Our Executive Team

Debra Zanella

Title CEO
Experience and Expertise With 20 years’ experience in the community sector, Debra is a strong advocate for vulnerable and disadvantaged people. In her capacity as Chief Executive for several noteworthy organisations, Debra has refined her leadership style to incorporate a strong commitment to collaboration, capacity building and systems development. Her previous leadership experience includes senior roles in specialised Drug and Alcohol Services, Catholic Hospital Executive Management and other related health and community services.

She has as served as a Director of the West Australian Association for Mental Health since March 2016. She is currently a Board Member of the East Metropolitan Health Service and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee and is currently the President of the Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS). Debra has previously served as a Director of the Western Australian Network of Drug and Alcohol Agencies (WANADA).

Ben Hawthorn

Title Executive Manager, Research, Design and Innovation
Experience and Expertise Ben has had a diverse career having worked internationally and locally across various industry sectors from education and health to engineering and sustainability on large scale infrastructure projects such as the Gold Coast Light Rail Project. He also has a strong interest in social enterprise and digital ventures, having co-founded an online disability marketplace and advised a number of startups both locally as and internationally as a Partner at Health Disrupt.

Ben holds a B.Sc (Double Major), Post Graduate DipEd and other postgraduate business qualifications. He has completed the General Management Program at Mt Eliza Executive Education, Melbourne Business School and is accredited in RABQSA-QM Auditing Quality Management Systems. Ben is currently a Board Director of Shelter WA and WA Blue Sky.


Graham Donnelly

Title Chief Financial Officer
Experience and Expertise Graham is a Chartered Accountant with over 20 years’ experience in both the commercial and NFP sector in both Ireland and Australia working across a wide and diverse range of industries from sales and marketing, rail networks, construction, tourism and disability services.

Graham holds a BA in Accounting and Finance and holds Fellowship membership with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

Mark Slattery

Title Executive Manager, Operations
Experience and Expertise Mark has worked in health and not-for-profit sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom for more than three decades and is ready to share the knowledge he’s amassed over that time, especially in quality and client focused outcomes, with the Ruah team. Mark was originally lured to Perth from Sydney after following the Americas Cup. Over the years that followed, Mark moved between Perth, Wales and Bath and honed his skills in management and health policy.

Sam Knight

Title Executive Manager, Housing and Homelessness Strategy
Experience and Expertise Sam has a background in strategic program management on programs with a strong overlap between the public, private and not for profit sectors. While looking at the community health sector, research into the social determinants of health led him to his role at Ruah Community services where he currently leads our housing and homelessness teams. He is also a member of the WA Alliance to End Homelessness Facilitating Group, contributing to the Alliance’s 10 Year Strategy to End Homelessness.

Shayla Strapps

Title Executive Manager, Legal Governance and Compliance
Experience and Expertise Shayla Strapps is a solicitor and manager with diverse work experience across community legal centres, not for profits, government and private practice. Her professional work has been recognized for its value when was awarded the ‘Lawyer of the Year’ award by the WA Law Society in 2012.
Her experience across all areas of running a successful business include operations, project management, business development, strategy and finance. She is committed to the development of community organisations and has volunteered on numerous not for profit boards and committees.

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