Our Board of Directors

MaryWaterford80x120.jpgMary Waterford

 Mary Waterford AM holds the position of Chairperson of Sydney Alliance and is a Board member of Sydney Community Forum.

She has worked in the community sector in Sydney in Management, Policy and Advocacy roles for over 40 years and knows well both the challenges of Sydney and the power of working together as a united voice for inclusion and social justice.

Mary was Executive Director of Western Sydney Community Forum from 2008 to 2015 and most recently worked as a volunteer in Timor-Leste at Rede Feto, the peak advocacy network for women’s organisations. She has been a member of Sydney Alliance since 2009. In 2014 she was recognised as one of Australia’s 25 most influential leaders in the NGO sector and in 2016 was awarded an Order of Australia Award (AM) is for significant contribution to the community through social service and welfare organisations as an advocate for equity, human rights and dignity. Mary is a lifetime member of the Australian Services Union (ASU). She has a BA in Sociology and History.


Esta_P-C_80x120.jpgEsta Paschalidis-Chilas

 Esta Paschalidis-Chilas is a Social Worker with nearly 30 years experience in the Government and non Government sectors in client services, policy, community capacity building, executive leadership and advocacy roles. Currently the Government and Member Relations Manager at Settlement Services International she has established experience in building partnerships which bring benefit to communities and individuals across Australia. As the Chairperson of the NSW Settlement Partnership, Esta is committed to advancing the needs and interests of its members, their communities and clients to ensure social justice, diversity, social cohesion and social and economic participation of newcomers to NSW is advanced.


Deborah_Burt_80x120.jpgDeborah Burt

 Deborah's involvement in the Sydney Alliance has been as a Friend of Sydney Alliance for the past two years,  focused on fund raising.  She recently joined the Board of the Sydney Alliance as a non-Executive Director.  Prior to  this Deborah has had an extensive career in the corporate sector as a Human Resources Director, Chief Information  Officer, and Chief Executive of a human resource consulting company.  Her experience has covered start ups,  successful Australian companies and large multi nationals across the IT, financial services and professional services  sectors.  She currently works as a freelance consultant specialising in coaching; workshop design and facilitation;  and mediation. 


Kent_Crawford80x120.jpgKent Crawford

 Rev. Kent Crawford is the Executive Minister for Sydney Presbytery of the Uniting Church NSW/ACT. Kent also serves  on the Board of the Wayside Chapel and the School Council of MLC Sydney. Trained in Psychology and Theology,  Kent is passionate about developing healthy, thriving and inclusive communities.


Alex_Profile_Shot.jpgAlex Claassens

 Alex Claassens is currently the NSW State Secretary of the NSW Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU). He has a passion for the transport industry, having started his career driving trains on the NSW rail network in 1978. He has long been an advocate for the rights of transport workers, joining the union as a delegate in 1992 and working through various positions until elected to the highest position in the NSW Branch in 2010. Alex is also an Executive Member of the National RTBU.

Alex holds several other Director positions; he is a Director of Australian Mutual Bank, State Super (SAS Trustee Corporation) and Transport Heritage NSW. Alex still drives passenger trains in NSW and also works heritage steam locomotives on a regular basis. The RTBU has a longstanding relationship with the Sydney Alliance, having been a founding member since it's inception in 2009.  Alex has been actively involved from the beginning, and was appointed as an Alternate Board Director from December 2013.


Sandeep_80x120.jpgSandeep Kirpalani

 Sandeep holds the position of Treasurer on the Sydney Alliance Board.  He is an Accountant by qualification and since leaving Ernst & Young in 2009, has worked on national skills development initiatives in India, mentored grassroots-level social enterprises and worked with social change agents seeking to challenge the status-quo around the world. Sandeep graduated with a Masters in Development Studies from the University of Melbourne in 2014 and recently finished an International Development assignment in Timor-Leste, the role being capacity building within a social business that sought to empower survivors of sexual violence. Sandeep is committed to the holistic development of young people and has a keen interest in urban social/ affordable housing issues in Sydney. Lastly, Sandeep is an exponent of mindfulness, humor and forgiveness in the world of social justice!


ahmed_abdo_80x120.jpgSheikh Ahmed Abdo

 Ahmed Abdo is a Sydney born Imam, a scholar and respected teacher of Islam. After nearly ten years studying Islam in the blessed city of Tarim in Yemen he returned to give back to the people of Australia, his country. He studied in Dar al-Mustafa, an Islamic Seminary in Tarim, Hadramawt, under the tutelage of its Founder and Dean, Habib Umar bin Hafiz, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and worldwide authority on Islamic jurisprudence, theology, and spirituality. During his course of studies in Dar al-Mustafa, Ahmed studied the core Islamic sciences including Arabic grammar, jurisprudence, theology, prophetic traditions and spiritual wayfaring, with a particular interest in the area of Islamic Jurisprudence. He currently serves as an Honorary Chaplain and Religious Advisor, teaches Islamic Law and Spirituality courses through Shifa Institute which he founded to better inform people regarding the principles and teachings of Islam and how they apply in modern day society, particularly Australia. He also serves as the Secretary of the Council of Imams NSW, the state affiliated body to the Australian National Imams Council.


Steph_Cunio-80x120.jpgSteph Cunio

 Steph Cunio is currently employed by the United Worker’s Union as a Strategist in the new Organising & Pipeline area. Steph comes to this work after working in senior roles in Climate Action Network Australia, The Public Service Association and the ACTU. During her time in each of these organisations over the last decade, Steph has used the tools and skills developed via the Sydney Alliance to strengthen the internal and external capacity of these organisations. Steph was involved in the Sydney Alliance Founding Assembly in 2011, leading turnout coordination across the union, faith and community sectors. Through the Alliance Steph has had the opportunity to form deep and enduring relationships with a range of leaders across the three sectors. Of significance has been how the Alliance and relational organising created an opening for Steph to be a part of her own community, the Sydney Jewish Community, through the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Steph comes to her role on the Board with a depth and breadth of relational organising experience, developed both on the ground and with positional leaders.