Friends with Dignity

Meet the team

Manuela Whitford

CEO / Founder

Manuela Whitford, married, mother of 3, and “Granny” to 1 is passionate and committed to helping others.


Born in Mozambique and grew up in South Africa. A Registered Nurse of over 25yrs, she has always made time to give back to her Community in one way or another.


Having immigrated to Australia in 2010, leaving family and lifelong friends, Manuela was determined to make Australia home for her and her immediate family. Securing a job with Queensland Health within the correctional services, Manuela soon realised she needed to StepUp and help people impacted by Domestic Violence.



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This resulted in her Founding her original organisation, Assist A Sista in 2012 that later evolved to become Friends with Dignity in 2015. Manuela is no stranger to violence, having experienced an horrific event whilst in South Africa, prompting her immigration. She is determined and committed to ensure everyone’s right to feeling safe.


Working full-time as a Clinical Nurse in the Addictions and Mental Health sector have broadened her knowledge and experience on how resilient people really are!

Through collaboration and community engagement, so much can be done!


One of her favourite African proverbs: Alone you go faster, Together you go further


Both saddened and infuriated at the sheer number of incidences and witnessing the debilitating effects not only to Victim-Victim-survivors but their families, friends and community, Manuela proudly Stands Up and Speaks Out against Domestic and Family Violence.


Manuela proudly leads, and jointly works with, equally passionate volunteers to make a difference to the lives of so many individuals. Manuela is inspired by people and in awe of their resilience, which drives her to continue making a difference.


Volunteering, for Manuela, has become a vocation that she is truly committed to. She has reflected on how what she has created has been life changing, not only for the people she assists, but also to the volunteers, her family and herself alike.


” I look forward to the day my Voluntary position becomes redundant. But, until then, I and the Friends with Dignity crew will continue to StepUp, SpeakOut and Support those affected by Domestic Violence”.

Darrell Whitford

CEO / Founder

Founding Board member and Chief Operations Officer.


Father of 3 and grandfather to 1. Darrell has worked in the mechanical gearbox industry for more than 20 years holding various positions from applications engineer to business development manager. 


Having completed a Diploma in Mechanical engineering and a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and Master’s Degree Business administration, Darrell provides a practical outlook and a particular passion in continuous improvement, innovation and business sustainability and longevity. 


His personal passions are cycling, exploring the outdoors and creative home improvements. He enjoys learning about the history of the earth and mankind. 

Jay Botha

Finance Manager

Jay Botha is the founder at JB Business Consultants, an accounting & strategic partner firm.  Married and father of 2 and a gorgeous furry friend. He is passionate about growing smaller organizations. His can-do attitude along with vast experience, has enabled all his, and his clients endeavors to prosper.


Jay joined the Friends with Dignity Leadership team in December 2019 and in April 2021 took on the position of Chief Financial Officer.


Botha is a member of CPA Australia and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Stellenbosch.  His accounting background, stretches over two decades across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. He has worked across several industries, including the Mineral Exploration, as well as Banking and Insurance sectors.

Jeri Childers

Non-Executive Director

Jeri Childers, PhD, is the founder of Advancing & Accelerating with Jeri Childers, a coaching, leadership, and business development company. 


Jeri works with accelerators and organisations supporting leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators who want a coach or business catalyst that co-creates customized roadmaps for their careers, commercial or social enterprise startups or scaleups. 


Jeri develops leaders and teams with a focus on mindsets and intentional change strategies that combine mindset research, brain science, and innovation strategies for leadership and venture development.  Jeri uses Fingerprint for Success (F4S), a world-first people analytics tool, that enables mindsets and steps for success. 

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Dr Childers’ doctoral training focused on how professionals learn in the workplace, and she has international certifications from MIT related innovation and design thinking, from F4S in Entrepreneur and Business Builder Success Factor Models and the F4S Assessment, which are invaluable to founders, founder teams, and boards.  Jeri is certified by the International Institute of Complementary Therapies (IICT) in Life Coaching (Practitioner), Passion and Purpose Coaching (Practitioner), Masculine and Feminine Coaching (MF) (Practitioner), Matrix Therapies (Practitioner), Archetypal Coaching (Practitioner), and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) (Practitioner). 


Jeri is the Director of Education for iAccelerate at the University of Wollongong and is the chief evangelist for innovation and entrepreneurial education and services for students, staff, and the community.iAccelerate is a unique business accelerator and incubator program, where startups, scaleups, social enterprises and intrapreneurs thrive. The companies are supported by a robust model of education, mentoring, and seed funding. 


Jeri has recently been working with Canva as a part of their advancing talent program with First Innovators, a rising Indigenous startup, powered by Investible and Indigenous Capital Limited, to deliver accelerator and business development services across Australia to enable Indigenous people startup and scaleup their careers and ventures.  Jeri is partnering with Investible to offer business coaching to founders and business builders locally and globally. 


Previously Dr. Childers was the founding Director of the UTS Techcelerator, at the University of Technology Sydney, Faculty of Engineering & IT, which enables early-stage tech founders to prototype and validate their commercial deep tech solutions. Jeri also founded the UTS Female Founder Mentoring Program and the Advancing Women in Tech leadership development series.  


Jeri is a non-executive director on the board of Friends with Dignity, a non-profit organisation advocating and providing services to the victims of domestic violence.  Jeri has been a mentor and brand ambassador for Inspiring Rare Birds for many years. Inspiring Rare Birds provides professional and business development services to female leaders and founders.  In these roles Jeri is a champion of gender equality, diversity, and inclusion, and empowers leaders and organisation to advance and accelerate lives, careers, a business. 

Nicole Madigan

Non-Executive Director

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist, editor, and content specialist, with more than 20 years’ experience in the media and communications industries.  Her work is frequently published in high-profile print and online publications, including The Australian, The Age, The Courier Mail, Sunday Life, The Sydney Morning Herald,,, The CEO Magazine, The CFO Magazine, and many others. She is a former on-air reporter with Channel Nine, and has managed communication and content projects for numerous organisations of various sizes, including EML Group, The Real Estate Institute of Queensland, and Charles Darwin University. 


She is the author of two children’s books, and is an ambassador for Australia Reads, The Miracle Babies Foundation and domestic violence advocacy group, My Red Flags. 


Nicole has a passionate interest in domestic violence and family law, writing frequently on these and related topics, in the hope of raising awareness and evoking change.   

Vicki Kersey

National Programs Manager

Vicki has been a volunteer with Friends with Dignity since 2017 and took on the National Programs Manager role in February 2020.

The role manages three of our programs – Sanctuary, Urgent Request and Little Friends Requests. Vicki oversees state programs managers, who ensure the programs run smoothly, and policy and procedures are followed to provide the best outcome for clients. She has also implemented an online request system and set up a database to store and collate information about our programs.


Vicki has had a varied work history, from retail and hospitality to management and business ownership. She is currently a property renovator.

Tracey Wickham

National Fundraiser and Community Engagements Manager

Tracey is an experienced community and corporate relations manager and communications and marketing manager with over 25 years’ experience in not for profit, corporate and charity workplaces.



Tracey is passionate about working with communities, clubs and businesses to assist members of our communities that are doing it tough. Tracey brings to Friends of Dignity her enthusiasm, creativity  and experience that will help our charity grow and expand its presence through fundraising and creating awareness of our programs and how they can be supported. Tracey creates authentic and meaningful partnerships with our business stakeholders that provided employee engagement opportunities through volunteering and fundraising activities as well as fundraising collaborations with businesses.

Renee Henville

National HR Manager

Since February 2021 Renee Henville has been engaged as the National Human Resources Manager for Friends With Dignity.

In this position, Renee overseas the HR and Volunteer Coordinator team to implement policies, procedures and continually develop the internal culture of Friends With Dignity.

Renee has over 20 years of experience as a Human Resources Professional.  In 2011 Renee founded Integrated Human Resourcing, an outsourced HR and Recruitment firm based on the Gold Coast.


Renee holds a Bachelor of Business : Organisational Psychology and Human Resources majors and DISC Advanced Accreditation.  She loves supporting business to improve workplace culture and engagement.

In 2018 Renee was an Awardee of Merit in the Gold Coast Women in Business Awards, 2019 became a Small Business Mentor with the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training;  and in 2021 Integrated Human Resourcing was a monthly winner of Gold Coast Business Excellence Awards.

Linda Draper

National Scholarships Manager

Linda joined the Friends with Dignity team in November 2023, whilst still devoting her time to various organisations within the community. Backed with 25 years of Procurement experience in corporate settings, Linda has provided a can-do attitude. As she steps into semi-retirement, Linda will enjoy improving her golf swing and her water colour painting techniques.

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With a passion for Kinesiology and Life Coaching, Linda is passionate about understanding the emotional and physical needs of families who are experiencing Domestic Violence.

Recently, Linda has transitioned into the role of Little Friends Scholarship Program Manager and is truly excited about the “Why” behind this program. As a mum herself, Linda understands how important education is for our Little Friends and is committed to ensuring that every child impacted by Domestic and Family Violence, will still be able to further their education and reach their full potential.

van der Burgt

National FriendSafe Program Manager

Melissa joined Friends with Dignity in September 2020 after being a supporter of the programs for some time in the background.


Taking on the role of National FriendSafe Program Manager, Melissa’s first task was to complete the design and development of the FriendSafe Program and manage the launch which took place in October 2020. This program is an absolute passion of Melissa’s and countless hours are spent ensuring the smooth running and tight governance of FriendSafe.


Melissa has over 15 years’ experience in large scale program management and delivery across a number of industries, including Local and State Government, Global Outsourcing, Global Healthcare and Insurance. This experience ensures the FriendSafe program runs with sound governance, refined processes and a high level of client and agency satisfaction.

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Having personally grown up in a less than privileged environment, Melissa has spent countless hours volunteering throughout her life in an effort to give people back the basics that have been taken from them. With a secret passion for technology, the FriendSafe program perfectly links her desire to help people while leveraging the latest technology to achieve this goal.


Working with this program Melissa is acutely aware of the daily risks men, women and children are facing as a result of Domestic & Family Violence and sincerely hopes that by providing personal safety devices to those in need we can keep people safer and give them back their basic rights.

Decinda MacDonald

National Events Manager

“I love to create beauty in the world, to elevate ordinary moments, to facilitate connection between people and their brands, and enrich lives through engaging event experiences.”


Decinda’s journey as a business owner began in 2010 whilst sitting at a kitchen table, disillusioned by the thought that her talents lay dormant. She was struck with an idea, and thus, a passion to see that idea come to fruition. It was in that same year her first events company Sugar and Spice Events was born. In later years her second events company Event Society made head waves in the events industry with her meticulous attention to detail and creative flare.


Twelve years later and not only have her businesses survived each trial and tribulation, they’ve thrived due to careful planning and astute business instincts. These highly decorated, award-winning company’s boast an impressive cachet of high-end clientele including Queensland government, Lexus, BMW, QBE, Loreal, Jetstar, Dexus and Mirvac, among many others.

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Decinda is the Friends with Dignity National Event Manager, and as such is tasked with producing all events throughout the country of our event calendar. Events play a major role in the fundraising efforts of our organisation and help to spread the word about the vital work we do in the community.


Decinda originally got her start in the events industry with her background being founded in high-end corporate entertainment and theatre both locally and internationally, which, in total has given her over 19 years of experience within the events and entertainment industry. With a rap score of almost 2000 events, planned, managed and designed, Decinda prides herself on her consistency to evolve with modern styles and to innovate and contribute to setting trends.


Decinda’s role in the business as creative director, is to harness her creative imagination to fulfil client briefs and achieve their objectives. Decinda also oversees all aspects of running Event Society and Sugar and Spice Events, ensuring their quality, and delivering a constitution of excellence to each and every event produced.

Rosemary Macchiavelli

National Community Engagements Manager

Rosemary is responsible for the management of the Community Engagement Team. The community engagement portfolio comprises of:


Independent Fundraising – pecuniary and non-pecuniary.

Community engagement coordinating – actively engaging with the community by attending fundraisers, events, public speaking and any other creative method to engage with members of the community and promote FWD brand.

Drives programming – comprises of individual, workplaces/organisations collecting items to furnish the sanctuaries (homes), the drives can be known as the laundry, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen drive. Items are donated for a specific room ready for a family to move into. CE team often coordinates these drives with the logistics/donations team to help store in the warehouse ready for our volunteers to get together and furnish one of the sanctuaries.

There is also the major annual drives known as the Christmas gifting for friends drive and the back to school drive whereby individuals and organisations participate in gifting for adults and children.

Joe Dageforde


Joe, founder of 4 Shore Projects, is a valued ambassador for Friends with Dignity, bringing a deep personal commitment to supporting those impacted by domestic family violence. With a journey that has taken him from a challenging upbringing in ‘The Children of God’ cult to becoming a respected figure in the construction industry, Joe’s story is one of resilience, dedication, and a desire to make a positive impact.


His experiences have fueled a passion for helping adults and children rebuild their lives, aligning perfectly with our mission at Friends with Dignity. Joe’s story serves as a testament to the power of overcoming adversity with kindness, respect, and transparency.

Sima Mala


Sima is a Forensic Toxicology Analyst and an internationally published model and accessories designer, Sima found her calling with Friends with Dignity at our 2017 High Tea event. The cause resonated with her deeply due to her personal experiences witnessing domestic violence from a young age.


Sima’s commitment goes beyond passive support; she has actively raised awareness about domestic violence through her creative work. Her passion project involves designing and selling headwear, the proceeds from which help set up Sanctuaries for victim-victim-survivors. For Sima, this isn’t just charity work, it’s her life mission.

Shannen Simmons


Shannen, a mother of four and co-founder of Aesthetically You Rejuvenation Clinic has been a beacon of strength and resilience, overcoming personal trauma and adversities.


As a victim-survivor of domestic violence, she deeply understands the mission at Friends with Dignity and the importance of supporting all individuals affected by this issue. Her unwavering commitment has already seen her raise over $60k for DV organisations and we’re excited for the awareness she will bring to our cause.

Sandie Foran


Sandy, the owner of Moss n Stone, is a true friend and valued ambassador of Friends with Dignity. As a victim-survivor of domestic violence herself, Sandy understands the profound impact it can have on individuals and their loved ones. Her commitment to giving back and making a difference in the lives of those affected by domestic violence is a testament to her strength and compassion.

Moss n Stone, located in the heart of Chirn Park, has been a long-time supporter of Friends with Dignity. The talented floristry team at Moss n Stone has contributed to our events and fundraisers with beautiful floral arrangements and thoughtful gift hampers, adding a touch of beauty and hope to our cause.

Decinda Burrell


Decinda, founder of Event Society, is not only an extraordinary events mastermind but also a staunch advocate for Friends with Dignity, consistently championing our mission. As our Director of Events, she, along with her indefatigable team, conceptualises and executes exceptional events that are truly memorable. They inspire and touch the hearts of everyone present, leaving lasting impressions that ripple throughout our community.

Decinda’s dedication is genuinely anchored in the community. Her commitment to garnering support is relentless. She tirelessly engages with local businesses, arranging drives that propel our cause further and catalyses impactful change. But her advocacy doesn’t stop there. She is constantly spreading the word about the vital work we do, ensuring that our message reaches as many hearts and minds as possible.

Join Us

We invite all Australians to join us in supporting victim-survivors of domestic violence as we work
towards building a nation free from domestic violence.



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