The John Mac Foundation is 100% run by volunteers inspired to make a difference.
This ensures that donations go where they are most needed to run our initiatives and support our scholarship recipients.
Alice Spigelman AMPatron
“To leave behind your home and family members you don’t know when, if ever, you will see again, is heart wrenching…The burden and pressure of trying to make a living and to find a place to live adds even more stress to people struggling to cope, at a time when they need help to heal. Fortunately we have organisations such as the John Mac Foundation to provide support and hope of a better life through education, a lifeline for refugees”.
Alice Spigelman is a writer, clinical psychologist and human rights advocate. She was born in Hungary and immigrated to Australia in 1956 with her family. Alice has published two books and written book reviews, plays and articles.
In February 2006, Alice became a director of Australia for UNHCR and was chair of the Women’s Projects Committee in 2014. She is currently a Patron of Australia for UNHCR, Sculpture by the Sea, Refugee Advice & Casework Service and The John Mac Foundation. She has also served as the marketing director of The Benevolent Society, which supports Australians with disability, children, families, and carers, and director of the Bundanon Trust, formed to administer and perpetuate the legacy of the artist Arthur Boyd, National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australian Institute of Music and the Rural Leadership Program.
Alice was a member of the Advisory Council, Faculty of Built Environment at the University of New South Wales. She is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, which helps members of the Stolen Generation to take control of their future.
In 2012, Alice was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for "service to the community as an advocate for human rights and social justice, particularly for women and refugees, and through contributions to cultural organisations".
Dr Judith PrestonCurrent Board Chair and Founding Board Member
Judith is a solicitor admitted to practice in New South Wales and the Northern Territory since 1982. She has a distinguished background in representing Aboriginal Traditional owners in land claims across the areas of the Northern Land Council. She was instrumental in establishing the first public interest environmental law centre, the Environmental Defender’s Office in NSW. She has taught at a range of educational institutions, including Macquarie University, and holds PhD from Western Sydney University. Her research delves into the question of how Indigenous knowledge can be effectively integrated into environmental decision-making.
Dr Sarah Pritchard SCBoard Member
Dr Sarah Pritchard SC has been at the Sydney Bar since 1999, and is a former director of the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW. Between 1992 and 2013, she was a director of the Diplomacy Training Program, established at UNSW in 1989 by East Timorese Nobel Laureate and former President Jose Ramos Horta. She is currently chairperson of the Law Council of Australia’s Human Rights Committee, member of the Law Council’s Indigenous Legal Issues Committee, and co-chair of the NSW Bar Association’s Joint Working Party on the Over-representation of Indigenous people in the NSW Criminal Justice System.
Sarah heard Deng Adut deliver the 2016 Australia Day Lecture and was affected by his remarkable life story, and that of his brother John Mac. She commends the exceptionally valuable work of the John Mac Foundation in supporting people from refugee backgrounds in pursuing higher education.
Nick WillettsBoard Member
Nick is a senior commercial lawyer providing in house legal services and solutions to a variety of organisations. At their first encounter, Deng said “Where have you been hiding?”.
This spurred Nick into becoming involved with JMF. He was CEO from 2017 – 2019 and was appointed to the Board in 2020. “Working with Deng and the JMF family is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done professionally and personally,” Nick said. “JMF is making a real difference to young lives – it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Aleta KeatingBoard Member
Aleta is a seasoned senior human resources professional, and has practised her skills as a qualified coach by establishing key partnerships and building leadership capacity at numerous Australian and Global businesses. As an Academic Tutor at the University of Sydney Business School Aleta uses the Harvard Case method of presenting issues found in real business environments to prepare students for the challenges of leadership. She is a certified GallupStrengths coach and is currently completing her Masters of Science in Coaching Psychology at Sydney University.
Aleta also has a background in education and holds a Masters degree in Adult Education from the University of Technology Sydney. Aleta strongly believes in the value of education and the need to support talented individuals to achieve their potential, both at university and in the workplace.
Sophia Giardini and Jamesina McLeodJoint CEOs
Sophia is a senior litigation lawyer with a passion for human rights and climate justice. She is a firm believer in supporting and providing educational opportunities for the talented and diverse refugee community within Australia. She holds a LL.M in Public International Law from the University of Amsterdam; her Master's thesis explores regional and international efforts to seek government accountability and human rights protection for vulnerable communities affected by the impacts of climate change. Sophia joined the Foundation as Company Secretary in 2019, having been inspired by the important work the Foundation was and is doing to encourage access to education for people from refugee and humanitarian backgrounds.
Jamesina is a commercial lawyer with particular interests in corporate governance and directors duties, media and technology, and supporting vulnerable clients in a pro bono capacity. She first became involved with the Foundation in 2017 and quickly became inspired by the passion of those around her to assist people from refugee and other humanitarian backgrounds to obtain their education. As a child of refugees who found a new start in Australia, she has nothing but admiration and respect for the determination and resilience of the Foundation's scholarship recipients. Jamesina is also the co-company secretary of the John Mac Foundation.
Sophia and Jamesina became joint CEOs in 2021 following Nicola Bevitt's impactful tenure. Together, they look forward to continuing to create a support network and opportunities for the Foundation’s current and future scholarship recipients.
Passionate about enabling opportunity for others to lead their best lives, Deen currently acts as the Chief Financial Officer for the John Mac Foundation. Having previously worked with Macquarie Bank in their wealth management operations, Deen has recently joined PwC Australia as a Consultant with their Private Clients team. He has studied a Bachelor of Applied Finance/Bachelor of Economics at Macquarie University and is a current candidate for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Program.
Beyond the John Mac Foundation, Deen is highly involved in our community, and has been recognised as Central Coast Youth of the Year and awarded the Australia Day Award for his contributions to Youth Leadership over the past decade.
Gabrielle SheehanCompany Secretary
Gabrielle is a litigation lawyer, who practices in the area of medium to large-scale commercial disputes. She has a particular interest in directors duties, class actions and contractual disputes, and any opportunities to be involved in pro bono and other volunteer work. She was named Australasian Lawyer's list of Rising Stars for 2021. Gabrielle has worked with previous and current members of the Foundation and was inspired when she heard Deng's story when she was a law student and is a longtime supporter of the Foundation. She is passionate about expanding the Foundation's impact, especially on the lives of our scholarship recipients.
Isis KowaliauskasScholarships Director
Isis Kowaliauskus is a business administrator with twenty years of experience in international relations, stakeholder engagement, project management, and business development. personal vision is to be bold, inspire others, and collaborate in sustainable practices with financial impact that positively change the world. Inspired by the mission of the Foundation, her goal is to positively impact the academic and professional lives of the scholars during their journey towards graduating and finding meaningful career opportunities in Australia.
Isis works at Western Sydney University since 2014 and her current role is the Manager, Learning Abroad, providing opportunities to thousands of students to complete part of their university programs overseas.
Dr Anna Cristina Pertierra is an Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University. An anthropologist by training, her research focuses on media and consumer culture, especially among low income communities in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Anna's story with the Foundation started around 19 years ago, when one of her first University jobs led her to teach John Mac in the first year of his degree. Having always remembered John as an inspirational figure, Anna works for the Foundation in his memory, in the hope that today's students can better unlock opportunities in their graduate careers.
Hugh RimintonInaugural Board Chair and Founding Board Member
Hugh is a familiar face to millions of Australians, a trusted nightly news broadcaster and a renowned journalist of many year’s experience. His long history of fearless reporting in Africa, including covering catastrophic events in South Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda, led Hugh to develop close ties with the Sudanese community in Sydney.
This was how Hugh came to meet John Mac, and the two formed a friendship which would last until John’s death. Hugh still thinks of John every day. You can read his eloquent obituary here.
Hugh was a founding board member of the John Mac Foundation and contributed hugely to the success of the Foundation during his 4 years on the board. Hugh remains a close friend of the Foundation and the Foundation wishes to honour and thank Hugh for his significant contribution to the work of the Foundation.
Deng is a Sydney-based criminal lawyer, and the younger brother of John Mac.
Deng is considered one of the leaders of Sydney’s South Sudanese community. Deng is also known for giving the 2016 Australia Day address and for appearing in Western Sydney’s powerful recruitment campaign.
Deng holds a Bachelor of Laws from Western Sydney University and a Master of Laws (Criminal Practice) from the University of Wollongong. Deng was a child soldier in the conflict in his homeland Sudan, taken when we was six, and rescued at age twelve by his older brother John Mac, who smuggled him out of the country.
The John Mac Foundation aims to address some of the problems that help John back during his life. Through our scholarship fund, we assist people from refugee backgrounds make a successful transition from education into meaningful employment.Donate now