Our people

Dr Andrea (Ande) Lemon, Kids Thrive Co-Founder and CEO

Ande leads the organisation as a creative strategist, bringing together people, ideas and approaches from the creative, welfare, educational, community, philanthropy and social justice sectors to find new solutions for old problems. However her primary strategy is to constantly learn from the kids we work with – and not take life too seriously.

Ande is a leading Australian playwright, theatre director and community cultural development artist, with over 50 scripts and productions produced and toured through Australia, Britain, Europe and the US. She is also an ethnographer, dramaturge, curator and author. Ande was Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Women’s Circus – for women who identify as survivors of sexual abuse or assault; Coordinator of the Royal Children’s Hospital Wyndham region Arts and Mental Health program; and has been a researcher for Australia Post – researching and designing postage stamps.

Ande is the recipient of numerous awards including Australian Writers’ Guild, Victorian Green Room and Edinburgh Fringe awards, and the Centenary Federation Medal for Services to Society. She has been the recipient of an Australia Council Senior Artist Fellowship; and was nominated for a University of Melbourne Chancellor’s Award for her doctoral thesis examining community and belonging in the context of nomadic Australian circus communities. Her research included oral histories and photographic portraits with elderly circus performers throughout Australia, and formed the basis for a major exhibition, The Circus Diaries at The Arts Centre, Melbourne.

Andrea Rieniets, Co-Founder of Kids Thrive, Creative Director/Lead Artist

A singer, songwriter, composer, musical director and community development artist, Andrea has worked with young children for over 30 years.

She was the first Australian composer to be an Australian Antarctic Fellow, is a recipient of the Centenary Federation Medal for Services to Society in Theatre, and was awarded the Australian Arts Business Foundation Community Award for Good Practice in Partnership.

Andrea was founding director of Adelaide’s Before You Were Blonde contemporary community choir, and guest director of Sing It Up Big Australian Indigenous Choir.

Her compositional works and concerts have featured in the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide festivals, ABC radio and television, Opera SA and The Finnish National Opera. She has created over 40 recordings for solo, stage and film works, and was founder of Gorgeous Girl Records. 

Ben Cooper, General Manager

Ben brings broad experience from various sectors with an extensive background in the Not-For Profit Sector and education. Previous roles in National Management, Program development and delivery as well as CEO experience in the sector support diverse experience and skills. Ben has also spent time working in the commercial sector in media account management, as Fitness Industry peak body CEO as well as community development at the local government level. He has complimented this work with over 15 years of musical performance experience in duo and as a solo performer and a keen interest in an active outdoors life.

Ben is passionate about supporting opportunities for young people through creative initiatives that break the educational mould while supporting and inspiring educators and communities. From a leadership perspective, he has built several effective teams and positive workplace cultures, with a leadership approach that supports individuals to play to their strengths and develop skills and thriving career paths in creative and supportive environments.

Joanne Grimsey, Program Coordinator

Jo is the Program Coordinator for the Kids as Catalyst program at Northern Bay College in Geelong. She is passionate about health and social connectedness. 'Supporting children in making community partnerships with like-minded groups in the Geelong area is a forward-thinking health strategy that I am super proud to be a part of,' she says.

Joanne has worked on examining emergency food assistance services in the Geelong region as part of the Food for Thought Project a joint initiative between Give Where You Live and City of Greater Geelong.

She is also a Medical Scientist in Pathology and a personal trainer.

Vicki Philipp, Program Facilitator

Vicki has worked in Fringe Arts Melbourne and the Geelong Surfcoast region for more than 20 years.  This multi-talented lady has a background in visual theatre, puppetry, writing, music and event management.

She is excited about working on Kids Thrive projects with the wondrous energy of young humans and watching them come into fruition. She also enjoys being part of the positive team at Kids Thrive.

When not at work Vicki can be found playing music with her partner, cooking, practicing yoga, gardening, or on the beach with Mr Roy the dog.

Ashish Motiani, Program Facilitator

Ashish has worked in a range of promotional and entertainment jobs over the past five years and takes on every new opportunity with a positive attitude and a load of energy. Whether it is hosting a trivia night, dressing up as Woody at the cricket or helping put together events, Ashish enjoys new experiences and continues to learn.
He is passionate about watching people grow, as well as sharing his enthusiasm with others.
When he is not working, Ashish enjoys all sorts of physical activity, especially basketball, as well as tennis, kicking the footy and running. He also has a passion for music, and dabbles with DJing from time-to-time.

Braulio Desentis, Finance Officer

Braulio joined Kids Thrive in March 2019 after moving to Australia from Mexico. An accountant with more than ten years of experience in senior financial management, Braulio has worked in government agencies, banks and trade organisations. He is Treasurer of the Australia, New Zealand and Mexico Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc and is a CPA Australia Associate Member.

Braulio considers Melbourne his second home. In his spare time he loves spending time outdoors, in particular visiting Aireys Inlet and heading along the Great Ocean Road.

Angela Thiel-Paul, Communications Manager

Angela joined Kids Thrive in early 2019. She has 20+ years’ experience in communications – across journalism, corporate communications, public relations, digital marketing and professional editing. She has worked for local and state government, not-for-profits and the private sector.

She’s loving working with the Kids Thrive team and sharing the incredible stories of the brave, creative kids driving the change they want to see in their communities.