Meet the Team

Elena Tselepi
NDIS Principal Consultant


Penny Stivactas


Emanuel Gini
Service Manager


Julie Bonnarens


Marie Okwara


Emma Atkinson


Suzannah McGarrity


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The Ability Connect team share a rare combination of expertise and passion for the work they do. Select any of the profiles below to get to know what drives us as individuals and why we are the best team to support your unique needs.

Elena Tselepi | NDIS Principal Consultant

I have more than 17 years’ experience, working in the disability space, with specialisation in injury and disability management. My career took an interesting turn when one day I found myself researching support options to assist a close family member who had been diagnosed with autism. I was shocked to discover how limited the access to support information is to most of the public, but also how lacking the service delivery was and how frustrating the process could be from a client’s perspective.

I vowed then and there to change this for the better and to create a support coordination service second to none, so in that moment, Ability Connect was born. As well as being the NDIS Principal Consultant and taking care of the responsibilities that come with running the company, I am very hands-on and involved with supporting clients and the team.

I am inspired by our team and their commitment to our clients, which ultimately leads to our clients reaching their highest potential and living fulfilled, beautiful lives. Hearing their stories of victory and determination tells me we are doing a great job. I am inspired by excellence, and I have been blessed with an experienced team who pursue the highest industry standards and are so well versed at their professions. I feel rewarded when we restore someone's dignity with proper housing or their self-worth with assisted independent living and when we empower participants and their families with the resources, knowledge, and support that they need to prosper in their unique circumstances.
There have been many memorable moments in my career, however, those memories that stay with me are the ones where we get results and breakthroughs for clients who have been in an unfair situation and where they have been let down by people or organisations they trusted to assist them during their darkest moments, this breaks my heart, but there is no challenge to big (or small) for the Ability Connect Team. Other highlights have been the awards and accolades we have received and while we are grateful to have been recognised in our field of work the awards only serve to acknowledge how much we love what we do.
Everyone should have access to do the things they love. I love spending time in nature and more specifically I love horse riding. There is something so healing about reconnecting with nature. My vision is an inclusive society providing access across the board from sport and recreation activities, to career, business, education, lifestyle and leisure activities and the team at Ability Connect echo that vision. We work hard at creating solutions for our clients to create their dream lifestyle, harness the available support and build capacity for participants to achieve their personal goals.

Penny Stivactas | Support Coordinator Administrator

I help Ability Connect clients with Support Coordination services as well as assisting with administrative tasks, such as setting up new and existing client profiles, answering phone calls, tending to inquiries, and approving new referrals for Support Coordination services. The moment I started working at Ability Connect I felt so supported by Elena, our founder, and the team, who have a wealth of knowledge and they make it a priority to provide all new team members with the mentorship and resources required to do a great job. Ability Connect allows me to grow and learn new things daily, in order to offer participants, the best support.
Prior to working for Ability Connect I was a stay-at-home mum for 10 years looking after my 4 children. My son was diagnosed with a speech delay and dyspraxia at 3 years of age. We spent many years doing therapies and when my youngest children started kindergarten, I decided I wanted to return to work. I had seen the positive impact and the opportunities that therapies and the NDIS had provided for my son and for my family and I decided to move into the disability sector. I have a strong administrative background in the banking industry, and I was fortunate to land a role with Ability Connect, which now combines my passion for helping people with disability and my keen administrative skills into one position. I feel rewarded when I can see the positive change and difference, that I can make to someone’s life. At the end of the day, I feel most rewarded when I have been able to help our clients solve a problem or provide some assistance to the team or participants. However big or small the task, I love knowing that I have made a positive contribution to someone’s life. Seeing a meaningful change and measuring the impact on a participant’s life once they finally have the services and supports, they deserve in place, is a gratifying experience, and it inspires me to know that I have made someone’s life a little easier.
My weeks are filled with amazing stories of victory for our clients. One that comes to mind is a participant who had been advised by his previous support coordinator at a different organisation, that he was not able to get a wheelchair funded by the NDIA. As a result, he could not go out and spent most of his time at home alone without any support, besides his family. We met with the client and provided him with the support the NDIA could provide. He now has two wheelchairs, one manual, and one electric, and has been connected to support workers who go to his home to cook meals for him and take him out into the community. He also engages in regular physiotherapy and exercise physiotherapy sessions. His life has completely changed, to the extent that he even went on a holiday with his family.
I want every client to have access to resources and support that will help them find the balance between getting through life’s challenges and having the opportunity to rest and enjoy life's precious moments because everyone deserves to be happy and content in life. The most effective way to achieve these goals when faced with disability challenges is within the caring circle of support and expertise found within our team. Ability Connect assists families and individuals to achieve a healthy mindset and to find a balance between being constantly on the go and still taking time to enjoy the important things in life like connecting with family and friends or having the freedom to go to the beach on a sunny day. The team at Ability connect make every effort to ensure that people from all walks of life have this freedom of choice and the resources to achieve their dreams and goals.

Emanuel Gini | Service Manager

My role at Ability Connect is to assist staff in being able to provide and maintain the highest possible level of service for the participants we work with. Another part of my role is to upskill the team on current processes internally and externally as well as improve current processes to ensure our team is ready and able to assist the participants we work with as efficiently as possible. The people who work here at Ability Connect are passionate caring people who always go above and beyond for their participants. I felt at home right away during my interview as I could see the team were like-minded individuals. We all work together to support each other to assist in obtaining positive outcomes for the participants we work with. I have always naturally been a person who wants to help people, I enjoy the process of empowering individuals to work towards their goals. It is an amazing feeling when you can see a person realise their own potential and the joy it brings them when they look back on what they have achieved.
I love a good challenge, especially those challenges that seem daunting and hard to overcome. It feels great to be there to help my team and our clients whatever the situation might be, and it inspires me to see the breakthroughs we get when we work together to find solutions for clients. I enjoy using my expertise to assist both the team and our clients achieve their goals. It inspires me just coming to work every day, connecting with our team, and finding out how I can support them for the day, and of course, it inspires me when I work directly with participants knowing that we are able to positively affect their lives. Transitioning to a service manager role with Ability Connect was a proud moment for me, I absolutely believe in this team, everything we represent, and the difference we make in people's daily lives. I am honoured to be a part of bringing the “Ability Connect way” to the disability community and our clients who are the inspiration for the work we do.
I mainly work with complex cases and have had to work through urgent and challenging situations on many occasions. One of my most memorable career moments is when I worked with an individual to assist them in transitioning to a supported accommodation option. When I started working with this person it was their first NDIS plan and they had limited funding, along with limited access to the community due to their situation. I will always remember the moment when this client heard they had been approved for their accommodation option and how grateful they are to now be supported and to live as independently as possible.
Everyone deserves to prosper in life and although it is not always possible to prosper in all areas, for some individuals, this could be as simple as obtaining access to required supports for both physical and mental health needs. I like to be an active person, and I enjoy spending time with my family and friends playing soccer, camping, Water Skiing, Golf and playing games over the internet, with the amazing support we access for our clients at Ability Connect, why should any of these things be withheld from someone's life if there is the slightest chance, we can make it happen for them and if it is within their scope of goals. My greatest wish is to be able to assist clients to achieve their dreams, no matter how big or small their challenges may seem to the outside world, our team at Ability Connect works hard to create an inclusive society for our clients, so that they can live happy fulfilled lives. I would like as many people as possible to find Ability Connect so that our team can do what we do best and that is to assist people in achieving their highest potential - it is the “Ability Connect Way”.

Julie Bonnarens | Support Coordinator

I help clients achieve a lifestyle that is unique to them, providing our clients with greater opportunities and enabling them for a positive future. My area of specialisation is Specialised Disability Accommodation (SDA), Supported Independent Living (SIL), and assistive technology. I love the passion we have for our clients, how we go the extra mile to assist clients with the best possible outcome. I love our team environment and our Integrity.
I am here to make a difference in the lives of people and families living with a disability and to empower them with the resources to flourish in life, despite their challenges. I personally understand how difficult it is for people living with a disability to fit into a world that does not automatically cater to their needs. I feel inspired when a client says that the home or service that they have been provided has changed their life for the better. It is so rewarding to know that a client is thriving and that the world is fitting in around them for a change. Every time a client receives their new wheelchair or their SDA; seeing their dignity restored gives me a huge sense of satisfaction because the injustice of someone not having access to lifes' basic human needs is unacceptable.My biggest career highlight was receiving “Outstanding Customer Service of the Year 2020” and completing a post-grad in Disability services at the tender age of 50 years old!
A client who lived alone with a profound disability had given up on life after battling through daily challenges on their own, day after day with outdated equipment and poor services.  When I met this client, he just wanted to give up and no longer want to live. With care and encouragement, we supported the client and found Specialised Disability Accommodation and I am happy to say that today he is thriving for the first time in his life. He has made new friends and now has access to high-quality services. The client told me that I had pulled him out of a dark hole that he thought would never end, I will remember that forever.
To me, wellbeing means thriving in your environment and knowing that you are intrinsically valuable, sometimes that means being able to spend time with your family, enjoying inspirational reading, doing art, pot plant gardening, and playing board games. These are simple joys, and everyone should have access to lifes' most essential things. You will discover that the team at Ability Connect will empower you to discover what feeds your soul and they will take the time to find solutions so that you have access to not only the essential things like SDA, SIL, and assistive technology but also the things that fuel your passion for life and give you joy. The Ability Connect team has a love for our work, a wealth of industry knowledge, and is deeply committed to our clients through compassion and innovation. We think outside of the box, provide quality outcomes and we are proud of what we do.

Marie Okwara | Support Coordinator

I empower NDIS participants with the expertise to coordinate their NDIS plans, so that they can negotiate appropriate support and services, and connect with community support and mainstream services. I use local knowledge and sector expertise to increase opportunities for people with disability challenges to be connected in local communities. I help liaise with and report to NDIA, as required in relation to NDIS participants and their plans. Building NDIS participant and family capacity to understand and navigate service systems, allows people to be connected in local communities. I regularly monitor expenditure and support participants to remain informed as to their rate of expenditure and the potential effects. Another of my roles is to ensure that support responses focus on participant goals and objectives to prioritise client needs.
Having worked in the aged care sector as a nurse for about five years where I provided direct care to elderly residents, my person-centric approach had a notable positive impact on the progress and recovery of care recipients. It is often the little things like seeing the mood change for the better when you show empathy and doing a job diligently, that inspires me. After completing a master’s degree in health science, I decided to venture into the disability sector to put the knowledge I had gained into practice by working with people from diverse backgrounds and to impact their lives positively. This led me to work with Ability Connect who provide Support Coordination services to NDIS participants at a superior standard. People who are born with a disability or acquire a disability are stereotyped as the marginalized population. I work towards changing that perception by making them feel inclusive in their community, helping them pursue their dreams through empowerment, and maximizing opportunities to live as equal citizens. Other than our expertise and personal commitment, our success as support coordinators, and the breakthroughs we get for our clients is only possible through the ongoing support and training provided by Ability Connect. I feel most rewarded when my clients achieve their goals and aspirations and seeing our clients find that joy.
I took over the support coordination of a client that lived in appalling and precarious conditions, where the client was living in an infested apartment and did not have the basic household appliances like a fridge. Through a formulated plan, by coordinating with all stakeholders, we successfully changed the client’s living environment and standard of living, for which they showed so much gratitude. Being able to restore someone’s self-worth and hope when every shred of human dignity has been stripped away is the most rewarding part of my career.
Wellbeing is a holistic evaluation of being physically and mentally healthy, while being able to process life in a positive and hopeful way. I like reading scripture which impacts my soul positively and I encourage others to fill their minds with inspirational material that they feel will impact their mindset positively. My greatest wish is for my clients and prospective clients to dream big and not to feel constrained due to their disabilities. Ability Connect provides a caring supportive approach to achieve life goals through a qualified, well-trained team and you deserve to live your best life. Reaching out to Ability Connect will change your life for the better and empower you with the resources you need.

Emma Atkinson | Support Coordinator

I have been with Ability Connect since the early days and I have 28 years’ experience across education, employment, residential respite, and working with children with ASD. At Ability Connect my role as Support Coordinator involves finding the right therapist and support resources for each individual and their unique set of circumstances. It gives me great satisfaction to know that I have solved a problem for my client and that they are adequately supported in reaching their goals. I love that the NDIS enables us to provide choices and opportunities through individualised funding in support of a better quality of life for each of our clients. I value working with a team that is so supportive and passionate about doing their best for each participant.
I have been passionate about supporting people with disabilities for as long as I can remember. I recall going to work with my mother who was a pre-school teacher and ‘volunteering’ during school holidays to work with the kids with disabilities at the centre. After leaving school I completed an Associate Diploma in Education ¬and started my working life in a respite unit for adults with challenging behaviours. It inspires me to empower others and there is nothing as rewarding as supporting an individual or family through the (often stressful) review process and helping them achieve a plan that will not only support the person with a disability but often the family as well. Some of the most challenging issues in my career have revolved around participants running out of funding, however, through expertise and resilience I have been able to secure additional funding, before the budget was exhausted. These situations are highly stressful for the families and participants and as a support coordinator, we feel the pressure of having to resolve a situation like this. It is an amazing feeling when you are able to assist individuals and families to overcome these awful and sometimes unforeseen situations.
Many years ago, I worked with vulnerable young people in care. Something that will stay with me for life was supporting one of the young women, who was 16 at the time. She was pregnant and had no one to support her through the birth process. I was so touched when she asked me to be with her during the birth of her child. It was such a highlight that I was able to build her trust in me and it was incredibly special to be there with her. This was a stand-out moment in my career when I realised that we had truly connected and that there was complete trust. Since that day I have always maintained that where there is trust, there is progress and that is what matters, that our clients move forward and succeed in their community.
I love the balance of “me time” that is quiet and reflective to appreciate my life and those close to me. I also love filling my home with friends and noise and sharing a meal. I enjoy reading, gardening walking on the beach, spending time with those I hold dear. This balance sustains me and gives me energy. I want families and individuals to discover Ability Connect so that they can access the resources and support to have a balanced life and experience joy, contentment, and satisfaction across all areas of life including work, family, and social areas regardless of the challenges they face.

My wish for current and future clients is that they feel heard by our support coordination team and that the trust established enables them to express their wants and needs openly in order for the team to empower them to achieve their goals and to live a fulfilled life. Everyone deserves to have control over their lives through the power of choice and to have the assurance that the Ability Connect team will support them every step of the way is a blueprint for success.

Suzannah McGarrity | Support Coordinator

As a Support Coordinator, I empower participants to implement and utilise their NDIS plan effectively, and I also assist with Transitioning young people out of aged care. My passion and desire to help people live their best life fits in well with the ethos of the Ability connect team, who go above and beyond to ensure our clients get the best service possible.
It motivates me to provide options and deliver on an outcome to resolve complex situations when a solution seems impossible. I love bringing hope and results. I love being able to make a real difference in my client's lives by helping them to change their circumstance and in some instances obtaining better funding, resulting in amore vibrant quality of life for them. It inspires me when I see my clients ’learning new skills, overcoming previous obstacles, and having access to more opportunities and the vibrant life they deserve!
On one occasion, a young client was admitted to the hospital and her primary carer was no longer able to provide her the care she required. The client was at risk of being transitioned to aged care as a young person, however, we were able to find suitable short-term accommodation for her to be discharged from the hospital and remain in safe care. Meanwhile, we completed urgent assessments and reports to transition her to supported independent living within an exceptionally short period of time. This was a huge victory and certainly a memorable moment in my career.
To me, wellbeing means being in a good place,where you feel comfortable, secure and supported. My wish is for more peopleto discover Ability Connect and the support we offer so that they can receiveevery opportunity available to them to work towards living their best life.  Sometimes the simple joys of interacting withnature can bring healing. Many people have challenges that may prevent themfrom doing what they love right now, however, At Ability Connect, we are here tosay that things don’t need to remain that way forever and maybe it’s time for a change.

Team Talk