Our People

Foundation Staff

Francis Trainor

Acting Executive Director
Philanthropy & Bequests Manager

My career has taken me on various paths in marketing, events and fundraising.

Having studied Valuations, Economics and Marketing, I was Marketing Director at North Melbourne during my 20 years spent at the AFL club, responsible for all aspects of the commercial operations including a lead role in the pioneer integration and marketing of Friday night football in the AFL that grew to become a mainstay of the competition. My responsibilies included securing major sponsorships, brand development, fan engagement, merchandise, memberships and running a multitude of events and functions including televised events across all four networks. I was fortunate to be at the club during a successful period that saw two premierships.

Following that 20-year commitment, and being awarded life membership of the club, I tried my hand at importing and soon became the largest importer of AFL membership merchandise. The long stints away in China took their toll though and I then established my own boutique marketing company working for various clients in various professional sporting bodies, wine distribution, video production, website & digital, CPD online learning and event management.

The opportunity to join Barwon Health Foundation in 2015 was a welcome and most satisfying change for which I feel eternally privileged. Working in Geelong has opened my eyes to an extraordinary community, an amazing region and some of the best people I have ever met whose genuine passion to support their local health service is nothing short of outstanding. I'm responsible for major philanthropy and bequests and love the opportunity to connect with people who want to make a difference.

My family and friends are of course very important to me as are the amazing committed team that I am honoured to work with at the Barwon Health Foundation.

Contact Francis

E: ftrainor@barwonhealth.org.au

P:4215 8919

Danni Flowers

Events and Community Manager

I joined the Barwon Health Foundation team in 2010, starting out as a trainee within the administration team. Since then, I have worked across several different areas and I currently manage the Events and Community portfolios. This role includes the delivery of some of Geelong’s favourite events; Geelong’s Longest Lunch, Catwalk4Cancer and Run4Geelong.

As coordinator of the Barwon Health Grants Program, I am also responsible for managing the process of funding equipment and ensuring that our donor’s wishes are carried out.

Outside of the Foundation, I enjoy catching up with friends, trying out new restaurants around Geelong and planning my next holiday to experience something new.

Contact Danni

E: dflowe@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8906

Sheri Steenhuis

Finance Manager

I have been with the Foundation since 2016 in a Finance and Administration role. I have enjoyed developing this role as the Foundation continues to grow and evolve.

I love being part of a small, collaborative team that provides lots of opportunity to work together on events and projects.

I have a Bachelor of Business and was previously a partner in a successful local hospitality business. I have three children that ensure my taxi driving skills are well utilised.

I lived in Sydney for a number of years with my family when the children were in primary school before returning to settle back in my hometown of Geelong. We enjoy being around our family and friends and close to the coast. Outside of work, I enjoy travel, good company, food and wine.

Contact Sheri

E: sheri.steenhuis@barwonhealth.org

P: 4215 8900

Sarah Gray

Commercial Fundraising Manager

I’ve just arrived back in Victoria after 20 years, relocating to the Geelong area to start my new role with the Barwon Health Foundation and to reconnect with family and friends.

Over the past 15 years I have worked for a number of great causes, which focused on Children’s preventative health and well-being, rural medical inequality and Domestic Violence against women.

Prior to working for a charitable purpose became my passion, I worked in the corporate travel and tourism arena, managing the sales, events and marketing areas for large scale hotels and resorts. I also have a keen interest in sports executive management.

To me, working on innovative strategies and projects to provide funding for the greater good is privilege, and where I feel can contribute most to community needs.
I have an entrepreneurial mindset which, allows me to create and develop sustainable long term funding streams to support projects which will improve health outcomes for everyone.

Away from the office, you’ll find me ferrying my kids around to sport and other activities! I love to cook amazing food, and spend time with those closest to me including my border collie Luna.

Contact Sarah

E: sarah.gray@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8904

Sherryn Bennett

Communications Manager

I am thrilled to join Barwon Health Foundation as the newest team member.

I have an extensive background working within the Marketing, Communications and Public Relations arena, across diverse industries and sectors from higher education, retail, tourism and health, including leading local organisations Deakin University and Cotton On Group. The beauty of the Communications industry is that your skills and experience are transferable and can take you anywhere and everywhere.

It was a personal goal of mine to move into the not-for-profit sector and I’m so very grateful to be caretaking this role for 12-months, working towards raising the profile and impact of the Foundation.

In my personal life, I live by the coast with my husband, two teenagers and two fur-children. My spare time is filled by my kids sport, cheering the Western Bulldogs, exercise and family travel adventures.

Contact Sherryn

E: sherryn.bennett@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8907

Steph O'Dowd

Digital Fundraising Lead

I am thrilled to be a part of the Barwon Health Foundation team as the Digital Fundraising Lead. I have a Bachelor of Communications majoring in Public Relations and have worked in PR, Social Media and Advertising across Geelong and South West Victoria.

As the world of digital is exciting and ever changing, it is my role to help the Foundation to continue to grow in this space. I also have the privilege of sharing stories of our community’s real heroes - whether that be patients fighting a brave battle or community groups tirelessly supporting the Foundation – via our social media channels.

Seeing the facilities and equipment that have been made possible through the work of the Foundation, and hearing how this has enhanced the experience of Barwon Health patients and their families, makes me proud to be a part of the team.

Outside of work, you’ll find me enjoying good food (sweets mainly, I am a massive sweet tooth) and good times with friends and family. 

Contact Steph

E: steph.o'dowd@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8908

Elise Gibson

Corporate Partnerships Manager

With over 25 years’ experience in sales, marketing and advertising, I have enjoyed the challenge and reward of exercising this experience in the not-for-profit space since joining the Barwon Health Foundation team in 2021.

As Corporate Partnerships Manager, I have a genuine passion for building relationships and love creating partnerships that are the perfect fit for all involved. The values of the Barwon Health Foundation are a natural fit for me and I enjoy working in a dynamic team that promotes the many and varied ways for the community to support our local health service. There’s nothing more rewarding than enhancing the wellbeing of our community for now and in the future.

Outside of work, I am a mother of three to children Tom, Grace and Ruby and pet dog, Floyd. I love to spend time with family and friends, socialising and meeting new people, music, sport, dining, travel and enjoying all that our beautiful region has to offer.

Contact Elise

E: elise.gibson@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8902 or 0438 559 986

Madeleine Laidlaw

Events and Community Manager

I have a Bachelors of Business, Majoring in Event Management and Management and Innovation from Victoria University. I have worked through University gaining years of retail management experience and also event management experience with my placement beside Vanessa at A Simple Wish Events doing event styling, coordinating and set ups and pack downs. 

 Events are my passion and I love to create days that people will remember and love working through everything that is needed to put together successful events. 
This is my first post graduate role and I’m excited to implement the knowledge and skills I have built over the years to hopefully make an impact in the community. 

In a past life, I was also a nanny and world traveller, now I am a big fan of hanging out with the babies in my life, especially my niece Chloe, watching my Geelong Cats and Swansea City, planning parties and trying out a new program at the gym. 

Contact Madeleine

E: madeleine.laidlaw@barwonhealth.org.au

P: 4215 8900

Zoe Waters

Executive Director
Currently on Parental Leave

For the better part of two decades, I have loved working for not-for-profit, for purpose organisations who each have a common priority: to improve the health and wellbeing of our community. I studied Social Work at university and have previous experience working in the mental health sector, child protection and children’s rights, and public health.

The highlight of my career so far has been to meet so many inspiring people through my roles at Barwon Health and the Barwon Health Foundation. It is always a great privilege to hear the heartfelt stories of why people choose to donate their time or money to Barwon Health. The collective generosity of the Greater Geelong region is a unique type of community spirit that I haven’t experienced in any other community I have worked in before.

I am a Board Director at Hope Bereavement and Benefit Geelong was an inaugural member of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Volunteering. I was proud to be recognised as a finalist in the 2021 Geelong Business Excellence Awards as a Young Entrepreneur of the Year and prior to that a finalist in the Telstra Business Women's Awards and the winner of the Regional Entrepreneur or Manager of the Year in the NAB Women's Agenda Leadership Awards.

When I am not at work, family is my happy place. I enjoying visiting my parents regularly who spend their time across both central Victoria, in a tiny regional town called Bealiba, or in Melbourne. I also love my regular weekend video chats with my two sisters, one who is an Accountant at Barwon Health and the other who is a Chief Financial Officer in New York.

My husband, Rob, and I are a proud to call Geelong home and love nothing more than experiencing all this amazing city has to offer. From the incredible wineries, award-winning restaurants, beaches and beautiful landscapes – what better place is there to call home?

Jemma Ryan

Communications Manager
Currently on Parental Leave

Born and raised in Geelong, I am passionate about making our town a better place to live.

For nine years I documented the evolution of our region as a journalist for the Geelong Advertiser and editor of GT Magazine. During my time as the newspaper’s health reporter I worked closely with both Barwon Health and the Foundation to highlight inspirational patient stories, celebrate funding wins, share research breakthroughs and advocate for development projects – you might have even seen me MC some of their famous events!

My new role as Communications Manager for the Foundation gives me the great privilege of finding and shouting these stories from the roof tops every single day, in the hope of inspiring our community to give generously. As someone who has lived in Geelong my whole life I know that if any of my loved ones were to fall ill this is the service they would access and I can think of nothing more rewarding than championing that cause to help insure my family – and yours – get access to the very best.

When I am not at work you will find me enjoying down time at home with my partner, escaping to our holiday spot in Ocean Grove or trying the newest restaurant with friends, soaking in all the region has to offer!

Hayley Johnston

Fundraising Manager 
Currently on Parental Leave

I have been a part of the Foundation team since 2012 working within administration, corporate partnerships, and events and now heading up fundraising innovation and commercial opportunities.

I love being a part of the not-for-profit sector, which allows me to work on my two great loves; creating memorable events and positive change in our community.

Having been born at Baxter House, and grown up in Geelong, I feel lucky to be able to make a difference to our health service and in turn our great city. Hearing stories of how Barwon Health Foundation funded equipment, facilities and initiatives have supported the community and improved the lives of loved ones makes me proud of the work we do.

Outside of work, you will find me surrounded by family and friends, eating great food, drinking great wine and playing or watching sport… or you’ll find me on a plane, my greatest love is travelling.