Executive Management Team

YWCA Canberra’s Executive Management Team takes a whole-of-organisation perspective, making key decisions about strategic directions, accountability frameworks, organisational development, policy and quality assurance. The team comprises the Executive Director, Director of Community Services, Director of Children’s Services, and Director of Communication, Advocacy and Fundraising.

Chief Executive Officer – Frances Crimmins

Frances has a passion to see women achieve their potential and shape their communities. Having started her career in hotel management she soon developed strong leadership and management skills which saw her take on senior human resources roles in the health sector. Frances’ natural drive and pursuit of excellence resulted in her former employer gaining accreditation as an Employer of Choice for Women, and ACT Employer of the Year for Apprenticeships & Traineeships.

Frances was drawn to YWCA Canberra in 2010 as she had always identified as a feminist, and has a strong belief in social justice, which she attributes to her mother’s influence. Having faced discrimination during her own career journey, she is now committed to being a strong voice for women.

Frances volunteers on a variety of boards and committees including: National Older Women’s Housing and Homelessness Working Group and Homelessness Australia. Frances is a former Board Director of WESNET, former Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Committee for Women, former Co-Chair of Anti-Poverty Week in the ACT and former Board Director of No Sweat Fashion.

In 2015, Frances received an Edna Ryan Award for advancing the status of women in the ACT. In 2016, Frances was named ACT Leader of the Year at the Australian Leadership Excellence Awards run by the Australian Institute of Leadership and Management. She also attended Commission for the Status of Women in New York in 2017, 2018 and 2019.


Executive Director, Communication, Advocacy and Engagement - Helen Machalias

Helen’s career has encompassed senior roles in media relations & corporate communications, policy, fundraising and stakeholder engagement. She joined YWCA Canberra from the NRMA, where she was responsible for leading the organisation’s media relations, stakeholder engagement and policy on behalf of the 1.3 million NRMA members in the ACT and regional NSW.

Helen previously worked for the NSW Government as a senior adviser and communications manager, including developing the state’s first arts and cultural policy. Prior to this, she worked in education, fundraising and community relations roles in the arts sector.

Helen commenced her career as a journalist with Fairfax Media, and subsequently freelanced as a digital journalist. She has written on gender equality for a range of publications, and her play about sexual assault at Australian universities, In Loco Parentis, was produced by The Street Theatre and received a Canberra Critics’ Circle Award.

Current roles include delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN (CSW64), appointed member of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women, ACT representative on the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance’s Advisory Group and a member of the Equality Rights Alliance’s expert working groups for women’s leadership and housing. Helen is a volunteer mentor with Country to Canberra as part of her commitment to growing leadership capability in regional and rural Australia and encouraging more young women to participate in public life.

Helen holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) and a Master of Strategic Public Relations from the University of Sydney.

Executive Director, Children’s Services – Bernadette Carbin

Bernadette joined YWCA Canberra in 2011 after a long career in the health sector both in Ireland and Australia where she held the role of patient Services Manager at Calvary John James Hospital. In this role, Bernadette was awarded the Chairman of the Board’s Award for Services to Staff, Patience and VMOs – the first non-clinical staff member to receive the accolade.

Through her work as Executive Director, Children’s Services, Bernadette has been the driving force behind the significant growth of our Children’s Services portfolio. She believes that providing high quality, affordable early childhood education and care for all children is key to women’s empowerment. Bernadette has been a member of the ACT Government’s Early Childhood Advisory Council since 2017 and the ACT Government’s Office of Children Youth and Family Services Advisory Committee since 2016.

When not balancing budgets, expanding our range of Children’s Services, or finding new ways to invest in our staff, Bernadette loves to bury herself in political biographies and historical and English fiction.

Executive Director, Community Services – Cara Jacobs

Cara brings a wealth of expertise in managing not-for-profit organisations with a focus on community development, education and children, family, and young people. She is passionate about social justice and equity and working towards improving inclusion and community outcomes.

Cara has senior management experience in Indigenous policy delivery, family law partnerships, domestic violence, employment, disability, and out of home care. She also has experience in health, case management and information and referral services for homeless people. Cara is interested in corporate governance, is a previous member of the Anglicare Western NSW governing Council and Western Primary Health Network Interim Community Council. She has also been involved in the Family Law Pathways Network and Families ACT Advisory Council, is a member of the Shelter ACT Board, Joint Pathways Executive Committee, and is a member of the Multi-Disciplinary Panel for Housing ACT.

Cara is a former Director of Client Services at Marymead and Manager of Client Services at the Australian National University.

Cara’s research interest is in corporate social responsibility and aims to complete her PhD in this area in her spare time. Cara holds a Master of Management with First Class Honours and postgraduate qualifications in marketing. She holds an Advanced Diploma of Community Services Management, Certificate IV in Contracting and Procurement and certification as an Internal QMS Auditor (ISO 9001).

Executive Director Business Development - Joanna Le

Joanna is passionate about contributing to progressive social change by leveraging her expertise in integrated strategic communication, partnership brokering and business development. Throughout her career Joanna has worked in areas such as the arts, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, health, community development, gender equality, and economic development.

Currently Joanna is Executive Director Business Development at YWCA Canberra, Board Director of Women’s Legal Centre ACT and Region and is a volunteer Mentor at the Mill House Clinic. Joanna’s most recent previous roles include:

  • Director Strategic Communication, Media and Protocol – ACT Government Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate
  • Director of Communication, Advocacy and Fundraising – YWCA Canberra
  • Co-Founder – For Purpose
  • Manager of Communications – Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education

In 2017 Joanna represented YWCA Canberra on the ACT Government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Women and Joint Community Government Reference Group.

Joanna served on the Board of YWCA Canberra from 2011-13, the Board of Youth Coalition of the ACT in 2015, and was volunteer communications lead for TEDxCanberra from 2011-2013.

Joanna holds a Masters of Strategic Communications from University of Canberra and a Bachelor of Digital Media from University of New South Wales. She also holds a Certificate in Sustainable Business Strategy from Harvard Business School.