Board and Team

First Step Leadership Team

First Step’s Leadership Team provides collaborative, cross departmental advice and insights into operating a unique organisation with a complex clientele.

  • Patrick Lawrence, CEO
  • Benn Veenker, Manager ResetLife
  • Gayle Wood, Operations Manager
  • Haydn Salomons, Clinical Care Coordinator
  • Joe Fishburn RPN, Manager Mental Health Services
  • Kym Coupe, Team Leader Mental Health Services
  • Nelly Katsnelson, Fundraising and Engagement Manager
  • Tania Wolff, Director of Legal Services

First Step Board

First Step is governed by a Board of Directors – a diverse group of leaders who bring a variety of talents, experiences and expertise to the governance of First Step.

The Board works closely with our Leadership Team to guide their decision-making on strategic issues and hold them to account for their leadership of the organisation.


Patrick Lawrence


After an early career as a classical pianist and vocal coach, Patrick transitioned to the world of social justice through volunteering in the humanitarian sector. He joined First Step as a volunteer in 2005 and transitioned to CEO in 2017.  He worked with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre from 2007 in a variety of roles, ending his tenure there as Director of Humanitarian Services before taking up the position of CEO at First Step in 2017.

Richard Kasperczyk


Richard is passionate about creating mentally healthy workplaces. As an Organisational Psychologist, Richard brings his extensive consulting and management experience to First Step, with a dual focus on supporting clients and employee health and wellbeing. He joined the Board after having observed First Step’s positive impact on many lives.

Dr Ian Kronborg


Ian has worked in addiction and gastroenterology for 40 years in service delivery, service development, research and teaching in both community and hospital settings. He was attracted to First Step for its innovative treatment ideas to maximise the opportunity for people to be helped.

Mark Watt

AM, Chair

Mark is the CEO Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia.  Brothers Big Sisters Australia (BBBS) is a not-for-profit organisation whose mentoring programs create life-changing connections between positive role models and young people to help them shine.

He is also the CEO of Stride Education and a Director of Social Engine – a social enterprise for young people. In 1999 Mark co-founded Whitelion and until August 2018 he was the founding CEO.

In 2018, Mark was appointed a Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia "for significant service to the community, particularly to disadvantaged and at-risk youth, through social welfare support organisations.

Barbara Kelly

Barbara has worked in the alcohol, drug and mental health sectors over a 30-year span. Recently retired as the Program Director of two state-wide services specialising in treatment, clinical research and education, Barbara brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the First Step Board

Catherine Easton

GAICD, MSF, BBus, DipTeach(Prim)

Catherine has worked in both the commercial and for-purpose sectors in service delivery, transformation and shared service roles and has over 15 years board experience. She is a previous Chair of Linden New Art and Arts Project Australia and is currently a member of the Policy & Planning Committee at Arts Project, the Palais Theatre Community Fund Committee, Board Director of You Matter (Aus) Ltd and is a mentor at Fitted for Work. Catherine joined the First Step Board in October 2022 and has seen first hand the significant impact that its integrated services can have on the lives of people with addiction and mental health issues.

David Donnelly

David is an experienced commercial lawyer who leads the Projects and Development practice group at law firm Allens and sits on the firm's Executive Committee.  He lives in the local area and was attracted to First Step by the positive impact it has on the lives of vulnerable members of the community. David has previous not-for-profit sector experience and works with a number of industry groups on a voluntary basis.

Christie Arbuckle


Christie is a clinical psychologist and consultant with over 15 years’ experience. Having worked in areas including perinatal health, recovery from trauma and eating disorders, she is passionate about supporting mental health and wellbeing.

Sughesh Madathil

CPA,MBA, GIA (Cert.)

With over 20 years of experience in Senior Finance, including 10 years as Chief Financial Officer in the Not-for-Profit sector, Sughesh now manages his own consulting service, providing Finance, Advisory and Technology solutions for the NFP and SME sectors with a specific focus on transformation and organisational outcomes. A qualified CPA & MBA, Sughesh is passionate about making a positive contribution to mental health and wellbeing – the foundations for positive family and community growth.