Our People

Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services is an incorporated association governed by a voluntary Board of Directors, which is formed of ordinary members and office bearers. Our local Directors come from an array of ethnicities and lived experiences and bring a wide variety of expertise and skills, in areas including community engagement and development, business management, finance, risk, legal, HR and people management, education, communications, and governance.

The Board is driven to ensure strategy is carried out to align with the organisation’s purpose whilst overseeing a framework for how the organisation works with and empowers the multicultural community in the region.

Together they are deeply committed to improving the lives of migrants and refugees settling in thriving Central Victoria.


Jennifer Lay 





Joby Sebastian

Master’s Degree in Social Work, PG Diploma in Social Work, Registered Social Worker


Jennifer grew up in the multicultural hub City of Greater Dandenong with her family who fled war-torn East Timor in the 1980s. She moved to Bendigo in 2018 for work where she is a practising lawyer for a national plaintiff law firm. She is also a casual law academic with La Trobe University, Bendigo campus.

Jennifer holds a genuine interest and passion in assisting and empowering the multicultural community by utilising her acquired legal and governance skills to give back. She joined the board in July 2019 and was elected to chair the board of directors in March 2020.

Joby is a migrant himself, born and brought up in Kerala, India, and educated and employed in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia. 

Joby has  been working with the vulnerable section of the society from diverse cultures for the past nine years and is passionate about helping others and has a strong personal understanding of diversity and cultural values. Joby’s  experience in working in the government sector with vulnerable children and families has shaped his outlook on life and value system.

Joby is part of a growing  Indian community from Kerala in Bendigo and is a member of the Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Regional Advisory Council. Joby lives with his wife and two children in Bendigo and joined the board in July 2020.

Esther Ryan

Diploma Management and Human Resources, Certificate IV Financial Services and Accounting


John Murphy



Esther was born in the Canary Islands and migrated to Perth in 1974 with her family of 12 during the Franco years.  She spent a decade in remote Kimberley region WA before relocating to Bendigo in 2010. Esther has a varied work and volunteer life from Community Services to corporate financial industries, and currently works as an administrator bookkeeper for a local business. 

Esther is driven by lived experiences and celebrating diversity in our community, and has been on the LCMS board since 2017. She currently holds the position of Treasurer.

John was born in Moonee Ponds to an Australian father and Australian-born Italian mother. He grew up in regional Victoria and western Melbourne and he lived and worked in Canberra and Northern NSW before moving to Bendigo in 1995 with his wife and children. 

John had a 40 year career in the Armed Forces and in Commonwealth Public Service that encompassed roles in personnel management, organisational design, resource modelling and management, policy development, indigenous and migrant services, community development and the delivery of community services. He was a Director of Haven Home Safe housing and homelessness service for 16 years, including a period as Chair, and has been Chair of CatholicCare Sandhurst since 2017. He joined the Board of Loddon Campaspe Community Services in June 2019. 

John has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Melbourne and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Justin See

BA, BS, MA, PhD (cand.)

Ivan Rwakijuma


Justin, originally from the Philippines, moved to Bendigo in 2017 when he was awarded a full scholarship to pursue a PhD in Community Planning and Development at La Trobe University. His research interests include climate change vulnerability, adaptation, and climate justice. He has recently published his research in the leading climate change journal ‘Global Environmental Change’, and has presented in conferences in China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Canada, Philippines, and Australia. He is also an intercultural ambassador for the City of Greater Bendigo, and a member of the Committee of Management at Phoenix FM.

 Justin joined the board of LCMS in August 2020. 

Ivan is a Community Partnerships Project Officer at the City of Greater Bendigo and has previously worked with the City as a Sustainability Planner. Holding a BA and MA in Economic Policy Planning, Ivan is passionate about economic development. community development, sustainable development, and building capacity of systems and processes in strategic planning, project planning, evaluation, and budgeting. 

Ivan has experienced various cultures across the globe through professional training courses, seminars and workshops in more than 10 countries in Asia, USA, Europe and Africa in macroeconomic management, agricultural finance, policy formulation, results-based monitoring and evaluation, performance management and value-based leadership. Ivan is a Monitoring and Evaluation Fellow of the MakSPH-CDC HIV/AIDS Fellowship Program, a collaboration between the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Makerere University School of Public Health.

Ivan served as Non-Executive Director and Treasurer to the Board of LCMS in January to June 2018 and returned to the Board in August 2020.

Merrilyn Gaulke

Graduate Certificate of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)

Thaera O’Brien


Merrilyn was born in Horsham, Victoria, but also lived in other parts of the state before moving to Melbourne where she undertook her teaching degree. 

In 2008, Merrilyn was one of the founding teachers of the Mildura English Language Centre (MELC) where she developed a passion and advocacy around supporting newly arrived refugee and migrant students and families.

2017 saw Merrilyn relocate to Bendigo as an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher where, with the help of Interpreters, she assists new arrival students and families navigate the Australian schooling system and community services, so they can be active participants in both the school and wider community.  

Merrilyn joined the Board in August 2020.

Thaera grew up in South East Asia. She completed her PhD in media studies from New Zealand. Her doctoral thesis examines the media representation of women who oppose state religious and social norms. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of South Australia and a Master’s degree from the University of Leicester. Thaera has a career of over 20 years in the higher education industry as a lecturer and senior management roles. She has won several awards in recognition of her work. 

Thaera’s passion is empowering multicultural community particularly on protecting women and girls from violence and gender inequality.  She was a member of several feminist organisations and actively delivered public education programmes on gender issues to secondary school students. 

In 2019, she migrated to Bendigo. She is currently writing a book on violence against women of colour. She joined the Board in August 2020.

The board can be contacted via the Chair at: chair@lcms.org.au


Sonia Di Mezza

Chief Executive Officer

LLB; BA (majors: French, Spanish and Italian); M.Comm (major: accounting); M.Int.Law (majors: human rights law); Post Graduate Diploma of Child Rights Law; Diploma of Leadership and Management; Graduate Certificate of Legal Practice; Graduate Certificate of Continuing Legal Practice; Solicitor of the High Court of Australia.

Sonia is the daughter of Italian migrants, who migrated to Australia in the 1950s.

She is a human rights lawyer and solicitor and has set up a legal aid project in the camps of Khartoum, Sudan; set up a human rights project in Pakistan for Afghan widowed refugee women and their children; worked as a Resettlement Consultant for UNHCR in Lebanon; worked for a child labour rights NGO in India for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Kailash Satyarthi; and as a refugee lawyer in Australia.

Her most recent roles include Deputy CEO of a disability advocacy NGO in the ACT; CEO of a domestic violence NGO in the ACT; and Deputy Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council of Multicultural Affairs. Sonia is the co-author of a book relating to the memoir of an Indian woman who contracted HIV in an arranged marriage. ​


Multicultural Services currently employs 15 part-time staff and has over 30 volunteers. Staff are highly experienced and speak a number of community languages, including Karen, Dinka, Dari, Farsi, Hazaraghi, Hindi, Urdu, Malayalam, Spanish, Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia, Hakka, Hokkien, Bahasa Indonesian, French, Italian and Arabic.

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Our People

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Multicultural Services has recently developed a draft Strategic Plan for 2018-2020….