Leadership Team

Johanna Parker (Co-Director)

Jo grew up in Warracknabeal and attended RYLA in 2005 whilst at Uni in Ballarat. She joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2007, has been Co-Directing the program since 2011 and frequently keynotes at other RYLA programs across the globe.

Jo is an award-winning international speaker, confidence and public speaking coach, global coach trainer, personal leadership maven, TEDx Co-Curator and the founder of Heart Sparks (www.heartsparks.com.au) where, through a unique combination of heart, innovative strategy and personal healing, she has supported folks from over 60 countries worldwide to master their mindset, ignite their voice and build purposeful lives with an unwavering sense of self-worth and connection. Her work has seen many thousands of people build unwavering confidence in themselves and their businesses, her school-based curriculum has transformed wellness conversations in the education sector and her work as a Coach Trainer has supported hundreds of heart-centered people across the globe to build successful service-based businesses.

When not at work you’ll find Jo out somewhere listening to live music, drinking coffee and laughing with friends, or sitting beside her favourite fire pit (built by Pat!).

Tristan Knoop (Co-Director)

Tristan grew up in Warracknabeal and attended RYLA in 2005 before becoming a member of the RYLA Leadership Team in 2010. He has been Co-Directing the program with Jo since 2017.

Previously a manager in the retail sector, Tristan has worked in the disability employment sector since 2008, currently holding a position as State Manager where he supports teams of staff, improves organisational processes and empowers hundreds of individuals to source employment opportunities.

Having called Melbourne home from 2007 to 2020 and then recently making a seachange to the scenic location of Warrnambool, when not working Tristan enjoys time with family and friends, basking in the sunshine with a great book or planning social gatherings for family and friends.

Brooke Wilson

Brooke was a RYLA participant in 2007 and joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2008. Brooke hails from Mt Gambier and is a proud South Australian, despite being a Collingwood supporter.

Brooke is a life coach and accredited counsellor and has her own business Brooke Wilson Counselling and Coaching (www.brookewilson.com.au). She has decades of leadership experience as well as extensive experience working with and supporting children and families.

Brooke was born with a rare condition called moebius syndrome, whereby she is missing some facial nerves and muscles. For some people with the condition it also affects their legs and feet and for Brooke this has meant using a walker to assist with mobility and stability over recent years. However, this hasn’t stopped Brooke from doing what she loves and you will find her spending time with friends and family, getting involved in community events, relaxing with a good book or podcast and seeking out live music.

Jess Maffescioni

Jess attended RYLA in 2009 and joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2012. She studied commerce at Deakin Uni in Geelong before moving back to her home town of Stawell in Western Victoria where she commenced work as an accountant at Findex. She now holds the position of senior manager and is a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Jess is heavily involved in her local community through various volunteer board and committee positions, receiving numerous accolades and awards for her community contributions. During her spare time you will find her playing lawn bowls, cross country running, baking delicious treats for family and friends, or reading a good book.

Pat Janes

Pat attended RYLA in 2012 and joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2014. Originally from Derrinallum he now lives in Ballarat where he completed his Apprenticeship in Heavy Metal Fabrication and won both the Victorian and Australian Apprentice of the Year Awards in 2013. Pat now runs his own metal fabrication and engineering business where he looks forward to training and developing his own apprentices, not only as skilled tradespeople but also young leaders.

After work Pat loves spending time with his wife and two daughters. On weekends he enjoys the outdoors and has a range of hobbies including riding motorbikes, snowboarding, kayak fishing and four wheel driving.

Jessie Sheppard

Jessie attended RYLA in 2014 and joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2017 for a year, before recommencing in 2021. Jessie enjoys dancing, exploring and watching trash TV. She is a mum to a spirited five-year-old girl.

Jessie has experience in Mental Health, Disability, Supporting Youths and was part of her local Rotaract club for three years. She works as an NDIS Support Coordinator and Support Worker and has recently started her own business. She’s looking forward to meeting each participant this year and supporting them through their own personal Ryla experience.

Elise Morrison

Elise attended RYLA in 2015 and this is her second year on the RYLA Leadership Team. Passionate about people, Elise was a founding member for both a Rotaract Club and Youth Action Council in Warracknabeal, taking on many roles over the years ranging from president to treasurer.

Elise now calls Horsham home with her partner and two daughters. With seven years of Retail Store management and team leadership experience in the Retail sector, Elise graduated as a Life Coach in 2021 and launched her business, Fleur Elise Coaching (www.fleurelisecoaching.com.au).

When she’s not working, Elise enjoys attending farmers markets, spending time with her family and friends and trying new things.