Leadership Team

The CEO reports directly to the United Synergies Board of Directors and is supported by a team of experienced program managers (United Synergies’ Leadership Team). The Program Managers oversee our key service delivery areas.

Christopher John

Chief Executive Officer

Christopher became the CEO for United Synergies in April 2012 after six years as CEO of Lifeline Hobart, Tasmania. In his role as CEO, Christopher ensures the organisation’s values are at the heart of all its operations; leading the team in defining its future vision and reviewing its progress to ensure outcomes are achieved and expectations are met.

Christopher has previously worked at Southbank Institute in the Faculty of Health, Humanities and Applied Science in teaching and management.

Christopher has a Masters of Management (Community Management), a Post Graduate Diploma of Health Science and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors Company Directors Course (GAICD). Christopher is a Board member of Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) and a current co-opted Board member for PeakCare Queensland.


Mark James

Manager - Corporate Services

Mark’s role is to oversee all the support functions for the organisation including the financial, human relations, marketing and communications, workplace health and safety, organisational risk and information and technology. Mark is also the Company Secretary, ensuring our compliance with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) and Board’s governance documentation.

Mark joined United Synergies in December 2012 after seven years in New Zealand running and expanding a successful retailing franchise network to 50+ franchises. Mark’s previous experience includes senior management positions in the public sector in health funding and also in the private sector with a healthcare provider.

Mark graduated with a Business Degree from The Robert Gordon University in Scotland and immigrated to Australia after living in New Zealand for 13 years.


Karen Phillips

General Manager

In Karen’s current role of General Manager she provides overarching guidance and coordination for our Centre Managers and StandBy Operations Manager. Karen is focussed setting and delivering on high standards across the organisation to ensure we have smooth operations and good practices to support our clients.

Karen joined United Synergies in January 2009 as Program Manager for the Education, Employment and Training (EET) team and was instrumental in substantially growing the program area from four to 26 staff in three years. More recently Karen led the operations of StandBy – Support After Suicide program. As the National StandBy Response Service Manager, Karen was responsible for the delivery of the program across 17 sites nationally.

Karen’s qualifications include a Bachelor of Education and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.


Jamila Shah

Child and Family Manager

As Licensed Care Manager at United Synergies, Jamila’s role provides overarching guidance and coordination for all Licensed Care and family programs, supporting the care teams to ensure young people have a safe and nurturing place to live, grow and aspire to the future.

Jamila has worked in the child protection and community services arena for over 18 years, holding management positions for 15 years in both the community services sector and corporate sector. Over this time Jamila has developed extensive experience and knowledge in the child protection and family services field with roles undertaken in residential care, intensive case management services, youth education services, family services, disaster relief, child protection, Youth justice, Aboriginal specific programs and disability services.

In the community services sector Jamila has worked in a number of capacities, as case manager, team leader, program manager, area manager and licensed care services manager. Her roles have taken her from Victoria to Brisbane, Rockhampton, Mackay and the Sunshine Coast, to further afield including a university placement with a child protection office in Northampton, United Kingdom.

Jamila holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Melbourne University majoring in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies, and a Diploma of Social and Community Welfare from Monash University.


Tony Howley

Finance Manager

Tony joined United Synergies in 2017, taking on the role of Finance Manager to oversee the management of budgets and financial resources. Tony’s role is integral to assessing, planning and coordinating our efforts to better support the future needs of our organisation in the most cost-effective ways.

Tony emigrated from the UK in 2005 having worked as regional finance manager for two multi-national companies and a not-for-profit Housing Association. Since living on the Sunshine Coast Tony has worked for Lendlease Retirement Living and St Andrews’s Anglican college. He brings a wealth of experience to his role at United Synergies and is passionate about working across the various programs that support vulnerable people in our community.


Dr Tanya Bell

Policy Manager

Tanya joined United Synergies in 2017 in the new role of Policy Manager. Tanya is involved in the strategic planning and development of our services to ensure while meeting the requirements of government policy, we are working effectively with our partners and local stakeholders to achieve better outcomes for our clients.

With almost two decades in the primary health care sector, Tanya has worked for research and academic institutes, state government departments, as well as non-government agencies including Medical Locals and Primary Health Networks. More recently Tanya has been engaged in a strategic leadership capacity assisting organisations to define and establish direction and priorities to deliver on their vision, values and strategy.

As a Population Health Epidemiologist, Tanya is passionate about improving the health and well-being of communities.


Melissa Smidt

Human Resources Manager

Melissa joined United Synergies in the position of HR Advisor in July 2015, and since August 2016 has taken on a 12 month secondment in the position of HR Manager. Melissa now guides our team in the management and support of all our staff in their employment and training.

Prior to joining United Synergies, Melissa worked for a global organisation as a HR Business Partner for 5 years in which she provided extensive hands-on support and guidance to managers and employees in all facets of the employee life cycle.

She has 12 years of generalist human resources experience which includes leading HR initiatives, employee relations, performance management, talent acquisition and talent management, training, policy design, benefits and compliance reporting. She has experience working in both the not-for-profit and commercial sectors.


Scott Douglas

Quality Manager

Scott joined United Synergies in 2018 in the new role of Quality Manager.  In this role, Scott oversees our accreditation and quality processes which includes ISO 9001 and compliance to the range of Standards we work against to ensure we meet funding body requirements and provide effective and efficient services.

Scott has worked in the human services sector for over three decades in both the government and non-government sectors. Directly prior to joining United Synergies, Scott was Senior Program Manager for a large human services organisation with a focus on supporting vulnerable families and children.  He was also founder and director of an overseas humanitarian organisation with projects in Vanuatu, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia.  Scott has been engaged in quality management for several years as a certified Lead Auditor and Consultant with work around Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Scott has a Masters of International and Community Development, a Graduate Certificate of Management, and Diploma of Quality Management.  He is a Fellow with the Governance Institute of Australia (FGIA) and certified Lead Auditor with International Register of Certified Auditors (IRCA).


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