President of the Uniting Church in Australia
Dr Deidre Palmer
Dr Deidre Palmer has had a long and distinguished career as an academic and Christian educator in Australia and the United States.
Deidre is a senior lecturer in Christian Education at Flinders University School of Theology and the Adelaide College of Divinity. She completed her Masters in Religious Education at Duke University in North Carolina, and her Ph.D. at Boston College, going on to hold several academic posts including serving on the faculty of Perkins School of Theology in Dallas teaching Christian Education.
Deidre remains an adjunct faculty member for Uniting College of Leadership and Theology, teaching Christian education and ministry with families and children.
Deidre is also a social worker who completed a Masters of Social Work at Flinders University before working part-time for four-and-a-half years as a counsellor with UnitingCommunities in their Childhood Sexual Abuse Counselling team.
She served as Moderator of the UCA Synod of South Australia from 2013 to 2016 and is a member of Rosefield Uniting Church in Adelaide.
The theme Deidre has chosen for her three years as President is “Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope”.
As General Secretary, Ms Colleen Geyer serves with the President of the Uniting Church in Australia offering leadership and vision to the life of the Assembly.
Ms Geyer’s work for the Uniting Church and its agencies since 1995 has deepened her sense of call to the role of General Secretary, while embracing the uniqueness of the Uniting Church as an authentic movement of God.
She has held a range of significant positions at a state and national level of the Uniting Church, including Director of Mission at UnitingCare Queensland, Director of Mission at BlueCare, Associate Director at UnitingCare Australia, Registrar of Coolamon College and National Consultant for the Assembly Gospel and Gender Unit.
Ms Geyer seeks to strengthen the Uniting Church’s commitment to working ecumenically and foster understanding between churches. She has beena member of the Roman Catholic/Uniting Church Dialogue, the Christian World Service Coordinator with Queensland Churches Together, and a member of the Queensland Churches Together Indigenous Peoples Partnership.
Colleen believes we have a collective responsibility to look to the future with the hope that is from God, and the realism that calls us to think about the new.
Associate General Secretary
Rob was previously the National Director of UnitingWorld and Associate Director for Relief and Development programs with our overseas Church partners.
Rob is particularly passionate about providing rural and marginalised communities, and especially women, with opportunities to improve their livelihoods. Rob’s interest in community development was sparked during the seven years he and his wife Jacqui spent as Mission Co-workers for the Uniting Church in West Timor, Indonesia. During this time Rob taught at a Christian University and also worked as a consultant with a Christian Micro Finance Organisation, Tanaoba Lais Manekat.
Rev. Dr Apwee Ting
Rev. Dr Apwee Ting brings a strong understanding of what it means to be a multicultural church and to live out the Christian faith cross-culturally.
Apwee has been a member of the Assembly’s National Reference Committee for Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry for 12 years including three years as Chair (2006-2009). He also held a specific role of liaison with the Assembly’s Relations with other Faiths Working Group.
Apwee is a former Chairperson of the UCA’s Indonesian National Conference.
He completed his PhD in 2005 at STTIP Jakarta (Sekolah Tinggi Teologi International Philadelphia) with an examination of the topic ‘Cross Cultural Ministry is the fulfilment of missional mandate in the areas of Church Unity and Growth’.
Before his appointment, Apwee was a Minister of the Word at Dandenong Uniting Church in Victoria, in one of Australia’s most culturally diverse and multifaith communities. The congregation includes Fijian and Hindi speaking ministries and is also home to Christian communities whose cultural heritage is Arabic, Ethiopian and Cook Islands.
Born to Chinese migrants in Indonesia, Apwee migrated to Australia in 1989. He has a deep understanding of the UCA’s overseas church partnerships.
Rev Lindsay Cullen
Rev Lindsay Cullen has been a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church for fifteen years, and is currently placed as one of the National Consultants within the Assembly’s new multidisciplinary team, the Assembly Resourcing Unit. Lindsay is married to Suzanne, and has a fifteen year old daughter, Airlie, who serves to keep him feeling alternately young or old! Lindsay has a keen interest in amateur dramatics, loves reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, and as a former computer programmer, geeking out over all the latest gadgets and apps. Lindsay and Suzanne spent five years living in London while Lindsay was studying Philosophical Theology. His particular area of academic interest is the intersection of Science and Theology.
Lindsay has extensive ecumenical experience. He was originally ordained by the Baptist Union of NSW. During his time in England, he attended a Church of England, and was involved in Lay Reader Training and Continuing Ministerial Education Seminars for the Diocese of Rochester. He then spent a year serving as Visiting Minister with a congregation of the United Reformed Church. On his return to Australia he applied to join the Uniting Church through the Reception of Ministers process. Within the UCA, Lindsay has served in rural, regional and urban contexts and a major focus of his ministry has been Adult Education and Lay Ministry training. Before his current placement with the Assembly, Lindsay was in ministry on the Mid North Coast of NSW, in a 50/50 congregational and presbytery role, working as a colleague of Rev Dr John Squires and Rev Elizabeth Raine.
Lindsay has a particular interest in new ways of being church, and has been involved in trips to the UK to investigate the Fresh Expressions movement, as well as personal involvement in local emerging church groups and faith communities. Lindsay combines this interest in the future of the church with his commitment to adult education, to challenge congregations and councils of the church to think about and plan for the exciting journey of discipleship in the 21st century and beyond!
Rev Charissa Suli
Rev. Charissa Suli is one of the National Consultants in the Assembly’s new multidisciplinary team, the Assembly Resourcing Unit. Charissa brings to us her experience in mentoring youth and young adults, and is committed to investing in their personal growth by creating space for them to lead in the Uniting Church.
Rev. Suli is a second generation Tongan Minister of the Word, ordained in 2014 to serve in Dapto Uniting Church on the NSW South Coast up until 2017. From a strong Methodist family tradition and part of a supportive Tongan community, Rev. Suli was called into ministry by Dee Why Uniting, Cecil Gribble Tongan Congregation.
In her spare time, Charissa enjoys walks along the beach with her husband Langi and spending time with their four children Susitina, Liekina, Latu and Azariah.
Rev. Suli has previously served as a Cross Cultural Consultant in the NSW/ACT Synod’s Board of Mission, Youth Leader in Dee Why on Sydney’s northern beaches and as Convenor of the Tongan National Conference (TNC). Her role on TNC was to mentor emerging young leaders, lead programs for youth and young adults and bridge the gap between the first and second generation Tongan community.
In her role as an Assembly National Consultant, Rev. Charissa Suli will spend her time in the many different cultural communities across the Uniting Church, encouraging UCA members to be disciples of Christ and building networks of trust along the way.
Rev Dr Ji Zhang 张骥
Rev. Dr Ji Zhang is the national Assembly's Theologian-in-Residence. He works in collaboration with national agencies UnitingCare Australia, UnitingWorld and the Assembly Resourcing Unit, and provides theological leadership through a number of national committees.
Rev, Dr Zhang was born in Shanghai and studied theology in Melbourne and Boston, and completed his PhD in comparative philosophy/theology. His postdoctoral research was published in the book “One and Many: a comparative study of Plato’s philosophy and Daoism represented by Ge Hong”. Ji is a doctoral supervisor at the University of Divinity.
During his ministry within the Uniting Church, he served in rural communities and urban parishes. In the last five years, Ji worked for the UnitingWorld as the manager of partnerships in Asia, and coordinated the partnership with China Christian Council. He was a Chaplain to the 14th President Stuart McMillian, and previously served in the same role to the 12th President Alistair Macrae.
Assembly Support Unit
Uniting Disaster Recovery, National Disaster Recovery Officer
Rev. Dr Stephen Robinson
Stephen’s role is “To develop resources, networks and support mechanisms to aid the ministry agents, congregations and agencies of the church to effectively respond to natural disasters across Australia.” Stephen has ministered in emergency contexts since 1996 as NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Chaplain and volunteer firefighter since 1996.
He oversees the NSW Disaster Recovery Chaplaincy Network (DRCN) under the Synod of NSW and the ACT which coordinates ecumenical chaplaincy in emergencies. Stephen’s Assembly role involves working with governments, synods, presbyteries and agencies to prepare for and respond to disaster. He is committed to peer support of ministry agents, best practice disaster recovery chaplaincy and well-integrated community recovery following disaster. He has written “Ministry in Disaster Settings: Lessons from the Edge”.
Ms Jackson comes to the National Director’s role with extensive experience in fundraising and marketing in the faith and nonprofit sectors, both in New South Wales and nationally.
Ms Jackson’s background includes senior leadership positions at the McGrath Foundation, the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Mission Australia.
Dr Sureka Goringe
Dr Sureka Goringe is the National Director for UnitingWorld. She was previously Associate Director of International Programs for the Pacific region, and before that the Associate Director of Church Connections.
Sureka served on the National Committee of the Relief and Development Unit of UnitingWorld for five years, the last two years as Chairperson. She was also the Executive Director of the successful UnitingWomen conference, a conference under the auspices of the Uniting Church that brought together more than 500 women from across Australia.
Born in Sri Lanka and having lived in Bangladesh, Botswana and the UK before moving to Australia, Sureka has broad experience of our partner church contexts.
Claerwen has worked in the community sector for over 35 years and comes to UnitingCare Australia from Uniting in NSW/ACT where she has held senior executive roles in service delivery, advocacy and innovation across 25 years.
Claerwen has been responsible for establishing the research and advocacy capability of Uniting as well as leading a large and complex suite of programs for children, families, young people, communities and people with disability across NSW and the ACT.
She has sat on numerous high-level Boards and is a current member of the UnitingCare Australia National Committee, a role she has filled for various periods since the 1990s. She is also the current Chair of the UnitingCare Australia Children, Young People and Families Network.