Meet the Team
Story Factory is run by a hard-working team of creatives and literacy experts. 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!
OUR EXECUTIVE TEAM
DR CATHERINE KEENAN AM – EXECUTIVE 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.
BILAL HAFDA – STORY ENGINEER, YOUTH ENGAGEMENT
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.
CRAIG NEW – OPERATIONS 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.
JANE HAN – ADMINISTRATION 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.
RICHARD SHORT – STORYTELLER-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, and in 2014 he completed a Master of Creative Writing. His first book of poetry (written under the pseudonym Rico Craig), Bone Ink, won the 2017 Anne Elder Poetry Award (of the National Literary Awards), and was shortlisted for the 2018 Kenneth Slessor Prize. He has lectured in numerous courses including: Creativity, Youth Culture and The Arts; Integrated Arts and Education. Richard looks after all our Big Projects, dreaming up thrilling new ways for us to bring the joy of creative writing to our students.
MATT RODEN – SENIOR PROGRAMS MANAGER
Matt has been with Story Factory since its earliest days, after working pro-bono with London’s Ministry of Stories. Matt is a ridiculously multi-talented individual and has degrees in education, arts, visual communications, and design. He is also very funny. He programs and runs workshops, supports our Storytellers in delivering workshops, and is our in-house creative consultant, creating many of the beautiful covers for our published student writing.
NIKOLA AMANOVIC – DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY
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.
OUR FUNDRAISING TEAM
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.
RUTH FRIEDLAENDER – GRANTS 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.
OUR COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
AMY GOODHEW-BANKS – COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
Amy has worked in theatre, visual arts, dance, classical and contemporary music, overseas aid and advocacy in the not-for-profit sector. Amy just loves celebrating creativity, individuality and inclusion as well as your personal style (definitely the right person to show your new hat/shoes/bag to). Amy takes care of the Story Factory website and communication channels, including photography and video, design, copywriting, editing and social media.
ELA PINAR – FACTORY FEEDBACK COORDINATOR
Ela started as Story Factory’s first Year of Poetry student when the program began in 2018, publishing two poetry collections. We are beyond proud that Ela now works with Story Factory where she helps run the Factory Feedback program. She’s also been a volunteer at Story Factory since 2019.What a legend! In her spare time, Ela is writing, training at the boxing gym, lost in music and books, and doing anything else that sparks her inner creativity. Being a part of the Story Factory team has helped continue her passion for supporting young people from diverse communities through creative writing.
NATALIE GOODES – PUBLICATIONS MANAGER
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, fuelled 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
OUR VOLUNTEERING TEAM
SASANKI TENNAKOON – VOLUNTEER MANAGER
Sasanki (also known as Sanki) is an arts worker, emerging artist and writer based in the Blue Mountains. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the National Art School, Information Management Graduate Diploma from University of Technology and has worked with Blacktown Arts. Sasanki has experience in arts administration, marketing and supporting arts-based community engagement programs. For Story Factory she takes care of our much-loved volunteers with her trademark warmth and efficiency.
THUY GIANG – VOLUNTEER 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 five 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 marginalised young people.
OUR STORYTELLING TEAM
HELEN COOLICAN – STORYTELLER
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.
CAROL QUAST – STORYTELLER
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.
PRIYANKA BROMHEAD – STORYTELLER
Priyanka is a passionate educator who has lived and worked on Darug country for over ten years teaching in both the public and private sector. She believes in creativity-based teaching and learning. She likes to have fun with English and Humanities so that children aren’t just being informed by textbooks and content, but transformed into conscious citizens who are mobilised into social change.
RUSSELL SMITH – STORYTELLER
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 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.
LAMISA HAQUE – STORYTELLER
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.
REBECCA SMITH – STORYTELLER
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!
NATASHA BONYNGE – 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.
KEVIN NGO – STORYTELLER
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.
Tony first joined Story Factory in 2016 and became a full-time Storyteller in 2018. He was a high school English teacher for nearly twenty 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.
TOMMMIE CLARK – STORYTELLER
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.
JOHN BLAIR – STORYTELLER
John is from the Nucoorilma Clan of the Gamilaroi Nation. He’s been working in the performing arts and Aboriginal cultural education for many years, including as a guide with the Royal National Parks & Wildlife Service, as a presenter and cultural advisor with Sydney Opera House and as a guide for The Rocks Dreaming Aboriginal Heritage Tour. He is a drama teacher and has lectured widely on Aboriginal culture. His favourite rain is light sparkly rain when Grandfather Sun is out.
MICHAEL GONSKI – BOARD CHAIR
Michael is a Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, one of Australia’s leading law firms. He was the Chair of ‘New Gen’, a group of the next generation of philanthropists in Australia. He sits on the Board of Carriageworks and the Prime Minister’s Community and Business Partnership. He previously sat in the Board of Philanthropy Australia.
Garigarra is a Wiradjuri/Bundjulang/Kamilaroi and Gumbayngirr 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 is currently a Graduate in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a small business owner of ‘Waybarra by Garigarra’ creating traditional weaving and contemporary art.
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.
James is a Consultant 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.
Amy is an academic in the Department of Educational Studies at Macquarie University, where she is also undertaking a PhD in education with a focus on Sovereign/Indigenous women in academia. A Gomeroi/Gamilaroi/Kamilaroi woman, 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.
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.
TIM DICK – SECRETARY & CO-FOUNDER
Tim is a criminal lawyer, now based in Wellington, New Zealand. He was formerly a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald, where he worked in a variety of roles, including as opinion editor. As a lawyer, he is admitted in both Australia and New Zealand. After volunteering for a week at 826 Valencia and consulting widely with the community he and Cath Keenan co-founded the Story Factory. He is the incorporated entity’s public officer and is responsible for its administration and legal compliance.
Gail is general counsel and company secretary for the Fairfax Media Group and is responsible for the provision of legal, company secretarial, corporate governance and internal audit services across the Group. She is also a member of the strategy team. Gail is chair of CopyCo Pty Ltd which is a joint venture intellectual property licensing company for Australian newspapers and magazines and up until 2015 she was a director of Company B Limited (Belvoir Theatre Company).
Jonathan is an established entrepreneur having grown and exited one of Australia’s first e-commerce businesses, Fast Flowers. He is now the CEO and founder of Sydney based technology startup up Local Measure. Jonathan was a finalist for BRW Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 and was named as one of the top 20 people to watch in the IT industry by The Australian. Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Commerce with Honours and a Masters of Political Science from University of NSW and a Masters of Commerce from Sydney University.
GRANT LOVETT – TREASURER
Grant is Head of Interest Rates in the Derivative & OTC Markets division of 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.
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.
SAMANTHA ABEYDEERA – BOARD ADVISOR, GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
Samantha is Managing Director of Transport at the NRMA. 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.