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The Team

Meet the amazing people who make it happen…

The team at Youth Solutions is passionate about providing health promotion and harm prevention services that are inclusive, culturally appropriate and serve the needs of young people and the community in the Macarthur and Wingecarribee regions of NSW.

Each member of the team brings their own unique set of skills and expertise, and as a collective, we are dedicated to preventing and reducing alcohol and other drug related harm to young people. Making a positive difference is in our DNA and our commitment to do just that guides our work each and every day.

The Team Includes:

Geraldine Dean, Chief Executive Officer

“Like many, the despair and brutality of drug and alcohol misuse has and continues to impact the lives of those I care about. There is no place in our community for stigma and discrimination, but plenty of room for possibility, connection and hope.”

I have been with Youth Solutions for two incredible decades, with most of that time in the privileged position of CEO. Prior to taking over the CEO position in 2011, I held roles across project coordination, communications, promotions and community relations. I embrace the opportunities to lead our service to maintain high professional standards, to focus on outcomes through continuous improvement, partnerships with community and innovation.

My day-to-day duties include overseeing the implementation of the Strategic and Operational Plan. I’m also responsible for people and culture, governance and compliance, and general management of operations as well as guiding the overall delivery of services and programs.

I am passionate about access and equity in the provision of youth health. There remains a disparity in the opportunities afforded to young people for correct information, skills and the ability to advocate for one’s own health – as well as helpful coping strategies, safety strategies, self-help seeking and connection.

I do what I do because...

I am acutely aware of the positive difference each of us can make in the lives of others, whether those individuals are our participants, stakeholders or our team members and volunteers.

I have an opportunity to inspire and protect a positive culture where a team can together bring a diverse skill set and unique life experiences, banded together by a love of learning, a commitment to kindness as well as strong drive to have a positive impact on the young people we work with.

I’m also passionate about mentoring and coaching our brilliant team members to achieve their professional goals.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of Arts (Social Science)
  • Diploma of Community Services Coordination
  • Diploma of Management
  • Statement of Attainment; AOD and Mental Health Comorbidity
  • Statement of Attainment; Child Protection
  • Accidental Counselling
  • Governance
  • First Aid & Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Bambuddha Kind Leader Game Changer Program
  • Led and maintained the service as accredited since 2006.
  • Since 2021, in my role as CEO, I hold the position of Board Director with Western Sydney Community Forum – the peak agency for leading and shaping social policy and service delivery


  • 2021 Australia Day – Campbelltown City Council’s Australia Day Awards honour for Community Group Initiative
  • 2021 NADA AOD Awards for the NSW Non-Government Sector for Excellence in Health Promotion
  • 2021 ClubsNSW – Community Partnership Award for Safer Celebration with Campbelltown Catholic Club
  • 2017 Australia Day – Community Group of the Year: Youth Solutions’ Youth Advisory Group
  • 2016 NSW Women of the Year Awards – Campbelltown Local Woman of the Year
  • 2016 NSW Youth Work Awards – Peer Enrichment & Empowerment Project


Away from work you will find me...

Focused on my family and navigating the world of being the best mum I can be to my teenage sons.

Since 2018, I’ve volunteered as a Board Director with Macarthur Disability Services, a leading disability service provider in South Western Sydney. I also love my garden and my gorgeous Boston terrier.

Emily Deans, Manager Strategy & Design | Research Fellow

“I am passionate about advocacy and the basic right for all individuals to have access to the resources and support they need to make healthy life choices.”

I joined the team in 2018 and lead the research and grants portfolios at Youth Solutions. I am passionate about using qualitative research to inform practice and strive to embed community and young people’s perspectives in strategy and design of health promotion and preventive work. Prior to my role with Youth Solutions, I was part of a research team at Deakin University (Melbourne) concerned with preventing gambling harm among young men. I also worked at University of Wollongong’s Wellbeing Referral Centre, which functioned as a mental health hub for university students.

I do what I do because …

I’ve been privileged to have had access to accurate health literacy growing up, particularly around how to manage mental illness. And because I’ve had access to this education and information, I’ve been able to make choices in my life that have helped me get well, stay motivated and be safe. All young people deserve to have access to accurate health information like I had.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Health & Social Development)
  • Orientation to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Field
  • Accidental Counsellor Training
  • First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Master of Public Health
  • Bachelor of Public Health

Away from work you will find me …

Swimming, exploring a new city, embroidering, and eating carrot cake with cream cheese icing.

Amanda Dillon, Manager Marketing & Engagement

“It’s incredibly inspiring and rewarding to be part of an organisation that has positive and real impact on young people. When you join the forces of quality health promotion, passionate people and a commitment to working collaboratively, it’s amazing to see what can be achieved for the community.”

I joined the Youth Solutions team in 2014 – one of the best professional decisions I have made. My portfolio includes overseeing all Youth Solutions’ marketing, communications and engagement and managing our Fundraising and Corporate Partnership programs. I adore working with the community and am always inspired by the support and generosity our charity receives. Our culture at YS is second to none and I love working alongside our incredible team.

I do what I do because …

I truly believe in the work Youth Solutions does and the incredible impact we have on young people, and it’s really motivating to know my daily work contributes to making a difference.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of Communication & Media Studies (Journalism. Sociology.) (UOW)
  • Journalism Cadetship
  • Statement of Attainment, Orientation to the AOD Field
  • First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid
  • Prior to my role at Youth Solutions, I worked in print media as a journalist, notably as the Senior Reporter for the Macarthur Chronicle newspaper
  • My passion for community has also spanned over various volunteer roles, including acting as a youth coach in the Max Potential Program and lending a hand to various charitable causes and award-judging panels.
  • In 2015 I was named a finalist for the ZEST Awards’ Outstanding Youth Leader of the Year

Away from work you will find me …

Spending time with my two young children, husband and our families and friends. There’s nothing I enjoy more than frequenting the beach or dining out with loved ones. I’ve been a Macarthur girl my whole life and am now enjoying raising my family in our community.

Sam Young, Manager Programs

“I am passionate about making sure people have the information, skills, confidence and support that they need to be able to make healthy and safe choices.”

I joined the Youth Solutions team in January 2018. My role is to coordinate and oversee the development and delivery of our drug and alcohol harm prevention and health promotion programs for local young people, as well as the services and support we provide for the people in our community that work with and support our young people (teachers, parents/carers, coaches, other sector workers). I also lead the Youth Solutions’ Youth Advisory Group (YAG) – a group of passionate youth volunteers who help us to plan, implement and evaluate projects, making sure they are youth-friendly and relevant to local young people.

I do what I do because …

I am passionate about making sure young people have the resources they need to make healthy and safe life choices, particularly around drugs and alcohol. I am proud of our programs because they create a safe space for young people to learn about drugs and alcohol and the safety around them, in a non-judgmental and supportive way – something they may not be getting elsewhere.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of Medical and Health Science
  • Master of Social Work (Qualifying – in progress)
  • First Aid and Mental Health First Aid
  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST)
  • Statement of Attainment – Alcohol and other Drugs
  • Child Protection Training – Identify and Respond to Children and Young People at Risk
  • I have 7 years’ experience working in youth health promotion – firstly through the NSW Health Go4Fun program (a healthy lifestyle program for children and their families), then at a youth and community centre in Redfern/Waterloo and now at Youth Solutions
  • Through my studies, I have gained experience working in school counselling settings (primary and secondary schools) and social inclusion programs and activities for young people from refugee backgrounds

Away from work you will find me ...

Road tripping along the South Coast, holidaying in Southeast Asia and snapping pics on my camera.

Bri Ellul, Administration Marketing & Events Officer

“I enjoy conveying health promotion messages in creative ways and ensuring young people feel empowered about the choices they are making.”

I started working with Youth Solutions team in April 2022 and my role involves providing operational support to the CEO and assisting in the marketing and engagement portfolio. This role allows me to think creatively and actively about how our service operates and how we communicate health literacy information to young people in our community. I am also involved in our fundraising event activation, which is integral to the growth of our service.

I do what I do because …

I enjoy connecting with key supporters in our community who contribute to making a positive difference in the lives of young people.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of Law (UOW)
  • Bachelor of International Studies (UOW)
  • Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice
  • Admission to the Supreme Court of NSW

Away from work you will find me …

Doing anything creative! I enjoy dancing, drawing, and writing. I also love hanging out with my family and playing with my pets.

Lauren Payne, Health Promotion Officer & Educator

“Health has a direct impact on a person’s ability to live a fulfilling life. My work supports people to develop healthy habits and foster positive decision-making in their health choices.”

I’m excited to work as a health promotion officer/educator with Youth Solutions. My role actively involves the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative and evidence-based health promotion projects, with a focus on alcohol and other drugs prevention. I am passionate about facilitating health education, outreach and community development activities throughout the Macarthur and Wingecarribee areas.

I do what I do because …

I love supporting young people to embrace a healthy and happy life, providing them with more energy and focus to enjoy the opportunities that come their way.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of Social Science (Public Health) (UOW)
  • Master of Secondary Education (Professional Practice – health and geography specialisation) (ACU)
  • Secondary teacher for 3.5 years (2 years in Tasmania)
  • PDH/PE teaching
  • History and geography teaching
  • Officer of Global Student Mobility Assistant (UOW)
  • Assisting local and international students – University Exchange Program Overseas

Away from work you will find me ...

Getting outdoors, hiking, swimming, bike riding and playing sport (tennis and netball). In the colder months I enjoy reading (biographies or historical fiction), being an evolving T2 connoisseur, gardening (and accumulating plants) and listening to country music. Travelling is another hobby. I have studied, worked, and travelled to more than 20 countries and have many more to tick off!

Jessica Wilson, Finance Administration Lead

“I support the promotion of young peoples’ involvement in their own learning and development. I believe that empowering them with information to fuel their own desire to learn and improve their lives, will lead to amazing humans that will show the way with empathy and wisdom.”

I joined Youth Solutions in 2022. I collaborate with the CEO to ensure Youth Solutions can maximise the use of our precious funds to achieve the best outcomes for the young people in our area. We work really hard to make sure every dollar raised is used in a meaningful way.

I do what I do because …

I enjoy being part of the Youth Solutions team and I love seeing us achieve amazing results and have such an impact in our community.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • 7 years bookkeeping experience for local businesses
  • 15 years practice management and customer service in the health and retail industry

Away from work you will find me …

Keeping very busy with my three amazing children, including two teenagers, who have a wide array of activities. I enjoy being part of the CrossFit community and staying fit and strong. I relax every evening by cuddling my greyhound, Theodosia Biscuit.

Office volunteer

Vera Bertola, Office Volunteer

“Youth Solutions and their work in the community really hits a chord with me. We see the aftermath of drugs and alcohol use all around us – poor health, mental health, family breakdowns, family and domestic violence and crime. Youth Solutions’ approach is about empowerment. Give our young people information about the harms of drugs and alcohol, arm them with resilience – then provide them with the opportunities to be the best version of themselves.”

I found my way to Youth Solutions during a lull in my work life. I’d finished a long-term full-time job and secured a contract with unusual work hours. I had plenty of time during the day and wanted a volunteer job which “made a difference”. I was familiar with the work of Youth Solutions – and a huge fan of their philosophy and vision. “We work to educate and empower young people to be healthy, safe and connected. Our drug, alcohol and wellbeing strategies focus on learning, participation and support.”

I have a media, writing and editing background, so my role at Youth Solutions is to support the team mainly in communication tasks. I write press releases, speeches, grant bids, website updates and any other tasks that come my way. I am available to assist the team in any way, so they can dedicate more time to working with young people and help make a difference in their lives.

I do what I do because …

I believe this generation of young people has so much potential and they deserve our support to reach that potential. I also see the challenges, temptations and road humps they face along the way. I have experience and skills that I can share with Youth Solutions, who are at the coalface of offering that support and guidance. Youth Solutions always talks about the positive difference we all can make in the lives of young people. I want to be the person who puts up my hand to help make that difference.

Qualifications, experience and career highlights

  • Bachelor of English (Journalism)
  • A long and satisfying career in journalism – various titles
  • Senior Media Advisor roles with NSW Government
  • Communications roles with South Western Sydney Primary Health Network

I am retired (for now) and Youth Solutions is my focus. My brief to myself is: Help in whatever way I can to make a difference to the region’s young people. They deserve it!

Away from work you'll find me ...

Keeping busy with family, pets and countless projects. I’ve also moved closer to the coast and there’s so much to explore: waterfalls, bushwalks, long drives through the most scenic countryside. There’s also lots of new lunchtime options to review. I never realised retirement could be so busy. Boredom isn’t really in my vocabulary.

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