Our Team

Who is Big Group Hug?

We are…. you. And you. And YOU!

Look around. Check out the big group hug we’re talking about: it’s that parent in the playground; the grandparent in the corner café; the business owner behind their counter; the student hopping on the school bus; the local pre-school teacher; it’s me and it’s you.

Big Group Hug is a genuine community initiative, led by caring and committed people who seek to make a real difference in the lives of young children.

What brings us together is our collective commitment to ensure that every child has their basic needs met to give them the best possible start in life.

We are community-owned and community-driven

Anyone can be part of this big group hug. Perhaps you’re…

a parent wanting to make a difference

a maternal health nurse working to assure the safety of children

a school student learning how to make the world a better place

a business striving to make social impact by supporting a local cause

a government body supporting projects that tackle real problems

a community member who understands the beauty of altruism

Our village is made up of people from all walks of life – men and women, parents and grandparents, students and teachers, community organisations, and local businesses.

We believe it takes a village to raise a child, and we want Big Group Hug to be that village for families struggling with financial hardship and other disadvantages.

Our Board Members

Laura Racky

Laura Racky (Chair) – Laura has been a supporter of Big Group Hug for several years, forming and chairing our inaugural advisory board. She is a lawyer and a strategic advisor with 20 years of experience in the legal field. Laura is a mum of two children and she is passionate about contributing to Big Group Hug’s ongoing direct support of our communities. 

Angela Wood

Angela Wood (Founder) – Angela is Big Group Hug’s founder, director and is the organisation’s original board member. As a mother of three children and a full-time teacher, she believes that all children have the universal right to be safe and nurtured and to have access to the immediate and essential things they needed in their early years. Angela’s passion and hard work have helped Big Group Hug grow to unimaginable heights.

Melinda Whitehouse

Melinda Whitehouse (Board Member) – Melinda grew up with the value of giving back injected into all facets of life – be it sport, the local neighbourhood and even her profession. A former schoolteacher, Melinda has for the last 15 years worked in not-for-profit organisations, primarily in the health sector. Melinda currently works in Philanthropy at The Alfred Hospital, coupled with raising two confident, empathetic and independent young people. She joined the Big Group Hug board in 2021.

Paul Armstrong (Board Member) – Paul joined Big Group Hug in 2014 and is one of the charity’s original board members. He feels very lucky to participate in the organisation’s journey to provide material assistance. Paul is an active board member and has rich experience in driving scalability and market alignment.

Graham Haydar (Treasurer) – Graham is an accountant and business adviser with over 30 years of experience. With a passion for giving back to the community, Graham joined Big Group Hug’s board. He also volunteers at numerous other not-for-profits and community-run organisations. Graham offers taxation and business advice and is currently the director of Aintree Group.

Christopher Booton

Christopher Booton (Secretary) – Chris is a company secretary and governance professional. He volunteered to join Big Group Hug in June 2022 to look after the company’s secretarial functions. Chris has extensive experience in a range of industries, and is strongly attracted to social enterprise businesses, not-for-profits and charitable organisations. His role is to look after the company administration, allowing the Board and Bernadene to concentrate on developing Big Group Hug so it can help more children and families.


Bernadene Voss

Bernadene Voss is an experienced business leader, who is also passionate about helping local communities. Her exceptional work experience ranges most recently from CEO of WAVIN Technologies to Mayor Emeritus & Councillor for the City of Port Phillip. Coupled with her array of leadership positions in both traditional organisations as well as not-for profits, Bernadene has the professional and business acumen for leading the organisation but also, the heart that forms an integral part of what Big Group Hug stands for.


Our Inaugural Ambassador


Jacinta first connected with Big Group Hug as mum fleeing a family violence situation and needing aid. Now, she has turned the tide and is a committed supporter of Big Group Hug. Jacinta is passionate about improving the lives of children and families to ensure the best possible outcomes for their future.

Meet the team

There are so many important members of our community. Come meet a few of them!

Warehouse Warriors

Meet Jill Pope and Jamie Newton – the folks who run and manage both our warehouses, respectively! Their hard work, together with the rest of the Big Group Hug team, is the reason we are able to give struggling families in our community a big group hug.

The Cleaning Crew

Nobody deserves a dirty or broken donation. That’s why our cleaning crew works hard to clean and fix our donations before we re-home them. Our crew don’t just help us minimise waste, they also ensure struggling children get the toys and clothes that’s handpicked for them and sent with love.

Our Volunteer Village

Bev, John, Chris, Cal, Sandra… and the list goes on! We now have around 250 volunteers who provide comfort, safety and joy to disadvantaged families. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a volunteer village to put a squeeze on childhood poverty!

Ready to join the biggest group hug?






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