Former Fraser Coast Councillor Takes the Reins of Major Autism Charity
Maryborough businesswoman and former Fraser Coast councillor Anne Nioa has been appointed charity manager of the Sunshine Coast-based STEPS Autism Treehouse.
Ms Nioa replaces founding director Claire Gilmour, who successfully negotiated the organisation’s merger with STEPS Group Australia in 2017.
Ms Nioa, who managed the Tourism, Events and Marketing portfolio as a member of the Fraser Coast Council from 2004 to 2012, brings years of experience running successful organisations to STEPS Autism Treehouse, which provides resources, education and social events to families, children and young people living with autism.
A former furniture and homewares importer, real estate agent and business strategist, Ms Nioa thanked outgoing coordinator Claire Gilmour for her incredible contribution to the organisation and said she was excited to be joining such a respected and admired charity at a pivotal point in its life.
“My goal is to grow STEPS Autism Treehouse so that we can expand our reach and extend our services – not only to the Sunshine Coast and into the Wide Bay region, but as far north as Cairns and even south all the way to Hobart,” Ms Nioa said.
“As a former councillor and business owner in the Wide Bay area I have a deep understanding of and connection to the community, and I know that there is a real need for an organisation like ours in this part of the state.”
Ms Nioa said she also had a deeply personal connection to the STEPS Group.
“My daughter Ariana, who has Down Syndrome has been attending the STEPS Pathways College in Caloundra since 2017 and graduated last year,” Ms Nioa said.
“It’s a living and learning facility for young adults with disabilities and it’s really allowed her to begin an incredible new chapter in her life. She’s wanted to go to college ever since her older brother Jackson started university and this has given her the opportunity to shine.”
Ms Nioa, a single mother who raised her children alone after her husband lost a battle with bowel cancer in 1997, knows first-hand how important organisations like STEPS Autism Treehouse are to the community and to parents like her.
“As the mother of a young person with a disability I understand how important it is to know that there are services out there that you can lean on,” Ms Nioa said.
“Raising a child with a disability presents such unique challenges to parents that it can sometimes feel like an all-consuming responsibility. An organisation like STEPS Pathways College has not only given my daughter Ariana new options in life, it’s also given me greater opportunities.
“In fact, Ariana now has so much confidence that she and her best friend have moved into an apartment together in Caloundra. Her independence has also given me my own independence and I would like to help other families on that important journey.”
For more information about STEPS Autism Treehouse visit www.stepsautismtreehouse.org.au