The Palms Australia Development Philosophy proposes that those at the centre of directing our programs are the communities requesting the engagement of appropriately skilled and experienced others in their development.
Most are professionals and activists offering their skills on a voluntary pro-bono basis. Our work endorses a deep commitment to the mutual development of one another.
Roger enjoyed childhood on beautiful Boonwurrung Country in a town European colonisers named Trafalgar. His family fostered a strong embrace of cultural diversity. 15 years teaching in Victorian classrooms enabled his enthusiasm for creating curriculum that popularised the study of multiculturalism. From 1993-94 Roger and his young family embraced a cultural immersion in Western Samoa where he mentored trainee teachers. In 1995 Roger became PALMS Coordinator while completing his M.Ed. Further studies and working at Caritas Australia (1997-2000) inspired imaginative frameworks for sustainable international development. Since January 2000 Roger’s passion for pilgrimage has clarified his role as Palms Executive Director.
Jen is passionate about locally identified and led development. Her firm belief in the positive change that can come from intentional people to people links has meant that she has spent over 20 years in the international aid and development sector. She first spent time as a high school teacher in rural and remote areas in Solomon Islands, then followed by working with Save the Children UK in China (Hefei and Urumqi) on their child protection and anti-trafficking programs. This led Jen to many years managing volunteer programs in a number of countries for AVI, before coming to Palms in 2023.
NOURA EL AHMAD
Born in Lomé and raised in a multicultural background, Noura is a passionate professional with an adventurous soul. She comes from a diverse background in the non-governmental and overseas aid/development sector, with a strong passion for facilitating co-designed sustainable solutions for vulnerable communities. Her experiences range from volunteer coordination and social care work to food security, protection, education, and emergency response projects.
Having studied, volunteered and worked internationally, Emily has a passion for cultivating cross-cultural partnerships. Her educational background in Counselling in addition to experience in the higher education sector has led to a desire to support those in need. She aspires to strengthen community and mutual collaboration through creative but authentic storytelling. Emily’s work at Palms centres on engaging participants’ communities at every stage of their journey. She is a strong advocate for gender equality to eliminate violence against women on a local and global scale.
Following too many years at ruthless corporations, Kevin came to Palms seeking a new path for his love of justice and desire to assist others, along with a taste for culture and adventure! After some years on overseas assignments, Kevin joined the Palms office where he continues to share his passion for Melanesia and the lessons learnt in the field. His latest challenge is bringing it all together to support our operations as Palms’ Finance Officer.
With a background in education and many years of administrative experience with not-for-profits, Cassandra’s passion for justice and equality for everyone has brought her to the Palms team to assist facilitate mutual development. Her focus is on engaging the Australian community, cultivating efficiency and participant formation to ensure a lasting impact in remote communities around the world. She is keenly building on her knowledge and skills in creative design to assist the team on projects.
Palms Australia is a unique independent and democratic organisation, open to the direction of its members. The board has five directors elected by the membership and three appointed by those five to ensure a strong network and appropriate talents are available to take Palms forward. It is an agency whose legal structure is voluntary, not-for-profit and non-government.
Palms Australia consists of members from diverse backgrounds. If you would like to become a member of Palms Australia or to find out more, please visit our Membership page.
Liz Stone – Chair
General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia
BA, MIntS, Grad Cert Leadership, AGIA
Elizabeth Stone, known as Liz, was elected to the board in 2020. Liz is the General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA). Liz worked with the Caritas Internationalis family of agencies and with Caritas Australia over two decades. Liz has been a member of the Governance Institute of Australia since January 2016. Liz is a long-standing Member of Palms Australia and in November 2019 participated in Palms’ inaugural Encounter Visit to Myanmar and Northern Thailand.
Greg Browne – Treasurer
Chartered Accountant, self employed
BEc, MBA, ICAA
Palms Australia Program Participant 1996-98 PNG
Caritas Australia Disaster Relief 1998-2000 PNG
PALMS Board Member – 2014 to 2017
Greg Browne was co-opted to the PALMS Board in 2022. Greg is a Chartered Accountant who runs his own practice. Greg was a volunteer in Aitape in Papua New Guinea where he worked in the Mission office with local staff. At the end of his 2 years he returned to Australia however in July 1998 the Aitape area was hit by a tsunami that killed over 2,000 people. Greg returned to Aitape to work with the Church run Reconstruction Committee as the Finance Manager. This Committee administered over $US 4m in donations over the 2 years of its existence.
Greg’s experience working in remote areas and working with first world donors helps him to understand just how useful skills transfer can be to the people that PALMS work with. This insight, along with his accounting experience will offer a finance perspective to the Board.
CEO, International Nepal Fellowship Australia
BA (Hons), Dip.Ed (Secondary), B Div
Ben Thurley was elected to the board in 2020. Combining Ben’s interests in justice, teaching and speaking, and Christian theology, he began working with TEAR Australia in awareness-raising and education roles, before becoming their advocacy advisor. From 2008–2012 he worked as advocacy advisor with United Mission to Nepal primarily working with colleagues across different policy areas (health, education, peace-building and sustainable livelihoods) to support local organisations as they developed programmatic and advocacy plans to address issues of injustice and inequality affecting their communities.
Since returning to Australia, he worked with Micah Challenge / Micah Australia as political engagement advisor and National Coordinator developing and resourcing campaigns on climate change, tax justice, and Australia’s international aid program. Since 2018, he has worked for International Nepal Fellowship Australia – taking on the role of CEO in early 2019.
Teacher & REC, Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School
BEd (Primary), BSocSc (Psychology)
Palms Australia program participant, Timor Leste 2014-15
Sam Haddin was elected to the board in 2020. Sam volunteered with Palms Australia from 2014-2015, with her main role being that of teacher mentor to the teachers of two schools in Dili, Timor Leste. Since returning from her placement, she has been teaching at Holy Spirit Catholic Primary School in North Ryde. She was appointed as the school’s Religious Education Coordinator (REC) in 2017. Through her role on the school’s leadership team as REC, she has had experience in developing and implementing annual improvement plans and has been involved in the organisation and strategic planning of the future direction of the school.
Her experience as a returned volunteer gives her a unique perspective to bring to the Board of Directors. Her insight into the realities of living and working as a volunteer in the field will be beneficial to the decision making process and in the continued support the Board of Directors gives the Palms office staff, volunteers and partners.
Dr Stephen Yates
Senior Medical Officer, Warwick Hospital QLD
MBBS, MPHTM, FRACGP, FACRRM, FACTM
Palms Australia program participant, Zambia 2013-14
Stephen Yates was elected to the board in 2020. Stephen graduated in Medicine in 1986, and is currently working in a rural hospital in Queensland. He has a Master’s degree in Public Health and Tropical Medicine, with an interest in travel medicine. He has long wanted to put his skills to use in helping others, and has been fortunate in being able to go to areas of need, with work in PNG (AVI, 1995), Cambodia (Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor, 1995), and Zambia (Palms Australia, 2013-14). He has also worked in Katherine in the NT for 6 years (NT Health, 1999-2004).
He chose to go to Zambia with Palms Australia because he agrees with the organisation’s aims of helping build capacity through friendships, and through skills transfer. He values the ideals of servanthood, and partnership with people and local organizations in the countries he has lived and worked in. Stephen brings his own insights and experience from living in and working with poorly resourced communities in Asia, the Pacific, and Africa. He can also help aspiring Palms participants with preparation, in his capacity as a doctor, as well as advise them in the field.
Website Manager, NSW Cancer Council
BSc, Grad Dip Ed (Secondary), Grad Cert RE, MSD
Palms Australia program participant, PNG 2003-04
Brendan Joyce was elected to the board in 2014 and in 2017. In recognition of his organisational knowledge, specialisation in digital marketing and to achieve continuity from one board to the next the elected directors in 2020 have nominated him to join them as a director again over the next three years. An IT, Science and RE teacher, Brendan spent two years volunteering through Palms at St Joseph’s High School, Mabiri teaching Maths and Science to ex-combatants in Bougainville, PNG.
On return, He worked at Palms for 8 years as Community Relations Coordinator, and Assistant Director. His core work covered printed and electronic communications, recruitment and training, fundraising and interagency relationships. He then took on the role of Global Education Advisor NSW/ACT for Caritas Australia. This involved child and adult education about international development and social justice, including facilitating cross-cultural immersions. He has a Masters in International Social Development, which included travelling to Geneva to lobby governments and UNHCR on refugee issues. He currently works for NSW Cancer Council as their website manager.
Sr Philippa Murphy
Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
BEd, MEd (Leadership)
Sr Philippa Murphy is currently Provincial Leader of the Australian Province of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and is based in Sydney. With a background in secondary school teaching, she has ministered in educational leadership and as School Principal in different parts of Australia, including the Northern Territory, and also in South Africa and South Sudan. Her passion is the mission of engaging in education to empower others, particularly where people are in the most need.
Former Deputy Executive Director, UN World Food Programme
John Powell has 3 decades of experience in dealing with international humanitarian operations and development activities. After a 19 year career with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) he retired in 2009 as Deputy Executive Director. Previously, he led WFP’s Strategy and Policy Division; and its operations in Asia and Eastern Europe, serving as Regional Director for Asia in Bangkok, Thailand and Regional Manager for West and Central Asia in Islamabad, Pakistan.
John worked with the World Bank as a Country Officer in the Latin America and Caribbean Region; and earlier as Assistant Director-General in Australia’s overseas aid agency. Since retirement he has been engaged by WFP on an array of assignments such as preparing protracted relief and recovery operations in Pakistan, with a focus on the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, and a new Country Programme for Egypt. He has also been engaged by an international NGO to help improve programme planning and delivery, mainly in Africa. He holds a BA and is a Barrister of the High Court of Australia.
Executive Director, Palms Australia
MEd (Leadership), BA&GradDipEd
Palms Australia program participant, Western Samoa, 1993-94
Roger O’Halloran has been Executive Director at Palms Australia since January 2000. In 1977 he completed a Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Diploma of Education (Monash University) and spent 15 years teaching and coordinating students, staff and curriculum in Victorian schools.
In 1992, as a Palms’ volunteer, Roger took his family to Western Samoa, where for two years he coordinated a training program for local teachers at Don Bosco Technical Centre, Alafua. In October 1995 Roger and his family moved to Sydney where he took on the position as Palms Coordinator. He also undertook further studies and was awarded his M.Ed. (Leadership) in 1997.
From October 1997 Roger spent two and a half years at Caritas Australia as Network Development Coordinator. He was primarily charged with responsibility for community education and growing the Caritas network of supporters. During this time he also began studies for a Masters in International Development (Deakin University).
Palms Australia is proud to have the following patrons of our organisation.
H.E. Dr Jose Ramos Horta
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Past President and Prime Minister Timor-Leste
Deacon Gary Stone
Australian Defence Force Chaplain
Founding member Friends and Partners with East Timor
The role of patron includes, but is not limited to:
- Enhancing the status of Palms Australia by their willingness to be publically associated with the objectives and activities.
- Providing advice and counsel on general directions or specific activities of Palms Australia.
- Attending public events of Palms Australia as VIPs and from time to time, participate in significant events.
- Attending fundraising events or support fundraising activities.
Members may nominate further individuals, whom they believe would assist promote the vision and mission of Palms Australia.