Board of Directors | Our People at Forward Ability Support

Board of Directors

Anders Halvorsen OAM

Chairman – MBA, MAICD

My name is Anders Halvorsen OAM, Chairman of the Forward Board. Forward Ability Support has played a dual role in my life, initially as a newly injured young man searching for community and support, and since 2004, as an elected member of the Board. 

Since becoming a Paraplegic in 1973, I have lived in regional NSW, which was the impetus to bring regional representation to the Board. I felt the organisation needed to be truly representative of all who found themselves navigating life with Spinal Cord Injury whether from a large city or outback town. 


I am passionate about aiding those needing redirection following catastrophic accidents or illness. 

Passionate about providing care, physically and emotionally.

Passionate for good customer service and delivery for our ever necessary medical supplies. Passionate about providing a platform from which persons with SCI can be launched FORWARD into a future of hope and success.

Passionate about cheering on those who too often are still in 2021, hidden away and seemingly forgotten.

Forward Ability Support has grown from what was a fledgling association to the primary care organisation for hundreds, even thousands of those who find themselves doing life on wheels.I consider it an enormous privilege to serve this wonderful association and the additional recognition of the awarding of OAM earlier in 2021 for service to the disability community was a particularly rewarding moment personally, but additionally a recognition of the influence of our organisation.

Anders Halvorsen

Shannon Finch

Deputy Chair – ANU BA(Hons)LLB(Hons), FGIA, MAICD

I was appointed to the Forward board in 2018. I have volunteered on boards in the disability sector for many years – my mother had a condition that affected her ability to walk, so it has really resonated with me. I loved all the different ways Forward supports the SCI community and was really interested in the social enterprise charitable model.


I am a member of the Finance and Risk Committee – and I bring my expertise in governance to my work with that Committee and the Board. I am working with an amazing group of directors and management with a great diversity of perspectives and a passion for serving the SCI community. I’ve loved our strategy days and seeing the business transform. The new warehouse systems are particularly amazing. I’m most looking forward to supporting our management team to transform our customer and membership experience. Seeing how our new social channels help support, raise awareness and tell the stories of our customers, members and ambassadors in the SCI community.

Phil Silver OAM

Non-executive Director

I joined the Forward board towards the end of 2021. I have been a T5 paraplegic for 55 years following an MVA in 1986. I have been a Certified Practicing Accountant since 1972 and was awarded an OAM in 2015.

In addition to a successful life as a para, I have considerable financial and corporate experience in the private sector, public sector, local government and corporate government. I’ve also been a board member of the Emanual Anglican College in Ballina, NSE, including Chair of its Finance and Risk Committees. 


I have served for some 10 years as a former Director with ParaQuad NSW up until 1987 when I relocated to the Northern Rivers when the inconvenience and cost of travel forced me to resign. I have for the last 15 years served as the ParaQuad NSW representative on the Australian Government Aviation Access Committee of the Dept of Transport. 

I’m proud to be a Forward board member and look forward to serving and assisting in the disability service area. 

Michael Mathias

Non-executive Director – BSc, GradDipEnvSt, MEnvSt, DL, DLegSt

I have been a Non-executive Director of Forward since 2018. I have seen a transformation of Forward with the warehouse upgrade, improved communication with Forward’s clients and customers and back of house IT upgrades. As a consumer of Brightsky goods I have seen great changes in the ordering and delivery, making mine and hopefully your life that little bit easier. I came to join the Board so I could represent people with disabilities and ensure board discussions focused on better outcomes for people living with a spinal injury. As a C5 incomplete quadriplegic I hope I provide an insight to our daily life.


As a father of six adult-aged children, I have seen the huge impact of spinal injury on my wife and kids. They have been a fantastic support as I learnt a new way to live. I believe life is good, just different. I appreciate the strains and stress that comes from such a major trauma on a young family, and I am in awe of others raising their own families with the complexity that a spinal injury brings.

Forward is in an exciting time where it is creating a future aimed at improving people’s daily lives further and being a strong advocate for ones living with spinal injuries. I look forward to continuing to share insights into the difficulties we have to overcome with other Board members. I believe Forward is an excellent organisation from the management to the pick and packers, call centre staff and our great carers. These great people come together to achieve amazing outcomes for us that need their support.

Michael Mathias

John Renshaw

Non-executive Director – BCom(Acc), LLB

I have been a Board Member since 2009. In the past, I was Deputy Chairman and served on the Finance and Risk Committee.I am a solicitor by day and have practised mainly in civil litigation for 25 years. I am currently a Principal of McInnes Wilson Lawyers. 

Outside of work, my wife and I have been blessed with three children. Our youngest just completed HSC in 2021, while my other two are well on their way at university. I also love sports. When time permits, I play golf regularly, including at representative levels. I am a tragic Roosters supporter. I have also been closely involved in water polo and serve as the President of the Appeals Tribunal for Water Polo Australia.


As some of my work as a solicitor has involved disputes involving serious injuries, I felt that I could help the Forward Board through my legal and insurance knowledge to achieve outcomes for the spinal cord injury community. Since 2009, I’ve witnessed change and achievement at Forward. Firstly I assisted in the development of Ferguson Lodge and, in more recent times, access to NDIS and its implementation for the community. This NDIS remains a focus and passion for me to ensure it is equitably and sensibly applied, with the hope that this also includes those over 65 years old in the near future.

John Renshaw

Brian Cohen

Non-executive Director – BSc(Hons), PhD

I joined the Forward Board in 2013 and prior to that, had been on the AQA Board, now known as SCIA.I have seen ParaQuad NSW, now Forward, transition from the block funding days to the current NDIS environment. I have seen BrightSky Australia grow to be a national brand, and I have been part of the changing landscape for people with a spinal cord injury. 

I completed my PhD at the University of New South Wales in 1978. My area of study was artificial intelligence. In those days, computers were these bulky things that were still new and not well known.


However, Software was emerging, and I ran a successful software company in Australia and overseas selling software for sales and marketing, Finance, Medical Services and Defence Services, among other things. The best part about selling software all those years ago was to witness business transformation across our varied clients and, more importantly, to find software solutions for business problems. Today, my company is building alternative software for COVID testing. Although it’s early days, the technology is promising and can reduce testing time significantly. 

While ultimately, I wish to see how we may repair spinal cord injury,  I am keenly focused on ensuring that people with Spinal Cord injury are looked after and have every opportunity to live their best life. Working with Forward ensures that we focus on everyday matters after a spinal cord injury, that an accident, injury or illness is not the end of the world but the beginning of a new way of living a full life. 

Brian Cohen

Elli Baker

Non-executive Director – BCivEng(Hons), MFin, GAICD

I am a passionate person, and my professional path has, like my life, been a journey of passions – throwing myself into opportunities of new experience and making a difference. I have been really fortunate to work across the globe and have had some incredible and diverse experiences. 


Joining the Forward Board was something that I was passionately drawn to. I was very strongly drawn to the can-do attitude and passion of the people I met who wanted to make a real difference in taking the organisation forward with a customer focus. I worked with 2 of the Board members on other boards and knew that we had a common desire to achieve positive outcomes and were the sorts of people that would go the extra mile to make sure we were doing everything we could for the organisation. During my time with Forward to make a difference for its customers and community, I hope to be able to help guide the organisation to be the best it can be for customers and employees.

I’m an active person and love being busy, so my life might be a bit crazy busy at times, but I love it that way. My biggest passion, of course, is my gorgeous children and teaching them to make the most of life and to launch them as good people with strong values. Very close behind are my passions for skiing – my mother is Norwegian and so maybe it is in the blood – and mountain biking, a more recent hobby and so much fun.

Tim Rossell

Non-executive Director – BEc, F FIN, CFP, MAICD

I joined the Forward Board as a Non-Executive Director in 2021.

I have over 30 years of experience in Financial Advisory & Professional Services and have been an active volunteer contributor at both a Board and an organisational level in the Not-for-Profit sector since 2015. During my time in Financial Advisory, I had the privilege of being trusted to assist many individuals & families whose lives had been profoundly impacted by accident & injury. Courtesy of this first experience, I saw the difference that strong relationships, resources, and access to people & organisations who provide care can make.


I also consulted with organisations & community groups to ensure they could make the most of their financial resources for the long-term benefit of those that depended on them. Through my professional and personal life, it’s been incredibly satisfying to help and empower people to live their best possible lives with confidence and for teams and organisations to make a difference that genuinely matters.

These motivators resonate so well for me, and I’m delighted to contribute to Forward’s aim of supporting people impacted by paralysis to live their best lives. A focus on striving to always do better in the present and being inquisitive and enthusiastic about what the future can be, are qualities that I hope to bring to my involvement with Forward Ability Support.

I grew up in the Snowy Mountains of NSW and have always had a passion for the outdoors, particularly skiing. This love of the snow is something I indulge in whenever possible, inherited by each of my four children & embraced by my wife.

Kim Brislane

I was invited to join the Forward Board by fellow Board Member, Shannon Finch, who I had the pleasure of working with on the Muscular Dystrophy NSW Board for 6 years. Joining Forward felt like a natural transition in my life. Having enjoyed every aspect of being a part of the MDNSW Board. I’d connected with MDNSW while I was CEO of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and we’d partnered on a pilot project using the Award framework to challenge young people living with muscular dystrophy.


I have many highlights of my career, but working with The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and having many dinners at Buckingham Palace was certainly unforgettable. Apart from these incredible ‘experiences’, I love when projects I work on make an impact on the ground and ideas are turned into reality. At Forward I hope to add value specifically in the marketing and philanthropy work and ambitions of Forward. I’m also incredibly excited to learn as much as I can – as quickly as I can! 

Outside of work, I run a small book blog named Readhead with a friend, where we share our reading recommendations with each other and the world. Over nine years later, the blog is still going strong being read by over 40,000 people worldwide. 

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