best care I could give. In 2010 I felt the need to broaden my personal and professional horizon and decided to study counselling and psychotherapy. I thought my nursing experience and interest in people would provide me with a sound base for this change of career. I am so glad I took that decision, especially since after my graduation I got the opportunity to become involved with ‘A Friend’s Place’ where such wonderful work is done by helping children to cope with the death of someone they love. I hope to be doing this work for many more years to come.

In my free time I love to walk, ski, practice yoga and riding pillion with my husband on his motorbikes. Last but not least I am a passionate tennis and soccer fan.

Nick Backo
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Nick Backo

I currently work in Child Protection for Family and Community Services and have done so for a number of years in various locations and roles. I attended ‘A Friend’s Place’ as a young person after my dad died from a brain aneurism. Following this, I really wanted to contribute to NCCG and have volunteered since then. I have helped out at groups and with adventure weekends and love every minute of my time there. Both my mum and brother also attended ‘A Friend’s Place’ and have a lot of respect for the work that is done there. My work with ‘A Friend’s Place’ has taught me a lot and I am continually inspired by the children and young people, and their families, that go there! I currently live in Gladesville with my partner and our two cats! I enjoy refereeing football and futsal and have done this for a long time. I look forward to many more years of work with all the wonderful children, young people and parents at NCCG and enjoy learning from the other great staff and volunteers there.

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Sarina Chapman

I moved to Sydney in the late 80’s from Country NSW where I grew up and studied nutrition part time at Naturcare College, graduating 1991. I was due to commence a degree in nursing in 1993; however my husband was offered a job in the Middle East and we spent the next 13 years living in Bahrain where our three children were born.

Upon my arrival back in Australia in 2006, I commenced a Diploma of Holistic Counselling and Life Care, completing this in 2009. Since then, I have combined taking care of my three children with counselling elderly residents in nursing homes on the Northern Beaches as well as private counselling in a Mona Vale practice. I spent 7 weeks on Norfolk Island in 2011 as an interim counsellor, providing support to the population of approximately 900 residents. This was a very enriching experience that I enjoyed very much despite the various challenges that come with a small isolated community. In 2012, I completed 2 units of Pastoral Care training at Royal North Shore Hospital. One component of this training involved ward visitations in three Sydney hospitals, totaling 800 hours and it was due to this experience that I became interested in training more comprehensively in grief counselling. I completed both the adult and children’s bereavement counselling training at NCCG and have been a volunteer support worker in the fortnightly children’s groups since mid 2013. I find this a very rewarding experience as well as enjoying the benefits of being part of the ‘family’ that is NCCG. I am currently in the process of completing a Diploma of Positive Psychology and am exploring other study options and courses to commence next year.

For the moment my attention is on supporting my last child in completing her HSC this year. I am looking forward to the next phase of life with no school and spending quality time with my three adult children and all that this entails. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with close friends, knitting, painting, cooking, taking nature photos and bushwalking – particularly waterfalls. I am currently attempting to teach myself to play the guitar. The progress is painstakingly slow but rewarding! Unfortunately my soccer playing days are over due to injury but I am an avid supporter of my daughter’s soccer team and my Sunday mornings are usually spent, with our dog ‘Spike’ as the team mascot, on the sideline cheering on the team. I particularly love going on country drives and, as my parents are still living in my home town of Orange and my brother and his family live in Parkes, its always a good excuse to get out on the open road.

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Belinda Dunn

My interest in bereavement counselling was sparked after watching a video by Mal McKissock about grief and loss during my training as a Lifeline telephone counsellor some years ago. I am currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and had the opportunity to complete the children’s bereavement counselling course at the Centre in 2015. I volunteer as a support worker in one of the fortnightly children’s groups and I feel very privileged to be a part of the NCCG team. I have 3 school aged children and a troublesome golden retriever.

Valda Tucker
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Valda Tucker

I have worked for ‘A Friend’s Place’ since 2010. In my role as Centre Manager, I am the first point of contact for clients. I take all phone and email enquires and arrange appointments.

I also take care of the day to day running of the centre, from ensuring there is always milk in the fridge for those indispensable coffee’s to processing book orders and everything in between.

The job is wonderful and the thing that I enjoy most is meeting the wonderful people who come here at a very hard time in their life. I am constantly blessed  and enriched by the conversations I have with parents and clients in the waiting room and by the brief contact I have with the lovely children while they wait to see their counsellor.

Racquel Sherry
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Racquel Sherry
Development Manager

Racquel Sherry joined the National Centre for Childhood Grief in 2016 as the organisations Development Manager. Racquel is passionate about the health and wellbeing of children and has a strong understanding of philanthropy and fundraising; combining the two she has effectively worked with individuals and organisations to create partnerships which have enabled real and significant change in the lives of those who need it.

Prior to joining the NCCG, Racquel established successful fundraising partnerships with organisations including Youth Off The Streets and Camp Quality, alongside doing a Degree in Social Science and volunteering for a variety of organisations.

Racquel has a strong sense of empathy and equality and her fundraising is inspired by the impact that generosity has on the individuals who give and those who receive. She has spoken about her work in fundraising at the Fundraising Institute of Australia and Blackbaud Pacific Conferences and continues to mentor fundraisers as well as hosting events for charities and corporate organisations to come together to talk about effective partnerships.

Prior to joining the not for profit sector Racquel worked in a variety of Human Resources and Educational roles for corporate organisations including AMP and Optus.

Outside of work Racquel enjoys spending time with children and travelling with her husband.