We love these people!

Critical to the success of the NCCG is the active participation and commitment of our team - here are the stories of some our most valuable workers, in their own words. We have, and continue to need, volunteers to help with children's support groups, administration and fundraising activities. If you are interested in becoming part of the team please contact us at the Centre.

Ann Mulheron

Ann MulheronI was originally a nurse, later trained as a psychologist and have specialised in bereavement counselling since 1986 when I completed Post Graduate training with Di and Mal McKissock. I also completed an intensive 2 year course in clinical Supervision at the Bereavement C.A.R.E. Centre, and have continued to divide my working week between the BCC and my private practice.

Another professional interest is working at The Institute of Counselling as a counselling skills teacher, trainer and group facilitator. I have been involved with the NCCG from its beginning in early 1994. My role has primarily been with bereaved families and I facilitate the support groups for bereaved partners (parents of children in support groups). In all of my roles I have found my nursing training and experience invaluable. That background helps me to understand many aspects of the process of terminal illness that create pain and distress for grieving families, and to interpret medical and coronial reports when necessary.

My husband and soul mate Richard and I have experienced the richness of family life with our two children, an adopted son called David and a foster daughter named Suz-ann. David was born with Progeria and died when he was nine years old. Suz-ann was born with an intellectual disability and is now a delightful 21 year old, living in a protected, semi independent environment close to our home. Richard and I both love out door holidays involving camping or house boats, and often return from these adventures with stories of getting lost on waterways, or tents being flooded with torrential rain. We love spending time with our large extended family, with friends, and enjoy reading, playing cards and competing at Scrabble. 

Lillian Markovic (Lil)

I became interested in bereavement counselling some years ago when I was completing my Diploma course in counselling, and heard Mal McKissock speak about loss and grief. I subsequently trained with Di and Mal and was moved by the way they helped children learn to live with the pain of grief. I later became a volunteer member of the team facilitating support groups, and continue to enjoy relating to the children who come to 'A Friend's Place'. I respect their courage.

I recently deferred studies in my Master's Degree in counselling because of the hours involved and the difficulty of earning a living at the same time. I currently work in the hospitality industry. In my spare time I love to spend time with family and friends, and really enjoy gardening and cooking. It give me great pleasure to give to others the results of my efforts, gifts of flowers and food, which I am assured are enjoyed and appreciated. I guess I really enjoy giving TLC to others.

Mary Ashton


Born in New York City, I swapped my favourite landmark from the Statue of Liberty to the Sydney Opera House in 1982 when I met and married my Australian husband Rick. My original educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Sociology and Education and a Post Graduate Certificate in Learning Disabilities.

I have had some interesting employment: working at the Watergate, tutoring the child of a Hollywood Cinematographer, and living in a historic mansion as I taught learning disabled students at a private residential school.  In 1995, my brother Raymond died from cancer and my focus took on a new direction. I became involved with palliative care and bereavement as a volunteer at Calvary Hospital in Kogarah. I became a facilitator for both the Rainbows and Season’s for Growth Programs for Children and received a special award in 2001 from the Prime Minister recognising my volunteer work in this area.

In 2004 I completed both the Adult and Children Bereavement Counselling Courses at the Centre. I have been here since working with individual children and in a group setting. I am filled with love and admiration for ‘A Friend’s Place’ and all those who pass through the front door each week. 

I am a self-confessed course-a-holic and spend much of my spare time studying.  I have completed my Masters in Counselling, Qualifications in Mediation, and courses in Ethics, Leadership, and Creative Engagement.  I also love spending time with my husband Rick, our three children and their wonderful partners.

Ada Stanton - Coordinator of Creative Therapies

Ada StantonAda has been a volunteer support worker with 'A Friend's Place' since 2007, having completed the "Working with Bereaved Children" and "Bereavement Counselling" workshops under the tuition of Mal and Di McKissock. Prior to joining 'A Friend's Place', Ada earned two Masters Degrees from the University of Sydney - A Master in Behavioural Health Science and a Master of Applied Science. She has participated as a member of the Sydney Children's Hospital health care team, conducting research on caregivers of chronically ill adolescents with Cystic Fibrosis, and has worked with the Bone Mineral Analysis Unit at the Royal Hospital for Women. Ada also has a Bachelor of Arts from La Trobe University.

Born in Italy, Ada is fluent in Italian and holds a certificate from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

As a mother of two, Ada has been a very active volunteer member of her daughter's school, coordinating and supervising creative projects in the classroom and organising fund raising activites.

Ada has a passion for the creative arts and spends her spare time quilting, sewing, drawing and cooking and is thrilled to be able to further pursue these passions at 'A Friends Place' in her role as Co-ordinator of Creative Therapies. 

Wendy Grant

Wendy FisherI feel very privileged to be a part of the NCCG team and work as a Children and Adult's Counsellor at the centre. Prior to this I worked as an Early Childhood School Counsellor in a co-educational school on the lower north shore. I had worked as a school counsellor for nearly twenty years and love working with children of all ages.

My original career was in nursing and after leaving school,  I qualified as a General and Midwifery Registered nurse.

I am the proud mother of three adult sons and grandmother of four beautiful children. As my children grew up I decided to retrain and did a Post Graduate Dip in counselling and then Masters in Counselling. I am also now a qualified Children and Adult's Bereavement counsellor. I feel very blessed to love my work. 

My favourite things to do when I am not working are spending time with my family and friends, going to concerts, opera, ballet and the movies, reading,  yoga and walking.

Betsy (Elizabeth) Hill
Besty (Elizabeth) HillBA. Dip Ed. MA (School Counselling) MAPS
Educational and Developmental Psychologist

Betsy Hill originally trained as an English and Special Education teacher. She taught English and some drama for almost 10 years during which time she began volunteering as a Lifeline telephone counsellor. She enjoyed this work so much that she left teaching for full time school counselling which she has now been doing for over twenty years. She is loving being involved as a support worker at a Friends Place and getting to know the wonderful children who come along to groups.

Kerri Hamer

Kerri HamerIt was in the mid 80’s when I first met Mal McKissock at a workshop I attended to help me gain an understanding of students coping with grief. At the time I was a new school counsellor and wanted to know how to support students and school communities that were impacted by loss. When attending another workshop in 2008 with Di McKissock I decided I wanted to become more involved at “A Friend’s Place”.

I enjoy my two roles at the centre: both individual counselling and leading a team of support workers in our fortnightly children’s group. Both types of involvement with children offer their own unique support and I find a lot of personal reward in what I do. I also enjoy working with a great group of people who are compassionate, skilful, energetic, talented and fun to be with.

Now that I have recently retired from my 35 years in school counselling and teaching I can give more time to my other interests: lawn bowls, community involvement and travel. I am supported and encouraged by my husband Gary and three adult sons. 

Carolyn Johns

Caroline DaleI am a Psychologist currently working part-time as a School Counsellor. I have been working as a Support Worker at A Friend's Place since late 2010. I have 2 young children.




Scott Andrews

Scott AndrewsI first became aware of the McKissock's through the ABC radio program Step by Step - Coping With Grief when I was about 12 years of age. Although most of the content went over my head at the time, my mum gained a great deal of comfort through listening to the program. She had also bought one of the first editions of Mal and Di's book (Coping With Grief), back when it was much smaller than it is now, and a well-thumbed copy was kept on the family bookshelf for many years.

I started my counselling training through the Australian College of Applied Psychology while I was working at Optus as a Dispute Resolutions Officer. I left Optus prior to graduating and worked for two years in a funeral home. During this time, I obtained a thorough knowledge of the funeral industry and was dedicated to assisting families in a meaningful and personalised funeral experience. The majority of my undergraduate field placement was completed at the Homicide Victim's Support Group (HVSG), and I continued to work there as  a volunteer on the 24-hour telephone support line until I was offered a full-time position shortly thereafter. While working at HVSG, I completed both the adult and children's bereavment counselling training at NCCG, and am now involved as a support worker in one of the fortnightly children's groups as well as being an adults counsellor. 

My current roles at NCCG involve counselling adults and children, and working on various research projects that focus on the childhood bereavement experience. I am currently studying a master's degree in social work and hope to finish by the end of this year (2015). Hobbies include going to the beach, cooking, Bikram yogo and fantasizing about buying a motorbike and learning to paraglide. Our young son keeps my wife and I entertained and exhausted in the most enjoyable way.

Joke Klein-van Exel

Joke Klein-van ExelMy name is Joke (english: Yokuh) and as the name suggests I have an international brackground. I was born and raised in the The Netherlands and my husbands's work has taken us overseas since 1990. We lived in Germany, Singapore, and all together 12 years in Australia. Our two sons were also born in The Netherlands but raised internationally.

In 1977 I graduated to become a registered nurse and have practised in The Netherlands, Singapore and Australia. What I loved most in my 30 years of working as a nurse, was the interaction with patients and the difference I could make by providing them with the very best care I could give. In 2010 I felt the need to broaden my personal and professional horizon and decided to study counselling and psychotherapy. I thought my nursing experience and interest in people would provide me with a sound base for this change of career. I am so glad I took that decision, especially since after my graduation I got the opportunity to become involved with 'A Friend's Place' where such wonderful work is done by helping children to cope with the death of someone they love. I hope to be doing this work for many more years to come.

In my free time I love to walk, ski, practice yoga and riding pillion with my husband on his motorbikes. Last but not least I am a passionate tennis and soccer fan.

Nick Backo

NickI currently work in Child Protection for Family and Community Services and have done so for a number of years in various locations and roles. I attended 'A Friend's Place' as a young person after my dad died from a brain aneurism. Following this, I really wanted to contribute to NCCG and have volunteered since then. I have helped out at groups and with adventure weekends and love every minute of my time there. Both my mum and brother also attended 'A Friend's Place' and have a lot of respect for the work that it is done there. My work with 'A Friend's Place' has taught me a lot and I am continually inspired by the children and young people, and their families, that go there! I currently live in Gladesville with my partner and our two cats! I enjoy refereeing football and futsal and have done this for a long time. I look forward to many more years of work with all the wonderful children, young people and parents at NCCG and enjoy learning from the other great staff and volunteers there.

Sarina Chapman

SarinaI moved to Sydney in the late 80’s from Country NSW where I grew up and studied Nutrition part time at Naturcare College, graduating 1991. I was due to commence a degree in nursing in 1993; however my husband was offered a job in the Middle East and we spent the next 13 years living in Bahrain where our three children were born.

Upon my arrival back in Australia in 2006, I commenced a Diploma of Holistic Counselling and Life Care, completing this in 2009. Since then, I have combined taking care of my three children and counselling elderly residents in Nursing Homes on the Northern Beaches as well as private counselling in a Mona Vale practice. I spent 7 weeks on Norfolk Island in 2011 as an interim counsellor, providing support to the population of approximately 900 residents. This was a very enriching experience that I enjoyed very much despite the various challenges that come with a small isolated community. In 2012, I completed 2 units of Pastoral Care training at Royal North Shore Hospital. One component of this training involved ward visitations in three Sydney hospitals, totaling 800 hours and it was due to this experience that I became interested in training more comprehensively in grief counselling. I completed both the adult and children’s bereavement counselling training at NCCG and have been a volunteer support worker in the fortnightly children’s groups since mid 2013. I find this a very rewarding experience as well as enjoying the benefits of being part of the ‘family’ that is NCCG. I am currently in the process of completing a Diploma of Positive Psychology and am exploring other study options and courses to commence next year.

For the moment my attention is on supporting my last child in completing her HSC this year. I am looking forward to the next phase of life with no school and spending quality time with my three adult children and all that this entails. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with close friends, knitting, painting, cooking, taking nature photos and bushwalking -particularly waterfalls. I am currently attempting to teach myself to play the guitar. The progress is painstakingly slow but rewarding! Unfortunately my soccer playing days are over due to injury but I am an avid supporter of my daughter’s soccer team and my Sunday mornings are usually spent, with our dog ‘Spike’ as the team mascot, on the sideline cheering on the team. I particularly love going on country drives and, as my parents are still living in my home town of Orange and my brother and his family live in Parkes, its always a good excuse to get out on the open road.

Belinda Dunn

BelindaMy interest in bereavement counselling was sparked after watching a video by Mal McKissock about grief and loss during my training as a Lifeline telephone counsellor some years ago. I am currently studying a Graduate Diploma in Counselling and had the opportunity to complete the children's bereavement counselling course at the Centre in 2015. I volunteer as a support worker in one of the fortnightly children's groups and I feel very privileged to be a part of the NCCG team. I have 3 school aged children and a troublesome Golden Retriever.



Valda Tucker

I have worked for ‘A Friends Place’ since 2010. In my role as Centre Manager, I am the first point of contact for clients. I take all phone and email enquires and arrange appointments.

I also take care of the day to day running of the centre, from ensuring there is always milk in the fridge for those indispensable coffee’s to processing book orders and everything in between.

The job is wonderful and the thing that I enjoy most is meeting the wonderful people who come here at a very hard time in their life. I am constantly blessed  and enriched by the conversations I have with parents and clients in the waiting room and by the brief contact I have with the lovely children while they wait to see their counsellor. 



Supporters of The National Center for Childhood Grief


Supporters of the The National Centre for Childhood Grief