Established in 2013, by a group of families, the Valued Lives Foundation exists to deliver supports and services, designed by people with disability, for people with disability. We are a dynamic peer-led disability organisation based in Western Australia. We exist so that people with disability live their best lives as valued citizens.
Values Lives is a registered Western Australian charity. We began as a local area coordination service and have gone onto become a registered NDIS service provider. Our core purpose is dedicated to partnering with people with disability, to enable inclusion and valued roles.
In 2023, the Valued Lives Foundation made the decision to separate its capacity building service from its service provision interests by establishing the Empowered Connections brand. Empowered Connections is guided by an Independent Disability Inclusion Panel, to ensure that the Foundation’s commitment to user-led and co-design is not compromised.
All that we do at Valued Lives is driven by three core principles:
Board of Directors
Led by an Executive Team and Board of passionate individuals with a wealth of knowledge, lived experience of disability and mental health issues, we are a transparent and innovative organisation. We promote a collective vision of people with disability living their best lives as valued citizens. To ensure that we remain truthful to our commitment of disability leadership, 75% of our Board Directors must be made up of people with disability or their family members.
Meet Our Board
Dr. Rita Kleinfeld-Fowell
Legally deaf and blind, Rita is an inspiration to many. As a young child, she and her mother fought to attend mainstream schooling. From that point on, Rita didn’t perceive herself as different, “unique yes, but not different.”
After leaving school, Rita took an administrative apprenticeship, taking advantage of a government initiative to support more people with disabilities in attending university. Graduating with a first-class law degree, Rita entered commercial practice, had a family, was awarded a doctorate and eventually migrated to Australia.
Rita loves living in Australia, but notes that migration was not easy. “The individualised supports I had been used to in the UK were simply not available when I arrived.” Rather than going back into law, Rita worked as a Support Coordinator because she wanted to drive change from the ground up. “Once the NDIS rolled out, it was easier for me to get a support package, and I am now working in private/commercial law as a Senior Solicitor at Tom & Co Legal. With my current job, I am really fortunate, as the practice is owned by Tom Monks, who also lives with a disability, and he supports me in my endeavours to drive change in how people perceive people with disabilities.”
Rita feels honoured to be the Valued Lives Chair due to the organisation’s unwavering commitment to seeing people with disabilities working in open employment and living a life of their choosing. “What makes a person purposeful are how they connect, be it through work, family, friends and/or community connection. For many people from my community, this is defined and I can’t say enough how important these things are and commend Valued Lives in its endeavours to create an inclusive world.”
(He/Him) Board Member
A Singaporean-born Canadian who has lived and worked in North America, Southeast Asia, India and Europe, Cole came to Australia in 2006 and joined the Valued Lives Board in 2023.
Cole graduated with a Bachelor of Management in Human Resources, Industrial Relations and Management Information Systems from Lethbridge, Canada. He said, ‘it was during a project working in India, that I earned my PMBA (Project Management by Accident) degree, specialising in delivering Human Resource Information Systems, payroll implementation and outsourcing solutions. The rest is history.’ His travels took him to Malaysia and India before finally settling in Perth in 2006.
Cole is a technology and project management leader with experience spanning IT, engagement and project/program delivery. His focus has been on driving change, project governance, strategy, process improvement and standardising business systems to improve performance.
Growing up, Cole always sought the best in situations and believes in the value and dignity of having a meaningful role in society, creating valued lives. This is why Cole is passionate about supporting those with disabilities to live their best lives and achieve valued roles for themselves, regardless of the form it takes. He says: ‘I am excited to be part of the Valued Lives board because Valued Lives provides real opportunities for people living with disabilities to achieve valued lives. I look forward to supporting our organisation, participants and stakeholders in making a difference in the lives of those living with disabilities.”
(She/Her) Chief Executive Officer
Jane joined Valued Lives as CEO in 2021. Jane has worked in human services for the last three decades and as a family member of a person with disability. She has experienced complexities and joys within the sector firsthand.
Jane’s vibrant leadership style and extensive knowledge in the not-for-profit services industry continue to drive Valued Lives Foundation to new heights, fostering creativity and growth within the WA disability sector.
Driven by her passion for promoting purpose and fostering community connection, Jane aspires to lead the sector in reform to achieve equity of opportunity and full participation for individuals with disabilities.
She is focused on strengthening Valued Lives Foundation’s co-design capability and accelerating the development of creative and innovative solutions. This effort is resulting in the organisation’s success in securing innovation funding and launching an innovative approach to open employment programs, as well as a state-wide peer-to-peer support initiative.
Valued Lives Foundation’s basis in strengths-based, people-centric practice. This aligns with Jane’s commitment to seeing people with disability as people.
(He/Him) Board Member
David is the eldest child of deaf parents, providing him with firsthand insight into the challenges faced by the Deaf community. He played a pivotal role in advocating for Deaf issues in the Queensland Parliament and the broader community. Notably, he delivered his maiden Parliamentary speech in Auslan (Australian Sign Language).
With over three decades of experience in diverse sectors, including private enterprise and government, David’s expertise spans various industries, such as government, Not for Profit, small business, defence, academia, strategic policy and consulting.
A graduate of the Royal Military College Duntroon, he served as an Army officer for 8½ years before embarking on a career in both business and public service. His recent roles have included serving as the CEO of a disability organisation, holding the position of Executive Director of a country music festival, serving as a State Member of Parliament and acting as the General Manager of a newspaper, among others. Additionally, he has held various board positions and currently serves on the Board of GRAI (GLBTI Rights in Ageing Inc) and Valued Lives.
David is a highly accomplished public speaker and is frequently invited to address audiences on a range of topics, including deafness, civic participation, mental health and LGBTI issues. He has been a speaker at prestigious events such as the World Federation of the Deaf conference and the Australasian Study of Parliament Group conference. David has authored and published papers on the engagement of people with disabilities in the democratic process, with two articles featured in the Australasian Parliamentary Review.
David and Jane Forward, CEO, represents the Board at the quarterly meetings of the National Alliance of Capacity Building Organisations.
(She/Her) Board Member
Renai is a dynamic and creative individual with a passion for promoting inclusivity and connection. She has worked in various Lived Experience sectors advocating for equity, social justice and human rights. Renai draws motivation from her personal experiences with chronic illness, neurodivergence and mental health hurdles.
With 15 years’ experience contributing to the advocacy, education and Peer Support provided across queer, sexual health, chronic illness, disability and mental health spaces, Renai is committed to creating inclusive environments and promoting intersectionality and accessibility.
Renai’s profound connection to Valued Lives stems from her shared values. She expresses her enthusiasm, stating, “I am thrilled to contribute to a Peer-led organisation that actively fosters the citizenship of all persons while nurturing meaningful connections.”
Outside of her professional endeavors, Renai finds solace in the company of her wife and two young children, often immersed in a world of Lego, lullabies and laundry.
(He/Him) Board Member
Colin is a dedicated father to a young man with Autism. Following diagnosis, the family have ensured that every opportunity possible would be explored for their son. This pursuit unveiled the complexities and inherent challenges of accessing support systems. An advocate of mainstream integration, Colin champions continual upskilling and patience necessary for navigating convoluted support processes.
His son’s achievements, including completing schooling, attaining a driver’s license, earning a Certificate IV in Cyber Security, independent living and securing a government job, stand as an incredible reflection of the family’s persistent support, helping their son in living a life filled with purpose, control and success.
Following deployments to Papua New Guinea and years as a first responder, Colin returned home with severe P.T.S.D. While the condition posed significant challenges, it also unveiled unexpected opportunities. Shifting from operational work to Cyber Security uncovered an immense new career path. With an M.B.A specialising in Cyber Security nearly completed, Colin has lectured at TAFE, been invited as a Visiting Research Associate at Curtin University and earned two scholarships along with several academic awards.
With extensive global business experience across various sectors, including government, defence, law enforcement, aviation, power generation, logistics and cyber security, Colin is known for his service-oriented approach with a focus on sustainability, client engagement and commercial success. Colin says, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what journey you’ve had to date; setting meaningful goals and then achieving them brings fulfillment and encouragement to live our best life.”
Disability Inclusion Panel
The Valued Lives Inclusion Panel offers the voice of lived experience to the VLF Board and Leadership Team. The Panel plays a significant role in guiding VLF’s capacity building services – Empowered Connections. The Panel upholds VLF’s commitment in ensuring that all supports and services are peer-led and guided by the voice of disability.
2023 - 2025
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2023 Annual Report
Download the 2023 Annual Report here.
Insider Info Booklet
A guided template for family members and carers to record useful information.
Information for the individuals we support, their families and the disability community.
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A monthly email for individuals, families and communities to enable inclusion and valued roles.