Our people


Elena Pappas

Co-founder, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director

BA, LLB (Hons), LLM

Elena is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women. She also sits on the Board as an Executive Director.

Elena is a passionate advocate and leader who is dedicated to working collaboratively with organisation and individuals to reduce women’s criminalisation and imprisonment in Victoria. She currently leads LACW’s policy and systemic advocacy work, and is Co-Convenor of Smart Justice for Women, a sub-committee of the broader Smart Justice coalition convened by the Federation of Community Legal Centres.

Elena previously worked at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service where she held the position of Senior Lawyer in the Criminal Law team. She advised and appeared on behalf of clients in complex criminal matters and shared responsibility for the mentoring and management of junior and support staff.

Prior to this, Elena was an Associate in the Workplace Relations team of a highly regarded private law firm in Melbourne. She has experience in the areas of employment, anti-discrimination and occupational health and safety law. She holds a Master of Public and International Law from the University of Melbourne, through which she undertook an internship with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania. She is an alumnus of The Growth Project, a personal and professional development program designed to help charity leaders drive efficiencies and effectiveness within their charity. She has worked as a volunteer with the Mental Health Legal Centre, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service.


Di McDonald

Board Member and Chair

MMgt (Organisational Systems), BAppSc(Speech Pathology), Grad Dip Ed, Grad Dip Rehab, Grad Dip Bus Mgt, MAICD

Di has an extensive background and formal qualifications in business development and management in the healthcare, disability and human resources fields. She has over 25 years’ experience in senior leadership roles, including at Managing Director and CEO level, in privately owned and publicly listed organisations. She has held both Executive and Non-executive positions on Boards and Advisory Boards. In addition to her role as Chair of LACW, Di has served as Chair of Melbourne City Mission and MCM Housing, and has held board positions with the Hester Hornbrook Academy, the Cabrini Foundation Board, and Aged Care Justice (formally ALARM). She has also been an Advisory member of Psychology Melbourne and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Paul Scroope

Board Member

B.Bus., Grad. Dip. Bus. Mgmt., M.O.S., FCPA, FCIMA, MAICD

Paul is an experienced board member and a senior executive with over 30 years’ experience in the commercial and not-for-profit sectors including executive positions with the Australian Red Cross, the CSIRO, Fujitsu Australia and in management consulting.

Paul has expertise in finance, governance and risk and is board advisory to a number of organisations and Trusts. Some previous board memberships include Melbourne City Mission (chair Finance Audit and Investment Committee), Hester Hornbook Academy and the CRC Cancer Therapeutics.

Paul’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Business, Graduate Diploma in Business Management and a Masters in Organisational Systems; he is a Fellow of both CPA (Australia) and CIMA (UK), and a Member of Australian Institute of Company Directors and Chartered Global Management Accountants.


Kylie Heine

Board Member

MCoupRelCouns

Kylie began her work in the human service field with the Reach Foundation in 2000. She has worked in both the not-for-profit sector and private practice as a counsellor, group facilitator and psychotherapist for over 10 years.

Kylie completed her undergraduate studies in Contemporary Somatic Psychotherapy and gained a Master of Couple and Relationship Counselling at Latrobe University which included an internship with Relationships Australia. Kylie has worked extensively in the family violence field both as a Men’s Behaviour Change Program facilitator, women’s support worker and as a clinician with the Department of Justice in their Offending Behaviour Program (OBP).

Kylie is a philanthropic supporter of Melbourne City Mission (MCM) and has participated in the design of the innovative Youth Housing Initiative (YHI) pilot, a new solution to solve youth homelessness.

Kylie joined the LACW board in 2021. She is a member of the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) and is an inaugural board member of MCM Housing.


Jill Prior OAM

Co-founder

Accredited Criminal Law Specialist, BA, LLB

Jill is the co-founder of the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women. She served as its inaugural Principal Legal Officer from its opening until May 2024, and during that time also sat on the Board as an Executive Director. Jill is an accredited specialist in criminal law and has over 20 years’ experience representing clients in criminal matters.

Prior to establishing LACW, Jill was the Acting Principal Legal Officer of Djirra (formerly the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria). This role provided a depth to Jill’s Family Law and child protection practice and allowed her to have great input into the policy framework of the organisation.

Jill was previously the Principal Legal Officer at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS) where she worked for over 10 years. As well as advising and appearing on behalf of clients across multiple jurisdictions, she was responsible for the management of the legal practice, comprising 21 lawyers across the criminal, family law and civil law practice areas, in addition to support staff.

Jill’s unyielding commitment and dedication to her work has made her a well-known and respected public figure, in and outside legal circles. 

In June 2021 Jill was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of her service to the law.

In May 2024, Jill was appointed to the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

Steering Committee

LACW is guided by a Steering Committee of passionate and knowledgeable women from diverse backgrounds and professional experience.

Dr Crystal McKinnon

Dr Crystal McKinnon is an Amangu woman from the Yamatji nation on the west coast of Australia. She is a historian and a critical Indigenous studies scholar, who is currently working at RMIT as a Vice Chancellor’s Indigenous Research Fellow in the Social and Global Studies Centre. She has held previous roles with Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service, Native Title Services Victoria and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service.  She is currently on the Board of Justice Connect and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, and has previously been a board member of Flat Out and the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Associated.

Crystal is the co-editor of History, Power and Text: Cultural Studies and Indigenous Studies (UTS ePress, 2014), and has had several articles published addressing indigenous politics, and the intersection between gender, crime and homelessness.  Her work has been published in Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity (Palgrave, 2010), the Alternative Law Journal, and Parity.

Anoushka Jeronimus

Anoushka is the Director of the Youth Law Program at WEstjustice. She joined there in 2020. Prior to that she worked at VLA, commencing in July 2007 with the Youth Legal Service and moving into the Youth Crime Team in 2012. She successfully gained specialist accreditation in Children’s Law in 2012 and was awarded 2012 Children’s Law Award along with VLA for the work she led in relation to the Tyler Cassidy Inquest. She was appointed Program Manager of Youth Crime in July 2014. Prior to VLA, Anoushka spent a year in Cambodia volunteering with a children’s right advocacy NGO and before that, as a lawyer at the Top End Women’s Legal Service in Darwin. Anoushka is a member of the Law Institute’s Criminal Law Executive and Children’s Law Advisory Committee; the Victorian Multi Cultural Committees North West Regional Advisory Committee and was recently appointed as a Director of the Sentencing Advisory Council.

Roj Amedi

Roj Amedi works in the pursuit of economic and racial justice. She does this as a writer, strategist, and community organiser. She is the Chief Campaigns Officer at GetUp, the Chair of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, and sits on the steering committee for the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women.

Roj is a Kurdish woman from Iraq who sought refuge in Australia in the 1990s — an experience that has influenced her commitment to social justice. She strives towards sustainable and effective political interventions, that help build solidarity and make material improvements in the lives of systemically marginalised people. 

She has previously held positions as the Chair of Overland Literary Journal, Head of Engagement at Justice Connect and Senior Racial Justice and Human Rights Campaigner at Colour Code and GetUp! In her various capacities, she has worked with communities across the country to advocate for housing security, economic justice, a non-discriminatory migration system, as well as combatting the rise of white supremacist groups and stamping out structural racism and discrimination. 

Roj has also spent the last 10 years building a portfolio of work and is regularly invited to speak publicly on a range of cultural and political issues. She has held positions as Editor of Acclaim and Neue Luxury, and her writing has been published in The Saturday Paper, Vice, Vault, Meanjin, Swampland, Sydney Morning Herald and Gusher.


Staff

Ellen Murphy

Principal Legal Officer

Ellen is LACW’s Principal Legal Officer, a position she has held since May 2024. Ellen joined LACW in 2023 as its Managing Lawyer – Crime, bringing with her over 10 years’ experience in the criminal law sector. Prior to joining LACW, she worked at Victoria Legal Aid where she was most recently Deputy Managing Lawyer of the Indictable Crime Team. She has previously worked as a criminal lawyer in private practice, as an associate to a Judge of the County Court in the criminal division and has experience working and volunteering across the Community Legal Centre sector. She has represented victim/survivor witnesses giving evidence at public hearings during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. She is a compassionate and dedicated advocate for her clients and brings extensive experience across a range of criminal law matters, with particular skills representing clients in complex indictable crime matters.

Ellen holds a Master of Laws (Criminal Law and Forensics), and is an Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law. 

Mary Paterson

Case Management Team Leader

Mary is the team leader of LACW’s social work and case management practice. She joined the Case Management team of LACW in January 2021. Mary has extensive experience in the Community Legal Centre sector, having started her career as a lawyer in Tasmania where she worked for seven years primarily in family law and family violence matters. In addition, Mary has worked with the Vietnam Women’s Union in their Law and Policy Department for 18 months as part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development program, focusing on gender mainstreaming in legislation.

Mary has also worked as a specialist family violence worker. This work included being co-located at a homelessness service to provide family violence support and training to staff and clients, and supporting women and children in a new social housing build.

In addition to her legal qualifications, Mary has a Graduate Certificate in Family and Domestic Violence, is MARAM trained and has undertaken further study in Alcohol and Other Drugs and suicide first aid.

Lawyers

Philippa Dixon – Senior Lawyer

Carmendy Cooper – Senior Lawyer

Asha Zomer – Senior Lawyer

Ashlee McPhail – Senior Lawyer

Sarah Abell – Lawyer

Jaffa Withers – Lawyer

Rawan Badawi – Lawyer

Beray Uzunbay – Lawyer

Eliza Collister – Lawyer

Rosemary Blanden (pro bono placement, Meridian Lawyers)

Case Management Team

Mel Walshe – Case Manager

Jacquie Phiddian – Project Manager

Georgie Adeney – Social Worker

Penny Cula-Reid – Project Support Officer

Lisa Chamouras – Case Manager

Support Staff

Mary Zaky – Paralegal

Maria Nocera – Paralegal

Sarah Cadzow – Administrative Assistant