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Cancer wellness support

Meet Our Team

Introducing our purpose-driven Board and management team

Our Board Members

Ms Merrilyn Tinsley

Board Member 

Mr Jared Pichler

Board Member 

Our Management Team

Ms Deborah Shepherd

Chief Executive Officer

Ms Vivienne Maitland

Client Services Manager

Ms Gail Searle

Retail Manager

Ms Louise Palmer 

Operations Manager

Dr Ilse Blignault

Chair
Dr Ilse Blignault has over 40 years of experience in the health and community sectors in Australia and overseas.
Her specialist expertise lies in mental health and wellbeing, health promotion and public health, and she is registered with the Psychology Board of Australia.
Dr Ilse Blignault is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Western Sydney University’s Translational Health Research Institute. She holds qualifications in psychology and global health and has broad expertise in clinical and population mental health and wellbeing, health services research and evaluation, and research translation.
A key focus of Ilse’s career has been to address complex health and social issues as they affect disadvantaged groups, working with government and not-for-profit organisations. She has extensive experience in resource-constrained and geographically isolated environments, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in rural and remote Australia and developing countries in the Pacific and South-East Asia.
Her research has contributed to health policy and program development in a diverse range of cultural contexts. She has expertise in quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methods, including participant action research, and experience in coordinating large multi-site collaborations with multiple stakeholders including different levels of government and community organisations and groups. She has authored over 170 peer-reviewed publications and major reports.

Ilse grew up in Western Sydney and now lives in the Upper Blue Mountains. Her commitment to community, expertise and strong understanding of clinical governance and strategic thought are instrumental in her role as Chair.

Ms Judith Field MAICD

Vice-Chair
Judith is an experienced manager and leader with over three decades of experience spanning the construction, education, and retail industries.
Joining Lendlease in 2002, she has held diverse roles focusing on economic and social sustainability across the Western Sydney region. Notable projects include Jordan Springs, Ropes Crossing, and Bingara Gorge. Currently, she serves as a strategic leader within the Social Sustainability Group, providing strong leadership in workforce participation initiatives across the Lendlease Group in Australia.
Passionate about reconciliation and inclusivity, Judith actively participates in the development and implementation of the Lendlease Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Elevate. She champions opportunities for the employment and engagement of First Nations people and organisations within the business.
Prior to Lendlease, Judith spent over 11 years at the University of Western Sydney, working across business development and research commercialisation. A highlight of this time was the establishment and management of Cooperative Programs at UWS Nepean. Additionally, she served as the elected staff representative on the Board of Trustees, served on staff selection and job evaluation review panels, provided support as a staff mentor, and engaged in many university committees and working parties.
Currently, Judith holds the position of Non-Executive Director on the Board of NSW Business Chamber, where she chairs the HR & Succession Committee and serves as a member-elected representative on the State Council. She also chairs the Business Environment and Economics Committee and previously led the Workforce Skills Committee.
In 2018, Judith was nominated by the NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage to serve as a member of the Board of Western Sydney Parklands Trust. She has actively participated in local community organisations such as being President and Vice President of the Penrith Valley Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chairperson of the Board of Mamre Plains Ltd, Board Member of Penrith Business Alliance, and Chair of its Finance and Risk Committee.
A long-time resident of Western Sydney for over 40 years, Judith’s commitment to community service shines through her involvement in school councils, P&C associations, church leadership, and fundraising for school and community groups.

Mr Chris Bryett

Secretary
Chris Bryett is an experienced solicitor and World War I historian who has a passion for honouring the sacrifices of those who served.
After many years leading the firm, Chris handed over the reins at A R Walmsley & Co in 2021 and he is the former Vice President and Executive Committee Member of Toongabbie Legal Centre.
Beyond his legal career, Chris has dedicated himself to preserving and commemorating the legacy of the Great War.
As the president and founder of Recovering Overseas Australia’s Missing Inc (ROAM), he has led efforts to locate and honour missing soldiers from Australia’s involvement in conflicts internationally. His commitment to honouring the memory of those who served extends to his membership with Family and Friends of the First AIF Inc.
Chris has contributed significantly to the understanding of the Great War. As the editor of “Over the Top” by Harry Hartnett, based on the diaries of this digger on the Western Front, Chris has helped bring to light the experiences of those who fought in one of history’s most tumultuous conflicts.
His collaboration with authors and researchers has played a crucial role in raising awareness of important historical investigations. Patrick Lindsay AM’s book “Fromelles” highlighted the groundbreaking research and advocacy led by Lambis Englezos and his team, alongside Chris and ROAM, in the quest to uncover the truth behind the missing soldiers of the Battle of Fromelles.

His passion for community flows into this passion for Cancer Wellness Support with his legal and compliance focus adding a depth into his role as Secretary.

Mr Paul Harris

Treasurer
Paul is an accomplished Chief Executive Officer and HR Executive with a record of achievement across government administration.
With a wealth of experience in the rail industry and public sector, Paul has held prominent roles in executive leadership, corporate human resources and business services management.
His expertise spans government operations, change management, business planning, financial management, and risk management. Renowned for implementing successful change initiatives, Paul is passionate about driving business transformations with a strong focus on human resources.
Paul’s career saw him appointed as Chief Executive Officer at the NSW Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator in January 2014, subsequent to his role as Executive Director, Corporate Services and Planning. Throughout his leadership, he played a pivotal role in leading significant workplace reforms.
Paul holds a Masters in Public Administration from The Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG), a Bachelor of Commerce and Human Resources from Western Sydney University, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).
As Treasurer of Cancer Wellness Support, Paul brings his proven track record of driving organisational excellence, operations, human resources management and fostering strategic growth.

Ms Merrilyn Tinsley

Board Member
Merrilyn is a senior safety, health and environment (SHE) professional with over 20 years working across rural and remote Australia in mining, defence, rail and steelmaking.
A highly regarded senior executive, she has proven success engaging stakeholders to influence and lead SHE strategy in large geographically diverse and high-risk organisations.
Central to Merrilyn’s SHE success is her exceptional talent for collaboration, forging strong partnerships with key stakeholders, industry peers, and suppliers. This focus extends to a passion for diversity and inclusion where she supports several initiatives and programs.
Merrilyn has been the Director of Health and Safety at Transport for NSW since 2021 as well as being a Board Member, Health and Safety Coach, and Project Manager for Breakingground.
Merrilyn has held significant SHE positions across BAE Systems Aerospace, BHP, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Pty Ltd, and Port Waratah Coal Services.
She has a Masters in Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene from the University of Newcastle and a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Flinders University. Merrilyn is also a Certified Organisational Coach with the Institute of Executive Coaching and Leadership and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).
Throughout her career, Merrilyn has actively contributed to numerous boards and committees, including the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, Volleyball Australia, and the Safety Institute of Australia.
At Cancer Wellness Support, she brings her passion and expertise for balancing effective risk management while fostering a culture of safety.

Mr Jared Pichler

Board Member
Jared has over 15 years of experience spanning diverse sectors including banking and insurance, non-profit organisations (NFPs), government, and aged and disability services across both small and large businesses.
As a specialist in risk management consulting, Jared’s expertise encompasses the development and implementation of robust risk management frameworks, policies, and procedures, ensuring compliance with industry regulatory standards, and overseeing business continuity and emergency management strategies.
Currently serving as the Head of Risk and Compliance at Mercy Services and the Managing Director at Gryphon Risk Consulting, he continues to leverage his wealth of experience to provide strategic risk management solutions.
Jared’s career includes working in senior risk management and compliance roles at the University of Newcastle, NSW Department of Industry, Action for Children, Save the Children UK, and Goldman Sachs.
Jared holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Risk, Disaster, and Resilience from University College London (UCL) as well as a Bachelor of Development Studies and Environmental Sustainability and a Bachelor of Finance from the University of Newcastle.
Jared brings his passion for risk management, emergency preparedness, resilience, business continuity management, and disaster risk reduction to Cancer Wellness Support.

Deborah Shepherd

Chief Executive Officer
Deborah was appointed as our CEO in November 2022, bringing her breadth of experience in all aspects of management, fostering a positive team culture and her strong passion for complementary therapies and accessibility.

Deborah has held global executive leadership roles for over 30 years across sales and marketing, general management and project management within the wealth management industry, and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD)

As a qualified wellness practitioner, she has personally supported many people through her modalities of energy healing, reiki and aromatherapy. Deborah’s Embrace Life™ festivals operated across Sydney and regional NSW, engaging local businesses (including in Penrith and the Blue Mountains), Councils and Chamber of Commerce to showcase the diversity and creativity within each community.

She led and created a purpose-driven collective in her roles of CEO for SoulAdvisor (Australia and New Zealand) and as Director and Chief Operating Officer of the SoulAdvisor Foundation, and is widely known for her commitment to developing the professionalism, accessibility of the wellness industry, and education using evidence-based research.

Deborah was drawn to Cancer Wellness Support as she has always understood the benefits and strengths of complementary therapies, yet witnessed these could often be cost-prohibitive, especially when faced with the financial constraints that a cancer diagnosis can deliver. The overarching model that allows accessibility with a strong community focus and founded on the values of compassion, care and community resonated deeply with her.

On a personal level, Deborah now lives in the Illawarra region, but this was not always the case. Growing up in St Marys, and with her family still living in the area, she embraces coming back each week to spend quality time with them.
Ultimately, as our CEO she is able to bring together all of her career experiences and life passions into one role.

Ms Vivienne Maitland

Client Services Manager

Viv commenced with Cancer Wellness Support in 2017 as a Counsellor, and by 2018, she was offered the role of Client Services Manager, a position she continues to thrive in.

Holding a Bachelor of Counselling, over the last 14 years, she has worked as a counsellor in private practice and contributed to specialised counselling programs for Carers SA. Additionally, she has taught in the Diploma of Counselling and Bachelor of Human Services (Counselling).
It is this work that brought her to Cancer Wellness Support, where she operates through the lens of her counselling background supported by her nursing knowledge. Her experience has provided her with invaluable insights into the experiences of both carers and the cared-for, particularly in the context of grief and loss.
Viv’s professional journey has included time in social policy within the Premier and Cabinet in Western Australia. She engaged in statewide consultations, spanning Indigenous communities and prisons, to shape a social vision for the future.
Venturing into media, she produced the Flying Doctor Appeal on ABC Radio. She also served as the State Fundraising Manager for Mission Australia and the General Marketing Manager for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, each role contributing to her diverse skill set.

As Client Services Manager, she oversees our qualified team of therapists, counsellors and nurses, develops programs and service offerings, liaises with local healthcare professionals and leads our Client Services team to oversee our Wellness Centres in Leura and Penrith.

Her background in nursing and counselling equips her with a unique perspective that bridges medical and complementary therapies, ensuring their therapy offerings and programs align with the needs of their clients and carers.

It’s much more than ‘just a job’ for Viv – it’s her heartfelt commitment to improving the lives of people living with cancer and their families.

Gail Searle

Retail Manager
Since 2013, Gail has played a pivotal role in the Cancer Wellness Support team, overseeing and managing our Op Shops in Penrith and Katoomba as the Retail Manager.
With over two decades of retail experience under her belt, Gail’s commitment to the community stems from a decade of working with the NSW Police, supporting the Superintendent across Head Office, Penrith, and Blacktown.
Gail’s journey into this role was shaped by her 23-year tenure at Franklins, which left her contemplating her next career move after the store’s closure.
Following many years of fundraising for homeless shelters, volunteering for soup kitchens, and participating in Relay For Life, Gail couldn’t quite believe that a role combining retail with community existed, and she knew she had to put her hat into the ring.
Upon her initial meeting with the founder, Robyn Yates OAM, Gail felt an immediate connection that led to her being offered the job on the spot. Almost a decade later, what she cherishes most about her role remains the same: the meaningful conversations, unwavering support, and the bonds formed among volunteers, staff, and customers.
Amidst countless cups of tea and delicious treats from the local bakery, Gail’s team, the customers, and she have shared moments of laughter and tears, fostering lifelong friendships. She revels in the genuine community atmosphere of each op shop, where the warmth of walking in is always accompanied by a sense of belonging.
Gail wishes she had known about this role 20 years ago, as it perfectly encapsulates her strengths and everything that she is passionate about.

Louise Palmer

Operations Manager
With a passion for enabling business transformation through digital solutions, Louise brings a wealth of experience in business processes, management, and digital services.
She has held the role of Operations Manager at Cancer Wellness Support since 2022, ensuring everything behind-the-scenes is running smoothly for the broader Cancer Wellness Support team.
Louise brings expertise in digital transformation, customer experience enhancement, process automation and optimisation, and service delivery design and implementation. She firmly believes in the development of people and the collective effort of an exceptional team that can truly make a difference.
She gained a solid understanding of Cancer Wellness Support as an Executive Assistant and HR professional between 2019 and 2021, and previously worked for INSEAD as their Global IT Support Manager and IT Project Manager in the UAE and Singapore.
Louise is currently working towards a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutrition and Psychology from Deakin University. She holds a Certificate IV in Remedial Massage and Natural Therapies from the Australian College of Natural Therapies (ACNT), as well as a Diploma of Business and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment from TAFE NSW.
As the Operations Manager, Louise and her team work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide crucial support in administration, facilities management, accounting, IT, and housekeeping. Based in Leura in the Blue Mountains, their small but dedicated team focuses on enhancing productivity, efficiency, and value through streamlined processes, advanced technology, and education.
While they are not client-facing, they understand the significance of their work and its direct impact on the customer experience. Their commitment to excellence ensures that every aspect of Cancer Wellness Support functions seamlessly.