Chief Executive Officer
Nerita Waight is a Yorta Yorta and Narrandjeri woman with Taungurung connections.
Nerita is the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. Nerita was first employed at VALS in 2014 as a civil lawyer. Prior to becoming CEO, Nerita had experience across several teams in the organisation including family and children’s law, as well as policy and advocacy.
Nerita has served on the Boards of several organisations including Elizabeth Morgan House, Bupup Wilam, and the Australia Community Support Organisation.
Nerita was elected as a member of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria in 2023 and was elected by the Assembly as Treaty Co-Convenor.
Nerita is also the mother of two young boys. Ensuring that they grow up with strong connections to their culture and kin, and in a world that is safer for Aboriginal people, is a key motivation for Nerita’s work.
Chief Financial Officer
Trevor Plowman has extensive experience in financial services delivery and administration and leads the VALS finance unit, encompassing all key financial and risk management review. Prior to working with VALS, Trevor worked with the Department of Justice, EPA Victoria, the Bureau of Meteorology, and Domain Caravans, within senior financial management roles. He served as the CFO of the Bureau and EPA, and Finance Director of Domain Caravans.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Amanda is a Gunditjmara woman. Amanda is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer at VALS, until recently, Amanda served as a Director on the VALS board of Directors for ten years. Amanda has extensive experience working with Aboriginal communities, particularly within the Child, Family and Welfare sectors, with a strong focus on best practice and building workforce capability. Amanda has, through her tireless work, shown she is passionate about social justice for Koori people.
Acting Head of Communications, Policy and Strategy
Patrick has over a decade of experience in policy, campaigning and advocacy. He has a Master of Public Policy from RMIT. Patrick has previously worked as a Ministerial adviser and bureaucrat in the Victorian Government. He has a passion for building sustainable campaigns for systemic reforms.
Statewide Community Justice Program Leader
Charmain is a proud Mutthi Mutthi, Waddi Waddi, Wemba Wemba woman, who has been with VALS since 2019 where she started as the Client Service Officer for Swan Hill. In 2021, Charmain became Team Leader for Regional Client Service Officers. Charmain has previously held roles at the Department of Justice – Koori Justice Unit as the LAJAC worker for Loddon Mallee Region, MDAS – Manager Child and Family Services (Swan Hill), VACCA – Manager Child and Family Services (Swan Hill), and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Services – Team Leader Family Services/ Cultural Support Planner. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Family Therapy from La Trobe University, a Certificate IV in Community Services (Specialising in Child Protection), and is currently completing her Diploma in Community Services at RMIT.
Principal Managing Lawyers
Principal Managing Lawyer, Balit Ngulu
Negar Panahi is the Principal Managing Lawyer of Balit Ngulu Practice. Negar started her legal career at VALS as a volunteer in 2017. Since then Negar has worked as a criminal secretary, paralegal and a solicitor with the Criminal Law Practice. During her time with the Criminal Law Practice, Negar developed a strong passion for assisting youth in the criminal justice system and developed her youth crime expertise. Negar transitioned to the Balit Ngulu Practice as senior lawyer and assisted with the program’s relaunch in September 2021.
Principal Managing Lawyer, Criminal Law
Principal Managing Lawyer, Aboriginal Families Law
Juergen is the Principal Managing Lawyer for VALS Aboriginal Families Law. He was previously the State Manager for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community Legal Service. It has been a privilege for him to provide legal service exclusively to Aboriginal people over the past 15 years. This service included complex child-related matters in both State and Commonwealth jurisdictions, and 10 years of remote circuit work through Cape York Peninsula. He holds a Masters degree in Family Law and is a registered Independent Children’s Lawyer, as well as a member of the Law Council of Australia and the Governance Institute of Australia
Principal Managing Lawyer, Wirraway
Sarah manages the Wirraway Practice and represents clients in the areas of police accountability, the rights of people in prison and coronial inquests into Aboriginal deaths in custody. At VALS, Sarah has acted in the Inquest into the passing of Veronica Nelson and the Victorian Court of Appeal prison rights case, Thompson v Minogue. Sarah completed a Master of Laws at Harvard University on a John Monash Scholarship. Sarah is also a Lecturer and Honorary Fellow at Melbourne Law School. Sarah has previously worked at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Legal Aid NSW, and for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of NSW.
Principal Managing Lawyer, Civil and Human Rights
Alex has been the manager of the Civil and Human Rights team at VALS since 2020. Before then, he was the Civil Lawyer at the UK law reform and human rights charity, JUSTICE. He was admitted in Western Australia in 2013 and from 2014 worked for three and a half years as a lawyer in
the Civil and Human Rights practice at the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia, before moving overseas. He has a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Laws.