our people

by, for & with people with lived experience of mental distress, social issues or injustice

Our Staff

Ellie combines her professional, personal and socio-political worlds, centering lived experience and a commitment to action. This is underpinned by a focus on innovation, social justice and leading together.   

Ellie has worked in the community and mental health sectors for over twenty years as a community development lead, therapeutic practitioner, manager, educator, strategy/policy worker, advisor and consultant. Systems tend to use words like ‘marginalised’, ‘vulnerable’, ‘at-risk’ or ‘the pointy end of the spectrum’ to describe who she has worked with and where. Ellie has a different understanding, she is awed by the generosity and strength of spirit within the people she has walked beside as they reclaim their lives from disruption, hardship, injustice and system failings. It is her story too.

In 2017 Ellie founded LELAN, the Lived Experience Leadership & Advocacy Network, a now funded organisation that she leads as Executive Director. LELAN draws on the collective experiences, insights and leadership of people with lived experience to drive desperately needed change in the mental health and social sector’s.

Previously Ellie was a Lived Experience Advisor with the SA Mental Health Commission and had her own Private Practice as a Therapist / Consultant for many years which she closed to focus on establishing LELAN as a strong independent and sustainable organisation. Ellie is a Fellow of the GLF (Governors Leadership Foundation Program).

Ellie Hodges, Executive Director and Founder (1.0FTE) | ehodges@lelan.org.au

Introducing soon.

Sheryl Boniface, Manager: Projects & Advocacy (1FTE) | sheryl@lelan.org.au

Introducing soon.

Claudia Chynoweth, Administrative Support (0.8FTE) | claudia@lelan.org.au

Read our intro to Ari blog here.

Ari Reid, LEDGE (Lived Experience Development, Governance & Education) Project Worker (0.8FTE) | ari@lelan.org.au

Sam is a rising lived experience researcher and advocate, working across multiple projects in academia, not-for-profits and government. She embodies authenticity, humour and crazy ideas in her research and prides herself on creating environments where people are connecting through their experiences, feel empowered to take action and contribute to change, and are just having a good time!

Sam’s passion for advocacy stems from her experiences of navigating and witnessing mental health experiences in Asian culture. While her perspectives often conflict with her culture, she views mental health experiences as the greatest strength one could have and is committed to challenging and shifting perspectives to focus on the courage, resilience and wisdom that comes with such an experience.

Read our intro to Sam blog here.

Sam Lai, Lived Experience Project Worker (0.8FTE) | sam@lelan.org.au

Tanya is a lived experience activist living and working on Kaurna land. She is the Project Worker for our Learning from Lived Experience Suicide Prevention project and has had suicide touch her life in many ways.

Passionate about trauma informed care and heart to heart connection, Tanya champions the survivor movement, mad studies and peer approaches such as eCPR. Over the last 5 years, Tanya has been involved in state and national advocacy and has completed her Cert IV in Mental Health Peer Work.

In a past life, Tanya was a Medical Scientist, but she believes that her deepest wisdom comes from her lived experience expertise.

Read our intro to Tanya blog here.

Tanya Blazewicz, Peer Project Worker (0.2FTE) | tanya@lelan.org.au



The Activating Lived Experience Leadership (ALEL) Project is a partnership between LELAN and UniSA’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research Group. LELAN’s Executive Director, Ellie Hodges, is the Project Lead. Other members of the Project Team are:

     Mark Loughhead, UniSA Senior Research Fellow (Research Lead)

     Heather McIntyre, UniSA Research Assistant

     Professor Nicholas Procter (UniSA Lead)


Our Board

Danielle has worked for over twenty years in the health and community services sectors. Working across a range of portfolios including public health, homelessness, social housing and domestic violence, Danielle has led front line services, as well as community development and strategic policy initiatives.

Most recently Danielle has been working in the not-for-profit community mental health sector, delivering psychosocial support services across South Australia. In this role, Danielle is excited to be working in partnership with the lived experience community to co-design the design and delivery of services.

Danielle is a passionate advocate for human rights and social justice in both her personal and professional life.

Danielle Bament


Rebecca Langman is a young person with a lived experience of mental health challenges proudly living on Kaurna Land. She is the Coordinator Consumer Engagement & Lived Experience for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network’s Mental Health Clinical Program where she is the Professional Lead for Peer Specialists and Carer Consultants.

She was a member of the Youth Advisory Council at Orygen, The National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health from 2017-18 and represented South Australia at the Youth Health Forum in Canberra facilitated by the Health Consumers Forum.  Rebecca has worked as a Peer Specialist in hospital and community environments.

Rebecca has a Bachelor of Media Arts majoring in Performing Arts & Film/TV Production and a Bachelor of Psychological Science from the University of South Australia. Her special interests include early intervention, peer support, experiences of trauma, outdoor/adventure therapy and access to emergency care.

A firm believer in “nothing about us without us” Rebecca is excited to join the LELAN community on this journey of change with the ultimate aim of a world where mental health care is recovery-focused, strengths-based and trauma informed.

Rebecca Langman

LELAN Secretary

Following ten years of service as a Police Officer for South Australia Police, and his career ending as a result of Post-Traumatic Stress and Depression, Matt now focuses his time supporting those in the community navigating their own mental health challenges, particularly military and emergency services personnel.

Matt works as a Lived Experience Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Military and Emergency Services Health Australia, he is an RUOK? Community Ambassador and a peer work consultant for a national men’s mental health support initiative, The Male Hug.

Matt is a counsellor and listener and spends any spare time with his supportive wife and daughter near the beach.

Matt Newlands

LELAN Board Member

Sarah is 24 and lives in her home town on the the Eyre Peninsula in rural South Australia. She has recently moved home from the United Kingdom.  

Since being back in Australia Sarah has spent the last year working on Fay Fuller Foundation projects, “Future Proofing Mentally Fit EP” and a mental health initiative called “Our Town” driven by community for community in which they secured 10 years of funding for our community. 

Sarah has been actively working with Mentally Fit EP and the Empowering Lower Eyre Suicide Prevention Network.

Sarah’s work has been recognised throughout her region and as a result she is honoured to have received Young Citizen of the Year for 2021.  

Sarah will continue to use her voice and encourage others to use their voice to influence change so everyone feels safe, worthy and like they belong in their communities.

Sarah Dickinson

LELAN Board Member

Em has been working in the youth sector for the last 15 years designing and facilitating empowerment, leadership and therapeutic programs. Complimented by her outdoor education background Em enjoys encouraging participants to recognise their inner strength, try new things, connect to nature and gain skills in mindfulness.

Drawing on her own lived experience and those of the young people she works with Em has contributed to a number of co-design initiatives, government and non-government consultations and has previously held a number of board positions.

Em passionately believes in hearing, sharing, supporting and advocating for people with a lived experience and those affected, caring for and working with to create change and a better understanding. Em continues to elevate the voice of younger generations, vulnerable children and young people within the child protection and youth justice systems to organisations and the government sector.

Em Rozee

LELAN Board Member

Amie has over 9 years experiencing working in Health, Disability, Child Protection, Mental Health and Immigration services across South Australia. She currently holds the position of Specialist Service Manager within a South Australia Not For Profit organization.

Over the last four years Amie has been actively involved in leadership and advocacy within the Health and Mental Health Directorate. She has sat on numerous committees and boards to assist with; systemic change, strategy development and implementation, practice and safeguarding and strategic management.  In addition, Amie also impacts the South Australia Mental Health Professional Sector by providing professionals with access to regular developmental sessions on; current research, best practice and facilitates topical discussions to improve the South Australian service delivery.

Amie has qualifications in education, counselling, disability, domestic violence, training and assessment and in currently completing a master’s in disability studies, specialising in sensory impairment.

Her passion lies within developing and amplifying the voice of communities to create positive impact and change.

Amie Verrall

LELAN Deputy Chair

Suzanne has a strong interest in social enterprise. She has worked with the Don Dunstan Foundation and been involved with smaller community groups.

Professionally Suzanne is an experienced accounting and business advisor who has worked in a range of boutique and mid-tier accounting firms for over 10 years. She is CPA qualified, holder of a Public Practice Certificate, is a registered tax agent, has completed her Bachelor of Accounting and Masters of Tax and holds a JP qualification. Suzanne brings expert knowledge in the areas of Australian tax, International tax matters, company valuations, ATO reviews and not-for-profit audit.

Suzanne Haynes

LELAN Treasurer

Kim is an advocate and an active member within the lived experience community. She volunteers on many Boards and governance groups within NGOs, at State and Federal Levels.  

Kim is driven by her past experiences of stigma and discrimination so she can educate others and challenge the way society views mental health and addiction. Kim is passionate about social justice issues and defending basic human rights, as well as LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal Rights.  

Kim has studied and worked as a Peer Worker in Alcohol and Other Drugs , and is currently working at Aspire Recovery Connection as a Peer Mentor for individuals who are receiving NDIS supports. 

Kim has studied Visual Arts and Graphic Design, which she has drawn upon and still uses as part of her own journey of recovery. 

Kim also brings with her qualifications and experience in Child Care, Work Health and Safety, Quality Management Systems and Auditing.

Kim Newrick

LELAN Board Member

Sanjugta has over ten years’ experience working in the South Australian State Government, serving as a Senior Manager, Principal Policy Advisor and lead evaluator across a range of human services agencies including disability, public housing, education and currently child protection.   This experience has provided her with a deep understanding of service delivery and policy development from a strategic and operational perspective. She is passionate about supporting organizations to explore ways to develop equal partnerships with people with lived experience in service design and implementation. 

Prior to working in State Government, Sanjugta completed her PhD in political science and worked as a researcher and consultant across the three South Australian universities. Her research involved a  strong focus around gender and youth within an international development context. For six years, she engaged in international consultancy advising the government and non-government sector on gender and youth sensitive policy development and public expenditure management (working in Samoa, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, India, Indonesia and Cambodia).  

At a personal level she has had experience of living with a sibling who lived with acute schizophrenia and had very negative and positive experiences of the mental health system and is interested in ways to support CALD communities and carers.

Sanjugta Vas Des

LELAN Board Member

Natalie is a postdoctoral research fellow for the Critical and Ethical Mental Health group at the University of Adelaide. She has qualifications in Health Sciences and Public Health, and completed a PhD in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 2018.

Over the past 6 years, Natalie’s research experience has developed her interest in the critical evaluation of psychiatry (including psychiatric labelling, over-diagnosis and the overuse of psychotropic medications) and healthcare models that address the social determinants of mental health.

Natalie is keen to advocate for empowering people with mental illness, and incorporating lived experience into clinical and government-led decision making.

Natalie Aboustate

LELAN Board Member