STTARS is managed by a board drawn from refugee communities, human rights workers, academics, lawyers, financial specialists and health and welfare workers who are passionate about and have experience in providing services to people from refugee backgrounds.

Our Board

David Wild (Chair)

David Wild is Social Work trained (BSW & MSW) and is the Chief Executive of Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health. He has previously held leadership positions with the Specialised Assistance School for Youth (SASY), Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation, the Department for Education SA, Nunkuwarrin Yunti, the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services Council, and at STTARS. Throughout these roles he has developed expertise in operational management, clinical governance, policy development, contract compliance, quality improvement, and change management.

In 2017, David was honoured to be selected to participate in the Governor’s Leadership Foundation course facilitated by the Leaders Institute of SA, where his skills were further refined, and where he strengthened his commitment to the importance of ethical and adaptive leadership that finds a balance between both contractual guidelines, best practice, and the ethics of empowerment, human rights, and social justice.

Gay Gardner AM (Vice Chair)

Gay Gardner is an experienced lawyer who worked in the area of Migration Law for many years until her cessation of practice at the end of 2016. The particular emphasis of Gay's practice was assisting local migrant families to bring refugee relatives, orphan relatives, parents, spouses and sons and daughters to live in Australia. In 2015/2016, Gay's professional emphasis was to assist those who had suffered domestic violence on arrival in Australia to gain permanent residence in this country. Gay undertook her migration work with great passion and a desire to provide safety and security for persons who had suffered deeply in war-torn countries.

Gay has been a member of numerous boards and committees including Abbeyfield Society, Wilderness School, Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship, St Ann's College, St Chads Anglican Church, Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital and the Australian Craniofacial Foundation to name just a few.

In 2009 Gay was recognised for her community services when she was awarded an AM, in the General Division of the order of Australia. Her citation reads: For service to aged persons through the provision of community housing and support services and through the Abbeyfield Society (Australia).

Currently Gay is setting up Australian Life Services which will have as its objective providing Western education for young people from China, Hong Kong and Korea at boarding schools in Australia.

Bernadette McGrath (Secretary)

Bernadette holds a BA in Social Work and Social Policy from the University of South Australia and has over 20 years' experience leading and managing not-for-profit community organisations. Prior to being appointed to her current position as CEO of Overseas Services to Survivors of Torture and Trauma, Bernadette was the Director of STTARS for 12 years. During her tenure at STTARS she served on the Executive of the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) for 3 years. In 2012 she was elected to represent the Pacific Region on the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Survivors (IRCT) and subsequently served 4 years as Treasurer on the IRCT Executive Committee.

She brings to the board an understanding of the needs of torture survivors and the provision of rehabilitation services, experience in managing the strategic challenges and risks faced by torture and trauma services, and familiarity with the ethical and political complexities involved in this field of work.

Aref Ahmadi (Treasurer)

Aref Ahmadi is a Chartered Accountant and a full member of Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CAANZ) and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting from the University of South Australia. He is also member of SA/NT Diversity and Inclusion and NFP Advisory Panel of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

Aref is refugee from Afghanistan and lived experience of forced migration and seeking refuge in another country. He is very passionate about welfare of refugees and asylum seekers and is a passionate supporter of STTARS and its work.

John Oliphant

John Oliphant is a lecturer in Social Work at Flinders University specialising in the areas of trauma and grief. John also has a private practice as a counsellor and trainer. He has a wide range of experience both in the government and non-government sector. Having worked as a case worker through to executive level John has an excellent understanding of all aspects of social welfare organisations. John has acted as a consultant to both small and large organisations in the sector.

John has had a long association with STTARS, both as a member and in providing various volunteer services to the organisation including: in the early years as a member of the professional core group and later assisting the board and staff in drafting the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement.

John has a continuing interest and concern for the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers and is a passionate supporter of STTARS and its work.

Carol Irizarry

Carol Irizarry has full academic status as an Associate Professor at Flinders University in the School of Social & Policy Studies and is currently a part-time staff member of Equals International.

Carol returned to the STTARS Board In 2015 and served as Secretary and Vice Chair in the following year.

Carol believes that the major social issue facing Australia is related to refugee settlement, and that STTARS is a vital part of contributing to this being a successful process. She is concerned about the quality of life for STTARS' clients as they reconstruct their lives, especially after the pandemic and she feels that STTARS can contribute to public knowledge, discussion and advocacy in relation to refugee settlement.

Carol has North American experience in relation to the settlement of Chilean refugees and welfare services for Puerto Rican and Cuban migrants, and has undertaken research in South Australia in the area of refugee services for unaccompanied humanitarian minors.

For 12 years she coordinated a summer program with various agencies in SA called “Fun Days Out” for refugee children Adelaide which involved over 30 volunteer helpers from the community.

Carol brings to STTARS her expertise in service delivery and research that will assist in developing innovative and contemporary approaches to agency structure and service delivery.

Haidari Smart

Haidari is a Barrister and Solicitor at Mabo Chambers in Adelaide





John Haren

John Haren has been engaged in the community sector for over 30 years including eight years as CEO of St Vincent de Paul Society in South Australia. With a social work and social policy background John has worked with the homeless, asylum seekers and refugees, people with disability, those with mental health challenges and in the health sector. John was the first social worker employed by the nationally regarded agency addressing homelessness, the Hutt Street Centre. John's undergraduate degree was in economics. He has worked in all levels of government, local, state and federal. John lives in Adelaide, South Australia where he writes on many contemporary issues and is working on his first novel.

John was Co-opted to the STTARS board in 2024.

Robyn Smythe (Public Officer)

Robyn is the Director of STTARS.