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Advisory board

The advisory board of Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) draws on the talent and experience of the following individuals.

Image of advisory board member, Robert Williamson.

Robert Williamson – Co-Chair


Robert Williamson, CEO of Red River Group and Executive Advisor China for the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) Australia, is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of Engineers Australia and a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Robert is the Chairman of Engineers Australia ITEE Board in WA and a member of the National ITEE College Board, and he is also a member National Professional Standards Board. Robert also sits on the Executive Committee (WA) of the Australia China Business Council. In China, Robert is a member of the China International Mining Cooperation Committee.

After a career of 22 years with Rio Tinto and then General Manager at Snowden Mining Consultants, Robert formed Red River Group in 2012 with a firm vision for trade with China in Mining. Robert is an advisor to Chairmen and Executives of ASX, Private and NFP entities.

Robert Williamson on LinkedIn

Emma Whitty

Emma Whitty – Co-Chair

Emma is widely acclaimed within the IS industry as a fearless innovator. She is driven by the user experience, business opportunities and the current trend in consumerisation of technology. Moving from Melbourne to Perth in 2013 to take on the role of Vice President of Emma has
Information Systems (CIO) at Clough Pty. Ltd, Emma catapulted the renowned Engineering Company on a journey of transformation that included Infrastructure as a Service, the set-up of an innovation retainer, the launch of a mobile app platform, and the introduction of scholarships to help drive change. Underpinning her success was the ability to bring different parties together into novel and valuable partnerships, extending their reach and bringing value to each business.

In 2017 Emma was asked to join the advisory boards of AASQA and the ACS Foundation, bringing her drive and approach to innovation into the NFP sector adding a new angle to her focus, technology for good. Emma’s experience with Information Systems spans multiple industries and includes iconic organisations such as Kraft Foods, Seven West Media, Cadbury as well as the Australian Department of Defence.

Image of advisory board member, Jim Ellis.

Jim Ellis – Founding Chair

Adj. Prof. Jim Ellis OAM, B. Sc, CF (Curtin), Hon. D. Sc (Murdoch), FACS CP, FAICD, C. Eng.

Jim Ellis was the inaugural Chair of the AASQA Advisory Board, stepping down in June 2018. He is currently the Immediate Past Chair. Jim has worked in information technology for more than 50 years, working for several multinational organisations in England, Eastern Europe and South East Asia before moving to Perth in 1981. In Perth, he worked for several international and local ICT organisations before founding his own company Westinfo Services in 1997. Westinfo Services represented Gartner, the world’s largest technology advisory organisation in Western Australia and Northern Territory from February 1997 until March 2006.

Jim was appointed an Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University in June 2006 and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to the ICT Industry in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2008. He was given the award of Curtin University Fellow in September 2015 and made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Murdoch University in September 2016.

Jim is a Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society (ACS), and a Fellow of the AICD (the Australian Institute of Company Directors). He has been a national Vice President of the ACS, and Chair of the ACS WA Branch. He is currently a member of the Branch Executive Committee of the WA Branch of the ACS.

He was Chair of the WA Chapter of the ACS Foundation, which provides tertiary scholarships in the ICT area, from 2002 to 2013, and was on the national board of the ACS Foundation.

Jim conceived the WA IT & Telecommunications Awards (WAITTA) and was Chairman from its inception in 1991 until March 2003. He is currently a Member of the Management Committee of WAITTA (now the WA IT and Telecommunications Alliance).

Jim is a Non-executive Director of Independent Living Centre WA, and Chair of the IT Industry Advisory Panel at Murdoch University.

He has a B.Sc. in Mathematics and Statistics from St Andrews University, Scotland.

Jim Ellis on LinkedIn

Professor Tele Tan, Director AASQA

Professor Tele Tan, Director AASQA

TELE obtained his PhD degree in Electronics Engineering at Surrey University (UK) in 1993 in Electronics Engineering. He joined Curtin University in 2014 after spending a decade in Singapore as an engineer and researcher. He is the Founder and Director of the Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance. The Academy is a social innovation initiative with the vision of harnessing the special talents of people on the autism spectrum for the collective benefit of those with autism, industry and the wider community. Its mission is to enable individuals with autism to leverage their unique skills through training, educating and mentoring programs, creating pathways to valued, long-term employment. Tele sees the importance of collaboration as a tool to help build resilience within our community, both local and global. In 2016, Tele was awarded the ACS Digital Disruptors Awards for ICT Educator of the Year. Since then, he has led in a team submission to win the 2018 Business and Higher Education Roundtable (BHERT) Awards for Outstanding Collaboration for National Benefit.

Dr Marita Falkmer, Deputy Director AASQA

Dr Marita Falkmer, Deputy Director AASQA

I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow funded by the Collaborative Research Centre in Autism (Autism CRC) in the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology at Curtin University. I am also an Associate Professor in disability science at Jonkoping University, Sweden. In my current professional role, I have the privilege to be involved in projects within and outside the Autism CRC all aiming to improve opportunities for people on the autism spectrum to find their place in society. I have a background in special education and long experience working together with children, and adolescents on the autism spectrum in educational settings in Sweden. This also included working as a course director in the educational work conducted by The Swedish National Autism and Asperger Association and being commissioned to write the chapter “Inclusive strategies for students with Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum conditions” by The Swedish National Agency for Education to be included in their report regarding Students with Asperger syndrome in Swedish schools. I also have extensive experience of consultations and education in staff groups within school organisations and in services for adults on the autism spectrum. I am very proud to have been part of AASQA since its creation and to be able to continue to contribute to the successes of AASQA in my current role as Deputy Director.

Image of advisory board member, Denis Coldham.

Denis Coldham

Denis Coldham is an IT Lecturer and Head of Programs IT at South Metropolitan TAFE, helping students through their learning journey as they study IT. After working in SME IT for many years, and several years as an IT educator, Denis can use his experience to help students reach their goals.

Through compassion and empathy for all students, Denis successfully guides all students to have a fair chance, allowing self-improvement through study and mentorship while at South Metro TAFE. Using flexible approaches to study and support, Denis help’s more students succeed in their study journey.

As a Certified Professional of the ACS, and a member of the ACS Board Executive Committee in WA, Denis can help affect change in the WA ICT Landscape and create a community that is inclusive for all in their ICT careers.

Louise Sheehy

Profile coming soon.

Russell Thomas

Russell Thomas

Russell is the Executive Manager, Disability Employment Services at the Autism Association of Western Australia. He completed formal disability studies as a Social Trainer in the late seventies and has worked in the Disability Sector for 44 years. Originally Russell was employed by the State Government in various roles from coordination to staff & community education. The last twenty-six years have been spent in senior management positions in the NFP sector. Russell has worked with the Autism Association of Western Australia for the past fourteen years and heads up the only Autism specific employment support service in Australia.



Image of Oliver and Virginia Sta Maria

Oliver and Virginia Sta Maria

Virginia and Oliver Sta Maria are property investors with a passion to assist people with Aspergers to get the best out of life.

Oliver was born in Malaysia. In the late 70’s he travelled with a band around Australia. He later graduated as an Industrial Designer and set up his own design business. He changed direction and worked in Mental Health Rehabilitation until 2006.

Virginia was born in Perth. Her background is in real estate. With Oliver, they started buying and selling real estate and developing properties.

Virginia has had a recent diagnosis of Asperger’s and continues to understand herself and the diagnosis.

Virginia and Oliver have been married for over 25 years and have a 21yo son on the spectrum. Raising a son on the spectrum was easy as he never succumbed to peer pressure. Although getting the best for him was sometimes a challenge. He came to Curtin to pursue his passion. He is a participant in the Curtin Specialist Mentoring Program.

We expect to be able to contribute as a member of the Board through our life experience of Aspergers from all angles…our life as a couple and coaching a son with Aspergers.

Dr David Cook

Profile coming soon.

Kieran McCluskey

Profile coming soon.

Lisa Holley

Lisa Holley – Immediate Past Chair

Lisa is a Corporate Responsibility professional with over fifteen years of experience in both the UK and Australia, holding a broad range of Senior Leadership roles in the financial services, manufacturing and professional services sectors. Lisa is currently Head of Corporate Responsibility at Bankwest with responsibility for leading the development and delivery of Corporate Responsibility and Community Investment strategies.

Lisa is passionate about leading teams and organisations through change with a personal goal to build a more sustainable world for future generations. A strategic thinker with expertise in sustainability, cultural transformation, organisational design, HR business partnering, employee engagement and diversity and inclusion.

Paul Graham

Profile coming soon.

Sarah James

Profile coming soon.

Michael New

Profile coming soon.