Our Executive Team
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Dr Catherine Keenan AMExecutive Director

Cath was formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, working as an arts writer and as literary editor. Prior to that, she completed her doctorate in English Literature at Oxford University.

She and Tim Dick co-founded the Story Factory in 2012 and Cath has been our much-loved executive director ever since.

In 2016 she was recognised for her work in community, connection and literacy when she was selected as Australian of the Year Local Hero.

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Richard ShortStoryteller-In-Chief

Prior to joining the Story Factory, Richard taught at secondary schools (English and English as a Second Language) in the Western Suburbs of Sydney.

He has completed a Master of Teaching, and in 2014 completed a Master of Creative Writing at The University of Sydney.

His poetry and prose have been published widely, both locally and internationally. Individual poems have been awarded prizes or shortlisted for the Montreal Poetry Prize, Val Vallis Prize, Newcastle Poetry Prize, Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize and University of Canberra Poetry Prize.

His first book of poetry (written under the pseudonym Rico Craig), Bone Ink, won the 2017 Anne Elder Poetry Award, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Kenneth Slessor Prize (NSW Premier’s Prize); his second collection Our Tongues Are Songs was published in 2021 by Recent Work Press.

In addition, he has lectured in numerous tertiary courses including: Creativity, Youth Culture and The Arts; Integrated Arts and Education; and regularly leads poetry workshops for adults. He is currently a judge for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Richard looks after all our Big Projects, dreaming up thrilling new ways for us to bring the joy of creative writing to our students.

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Bilal HafdaStory Engineer

Bilal is a high school English teacher with a passion for spoken-word poetry and is known for generating 24/7 positive vibes.

Alongside running poetry and creative writing workshops in schools, he was involved in the RESPECT program, a series of Creative Arts Domestic Violence workshops with upper-primary students in Western Sydney.

He is a member of the Bankstown Poetry Slam and is constantly looking to facilitate and nurture the voice of the participants of the slams and audiences who attend them. He is our Youth Engagement Officer so if you’re a student emailing us or messaging us online, Bilal is the guy on the other end of the zoom call/message/email.

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Craig NewOperations Manager

Craig is our much-loved Operations Manager, across every detail of our workshop delivery and the day-to-day running of Story Factory.

The speed of his emailing once broke the sound barrier. He is in the middle of a teaching degree, loves chocolate (a lot) and The Muppets, and is known for walking and reading at the same time.

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Nikola AmanovicDirector, Community (on leave)

Nikola has experience and education in performing arts, community development and business. After realising that finance is not his thing, Nikola completed a Graduate Diploma in Dramatic Art (Directing) at NIDA, and worked in theatre for a few years.

In 2011, his search for meaning took him to the war-torn Province of Kosovo, where he worked with a local development organisation. He spent the next few years leading social change initiatives across Western Sydney, before joining Story Factory.

Nikola loves being able to combine his love for storytelling and work with diverse communities and we love having him too. As anyone who has worked with Nikola can attest – his smile is infectious.

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Raylene HassallAboriginal Engagement Manager

Raylene is a proud descendent of the Yiman (pronounced im-man) Clan in Central Queensland and has experience in child protection, community development, adult education and cultural consultancy.

Raylene was awarded a scholarship at her previous workplace Barnardos to undertake her Degree in Social Work at the National Indigenous Knowledges Education Research Innovation (NIKERI) Institute, Deakin University. She is famously known for her big cheeky smile and having a good yarn.

Her happy place is sharing her culture and learning about other people’s cultural backgrounds.

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Lachlan Snow Development Manager

When young Lachlan realised that he could make people laugh with creative writing, it changed the course of his schooling.

Lachlan trained as an opera singer and conductor as well as a secondary French and music teacher in Brisbane. After several years as QLD State Manager for Musica Viva, he moved to Sydney to work as their full-time fundraiser.

He’s at Story Factory because, with your help, he wants to give as many children the chance to experience writing as more joyous than utilitarian, which as he knows from his own experience, can shape the course of a life.

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Angelina Grien Communications Manager

Angelina first joined the Story Factory as a volunteer in 2016 and after a couple years hiatus was very excited to return.

Angie has brought to the role previous experience in communications, administration and events and has held a range of roles in the not-for-profit arts, community and health sectors. She is passionate about environmental and social justice issues and has a deep interest in the role that arts and culture plays in shaping the world we live in. Angelina holds a Masters of International Relations from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Sociology.

When she isn’t at the Story Factory, Angelina can be found hiking, reading fiction and searching for the perfect gluten-free ramen.

Our Storytelling Team
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Natasha BonyngeSenior Storyteller

Natasha does more than wrangle commas. With more than 10 years of teaching experience in some of Sydney’s most vulnerable communities, she is dedicated to nurturing the unique talents and igniting the spark creativity of each and every student she meets.

When she isn’t working with young people, she’s probably singing show tunes, trying her luck at pinterest DIY or taking care of her two beautiful children.

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Tony BrittenSenior Storyteller

Tony first joined Story Factory in 2016 and became a full-time Storyteller in 2018. He was a high school English teacher for nearly 20 years and has worked as an education consultant and in arts education.

Tony continues to present to teachers and students at state, national and international conferences. He can incorporate a quote from Mean Girls into any workshop and loves that his job allows him to play with words and ideas with kids of all ages.

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Rebecca Smith Senior Storyteller (Maternity Leave)

Rebecca worked as a high school English and Drama teacher before joining the Story Factory in early 2018. From a young age she has always held a passion for reading, writing and the creative arts.

She is currently completing a Master of Creative Writing at Macquarie University, which she hopes will lead her to publishing work for the first time.

She is also a current member of her local musical society where she participates in performances and stage managing, as well as being an expert in martial arts!

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Kevin NgoDigital Storyteller & Story Mechanic, Youth Engagement

Kevin is an arts worker based in Western Sydney. He has performed for organisations and events including the Biennale of Sydney, Bankstown Poetry Slam and the Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Alongside the Story Factory he is also involved with the RESPECT Program, which focuses on educating boys about the nature of Domestic Violence through music. Kevin is currently learning to regain his mother tongue of Vietnamese.

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Tommie ClarkStoryteller: Literacy and Learning (Maternity Leave)

Tommie is a trained Speech and Language Pathologist and has worked in education for the past six years. She recognises the importance of strong literacy skills in students to build their confidence to share their stories.

Tommie works closely with staff and students in schools to develop reading and writing programs that enhance access to the curriculum. She started at Story Factory as a volunteer, followed it up with a consulting role and, finally, wrangled her way into a Storyteller position early in 2019.

Tommie loves reading fiction, is in multiple book clubs and is a novice, but soon to be spectacular, cross-worder. She enthusiastically partakes in the Good Weekend Quiz every Saturday morning but is yet to pass.

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Helen CoolicanStoryteller

Helen has over 20 years’ experience as a teacher, and is passionate about putting creativity back at the heart of education. She is a veritable dynamo, has a wonderful warm manner with kids and grown ups, and is a fantastic organiser.

Helen plays a key role in maintaining the Story Factory’s connections with the local community and led the Home Project to success in 2014.

Helen is known far and wide for her mastery of the colour red and can often be spotted sporting a fabulous red ensemble.

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Carol QuastStoryteller

Carol was an active volunteer at Story Factory for years before becoming a storyteller. She is passionate about making creative writing fun and enjoyable.

Carol is a trained teacher and has taught in primary and secondary schools. Currently she mentors trainee teachers for UTS as a tertiary supervisor.

Before returning to her home in Redfern in 2011, Carol was a lecturer for post graduate trainee teachers at two London universities and was Chair of Governors at a large comprehensive boys school in London’s South East.

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Russell SmithStoryteller

Russ is a proud descendant of the Ngarrindjeri people. He is a graduate of NIDA and has been performing stories for the last 20 years.

Along with his performing career Russ has a Masters in Teaching from UWS and has been teaching children and adults for many years.

Russ has returned to the Story Factory after a few years at NIDA as the National Program Manager for children and youth.

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Lamisa HaqueStoryteller

Lamisa is a fresh 2021 graduate, but has been working as a Storyteller since 2019. She considers teaching creative writing as a means to build confidence in students her absolute dream job.

Alongside Story Factory, Lamisa writes for and runs The Pvblication, a platform that writes to decolonise spaces and experiences. She hopes to continue amplifying voices that go unheard, stories left untold and concepts that are left unexplored.

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Vanessa AndresStoryteller

Vanessa is a primary-trained teacher who is passionate about fostering creativity and creating safe spaces for children to express themselves.

Born and raised on Dharug land, she has taught across Western Sydney, regional NSW and overseas.

When she is not teaching you can catch her supporting the local music community on her podcast.

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Kirsty McGowanStoryteller

Kirsty is an experienced primary school teacher with a background in youth work and community services. She is a strong believer in the empowering nature of education and creativity. She is delighted that she gets to spend her days supporting students to find their voices and express themselves.


Kirsty is an avid reader and TV watcher. In her free time she enjoys writing, acting, and crocheting amigurumi.

Our Staff
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Melissa JimenezVolunteer Manager

Melissa comes from a background in disability support and running volunteer programs for university students.

She’s passionate about social justice, mental health and working with young people, and is always looking for big and small ways to brighten the lives of others.

Prior to finding her path in the community sector, Melissa worked as a creative copywriter, so a love of writing has always been a constant in her life. When she’s not chatting with volunteers, you can find Melissa reading, learning new tricks on her roller skates or binge-watching the latest Netflix series.

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Thuy GiangVolunteer Manager

Thuy grew up in Cabramatta and always dreamed of living and working in faraway places. Little did she know that even though she loved adventures abroad, her heart was always in Western Sydney.

Thuy has worked with young people in Western Sydney for seven years, most recently managing the mentoring and driving programs at Youth Off the Streets. Thuy loves finding ways to bring together people and resources to empower and engage young people.

She is incredibly passionate about volunteering, having seen the difference that nurturing and positive adult relationships can have on  young people.

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Ruth FriedlaenderGrants Manager

Ruth has a background in not-for-profit fundraising and grant writing in Australia and The Netherlands and has experience working with a range of diverse communities.

She is a lover of all things related to books, reading and writing and genuinely believes in the power of storytelling. When her head is not in a book, she can be found attending live music gigs, watching rugby or off on adventures with friends.

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Natalie Goodes Publications Manager (Maternity Leave)

Nat has worked in production and communications in both Sydney and New York. She thrives on sharing the stories of amazing people and where better to do that, than Story Factory!

Nat is the wizard who pulls together our student writing into beautiful publications, fueled by her passion for contributing to the empowerment of Australia’s young people.

With her extensive skills and experience, she looks forward to making a difference and celebrating the amazing creativity of our students.

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Jane HanAdministration Officer

Jane used to moonlight in digital media and research before finding her way to the Story Factory, first as a volunteer and now as an admin officer – making sure that all the bits and pieces behind the scenes are running smoothly.

We’d be lost without her. When she’s not running around after her little girl she likes to dabble in yoga and food adventures.

Our Board
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Gemma SalteriBoard Chair

Gemma is the Executive Director of CAGES Foundation; a Private Ancillary Fund that supports organisations working to ensure every Indigenous child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

She is a director of The Funding Network, an advisor for the Roslyn and Carlo Salteri Foundation and a founding member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation of Giving program.

Gemma is also a graduate of the Australian Companies Institute of Directors and the Chief Executive Women’s Leadership program. In 2016 Gemma was awarded Philanthropy Australia’s Emerging Philanthropist Award.

Prior to her work in philanthropy Gemma worked in marketing and product development for consumer product businesses such as Avon Products, The Body Shop International and held various senior management positions at Blackmores Australia including most recently heading up their product innovation team for Asian markets.

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Ali GreenDeputy Chair

Social entrepreneur, Ali Green, is CEO and co-founder of leading independent Australian book publisher, Pantera Press. Green is 2020 and 2019 Sydney Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Arts & Culture) and was named one of Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women by the Australian Financial Review for exemplifying, through Pantera Press, the trend towards integrating business and social good. Ali is a Harvard Business School Alumna and sits on a number of industry committees and boards including Writing NSW and the Pantera Press Foundation. Ali was a founding member of Philanthropy Australia’s New Generation program.

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Dr Cath Keenan AMExecutive Director and Co-Founder

Cath was formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, working as an arts writer and as literary editor. Prior to that, she completed her doctorate in English Literature at Oxford University.

She and Tim Dick co-founded the Story Factory in 2012 and Cath has been our much-loved executive director ever since.

In 2016 she was recognised for her work in community, connection and literacy when she was selected as Australian of the Year Local Hero.

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Katie Newton-JohnSecretary

Katie is General Counsel and Company Secretary at Levande. Katie was formerly the Group Company Secretary and Corporate Counsel at Allianz Australia and General Counsel and Company Secretary at Western Sydney Airport. She is a lawyer and governance professional and has worked for a broad range of ASX listed, government, public and not-for-profit companies in both Sydney and London.

Katie was previously a graphic designer for television and is passionate about the arts and creativity.

She has sat on the Boards of several not-for-profit and educational entities, including the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation and Variety the Children’s Charity.
Katie studied and  trained as a lawyer in London with Ashurst. She also holds a post graduate qualification in corporate governance from the Governance Institute of Australia.

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Benjamin Law

Ben is a journalist, columnist, TV screenwriter and author of two books – The Family Law (2010) and Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) – both of which have been nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards.

The Family Law is now a major SBS TV series, translated into a number of languages.

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Garigarra Mundine

Garigarra is a Wiradjuri, Bundjalung, Kamilaroi and Yuin woman from Dubbo, NSW. Garigarra began as an intern at the Story Factory in 2013 on the Home Project, helping to create relationships with local schools, businesses, community organisations, politicians and the police, and facilitating workshops for children and adults.

She graduated with a Bachelor of International Relations from the Australian National University in 2018. She was one of the ACT representatives for the 2017 National Indigenous Youth Parliament, represented the ANU at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education in Toronto, Canada 2017, and represented the Wiradjuri nation at the Spirit of the Planet, international Indigenous festival in Bergamo, Italy 2016.

Since 2015 Garigarra has also worked part-time in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in international policy, cultural projects, cultural policy and strategic policy within Indigenous Affairs.

She also worked on Australia’s first ever Regional Deal for the Barkly region in the Northern Territory with the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, leading the youth components of the deal, including amplifying youth voices in the region throughout the development and implementation stages of the deal. Garigarra was formally a Graduate in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Garigarra is an advisor to Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians and a small business owner of ‘Waybarra by Garigarra’ creating traditional weaving and contemporary art.

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James Argent

James is a Principal at the Boston Consulting Group. At BCG, his experience includes working with a range of public and private sector and not-for-profit clients, and he actively supports a range of pro bono initiatives.

Prior to joining BCG, James worked as a paralegal at Herbert Smith Freehills and as a research assistant at the University of Sydney Law School.

James holds a Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honours) and Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) from the University of Sydney.

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Grant LovettTreasurer

Grant is General Manager, Government & Regulatory Affairs, ASX Limited. He was Chief of Staff to Hon Joe Hockey (Shadow Treasurer and Commonwealth Treasurer) from 2012 – 2015.

Prior to that, Grant had more than 20 years financial markets experience – both in Australia and internationally – culminating as the Head of Fixed Income at UBS Australia. Grant has a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) from the University of New South Wales and a Master of Applied Finance from Macquarie University and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

He is also a Director of the Black Dog Institute and an avid reader of fiction.

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Dr Amy Thunig

Amy is an academic in the field of education, and author of ‘Tell Me Again: a memoir’. Amy is a proud Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi person. Amy began her journey into formal education as a Primary School teacher, attaining a Masters Degree in Teaching before moving into her academic role.

In 2019 Amy was invited to give her TEDx talk ‘Disruption is not a dirty word’ and in 2020 signed her first publication deal for her forthcoming book ‘Tell Me Again’ with University of Queensland Press (UQP).

A freelance media writer and panellist, Amy writes for publications such as Buzzfeed, Sydney Book Review, IndigenousX, The Guardian, Junkee, Women’s Agenda.

Amy is also the founder and host of the podcast ‘Blacademia: yarns with First Nations/Indigenous academics’ and regularly appears on programs such as ABC’s The Drum to discuss education, politics, and Indigenous-specific matters.

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Nick Carney

Nick is a Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills specialising in infrastructure and government services. He has deep experience advising government on complex procurements, including in relation to social and affordable housing, health services and transport infrastructure.

He recently retired from the University of New South Wales Council after 11 years. He sat on a number of committees including the Risk Committee (as chair), the Fundraising Campaign Cabinet and the 2025 Strategy Committee.

In 2012 Nick was awarded a National Volunteer Award (Education category) for the electorate of Sydney for establishing a scholarship and mentoring program for disadvantaged young people between Herbert Smith Freehills and the Come-In Youth Resource Centre in Paddington.

This program continues to run and has had over 100 young people participate.

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Murat Dizdar

Murat Dizdar, Deputy Secretary School Performance, leads the public education system of over 2,200 NSW Department of Education schools, and oversees the provision of a quality public education for over 800,000 students. Murat was awarded the Australia Day Public Service Medal in 2016 for leadership service in public education.

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David Hua

David Hua is the Director of Audio and Language Content at SBS.

David Hua has over 20 years experience in the media industry. He has held a number of senior executive roles at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and has been responsible for diverse portfolios across content, marketing, commercial, radio, and digital. Most recently, he led the ABC’s international services including ABC Radio Australia, ABC Australia (TV), and digital services that connect audiences around the world with Australian stories.

David did most of his tertiary education at the University of Technology, Sydney where he received his Honours and Masters degrees in media communications.

Born overseas, David now lives in Sydney and speaks Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, and English.

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Samantha AbeydeeraBoard Advisor, Government Relations

Sam is Executive Director of Strategic Operations at Transport for NSW, where she leads customer-centric strategy and operational improvements for the whole mass transport network.

She was previously a Director at Sydney Trains and was recognised as one of the Top 50 Women in Government in 2018 for service delivery to more than 1 million daily customers.

Samantha is an avid reader of fiction and started as a weekend tutor at the Redfern Story Factory in 2016. She holds a double degree in Commerce and Law from Macquarie University.

We’re all motivated to bring the transformative power of writing to kids – building confidence, literacy and helping young people find their voice. Meet the team below!