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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.

Jim Ellis

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

Jim Ellis is the inaugural Chair of the AASQA Advisory Board. 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 a number of 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

Image of advisory board member, Robert Williamson.

Robert Williamson – Vice 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

Alison Davis

Alison Davis joined Autism West as Chief Executive Officer in July 2014. Autism West is a Western Australian not-for-profit that provides a range of services to families affected by autism. It offers a range of skills development programs, social groups and information and advice services. Alison has experience working in the public sector, as well as for not-for-profit and commercial organisations. Alison was most recently the National Copyright Manager for the TAFE sector. She holds an arts/law degree from the University of WA and a Masters degree in law from the University of NSW.

Alison Davis on LinkedIn

Andrew Whitehouse

Professor Andrew Whitehouse

Professor Andrew Whitehouse directs the Autism Research Team at the Telethon Kids Institute (University of Western Australia), and one of the youngest ever Professors at the University of Western Australia. His research team use a range of methodologies to investigate the early identification and intervention of children with ASD, including molecular genetics, neuroscience, endocrinology and behavioural experiments. Andrew has published over 100 peer-reviewed journals and attracted over $35 million in competitive research grants. He currently writes a popular column on child development for The West Australian and the news website The Conversation, which have attracted over 1 million hits since 2012. Andrew has published one edited book with his twin-brother (Ben), and a popular science book that examined the science behind some of the myths of pregnancy and child development (Will Mozart Make My Baby Smart?). Prior to coming to the Telethon Kids Institute, Andrew was a Fellow at the University of Oxford.

Read more about the autism research work undertaken by the Telethon Kids Institute

Image of advisory board member, Alison Blake

Alison Blake

Alison Blake is the founder and director of Strategic Support- a social consultancy that provides business services to help create social good. Alison works predominantly in the disability and community sectors, particularly with organisations transitioning their services into the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Prior to starting her own business, Alison was the Manager of Strategic Policy and Programs at the Disability Services Commission, where she worked for seven years. Alison has 14 years’ experience in State Government including senior management roles in communications, community development, social policy and inclusion. Alison started her career as a journalist and has also worked in marketing and public relations management. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Social Science) and a Diploma of Business.

Alison Blake on LinkedIn


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 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 real estate. With Oliver, they started buying and selling real estate and developing properties.

Virginia has had a recent diagnosis of Aspergers 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 of 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.

Margaret Gannaway

Challenger Institute of Technology
Director Business, Information Technology, Hospitality and Tourism

Margaret has been a training services director with Challenger Institute of Technology since 2007 when she took over the School of Business and Information Technology. In 2012 The School of Hospitality and Tourism was also added to her portfolio. As a Training Services Director, Margaret oversees the training delivered by each of her schools as well as liaising with corporate clients in Australia and overseas to develop workforce training plans. Margaret is a key contact for one of Challenger’s most successful overseas partnerships with the Charles Telfair Institute Mauritius.
Margaret has a strong background in Vocational Education and Training having been a Principal Lecturer for the Business and IT School. Quality assurance is also an area Margaret has expertise in as she was Challenger’s AQTF Coordinator from 2003 to the end of 2006.


Photo of advisory board member, Russell Thomas.

Russell Thomas

I have worked in the Disability Sector for 40 years, originally with State Government, then the last 17 years in management in the NFP sector.  The last 10 years has been spent at the Autism Association of WA as an Executive Manager in Community and Employment Services.