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Our Services
STTARS assists people from a refugee and migrant background who have experienced torture or been traumatised as a result of persecution, violence, war or unlawful imprisonment prior to arrival in Australia.
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Board of Management

John Oliphant (Chair)

John Oliphant is a Lecturer in Social Work at Flinders University specialising in the areas of trauma and grief. John also has a private practice as a counsellor and trainer. He has a wide range of experience both in the government and non-government sector.  Having worked as a case worker through to executive level John has an excellent understanding of all aspects of social welfare organisations. John has acted as a consultant to both small and large organisations in the sector.

John has had a long association with STTARS, both as a member and in providing various volunteer services to the organisation, such as: in the early years as a member of the professional core group and later assisting the Board and the staff in drafting the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

John has a continuing interest and concern for the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers and is a passionate supporter of STTARS and its work.

Gay Gardner AM (Vice Chair)

Gay Gardner is an experienced lawyer and has worked in the area of Migration Law, for many years until her cessation of practice at the end of 2016. The particular emphasis of Gay's practice was assisting local migrant families to bring refugee relatives, orphan relatives, parents, spouses and sons and daughters to live in Australia.  In 2015/2016, Gay's professional emphasis was to assist those who had suffered domestic violence on arrival in Australia to gain permanent residence in this country. Gay has undertaken her migration work with great passion, and a desire to provide safety and security for persons who had suffered deeply in war torn countries.

Gay has been a member of numerous Boards and Committees including Abbeyfield Society, Wilderness School, Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship, St Ann's College, St Chads Anglican Church, Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital and the Australian Craniofacial Foundation to name just a few.

In 2009 Gay was recognized for her community services when she was awarded an (AM), in the General Division of the order of Australia. Her citation reads: For service to aged persons through the provision of community housing and support services and through the Abbeyfield Society (Australia).

Currently Gay is setting up Australian Life Services which will have as its objective providing Western education for young people from China, Hong Kong and Korea at boarding schools in Australia.

Perla Soberon-Brittle (Treasurer)

Perla Soberon-Brittle is self-employed as a Certified Bookkeeper, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers.

Perla is also political scientist by training, and a survivor of the Argentine dark days of the "dirty war", (A name used by the Argentine Military Government for a period of State Terrorism).  She is a firm believer in the UN Conventions on Human Rights, on the Status of Refugees and the Women Empowerment Principles (WEPs), and believes that to achieve change globally, one must work locally.

Perla has a life-long commitment to help women, of any background to reach their full potential, particularly those who have suffered persecution, humiliation, or torture.  Working as an interpreter and translator at the Migration Museum, together with her personal values of liberty and justice in civil society and her ability to build relationships, she has been able to work towards fulfilling this commitment.

Perla is looking forward to contributing her experience working on various Boards and committees and her knowledge and experience in regard to governance, diversity and finance to STTARS, as the Treasurer.

Ken Bridge (Secretary/Public Officer)

Ken Bridge is a retired academic, with research and teaching experience in the areas of education, health, work and community.

Ken has been an active volunteer in organisations supporting the more vulnerable in the community, most recently as a tutor in a NSW schools program for children of families fleeing conflict in Iraq.  With a long-standing interest in STTARS, he renewed his membership after returning from NSW in 2014 and was elected to the Board in November 2016.

Ken has experience in the management of organisations, both community-based (e.g. as founding chair of the Goodwood Community Bank) and in more formal institutional settings (e.g. as head of a small department at Adelaide University).  He brings this experience to support his contribution to STTARS - with a special interest in strategy and governance.

Janine Harrison

Janine Harrison has been working at Flinders University as a Field Education Coordinator since 2006. She qualified as a social worker in South Africa in 1988 after completing an Honours degree in Social Work at the University of the Witwatersrand ("Wits"), Johannesburg. She achieved awards for most outstanding student and most outstanding thesis. She later completed the degree of Master of Arts in Social Work at the same university, graduating magna cum laude.

Janine has a range of social work practice experience, mainly in the fields of substance abuse, mental health, trauma, child sexual abuse and paediatric oncology and haematology. She has extensive experience in human service management, counselling, therapeutic group work, policy development, advocacy, organisational development, human rights activism (including the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa) and community development. She has also worked as an academic and has significant social work teaching and research supervision experience.

Janine has served on several Boards and committees, including the Standards Generating Body for Social Work, under the auspices of the South African Qualifications Authority.

Janine has maintained a strong interest in anti-oppressive practice throughout her career, particularly with marginalised communities such as asylum seekers and refugees. She has a long-standing interest in the work of STTARS and is herself a survivor of trauma.

Dr Abdul Ghafar Stanikzai

Dr Stanikzai is a medical doctor and human rights advocate and has considerable experience working with people who have suffered from torture.

Dr Stanikzai worked as a doctor in Afghanistan for 10 years, as a Field Medical Officer, General Practitioner and Night Shift doctor in various clinics and hospitals.  During this time he responded to patients who had experienced torture and other human rights violations.  This experience led him to become a Human Rights activist.  He also worked at the Afghanistan independent Human Rights Commission and established the Women & Youth Civil Society Organisation, that supported women who were suffering domestic violence, and the foundation of the Juvenile Correction Centre (to foster the rehabilitation of youth in Afghanistan).

Recently, Dr Stanikzai moved to Australia with his family on a permanent humanitarian visa, and has begun working as a translator, and in projects to assist newly arrived asylum, seekers and refugees.

Dr Stanikzai is keen to use his personal and professional experience to assist the important work of STTARS, responding to those who are suffering from the consequences of torture and trauma.

Carol Irizarry

Carol Irizarry is an Associate Professor at Flinders University in the School of Social & Policy Studies. Carol was previously a member of the STTARS Board and left to take up a demanding administrative role as Head of the Social Work program at Flinders University.  She returned to the STTARS Board In 2015 and was nominated as Secretary, and has now been re-elected and nominated for the position of Vice Chair.  Carol believes that the major social issue facing Australia is related to refugee settlement, and that STTARS is a vital part of contributing to this being a successful process. She is concerned about the quality of life for STTARS' clients as they reconstruct their lives and she feels that STTARS could contribute to research in this area and to public knowledge, discussion and advocacy in relation to refugee settlement.

Carol has North American experience in relation to the settlement of Chilean refugees and welfare services for Puerto Rican and Cuban migrants, and has undertaken research in South Australia in the area of refugee services for unaccompanied humanitarian minors.  Carol has developed and teaches in a Graduate Certificate in Loss, Grief & Trauma. 

Carol brings to STTARS her expertise in service delivery, strategy and research that will assist in developing innovative and contemporary approaches to agency structure and service delivery.

Sandra Gault

Sandra has extensive experience as a social worker and manager in the health, welfare and higher education sectors. Sandra has had a 24 year association with STTARS, firstly as a counsellor and manager then as a clinical consultant and more recently as a Board member. Now working as a private practitioner providing clinical and management consultancy, training and counselling, she has a commitment to the development of STTARS as the lead agency in providing quality torture and trauma services to refugees and asylum seekers in South Australia.

Sandra brings to the Board a breadth and depth of understanding of the organisation and the sector, clinical expertise and a strong commitment to ensuring that STTARS continues to uphold the values of social justice and human rights.

Kaz Eaton 

Kaz is a barrister working in the areas of in employment and industrial, workers compensation, discrimination, criminal, child protection, administrative and human rights law. Kaz is member of the complex criminal law panel of the Legal Services Commission of South Australia and recommended by Doyles as an employment law barrister. She is a member of JusticeNet SA and provides pro-bono legal assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
Kaz was a founding member of the Refugee Advocacy Service of South Australia Inc. and has also served on the managing boards or committees of STTARS (Survivors of Torture and Trauma Assistance and Rehabilitation Service Inc.), Women's Legal Service of South Australia Inc., Working Women's Centre of South Australia Inc., National Women's Justice Coalition, and the National Association of Community Legal Centres Inc.
She returns to the STTARS board after some years living and working in rural and regional South Australia.

Bernadette McGrath 

Bernadette holds a BA in Social Work and Social Policy from the University of South Australia and has over 20 years' experience leading and managing not-for-profit community organisations. Prior to being appointed to her current position as CEO of Overseas Services to Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Bernadette was the Director of STTARS for 12 years. During her tenure at STTARS she served on the Executive of the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) for 3 years. In 2012 she was elected to represent the Pacific Region on the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Survivors (IRCT) and subsequently served 4 years as Treasurer on the IRCT Executive Committee. She brings an understanding of the needs of torture survivors and the provision of rehabilitation services, experience in managing the strategic challenges and risks faced by torture and trauma services, and familiarity with the ethical and political complexities involved in this field of work.

Robyn Smythe

 Robyn is the Director of STTARS.




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