UNAA Board

UNAA Board

Mario D’Elia –  National President

Mario is National President of the UNAA and a strategic, commercial and financial advisor. Mario is former Partner at PwC, where he commenced and led its Infrastructure Advisory Practice for over 20 years. Mario was a senior member of PwC Asia Infrastructure Advisory Board, a Board member of PwC Asia’s Infrastructure Group, and a member of the Australian Japan Business Cooperation Committee Infrastructure Subcommittee. Mario has successfully provided strategic advice and leadership on iconic and groundbreaking projects. Mario was a lead advisor to the restructure and refinance of Chrysler Finance with facilities totalling well over US$20 billion with over 150 banks. This was the world’s largest financial at the time. He has expansive qualifications and experience as a leader working across government and in Chair roles. Mario has a track record as a trusted advisor to government and the private sector and his collaborative and inclusive leadership will be crucial in continuing to grow the UNAAs presence and partnerships across government, business and civil society.


Dr. Patricia Jenkings – Vice President and NSW President

Patricia is UNAA NSW President and UNAA National Vice President. Patricia is passionate about quality education, in particular, for women and girls. She was awarded her PhD and BA with Honours from the University of Sydney and has served as Vice Chair UN Women Sydney, is a Member of the Academic Council on the UN System and, at the Council’s Annual Meeting in New York, presented on UN principles. Patricia is an experienced Ministerial Policy and Research Analyst who has assisted disadvantaged peoples globally. For women and struggling communities throughout Africa, she has developed strategic programs, contributed towards educational and workplace reform, combatting child trafficking and improving outcomes for young people in Pakistan. Patricia also led a UN local governance project for Uzbekistan to increase local participation. In Australia, Patricia initiated a surf awareness program at Bondi Surf Club for new arrivals, for which she received international recognition. She is passionate about advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

Justin Howden – Vice President and Independent Director 

Justin is an Independent Director of the UNAA and a National Vice President and is Group Head, Government Affairs and Industry Development at Swisse Wellness (H&H Group). Justin’s career started in marketing with Kraft and Fonterra, including as State Manager NSW, National Marketing Manager and then Regional Manager for Asia. He then joined the Victorian Government progressing to GM International Business, leading teams on investment attraction, business migration, university alumni and Ministerial travel. After leaving Government Justin consulted on international business for ANZ, Boral, Ericsson, Macquarie Bank, Santos, Singapore Government, Telstra and the Vitamins Industry. Joining Swisse in 2012, Justin has developed Swisse’s Government Affairs and Industry Development team. Now part of The H&H Group, Justin has also led the development of the Swisse strategic science program of validation and clinical trials with CSIRO, and the University sector. Justin is on the Boards of Complementary Medicines Australia and the European Australia Business Council. He has previously been National President of the Australia Malaysia Business Council, and the Australia Philippines Business Council and was a founding Board member of Swinburne Ventures – the University’s vehicle for spinning off research and innovations.

Louisa Minney –  National Secretary

Louisa is a Special Advisory Consultant with over 20 years experience in strategic change management and evaluation in the international and security sectors. Louisa founded her career working in disaster relief (crisis response) and supporting developing nations. Louisa has worked with the UN World Food Programme in China and consulted to the Australian Civil-Military Centre where she designed the Australian Interagency Preparedness Framework to enhance whole-of-government crisis response. Louisa has worked with a UNFPA Inter-Agency Working Group on coordination policies for sexual and reproductive health response in crises. Louisa is currently working with the Asian Development Bank, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand to increase economic participation and employment opportunities, in particular for women and girls. Louisa is an Officer in the Australian Army Reserve and provides service on diversity and inclusion, and women, peace and security to the Vice Chief of the Defence Group and the Peace Operations Training Centre. Louisa is on the Board of Australia Business Volunteers and an elected member of the International Development Contractors Australia Executive Committee. Louisa was nominated as a participant in Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world panel for the 2020 Australia Summit.

Liesel Meinecke – National Treasurer

Liesel joined the UNAA  in 2019 and has 15 years’ experience of providing financial and cost management advice. Liesel is known for being a pragmatic, results-focused project manager who is able to translate jargon and impact of the technology changes into simple, compelling business language that her clients can understand and embrace, often using the concept of “tell-the-story-on-a-page” to get people on-board for the journey. Having lived in six countries and worked across four continents, she brings with her a wide range of consulting experiences from different countries and industries (including automotive, telecom, packaging, health and education) along with over 10 years of local experience with the public sector here in Canberra. Originally trained in the UK as a management accountant, this coupled with her interest in technology and large system implementation has seen her gravitate to the area of IT financial management, service costing and IT-enabled business change. Liesel also has extensive experience in the area of grants reform in the public sector.

Melissa King – Independent Director

Melissa has worked in Corporate, Government and For Purpose sectors in Humanitarian, Arts, International Events, Governance, Behavioural and Health sectors. As the previous Chief Executive of Surf Life Saving Australia, she was instrumental in navigating the organisation through a time of change and growth. Melissa’s strategic perspective coupled with strong stakeholder engagement, marketing communications, sponsorship and business development skills, has seen her represent organisations including Sydney Opera House, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet – APEC Australia 2007 Taskforce and the Governance Institute. Melissa has had a long term interest in the work of the United Nations (UN) and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and is focused on providing support to increase the profile, awareness and positioning of UNAA and therefore the work of the UN. Melissa’s work experience spans UK, India and Australia.

Richard Gruppetta – Independent Director

Richard has over 25 years’ experience in both the public and private sectors including as a former Australian diplomat, advisory firm Partner and now as a corporate advisor to global brands navigating international business, the Australian Government and business development objectives. With a long-term background in management consulting, Richard offers unparalleled expertise in business strategy, governance, risk compliance, design, government advocacy and private-public sector partnership development. This is enhanced by experience from his leadership roles within PwC and Grant Thornton, leading their Asia Practice Groups, supporting Australian business expand business opportunity with the region across from Japan, South Korea, China, South and South-East Asia. A graduate from Monash University and the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Richard has spent 22 years within the Asian region and is fluent in the Japanese language.

Dr. Sandy Chong – WA President

Sandy is President of UNAA WA and the founder of Verity Consulting with over 15 years of experience leading international growth projects. Sandy is passionate about helping organisations grow and creating opportunities for the communities they operate in and has won numerous awards including the US 2017 Stevie Awards for Women in Business and the 2015 Singapore Management Consultant of the Year. Sandy has assisted over three hundred companies in Australia, Singapore, Europe and US in market entry strategies, global brand communication and leadership positioning for investor attraction and expansion. Sandy has served as a mentor for hundreds of businesses, including those from the AUSTRADE’s Women in Global Business, Bloom innovation incubator of the University of Western Australia (UWA), and CRIB business incubator for female entrepreneurs in Singapore. She is an accomplished keynote speaker on internationalisation, entrepreneurship and leadership, and has recently led a forum on Women in Leadership at the Harvard Business School.

Brian Gleeson – ACT President

Brian is currently an international development consultant with extensive experience in the United Nations. Brian completed a two-year contract as the Director of Human Resources UNRWA in Amman Jordan and was responsible for the oversight, leadership, and management of all human resources policies and practices in Headquarters and the five Field Offices – Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. Brian has had over fifty years of experience in the international and Australian Public Service, working with and for most UN agencies for over fifteen years, including as head of the UN in Libya, setting up UN Women, working directly with five Heads of UN agencies and a previous Secretary-General as Senior Adviser in transition teams and change management. Brian was the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services, responsible for oversight of the Remote Service Delivery program to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities.

Lidia Moretti – SA President

Lidia was a teacher at the University of South Australia for over 25 years. Lidia taught English at Huizhou University, China and was coordinator of a Food and Wine Study Tour of South Australia for the University of Gastronomic Sciences, Italy. Lidia has led delegations to the Salone del Gusto/Terra Madre and been an advisor to the Australian Slow Food Management Group and co-leader in South Australian. Lidia hosts weekly information and interview radio food program on 5RPH (Vision Australia) and is a Board Member of 5RPH and also an Honorary Member of Cittaslow Goolwa. Lidia has been a delegate to the International Assembly of Cittaslow International Italy and the Netherlands since 2008, and also coordinator of a music cultural exchange between Adelaide and the headquarters of Cittaslow, Orvieto, Italy. Lidia has been an Ambassador for OZ Harvest Food Rescue Program since 2011 and has helped to establish it in South Australia. Lidia is a Committee Member of the Australian Committee for UN Women, Adelaide Breakfast, an active member of the Italian Community and a Justice of the Peace.

Dr Rama Jayaraj – NT President

Dr Rama Jayaraj is President of the UNAA NT and a clinical sciences academic in Darwin. Rama is a distinguished leader in the field of oral oncology research and alcohol-related trauma research among Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the NT. He is an active member on the Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry and also steering committee member of Northern Territory Cancer Registry. Rama has acted as a Vice President of the Northern Territory Tamil Society from 2009 to 2014 and as a public officer for Indian Cultural Society from 2012 to 2013. Rama is currently acting as a public officer of the NT Life Education. In recognition of his professional standing in the field of clinical oncology, alcohol and Indigenous research, he was awarded the Australian Academy Science Fellow in 2011; awarded the Ryan Family Award in 2014 and the Pride of Australia –Inspirational Model Medal in 2015.

Andrew Hewett – Board Director

Andrew is a Sessional Lecturer in the La Trobe University Masters of International Development and Masters of International Relations and the Victoria University Masters in International Community Development. Andrew worked for Oxfam Australia for nearly 22 years, including over 11 years as Executive Director. He has extensive international advocacy experience, was a member of the World Bank NGO Committee for four years and has participated in and observed numerous international conferences, including those of the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation. Andrew was formerly Deputy Chair of Diaspora Action Australia; a Vice-President of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and Chair of the Moreland Energy Foundation. He is now Chair of CERES.


Laura John – Young Professionals President

Laura John is a lawyer in the Office of General Counsel at Australian Government Solicitor. She has extensive experience in leadership, advocacy, and public speaking internationally and at home in Australia. Laura has previously worked as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva and volunteered with advocacy organisation Human Rights First in New York. She was a rapporteur for the 2nd UNESCO Conference on Global Citizenship Education in Paris and a panelist at the World Education Forum in South Korea. Laura was selected as the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations in 2014. In this role, she engaged with a variety of stakeholders including young people, media, politicians and civil society. Laura’s term as Youth Representative culminated with a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on the importance of good mental health, resilience, and well-being. Laura received the inaugural Graduate of the Year award from the Australian Public Service in 2015 for her outstanding contribution and leadership. She is currently completing a Master of Laws in International Law through the Australian National University.

Cassady Swinbourne – UN Youth Australia President
Cassady is the National President of UN Youth Australia. She has been involved in UN Youth Australia as a volunteer since 2017. Last year, she served as President on UN Youth Tasmania’s Executive, overseeing the Division’s operational and strategic growth. She has also previously held roles as Director of Human Resources, and Director of Education in the Tasmanian Division and has volunteered at educational programs in Tasmania, around the country, and in Timor Leste. Cassady is studying at the University of Tasmania, having just finished her Bachelor of Science (majors in Applied Mathematics and Physics) in 2019, she is now doing an Honours year in Applied Mathematics.

Lachlan Hunter – National Executive Director
Lachlan is Executive Director of the United Nations Association of Australia. Lachlan was previously an Executive at Chief Executive Women, a not-for-profit promoting women in leadership, where he worked on building relationships with business, developing Indigenous engagement. Prior to this, Lachlan worked for the Australian Government in front line service delivery, Ministerial Offices, designing and delivering Norfolk Island Reform and living and working on remote communities. At the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Lachlan worked in Indigenous Youth Policy and setting up STEM Academies for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls. Lachlan was a leader in the PM&C Women’s Network, focused on increasing participation and addressing the gender imbalance in the take up of flexible and part-time work. Lachlan has also worked in immigration detention and is a Board member of the Red Cross in the ACT.