Our facilitators

Our workshops are run by highly experienced facilitators with expertise in different areas of public and community services.

Gary Dawson, OAM

Gary is a senior facilitator with more than 30 years’ experience as a caseworker, investigator and manager in the community and disability services and education sectors. Gary worked at the NSW Ombudsman for 16 years in investigation, community services and complaint-handling management roles. Gary now specialises in the design and delivery of complaint-handling and investigations curriculum. In 2021, he received an Order of Australia Medal for services to ethnic and cultural communities.

Facilitation expertise: Complaint handling, investigations and administrative law

Don Sword

Don is a complaint-handling specialist and advocate for people experiencing homelessness in Sydney. He teaches law and ethics at the Sydney Institute of TAFE. Among his many appointments, Don is a member of the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Guardianship Division), the NSW State Parole Authority, and the Review Committee of the NSW Legal Aid Commission. This diverse experience has given him an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of working in the NSW public and community sectors.

Facilitation expertise: Complaint handling

Jennifer Leslie

Jennifer brings a background in the community services sector to her work with the NSW Ombudsman. An expert coach and facilitator, she has particular expertise in the disability services space with a focus on the rollout of the NDIS. Jennifer has more than 40 years’ experience leading, managing and facilitating change and growth among individuals and teams.

Facilitation expertise: Complaint handling

Paddy Coombes

Paddy is a highly experienced facilitator. She brings specialist experience in mental health, child protection, NSW Health and the community justice and corrections settings to her work as a facilitator. Having worked in a range of social work, psychology, management and adult education roles, she has developed high-level conflict management and communication expertise that directly inform her facilitation approach.

Facilitation expertise: Complaint handling

Laurel Russ, PSM

Laurel is a proud Ngarinyin woman from the Kimberley and a recipient of the 2019 Public Service Medal (PSM). A former solicitor with the Legal Aid Commission, she joined the NSW Ombudsman in 1997. Laurel played a key role in establishing the agency’s Aboriginal Complaints Unit, which she went on to manage for 20 years. She is an expert in access and equity issues with particular expertise in complaint handling for Aboriginal peoples and communities.

Facilitation expertise: Access and equity

Sandra Duke

Sandra is a public interest disclosures (PID) specialist with more than 10 years’ experience as a facilitator and educator for the NSW Ombudsman. She was instrumental in establishing the PID Unit within the Ombudsman’s office and developing the Ombudsman’s PID e-learning modules and in-person training packages. Sandra has delivered PID training to state and local public authorities across NSW.

Facilitation expertise: Public interest disclosures