Our Team

Jackie Lauff – Co-founder and CEO


sport matters team member jackie lauffJackie is passionate about creating opportunities for people in developing countries sparked during a University placement to Fiji in 1999 whilst studying Occupational Therapy and an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) placement to Fiji for the Suva 2003 South Pacific Games. Since then she has sought out sport and development roles around the world and combined post-graduate studies with diverse professional experiences, including working with the International Council for Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE) delivering Sport in Post-Disaster Intervention seminars, and also working with the Organising Committees of a host of international multi-sport games. More recently, Jackie worked as an Inclusion Officer with Basketball Australia, creating sporting opportunities for people with disabilities across Australia and for indigenous women in remote Northern Territory. Together with Sport Matters co-founder Liesl Tesch, Jackie has delivered sport and development programs in Alice Springs, Timor-Leste and South Africa. In her spare time Jackie has conquered a half marathon, and regularly enjoys women's rugby, triathlon sprints and open water swimming.


Click here to see Jackie Lauff's Board Member profile.


Liesl Tesch – Co-founder


sport matters team member liesl teschLiesl is a Paralympian, motivational speaker and teaches Aboriginal Studies, Business Studies and Geography. She combines her commitments with her passion for travel, and has been conducting sport for development programs in marginalised countries around the world as a volunteer since 1996. Liesl has seen the benefits of social change through sport.
Liesl continues to promote sport for people with disabilities around the world. She has demonstrated the importance of healthy life-styles within the French prison system, promoted sport for people with disabilities on Easter Island community radio, and has engaged students on lunchtime detention as training partners in her preparation for Paralympic Games. Liesl competed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race in 2009, retired from the Australian Women's Wheelchair Basketball Team, the Gliders (with two Silver and one Bronze Medal) and won a Gold Medal in Paralympic Sailing at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. She recently sailed her 2nd Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and now has her sights firmly set on Paralympic Sailing at the next games in Rio in 2016!


Click here to see Liesl Tesch's Board Member profile.




Sport Matters Volunteer Network


Line Johansen

Line recently moved to Australia from Denmark in August 2013 and is living in Brisbane where she plays semi-professional soccer. She has had a long career of playing high level soccer and recently started coaching children which she sees as the best way of passing on her experience and love for the game. Apart from playing sports, Line holds a Bachelor in English & International Business Communication. She is currently studying a Master in Culture, Communication & Globalisation at Aalborg University in Denmark. Through travels to China, Thailand, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and outback Australia, Line has gained insight into the challenges that exist in developing parts of our world, and it has not only left her with a curiosity for cultural differences but also a feeling of wanting to make a difference. Line believes that more education and increased awareness can enhance the quality of life for people living in developing communities and it makes perfect sense for her to join Sport Matters and use sport as a neutral medium to foster development.

Nick Handelsman

Nick is a Masters of Sports Management student at the University of Technology, Sydney who has loved sport all his life. Having completed a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Economics at the University of New South Wales, Nick has a growing interest in how sport can improve individuals and communities through health and economics, and is enthusiastic about becoming involved in an organisation that uses sport as a vehicle and tool for the purpose of improving living standards in such ways. Having travelled extensively through South East Asia and the Pacific, Nick became inspired by the hard work and persistence of each region’s local populous under tremendous hardship and believes that sport can play a very positive role in improving quality of life in these regions. Nick has played rugby union since he was in primary school and is currently the secretary of his rugby club, Sydney Grammar Old Boys. He also holds great passion for Australian Rules football, basketball and cricket. 


Kurt Thomson

Kurt became a Legal Assistant at one of Australia’s leading personal injuries law firms after being paralysed in a car accident in 2000. He has been involved in competitive wheelchair basketball for 8 years with the Brisbane Spinning Bullets, Gold Coast Rollerblaze and now with Townsville Cyclones. He has been privileged to play for and against some of Australia’s best athletes.  Highlights of his career include playing for Brisbane in the National Wheelchair Basketball League (NWBL) and winning the Queensland State Championships in 2004. His love for the game and it’s ability to break down social barriers that confront people with disabilities is his motivation for joining the team at Sport Matters through their partnership with Gold Coast Recreation and Sport. At Age 31, Kurt continues to grow as a player, a mentor and role model for young people with disabilities and his next goal is to re-join the NWBL in 2014. 


Jessica Sims

Jess has travelled to Thailand, Indonesia and New Caledonia and has never quiet recovered from the culture-shock. Being faced with the reality of people living in extreme poverty from a young age, Jess developed a deep passion for creating a more just world. After finishing high-school and exploring further a-field Malaysia and the Kingdom of Tonga, she went to University to learn more about the causes of poverty and how we can change our world for the better. During her studies Jess was invited to Malaysia to attend the ‘University Scholars Leadership Symposium’ organised by UK-based organisation, Humanitarian Affairs. Jess has recently graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Development Studies with a double major in ‘Globalisation and Economic Development’ and ‘Urban and Regional Development’. She is excited to see sport being used to create community, build capacity and make a positive impact on the world.


Curtis Palmer

sport matters team member curtis palmerCurtis is a Gold medal winning Paralympic athlete, motivational speaker, safety education officer, ambassador and all round good guy. A dedicated adventure junkie, scuba diver, wheelchair rugby veteran Curtis has travelled the globe and is now taking all of his life experiences into schools and companies to inspire others to “smash it” the way he has. Passionate about helping others Curtis has been involved in workshops with the National Disability Service, The Rite Journey and works as a safety education officer for Youthsafe. With an insatiable appetite for travel and adventure Curtis is an ambassador for the youth leadership course, Horizons Week, in Fiji and he has crewed for Unleashed Schoolies on Mana Island, visited orphanages in Bali, volunteered with Right To Play in Ethiopia and worked as a TV host for a show in New Zealand called Attitude. With Rio 2016 in his sights Curtis is dedicating the next 4 years to achieving his ultimate goal of another Gold medal. Watch this ginger go!


Tionette Stodddard

sport matters team member tionette stoddard Tionette is an Olympic skeleton racer and Performance Coordinator for Athletics at the Queensland Academy of Sport. Diversely experienced as a project manager, coach, and group facilitator she has an Exercise Science degree, Graduate Diploma in Coaching, and is currently completing a Masters in International and Community Development. When competing Tionette was acutely aware of how fortunate she was to be an elite athlete, and this motivated her to find a way to give back. She became inspired by initiatives using sport as a vehicle for individual and community development, and soon after the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games she pursued opportunities to contribute to the Sport for Development and Peace movement. Tionette is passionate about assisting people (particularly those in disadvantaged situations) to benefit from engagement in inclusive sport and physical activity programs. Her volunteering experiences include time with Right To Play (Athlete Ambassador, program delivery, youth leadership training), ICSSPE (communication strategy support), Boxgirls International (preparation and delivery of Gender Equality training at a United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace – Youth Leadership Camp), Rucks N Mauls (junior rugby camps); and most recently she joined the Sport Matters team.


Megan Sharkey

sport matters team member megan sharkeyMegan is an environmental planner and sustainable solutions consultant with a passion for sport, health, and social equality. She holds degrees in Biochemistry (bachelor), Urban Planning (masters), and Sustainable Development (masters). She has coached youth sports, started a non-profit youth basketball league, and regularly volunteered at hospitals and community organisations. Megan’s greatest passion is the environment and ensuring everyone has a safe, healthy, and happy one to grow and develop to their fullest potential. She has experience working in many countries developing sustainable programs for organisations focusing on the environment and healthy outcomes for the community. Megan has played sport all her life and been an active committee member of those sports including soccer, pole vaulting, and softball. She currently plays rugby and enjoys yoga, boxing and Pilates in between running after her 18 month old boy!

Weh Yeoh


sport matters team member weh yeohWeh has a background in Physiotherapy and a passion for improving quality of life for people with disabilities. He has worked with Handicap International in China and volunteered on community programs in a number of countries across Asia including Cambodia and Vietnam, and also interned with the Centre for Refugee Research in India. Combining his passions for health and development, Weh co-founded an organisation called whydev.org to create peer-to-peer networks between international development practitioners, who often work in intense and isolated settings around the world. Weh has a Master of International Development Studies from the University of New South Wales in Sydney and his interests span effective and ethical international development, social media, health and disability.  


Kerry Tavrou


sport matters team member kerry tavrouKerry has always loved and participated in sport. He is currently an Inclusion Officer at Gymnastics Victoria responsible for developing inclusive pathways and programs to enable people with disabilities to participate in gymnastics across Victoria. Prior to this role, Kerry was part of the community Inclusion and Development team at Scope Victoria supporting people with a disability to be involved in their communities of choice. During that role Kerry set up a balloon football league (Aussie Rules football for wheelchair users), gymnastics classes and gym groups. Kerry has completed a Bachelor of Applied Science – Majoring in Disabilities at Deakin University and an honours degree with a thesis titled 'The effects of community-based fitness centres on the physical, psychological and social health of people with multiple or profound disabilities'. Kerry has a firm belief that sport brings communities together on an equal playing field of respect and provides individuals with social opportunities and connectedness to their local community.


Elissa Barden


sport matters team member elissa bardenElissa is an Occupational Therapist (OT) currently living on the Gold Coast. She has previously worked on the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) as a ski and snowboard instructor for people with disabilities and with Gold Coast Recreation and Sport before expanding her skills as an OT in Rehabilitation, Community, Paediatrics and Home Care. While working at an orphanage in Cambodia and travelling Vietnam and Thailand, she saw an enormous need for advocacy for people with disabilities in areas including integration, empowerment, development, support and access related to poverty and the impact of war. Having seen the impact of sport on athletes with disabilities at the Winter Paralympics in Vancouver 2010, Elissa commenced a Master of International Sport Management degree at Southern Cross University with the goal of increasing awareness and promoting opportunities for participation in sport for people with disabilities not only in Australia, but throughout the world.




Sophia Gerakios


sport matters team member Sophia GerakiosSophia is a lawyer specialising in Employment Safety and People at a Sydney law firm. With a Bachelor of Economics, and a Bachelor of Law majoring in Government and International Relations, Sophia has a passion for human rights and equal opportunity to employment. Following those passions, Sophia helped found the Oxfam Australia Group at Sydney University, studied Chinese Law in Shanghai and completed an internship with Amnesty International Australia. Sophia's other great interest is media and journalism, having worked as a digital producer for Sky News Australia. Aside from her full-time work as a lawyer, Sophia is a volunteer solicitor at Kingsford Legal Centre in Sydney. Beyond work, Sophia is passionate about her favourite sports, snowboarding and yoga, and enthusiastic about the prospect of using sport as a vehicle of improving quality of life and providing employment opportunities for people in developing communities.