Gateways was formed by dedicated members of the local community, including parents of children and adults with a disability, and members of the Geelong medical and business community.

The aim was to form a responsive organisation to provide innovative programs to address unmet needs, including for  people with very complex needs.

Gateways is governed by a voluntary Board of Management. The Board ensures that Gateways stays true to its Mission of empowering and supporting people with disabilities, and their families.

The Board comprises:

Dr Bernie Jenner, President Gateways Support Services

Dr Bernie Jenner, President

MBBS, FRACP, Dip. Child Psychiatry, Grad. Dip. Soc. Sci. in Family Therapy

Dr Jenner is a Consultant Paediatrician and Family Therapist and has special interests in Child Learning, Developmental and Behavioural Problems, Bereavement, Asthma and Neonatology. He is Chairman of Barwon Paediatric Services Inc., Consultant Paediatrician at Geelong Hospital and St John of God Hospital, former Director of Paediatrics at Barwon Health and the Geelong Family Therapy Centre, Clinical Associate in Paediatrics at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Royal Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer in Paediatrics at Deakin University. He is involved in undergraduate, postgraduate and community Education, is a consultant to numerous Barwon regional support services, and been on many Hospital and Community committees.  He is associated with two Award Winning Organizations in the Barwon Region, as the Founder and President of both Hope Bereavement Care and Gateways Disability Support Services. He was awarded the 1995 Advance Australia Foundation Award, the 1998 Alan J. Holding Memorial Lions Club International Award for Community Service, in 2002 Barwon Health Quality Award, in 2003 the Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International, in 2005 The Parks Victoria Regional Achiever Award and a finalist in the Victorian Healthcare Awards, in 2007 was the recipient of the Australian of the Year Local Hero award for regional Victoria and a finalist for the National Australian of the Year Local Hero award, in 2012 was the recipient of the Compassionate Friends of Victoria Compassionate Employer Recognition Award for Gateways Support Services. He is also an Australia Day Ambassador.

Dr Robert Ward, Vice President Gateways Support Services

Dr Robert Ward, Vice President


Robert is a General Practitioner who has worked in private practice in Belmont for over 20 years. He is father of three including a son with a disability who accesses services and NDIS funding. His experience with disability is as a family doctor supporting patients and their families, and as a parent who has experienced the disability system. Robert has been on the Gateways board for over 12 years. He is passionate about Gateways quality and accessibility of services. “I want to make sure Gateways is there to support families, like they helped my family and my patients.”

John Gavens, Treasurer Gateways Support Services

Mr John Gavens, Treasurer

John Gavens has a Master of Arts in Accounting, a Bachelor of Commerce and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is currently an Audit and Assurance Partner at Crowe Horwath Melbourne and has a background in auditing, financial reporting and risk management. John specialises in the provision of these services to public sector agencies, local government and not- for- profits.  In addition, he has many years experience as Chief Executive of a full service financial services firm. John is currently a Board member of Barwon Water and chairs the audit committee.  He is also a member of two local government audit committees.  He is a member of the CA Advisory Panel and was a member of the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board. John previously served on the Gateways Board from 2002 – 2010 and is currently Treasurer.

Rose Hodge, Gateways Support Services Board Member

Mrs Rose Hodge

App. Dip Science (Dental Therapy)

Rose Hodge lives on the Surf Coast and has been a local Councillor since 2003 and is a three time Mayor. Rose’s involvement with Gateways began through her son Connor who is autistic and received early intervention and support when he was younger. Connor is now in his twenties and Rose enjoys giving back to the organisation that gave so much in the improvement of his behaviour and thus her family life. Rose Hodge has been a Gateways Board member since 2007.

Mark Appleford, Gateways Support Services Board Member

Mr Mark Appleford

B. Comm., BS

Mark is the facilities Manager at Westfield Geelong, and has an extensive background in facilities and operations management. Mark is also a volunteer and committee member at St Joseph’s Cricket Club, and does voluntary work with refugees. He has completed bachelors degrees in science and commerce. Mark has served on the Gateways board since 2003.

Mrs Helen Buchan


Helen Buchan is a senior Solicitor, Business Enablement with the Transport Accident Commission.  Helen graduated from the University of Auckland in 2006 with Bachelor degrees in Law and Science.  Since then, Helen has had experience in multiple jurisdictions. Helen first worked in a boutique commercial law firm in Auckland, focusing on Banking & Finance, Commercial and Property Law.  She then gained experience in the UK working at a large international construction company, then a large financial institution, and then as a senior lawyer role with a Geelong law firm.  Helen is the current Vice-President and Treasurer of the Geelong Law Association and a member of the Law Institute of Victoria.

Karl Morris, Gateways Support Services Board Member

Mr Karl Morris

B.Bus (Acc), MA(VC), GAICD

Karl Morris completed a Bachelor of Business Accounting at Deakin University and has a Master’s in Virtual Communications (RMIT) and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Karl grew up in Ballarat and was elected to the Ballarat City Council from 1991 to 1994. He has extensive experience in media and advertising. He became the managing director of an ASX listed company The Mobi Data Group. Karl undertook his Master’s in Virtual Communications,  leading him to his current position as Managing Director of GOOP Digital, a company that delivers websites and social media platforms for small and medium sized businesses.

Rob Birch

Rob Birch is the CEO of G-Force Recruitment and has extensive experience as a CEO and Senior Executive in the Apprenticeships and Recruitment sectors.

He is a serving Director of the Apprenticeship Employment Network (Vic), Strategy & Policy Committee member and Leadership sub-committee member of the Committee for Geelong.  Rob is also a committee member and Immediate Past President of the Geelong Business Club.

Mr James Arnott, Secretary (from October 2017) Board Member

Dip. App. Sci., Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics, MBA, GAICD.

James completed his Diploma of Applied Science as a prosthetist/orthotists in 1988.  Working as a prosthetist for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Caulfield General Medical Centre and The Alfred Hospital he completed further studies in prosthetics and orthotics before completing an MBA at UNSW in 2000.   James commenced working in Private Health Insurance in 2002.  He is the father of two girls through which he has experienced the positive impact that Gateways has provided his family.

Claire Bibawi

BHlth Sc Nursing, Post Grad Counselling and Communication

Claire has extensive experience in palliative care, mental health and aged care nursing coordination and management, particularly amongst culturally and linguistically diverse populations.  She has been involved in various pastoral care, community and school programs including the “Shine” program, aimed at supporting adolescent females at risk.  Claire currently holds the position of CEO of an Italian specific aged care facility, and has served on the Board of Interchange Western Region Inc. for almost 2 years.  She is a mother of three children including Christian who has Down Syndrome.