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United by a
Common Purpose

OurFutures Institute is led by Ken Wallace (CEO), Professor Maree Teesson, and Professor Nicola Newton. We’re a passionate team of internationally renowned academics, research collaborators, EdTech innovators, and professional operations experts united by a common purpose: to empower young people with the knowledge and skills to thrive.

Meet the team

Professor Maree Teesson

Director

Professor Maree Teesson AC is Co-Founder and Director of OurFutures Institute, Director of the Matilda Centre and Director of the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE) at the University of Sydney.

Maree is Chair of Australia’s Mental Health Think Tank and Chair of the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission Expert Advisory Panel. Maree is a Former National Mental Health Commissioner (2018-2021). She is nationally and internationally renowned for her research on the comorbidity between mental health and substance use disorders. Recently, Maree was appointed to the National School Reform Ministerial Reference Group, which will advise education ministers on school reforms.

Connect with Maree >

Professor Nicola Newton

Director

Professor Nicola Newton is Co-Founder and Director of OurFutures Institute and is an NHMRC Career Development Fellow and Director of Prevention at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

She is also Prevention Lead at the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in Prevention and Early Intervention in Mental Illness and Substance Use (PREMISE) and Vice-president for the Alliance for the Prevention of Mental Disorders.

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Jenni Zhao

Non-executive Director

Jenni is a finance professional with 15 years of experience, and is currently the Financial Controller of the University of Sydney. Prior to joining the University, Jenni had previously worked in PwC Perth and Sydney for close to a decade in various divisions, including financial assurance, business assurance, capital market and accounting advisory services.

Jenni holds a Master of Commerce degree with the University of Sydney. She is a member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, a Graduate of Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a fellow member of the Australian Tax Institute.

Jenni is on the Board of Our Futures Institute as a non-executive Director.

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Joel Negin

Non-executive Director

Joel Negin is the Acting Deputy Executive Dean (Academic) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney. Prior to this, he served for eight years as the Head of the School of Public Health including through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joel’s research focuses on the social determinants of health with a focus on improving the health status of those with greatest need. He maintains projects in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Fiji.

Before moving to Australia, he was awarded degrees from Harvard and Columbia Universities and then worked for six years in sub-Saharan Africa on various health and development programs.

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Ashley McGrath

Chairperson

Following a 20-year career in corporate media, Ashley’s focus is now on driving positive impact though the not-for-profit sector. He is particularly passionate about creating systemic change through collective power and collaboration, and actively seeks to bring together diverse stakeholders creating an ecosystem that maximises impact and drives lasting change through network leverage.

As well as being the Chair of Our Futures Institute, Ashley is the Chief Operating Officer at UnLtd, a social purpose organisation that works with the media, marketing, and advertising industry to supercharge their 28 “youth focused” charity partners to increase impact, whilst simultaneously advocating for systemic change. He is also the co-founder and chair of Good in the Hood, a community-centric charity focused on tackling loneliness and social isolation through meaningful human connection.

He is also the proud father of three beautiful children.

Connect with Ashley >

Ken Wallace

CEO

With twenty years of experience in technology organisations, Ken’s passions lie in developing innovative education technology and e-learning to improve outcomes for young people.

Before joining OurFutures Institute, Ken was Educator Impact’s Co-Founder, CEO, and Chairman. He has also held senior executive roles at kidsbook.io, and Emagine International and was a board member for the not-for-profit advocacy group Jubilee Australia Research Centre. Ken is currently on the advisory board of MedTech start-up CorDiFio and is a non-executive Director of Not-For-Profit Together4Youth.

Connect with Ken >

Risha Premarajah

Operations Manager

Risha has over 15 years experience in law, event planning, operations and project management in a range of sectors including education, law, health, government and industry.

Risha worked closely with senior internal stakeholders at the University of Sydney to drive the establishment of the not-for-profit OurFutures Institute and continues to support the organisation to drive business operations and partnerships. She is passionate about mental health and harm reduction for substance use prevention in youth.

Connect with Risha >

Felipe Frias

Senior Customer Success & Sales Representative

Felipe is a skilled Senior Customer Experience Specialist with over 16 years of experience across different industries. He has a passion for serving as the voice of the customer and finding practical, innovative ways to enhance the customer journey.

Felipe excels in problem-solving, building strong customer relationships, and coaching teams to meet their goals. He prioritises patience and empathy, ensuring unforgettable interactions. In his spare time, you’ll find Felipe at the gym or bushwalking with Spooky, his energetic groodle.

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Francesca Wallis

Customer Success

Francesca studied Psychology and Gender Studies at the University of Sydney and worked at The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use on the project for OurFutures before joining OurFutures Institute.

Francesca is passionate about trauma-informed care and education research, particularly in the prevention field for young people. She worked closely with the Mental Health team at Matilda to help update the OurFutures Mental Health Program to be more trauma-informed and LGBTQIA+ inclusive.

Connect with Francesca >

Our Futures Institute works closely with the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use. The Centre brings together world-leading researchers, clinicians, people with lived experience, and the community to share skills, synergise data, harness new technologies and trial innovative programs to prevent and treat mental and substance use disorders.

Dr Emma Barrett

Associate Professor

Emma is a NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow, Psychologist and Program Lead in Trauma and Crime Research at the Matilda Centre

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Dr Louise Birrell

Research Fellow

Louise is a NHMRC Emerging Leadership Fellow within the Matilda Centre at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Louise >

Dr Katrina Champion

Senior Research Fellow

Katrina is a Senior Research Fellow at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Katrina >

Lyra Egan

Research Assistant

Lyra is part of the OurFutures research team at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Lyra >

Dr Lauren Gardner

Senior Research Fellow

Lauren is a Research Fellow at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Lauren >

Dr Lucinda Grummit

Postdoctoral Researcher

Lucinda is a postdoctoral researcher at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, The University of Sydney.

Connect with Lucinda >

Annabelle Hawkins

Research Assistant

Annabelle Hawkins is a research assistant at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use.

Connect with Annabelle >

Emily Hunter

Research Assistant

Emily is a research assistant at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use.

Connect with Emily >

Dr Erin Kelly

Research Fellow

Erin is a Research Fellow at The Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Erin >

Dr Amy-Leigh Rowe

Postdoctoral Researcher

Amy-Leigh is a postdoctoral researcher at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use at the University of Sydney.

Connect with Amy-Leigh >

Dr Emily Stockings

Associate Professor

Emily (BPsycHons, PhD) is an NHMRC Early Career Research Fellow and Program Lead of ‘Smoking, Vaping and Mental Health’ at the Matilda Centre, University of Sydney.

Connect with Emily >

Our Culture

Universal accessibility, collaborative co-design, clinical evidence, and inspiring action are the values that drive our day to day work, decisions, and how we believe we can have impact.

As a dynamic and collaborative team we’re also about bringing people together, mentoring, and up-skilling;  this is how we unlock brighter futures together …

..oh and dressing up babies and doggies in company merch.

Join our research community

Get in touch with us

Our evidence-based drug and alcohol prevention programs are developed in partnership with philanthropic aid from the Paul Ramsay Foundation and researchers at the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use.

The Matilda Centre supports and nurtures students and researchers of all levels with opportunities, training, and mentorship from our internationally recognised researchers. Join us in our mission to help youth across the globe who are struggling with substance use or mental health.