Meet Our Staff

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Hope Staff Team

Salli Hickford – Executive Director

Salli joined Hope in June 2019.

Salli has been working in the Community Services Sector in service design and management for over 20 years mainly in the areas of Youth, Drug and Alcohol, Primary Care and Mental Health. She grew up in Anglesea, and after studying and working in Melbourne, has returned to work in the Geelong community where her passion lies.  ‘Grief and Loss has been at the centre of all the work I have done in the past’. Hope’s commitment to the Geelong community and ensuring that ‘no-one is alone in their grief’ is the reason that I am so passionate about my role. I am privileged to be able to work with such a dedicated and giving group of people, from the Board and Staff to the volunteers and partner agencies. The Geelong community’s generosity in keeping Hope operating for more than 35 years is inspirational.’


Maree Burn – Office Manager

Maree joined Hope in Nov 2010

Maree grew up in Geelong, lived in Melbourne for many years, before returning in the mid 1990s.

She works part-time at Hope in administration; and she also works part-time in a training organisation, formerly as a trainer and currently in administration.

‘I consider my association with Hope Bereavement Care to be a privilege.  My counselling colleagues are caring individuals who provide thoughtful and compassionate support to the local community.  Our Board (all volunteers) are committed to growing our organisation into the future.  I also learn from the individuals and families who seek support from Hope.  At a time of great need in tragic circumstances, Hope is there offering understanding, care and hope.’


Wendy Leigh

Wendy joined Hope Bereavement Care in October 2018 and works part time, having previously worked  in administration at the Wesley Centre for Life Enrichment.

Wendy was born and grew up in the Geelong area and co-founded the Lazarus Community Centre.

Wendy believes that her lived experience of grief, after the sudden and unexpected death of her 19 year old daughter Kate to epilepsy, has helped her bring empathy to clients who may be making their first contact with Hope Bereavement after their own devastating loss.

She is thankful for the wonderful support of her caring colleagues and board members.

Tracey Paech, Bereavement Counsellor

Tracey joined Hope Bereavement Care in June 2009.

Tracey is the counsellor for bereavement counselling/support for when someone under the age of 18 has died. This support extends to pregnancy loss and stillbirth. Tracey has worked in a number of counselling and support roles since 1993 through the Salvation Army, Melbourne Children’s Court, VicRoads, Herald Sun, Dept of Defence and St Laurence (Geelong). Since 2009 she has been with Hope Bereavement Care enabled by a partnership with SIDS and Kids Vic, now known as Red Nose Grief and Loss. Tracey’s training background covers pastoral care, behavioural science, palliative care and bereavement. Tracey has a lived experience in relation to this work so, to her, it feels more like a vocation rather than a job as such. She had 2 first trimester miscarriages before having her first child to term in 2003. She is also bereaved of her second child, who died in a drowning accident one week prior to her first birthday in 2006. Her third child was born in 2007. Tracey says the Geelong Region forms part of the fabric of her ‘story’ with part of the meaning she has made since her daughter’s death having been about bringing healing to the baby/child bereaved.

Christine Rawson – Bereavement Counsellor

Christine has been with Hope Bereavement Care since September 2011.

Christine’s previous work experience in the Community Services Sector, specifically the loss and grief field, has spanned 21 years.  From the foundation of learnings as a volunteer with telephone helplines and camps with young people; to roles with a Western Australian Suicide Prevention Service as a Youth Liaison Officer; and Frankston City Council as a Family Support Worker working with families in crisis situations.

After 2 years of studying for a Post Graduate Diploma in Loss and Grief Counselling, Christine decided to bring her Loss and Grief experience to bereavement counsellor/educator roles with Road Trauma Support Services Victoria, Hope Bereavement Care, and Hope’s Support After Suicide.

The Hope environment offers a unique, easily accessible support to those in the region who need to understand and tread the complex and often challenging grief path.  “As a bereavement counsellor I have an amazing team all who bring an extraordinary wide range of knowledge, experience and dedication to their roles.  Equally, admiring the courage our clients have whilst navigating an enormously shattering period in their lives.  A commitment to upholding the reputation that Hope has within the Geelong community is a constant in my privileged role.”

Annie Norrish- Bereavement Counsellor

Annie joined Hope Bereavement Care in September, 2016, after moving from Melbourne in January 2015. She is the counsellor for Support After Suicide Geelong Region and had been working for Jesuit Social Services Support After Suicide program for two years in Melbourne, prior to the service starting in Geelong. She was a member of the establishment committee, which created the service through a partnership with Hope Bereavement Care, Jesuit Social Services and Freemasons Victoria.

Annie has worked in a variety of counselling and supervision roles since 1998, after she left her role as a nurse consultant and began studying, eventually setting up her own private practice. Her background includes family therapy, social work, education and trauma and grief. She has worked at the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, Doncare, The Bouverie Centre and as a locum at The State Coroner’s Office, and has also provided supervision for staff at Mercy Palliative care, Melbourne City Mission and the Wesley Centre. She is passionate about her work, ensuring that all people have access to the support they need following a bereavement.

Rachel Penn – Art therapist

Rachel started running the Creative Bereavement group with Caroline Gubb at the Hope Bereavement Centre in the beginning of 2020.

Rachel is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Transpersonal Art Therapist, Meditation facilitator and Somatic Touch Therapist. Rachel has been working in the community services sector since 2013 in areas such as disability, trauma and torture, and addictions.

Rachel works creatively, somatically and mindfully with you to complete patterns, make meaning, build resources, expand resiliency, widen community supports and to become more embodied. This is done via movement, tracking sensation, ritual, symbolism, narrative, various art forms and reparative connection.

Rachel has an ever evolving interest in continuing to expand her knowledge and work on the relationship between trauma and the body and how she can bridge the two creatively.