Roundtable members

Community members with diverse skills and extensive experience volunteering and advocating for LGBTI Queenslanders and their families have been selected to work with Queensland Government representatives.

The role of members will include working to advance the interests of LGBTI Queenslanders including:

  • informing government agencies on how we can consider the needs of LGBTI Queenslanders in the development of services, policies and strategies
  • attendance at Roundtable meetings for a 2 year term
  • participating in a working group(s) with departmental officers to progress the work program of the Roundtable as required.

Meet the roundtable community members

(in alphabetical order by first name)

Ben Bjarnesen

Ben Bjarnesen is the Regional Coordinator (Brisbane Region) of the Qld Police LGBTI Liaison Officer Program, the Assistant Coordinator of the Qld Police LGBTI+ Support Network and is a training facilitator for the Qld Aids Council. He was a founding member of a non-profit community group ‘Anything But Straight’ in Roma and has worked extensively to enhance the lives of LGBTI people living in rural and remote Queensland. As a recipient of a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, in 2017 he travelled to the USA, Canada, UK, Scotland and Netherlands to research ways of enhancing the police response to LGBTI domestic violence issues. In 2017 he was named as one of the most 50 influential and inspiring LGBTIQ Australians by Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Chris Pickard

Chris Pickard is the General Manager of Open Doors Youth Service Inc. that supports young LGBTI+ people in South-East Queensland in a multitude of ways.  Working with the organisation for the past four years, Chris is passionate about helping young LGBTI+ people in our community see their potential and truly know pride for life.  Chris brings his lived experience as part of the LGBTI+ community combined with his professional experience supporting and advocating for the rights of our young people to the Roundtable.

Elise Stephenson

Elise Stephenson is the Co-Founder of Social Good Outpost, and a PhD Candidate from Griffith University in Queensland. From 2014 Elise has worked with the Mentors in Violence Prevention/MATE organisation to help create national intimate partner violence prevention workshops specifically for LGBTI communities. She has represented LGBTI issues nationally and internationally, including for the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network, the National Roundtable on Australian LGBTI Aid to Asia and the Pacific, and the Kaleidoscope LGBTI Pacific Youth Forum. Her passion for and work with LGBTI communities led to her being awarded the United Nations Australia Association Community Award in 2016, and in 2018 she helped curate the Human Dignity Festival – a week-long international LGBTI human rights dialogue in Hong Kong.

Jay Wells

Jay Wells brings a wealth of lived experience to the LGBTI Roundtable. Jay is a transsexual man having started the process of transitioning at the age of 25 in 2009 when he commenced with the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) upon his discharge from the Royal Australian Navy. Jay was among the first people to transition on the job with the QAS and one of the first and few to do so in the Townsville region. He has undergone many gender affirming surgeries in order to live his authentic life. Jay brings a wealth of lived experience to LGBTI Roundtable.

Dr Lisa van Leent

Dr Lisa van Leent is a senior lecturer in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership within the Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology. Her research interests concern teacher support in relation to sex education, particularly in regards to diverse sexualities, and the improvement in support for LGBTIQ+ students in schools. Dr van Leent is also a member of the Queensland LGBTIQ+ Action Group for Students and co-convenor of the Gender, Sexualities and Cultural Studies Special Interest Group for the Australian Association for Research in Education. She is also chair of the Queensland Queering Education Consultative Committee (QQECC).

Matt Hall

Matt was banned from playing footy in 1998 due to his HIV status. A ban he had overturned in Court that set an International legal precedent. He publicly came out as the first Australian Rules footballer that is gay in an interview in the Gay Games edition of Blue Magazine in 2002. He has successfully completed a Master of Business qualification and is the Director of his Event Management Company that has a focus on charities and not for profits. In June 2017, he completed a Kokoda Trek with HIV+ Olympian Ji Wallace that was filmed to make a full length documentary titled ‘Stronger Than You Think’. Matt is the Secretary on the Board of Management of Queensland Positive People. He is a Beyond Blue Ambassador and a member of their Public Speakers Bureau. Matt is a qualified Lifeline Crisis counsellor. 

Mikhara Ramsing

Mikhara Ramsing is a 28 year old social entrepreneur from Brisbane, Australia. She runs two social enterprises in the human rights space: Ground Chai, which sells ethically sourced, environmentally sustainable delicious chai to fund suicide prevention in rural Australia; and Ethnic LGBT+, a national website providing a safe place for members of the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) LGBTIQA+ community to share their stories. She believes stories save lives and has travelled around Australia in a self-built tiny home connecting with rural youth. She has been nominated as the Young Australian of the Year QLD 2019 and was awarded a Westpac Social Change Fellowship enabling her to attend Harvard University and to work with LGBTIQ+ communities around the world. 

Peter Black

Peter Black has been actively involved in the LGBTI community for many years. He has been an advocate on significant law reform including marriage equality, age of consent, expungement of historic gay sex convictions, the abolition of the gay panic defence and reform of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act. Peter is currently on the board of Australian Marriage Equality, the Queensland AIDS Council and the LGBTI Legal Service and is the LGBT representative on the Inclusive Brisbane Board. He is a former President of the Brisbane Pride Festival. He was the Queensland Coordinator for the Yes Equality campaign.

Phillip Sariago

Phillip (Phil) Sariago is a descendant of the Gurindji People of Wave Hill, Northern Territory and the Jaru Peoples of East Kimberly, Western Australia. Phil also identifies as gay man.

Phil has been actively working in Sexual and Reproductive Health and LGBTI Health and Wellbeing sectors for 13 years. Phil is passionate about improving the standards of Health and Wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and those who identify as LGBTIQ+ Sistergirl and Brotherboy in urban, regional and remote communities of Queensland. Phil is passionate in delivering education and training to build the capacity of professionals to provide inclusive services and advocate for inclusion in policy to improve equity across Health and Education sectors.

Rebecca Johnson

Bec is a Gooreng Gooreng woman, connected to the Tarlibelang Bunda people. A member of Tekwabi Giz (meaning all of us connected) a national collaboration of people and organisations from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian South Sea Islander communities, who are working with LGBTI people across Australia. She is the co-founder of IndigiLez Women’s Leadership & Support Group, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lesbian, Same Attracted and Bisexual women. Establishing her leadership values through a cultural lens, she was awarded the 2018 Out for Australia Award for her work and advocacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTI communities. Rebecca advocates for the development of meaningful partnerships that recognise cultural responsibilities and values.

Rob Nielsen

Rob Nielsen brings a wealth of skills and experience to the Qld LGBTI Roundtable. Rob Nielsen has worked for many years in rural and regional locations supporting and advancing the interests of LGBTI community members specifically gay men. Rob has been actively involved in advancing the interests of local LGBTIQ in the Toowoomba region through membership of support groups and organisations. He also delivers the LGBTI-focused MHFA and LGBTIQ Mental Health workshops which he has developed around Queensland.

Ruth Toomey

Ruth Toomey brings 16 years of experience in the community and public sectors, where she has actively worked to advance the interests and wellbeing of LGBTIQ Queenslanders who are over-represented in many measures of disadvantage. She has worked in the areas of housing and homelessness, drug and alcohol, and now specifically in co-designing government strategy and services to meet the needs of Queenslanders into the future, and as a queer woman, applies and advocates for a gender and sexuality lens across all of her work. She recently conducted the design research to inform the Queensland Government’s LGBTIQ Domestic and Family Violence awareness-raising campaign, and was a proud originating member of the Queensland Public Service LGBTIQ+ Steering Committee whose role it is to drive inclusion of LGBTIQ government employees.

Sarah Walbank

Sarah is an experienced social worker and has worked as a practitioner and a manager in the government and the not-for–profit sectors in Australia and England. Since moving to Queensland she has become a passionate and active advocate of LGBTIQ inclusivity, including representing carers on the National LGBTI Ageing and Aged Care Strategy Working Group, co-leading the preparation work and audit processes to achieve Rainbow Tick accreditation with her current employer and chairing her workplace’s inaugural LGBTI Allies and subsequently Rainbow Allies groups.

Vicki Ogilvie

Vicki Ogilvie has worked and advocated for the Brisbane LGBTIQ Community for 20 years and has been instrumental in advocating for changes to the domestic violence legislation to include same sex couples. This includes training Police, community service providers and the LGBTIQ community in supporting those experiencing same sex domestic violence. Vicki sat on the Department of Communities LGBT Roundtable from 2010-2012 supporting numerous Roundtable achievements. In her current professional role Vicki is invested in the ongoing wellbeing of LGBTIQ students in our Queensland schools particularly around inclusion and participation for all students. Vicki now sits on the Thriving Communities roundtable as an advocate for the needs of the LGBTIQ community.