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Our Team/Work With Us

Our Team

Our team is made up of qualified and skilled people who are passionate about early childhood development, supporting families and building communities. Our leadership, management, operational and program teams are highly experienced and driven by the values of respect, integrity and openness. 

At Playgroup NSW our people are at the heart of what we do. We pride ourselves on our inclusive and engaged organisational culture. We value work-life balance, are family-friendly, flexible and inclusive, which makes us an employer of choice.

Our experienced and dedicated team is comprised of staff based at the Playgroup NSW headquarters in Rosehill as well as support and development staff working in the Greater Sydney and regional areas.

Supporting current and prospective Playgroup NSW members to help them establish and manage community or supported playgroups is the major focus for the majority of our team. This includes providing information and guidance to playgroups, facilitating our supported playgroup sessions and promoting early childhood development with families and professionals.

Our focus and leadership is built around quality service delivery and sees our staffing resources focused firmly on playgroup development, excellence in service delivery, member support and engagement, and continuing our business and digital transformation.

Playgroup NSW also relies on the generosity and passion of our wonderful volunteers. Our community playgroups are run by volunteer committees who dedicate their time to ensure their local playgroup thrives. 


Chief Executive Officer

Nadene Lee

As the CEO of Playgroup NSW, Nadene Lee is focused on delivering better outcomes for children, families and communities. She also helps families in need through her role as the Chair of SMART Recovery International - one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing global addiction treatment programs. She has held a number of non-executive director positions, including with the disability support organisation Fragile X Association of Australia.

Nadene has extensive experience corporate and not-for-profit industries, leading strategy and performance delivery for a range of state, national and international organisations.

Nadene holds a Bachelor, International Business (Chinese), and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Queensland, is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and recently completed the Company Directors Course. 


Leadership Team


Mel. Hill 
General Manager Programs and Quality 

Mel holds a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood), from Macquarie University and has had an extensive career in not-for-profit organisations in the early childhood sector. Mel is a passionate, self-motivated professional committed to achieving strategic objectives, and has a track record in increasing the engagement and participation of marginalised children.

Mel brings to Playgroup NSW skills in building and maintaining partnerships, solid operational management experience with a focus on process, systems and implementation of strategy. Mel is a values based leader with a strong focus on collaboration and collective decision making.


Maria Cignarella 
Manager  Supported Programs in Supported Playgroup 

Maria Cignarella is an early childhood educator with over 15 years’ experience, beginning her career supervising long day care and moving into management of supported programs with Playgroup NSW. This includes the coordination and delivery of MyTime peer support and PlayConnect Playgroups for families of children with autism, developmental delays and behavioural concerns across the state of NSW.

She also takes an active role in business development for the organisation, sourcing and creating opportunities to broaden reach and additional programs and resources to support families and children in the community. She has a special interest in supporting children to reach their potential and enjoys developing strategies tailored to children’s individual needs and interests to support them in their ongoing development. This includes supporting language acquisition, behavioural support, self-regulation strategies and physical health and well-being. 



Victoria Carlsen 
Risk and Compliance Manager

Victoria joined Playgroup NSW as the Risk and Compliance Manager. Victoria has extensive experience in managing operations, quality, compliance, risk management and governance in the education sector. This has enabled Victoria to provide high level advice and support to the Playgroup NSW leadership team, Board and staff in relation to compliance, risk management and policy development impacting Playgroup NSW.




Crystal Sun 
Finance Manager

Crystal joined Playgroup NSW in 2011 with over 10 years’ experience working both in Australia and overseas as a financial professional. After 6 years in a corporate services team, Crystal was promoted to the Finance Manager role in 2017. She is overseeing the organisation’s day-to-day finance functions, providing support to management with her financial analytic skills, working with the whole Playgroup management team to ensure financial accountability across the organisation.

Crystal holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, and a Master’s degree in Applied Finance both obtained from overseas. She is now an Associated Member of CPA Australia (ASA).





Karen Spellman
Manager, People & Culture

Karen has a Bachelor of Business Studies, majoring in Human Resources (HR).Karen is a seasoned HR professional, with experience across a variety of industries from commercial to not-for-profit. She is passionate about the employee experience and supporting people to bring their best selves to work, translating it to company performance. Her key achievements have been in setting HR strategy, implementing wellbeing programs and developing a high performing and supportive culture.

Karen is most proud of her two young children (Conor aged 4 and Sinéad aged 2). She and her husband attended Playgroup NSW with both their children. As a result, she is extremely passionate about the benefits of early childhood learning and the importance of bringing families together in their community.




Ali Jilani 
Information Technology Manager

Ali is an adaptable and transformational information technology leader with over twenty years’ experience designing cutting-edge, stream-lined technology systems for manufacturing, IT, and energy sectors. Ali has demonstrated a background in business analysis, information security, infrastructure management, project management, and change management.

Ali’s time at Playgroup NSW is equally divided between meeting organisation objectives and streamlining business by aligning them with important developments in IT. Throughout his career, Ali has been attracted to organisations where he has had the opportunity to develop strategies, solve problems and enhance business performance through the development and introduction of advanced technological models.


Program Management Team



Erika Smith 
Community Playgroup Manager 

Following a successful national-level Banking career specialising in Learning and Development, Erika joined the Playgroup family in 2012. Having loved coordinating her local playgroup with her own children, Erika brought her passion for family and community service to Playgroup NSW. Commencing in a Development Role, Erika shared her passion and introduced many new and expanding families throughout Sydney, and then broader NSW, to the importance of play and interaction. Working for several years to support existing playgroups and start new ones, Erika has also developed several strategies to support playgroups within a variety of communities including intergenerational playgroups, bringing children and older Australian’s together.

With over 8 years’ experience in the Early Childhood Sector, Erika now leads our Community Playgroups Team for Playgroup NSW, ultimately strengthening our support of families and carers across NSW.



Kellie Murray
Aboriginal Program Manager 

I am a Wiradjuri woman from Wagga Wagga and a mother to three boys. I have been in Wagga since I was born, and love working in my community. I have always been in Aboriginal community services and education roles and is a great passion of mine. 

At Playgroups NSW we run Aboriginal Supported Playgroups in the Wagga community. We provide not only early education but a full holistic approach to social and emotional wellbeing for our families.  We work with a range of services who come out to our playgroups and provide not only outreach services but build connections with our families. 

We also work with our local schools to provide support and connections for our families with children who are getting ready to transition into kindergarten. 


Corporate Partnerships & Business Development




Kim Gracey 
Partnerships Manager

As Partnerships Manager, Kim’s mandate is to further Playgroup NSWs positive impact on the wellbeing of its current and future families, children and communities. Kim engages and works with corporations, government, small businesses, educational institutions, and others to offer unique and collaborative partnerships and experiences that create meaningful and impactful results.

Kim has been identifying and facilitating innovative and mutually beneficial partnerships in the ‘for purpose’ space for over 11 years and has initiated, developed and implemented many purpose driven events, programs and partnerships that have been nationally recognised.







Tammy Collins
Digital Strategist 

Tammy is a seasoned marketer with 19 years experience in the Australian media industry. With a penchant for insight led marketing and content, Tammy has held executive roles with eBay, Nine Entertainment, Fairfax Media and Australian Radio Network. A cross platform specialist, Tammy is well versed in radio, digital and print media.

Tammy enjoys helping brands define and tell their story. Tammy has joined Playgroup NSW as the Digital Strategist to assist the business in their digital transformation journey and to lead the marketing function in 2020.





Maria Nguyen
Digital Marketing Manager

Maria holds a bachelor of Design, Visual communication and has extensive skills in digital marketing and graphic design. Before devoting her work to Playgroup NSW, Maria worked as the Marketing and Operations specialist in CBRE for over 5 years.

Maria is responsible for managing marketing collateral, executing and supporting the broader team with marketing and creative assets across Playgroup NSW.


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