Leadership Team

Johanna Parker (co-director)

Jo attended RYLA in 2005 whilst studying Rural Social Welfare/Psychology at the University of Ballarat (now Federation University). She joined the RYLA Leadership Team in 2007 and has been Co-Directing the program since 2011, while also being a RYLA facilitator in Tasmania and globally on behalf of Rotary International. Jo is an international speaker, heart-centered life and confidence coach, global coach trainer, kindness and authenticity advocate and the founder of Heart Sparks ( www.heartsparks.com.au ), where she passionately supports young adults and women to confidently embrace the depths of their uniqueness, build an unbreakable, loving relationship with themselves and unashamedly share their truest voice with the world while strengthening their local communities through united change. Originally from Warracknabeal, Jo now calls Melbourne home and in her free time you will likely find her cafe-hopping with her friends and hubby, seeing live music or planning her next travel adventure.






Tristan Knoop (co-director)

Tristan grew up in Warracknabeal and attended RYLA in 2005 before becoming a member of the leadership team in 2010 and 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 a regional manager where he supports teams of staff, improves organisational processes and empowers hundreds of individual’s to source employment opportunities.
Having called Melbourne home since 2007, when not working in the “Big Smoke” Tristan enjoys time with family and friends, basking in the sunshine with a great book or planning social gathering for family and friends.









Brooke Wilson

Brooke was a RYLA participant in 2007 and joined the leadership team in 2008. Brooke went to Uni in Adelaide after finishing Year 12 and studied Behavioural Science. After completing her degree, Brooke returned to her hometown of Mount Gambier, where she still resides. Brooke has 14 years experience working with children, young people and families in a non-government organisation and has been a leader in her workplace and community throughout this time. Brooke is also a life coach and has her own business Brooke Wilson Life Coaching, supporting rural women and young people to love their lives and be true and kind to themselves. She is currently studying her masters in counselling and will soon be adding counselling to her business. Brooke also loves spending time with friends and family, getting involved in community events, seeking out live music and watching or going to the footy – GO PIES!








Jess Cass

Jess attended RYLA in 2009 and joined the 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 Crowe Horwath. She now holds the position of manager and is a qualified Chartered Accountant. She is heavily involved in her local community through various volunteer board and committee positions. During her spare time you will find her playing lawn bowls, hiking in the beautiful Grampians, baking delicious treats for family and friends, or reading a good book.








Patrick Janes

Pat attended RYLA in 2012 and joined the 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 also bought his former employer’s business in December 2013 and now runs his own metal fabrication and engineering business. He looks forward to training and developing his own apprentices, not only as skilled tradespeople but also young leaders,
in the future. Aside from work Pat enjoys the outdoors and can be found riding enduro dirt bikes, snowboarding, fishing, four wheel driving, playing with his dog or playing guitar








Damon Miller-Stawyskyj

Damon attended RYLA in 2016 and was delighted to be invited to join the leadership team this year. Originally from Torquay, Damon now lives and works in Geelong in disability and mental health, and has been doing so for the past 5 years, prior to which he studied Psychology at Deakin in Geelong. In his spare time, Damon enjoys catching up with friends and family, trying new things, listening to any kind of music, taking his bike wherever the road leads, and eating more food than his body can handle.








Billy Koopmans

Billy attended RYLA in 2016 and joined the leadership team in 2019. Originally born and raised in Ballarat, he has done an apprenticeship in Horticulture/Sports Turf Management and won the Gordon, Victorian and Australian apprentice of the year in 2016. Billy now lives in Geelong and is currently doing a trade in Landscaping.
Billy’s hobbies besides from work are playing golf, four wheel driving, playing footy, fishing and mountain bike riding.








Clare Desira

Clare grew up in Colac and attended RYLA in 2004 while she was studying Business at the University of Ballarat (now Federation Uni). Clare joined the RYLA team in 2004 and has been co-directing the program since 2007, taking a few years leave from her role over 2017-19.
Clare works in corporate responsibility connecting skills and resources to several social issues and opportunities – environment, Indigenous, health, education, volunteering, homelessness and women’s empowerment. Clare also has her own business as a life and confidence coach, speaker, facilitator, product developer and founded the Top Five Movement (www.topfivemovement.com). Clare’s approach to living a practical, positive life has been described as inspiring, engaging, uplifting and thought provoking. Her ideas have been shared with thousands through a TEDx talk, at global conferences, corporate workshops, leadership programs, in education curriculum, at universities and in health programs