Helen Barrett


Helen, is a passionate and experienced Principal who joined Tombolo in July 2021. With a rich background in education, Helen has dedicated her career to supporting neurodiverse students in Australia and the United Kingdom. Her expertise lies in building relationships with vulnerable students, including those with diverse needs and abilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and Pathological Demand Avoidance.

Helen is excited to be leading our start-up school and forging new opportunities for families. Her passion for education is evident in how she inspires and motivates her staff to create an inclusive and safe learning environment for all students.

Helen enjoys exploring the great Australian outdoors outside of school, including paddle boarding and kayaking. Her love for adventure reflects her adventurous spirit and determination to try new things.

Alex Newman

Assistant Principal

Alex has worked in specialist schools for over 13 years in the UK, New Zealand and Australia. During that time, he has held various roles such as Teaching Assistant, Sports Coach, Leading Teacher and Head of Student Support and Wellbeing.

He has an extensive background in working with learners with ASD. This has ranged from engaging and supporting non-verbal communicators who displayed incredibly challenging behaviours and students with complex needs alongside their ASD diagnosis to working with gifted and talented 2e learners in ASD resource bases.

Ensuring that all students can engage and develop the fundamental skills necessary for them to progress and become independent learners regardless of their abilities or backgrounds underpins Alex’s pedagogy.

Alex has a strong focus on student well-being in the classroom. He believes in building strong and meaningful relationships with all of his students. Developing trust and understanding helps students to feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment.

As a Forest Leader, Alex has a strong connection with the outdoors. He is looking forward to having the opportunity to bring some of his outdoor learning to Tombolo through schemes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Alastair Witts

English and Humanities Teacher

Alastair has nearly 30 years of teaching experience and has taught students across the educational spectrum. He has enjoyed every moment of his journey, which has taken him from the UK to New Zealand and now to Australia.

Alastair has taught a variety of subjects in his career, such as English, French and Geography. He has also held the position of English and PE Coordinator as well as Assistant Principal. Alastair has extensive experience in teaching students with ASD and ADHD and has taught in Independent, mainstream and specialist Schools.

Whether inside or outside the classroom, Alastair has always looked for a connection that will enable him to form a good working relationship with each student. He has a strong desire to build students’ self-esteem and to help guide them to reach their full potential in every aspect of their development.

Alastair can laugh at himself, and humour is ever-present in his classroom. A colleague once described him as a ‘rugby playing poet’ and feels that this label nicely sums up his two main passions in life – sport and literature. He has always enjoyed the challenge of engaging students in texts and guiding them to understand the relevance of those texts to the students’ own lives and/or the world we live in.

Alastair is very excited about joining the Tombolo Team and is also looking forward to seeing how his beloved Newcastle United will fair in their accession to the European Champions League.

Josh Grierson

Mathematics Teacher

Josh has recently emigrated from the U.K. to sunny Melbourne. He is a passionate educator who aims to elevate the teaching of mathematics for all students.

With a particular focus on project-based learning, Josh leans on his; academic background in Law and Politics, professional background in events and finance, and his fervour for all things nerdy to bring maths to life with contemporary, relevant and highly engaging activities that foster collaboration, curiosity and autonomous learning. 

Josh has worked in inner-city London schools where diverse learners have diverse needs and strives to be a positive role model for students. His fascination for mathematics started at a young age, from playing chess in the local library to building solar system models.

Josh has always had a unique insight into the application of maths and, more broadly, problem-solving. He strives to demonstrate the explicit link between mathematics, other academic subjects and the interests of his students whenever possible. 

Josh believes that everyone has an untapped potential to develop mathematical thinking, which may manifest through near-infinite possible pathways. 

Helen Fricker

Primary Teacher/Curriculum Writer

Helen is part of the teaching team at Tombolo, and she also designs learning and curriculum content in collaboration with the team. 

Originally from the UK, Helen has over 20 years of experience from various roles in the Early Years, and both the Primary and Secondary Phase. Helen has worked as a Special Educational Needs Advisor supporting families during the early identification process and as a teacher in both mainstream and specialist schools. She spent two years teaching at Cheshire School, a specialist setting for students with social, emotional and behavioural needs. 

Helen describes herself as a kind and nurturing person. As an educator, she believes that her success in the classroom derives from the student-teacher relationships she fosters. Her passion is reconnecting students to the world of education and empowering them to believe that what they offer has value. Helen loves bringing a fun and creative approach to teaching and learning. 

In her spare time, Helen loves spending time with her family, walking her dog Frankie, and trying to master the skill of paddleboarding, without falling off! 

Kim McClounan

Specialist Intervention Teacher

Kim has worked in education for almost 30 years, with 20 of those being in London, UK.

Throughout her career, Kim has supported many students individually through various programs and always endeavours to ensure they have a voice in the support they receive. She also works as a teacher at a specialist primary school in Victoria for students with significant social, emotional and behavioural challenges.

Kim has also recently completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts in Photography (with Distinction) and is an avid photographer.

Daniel Lewis

Sports Coach and Teaching Assistant

Dan has worked in specialist schools for over nine years as a Sports Coach and Teaching Assistant. He started his career in the UK, and in 2015 Dan travelled to Tasmania to play semi-professional football, where he stayed for three years before coming to Melbourne.

Dan was coaching tennis at the young age of 13. After starting as a tennis coaching assistant, he eventually became a qualified tennis coach. Dan is passionate about supporting students with negative experiences in mainstream settings after experiencing similar challenges.

After struggling in school, Dan was diagnosed as dyslexic when he started university, which led him to pursue his interest in improving student experiences and outcomes.

Craig Fraser

Sports Coach and Teaching Assistant

Craig brings over 10 years of experience in teaching and sports leadership, in the UK and US, to the sports coaching team at Tombolo.

He is highly proficient in leading recreational and educational activities and draws on a wide range of experience at international training camps and coaching programmes.

As a Counsellor, Sports Coach and Recreation Director, Craig has worked with children of all ages and abilities. He prides himself on building strong relationships with every student he works with.

His strengths include a strong work ethic, a positive attitude, and impeccable attention to detail. Craig looks forward to using his ability to build long-lasting relationships with students, parents and colleagues to contribute to the successful growth of the Tombolo Academy.

Amelie Green

Sports Coach and Teaching Assistant

Amelie has worked as a sports coach and TA alongside playing hockey in many countries, including The Netherlands, Argentina and the USA. After finishing her masters in education at the University of Massachusetts, she returned to the U.K. to work in a specialist school before coming to Australia to continue her hockey and teaching career. 

Amelie has a strong belief in the numerous benefits that physical activity and sports can have on young people both in and outside of the classroom and is keen to share her passion for sport with students at Tombolo. 

In the classroom, Amelie is passionate about building positive relationships with students and finding students’ strengths to enhance confidence and motivation towards learning. 

Daniel Sillar

Teaching Assistant

Daniel has over five years of experience working as a tutor and is excited to bring his knowledge in personalised student learning to Tombolo. Daniel is passionate about creating engaging and creative learning activities for students. He has a degree in Computer Science & Mathematics degree and AMEB qualifications in speech and drama.

With a love for DND, games, and all things nerdy, he is looking forward to getting to know the students on their level and helping them develop and pursue their lifelong passions.

Chris Hall

Occupational Therapist

Chris has extensive Paediatric Occupational Therapy experience in disability and developmental delay, Early Childhood Intervention and Community Health. She is passionate about supporting the well-being of children, their families, carers and teachers.

Chris understands the importance of each child’s learning, play and home environments and endeavours to use her OT skills to help each child participate and engage with everyday tasks.

Chris is very excited about working in Tombolo’s teaching and learning environment. In particular, Chris is interested in helping each student to be able to engage in learning, socialising and other activities that are meaningful to them.

Matthew Newman

Human Resources and Business Manager

Matthew is from the UK and brings a wealth of international business experience having worked in Spain, the UK, Japan and now Australia for organisations across various industries. This experience has given him a very open and inclusive approach to work and he is always attuned to people’s unique context and needs.

Matthew taught English in Japan for 5 years at ECC – Japan’s largest and most recognised foreign language institute. During this time he taught students of all ages, from 18 months through high schoolers to students 90+ years old. In his second year, he also moved into the HR/Management team where he was responsible for all aspects of HR for over 100 foreign language teachers. This included assistance with visas, banking, scheduling, payroll, etc.

Matt’s previous role was as the HR and Operations Business Partner at an HR consultancy based in the city. Here he managed the back-end operations for the entire business, including finance, HR, marketing and admin.

Matt is multilingual, speaking 3 languages (English, Spanish and Japanese). He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Business Studies and is a certified member of the CIPD (UK AHRI equivalent).

Outside of work, Matt enjoys playing football (soccer) as well as a range of other sports including tennis, squash and snowboarding. He also loves travelling, mainly to try all of the local cuisine.

Melissa NeSmith

Senior Administration Assistant

Melissa has training and experience in office administration, special education (K-12) and middle-level education. Melissa worked for many years as an executive assistant in an organisation that provided rehabilitative training for people with disabilities in WA.

Melissa also co-taught students with learning disabilities in a mainstream middle school in the US. More recently, Melissa worked as an administration officer at a specialist primary school in Victoria for students with significant social, emotional and behavioural challenges. Besides Tombolo, Melissa also works as ed support in classrooms in other specialist schools, ranging from kindergarten to Year 12.

All these experiences have taught Melissa that almost everyone can learn, given the right guidance and environment. She likes to tell her own children that smart/fast alone doesn’t get the assignments done…it takes hard work and perseverance…much like the tortoise (in the story of The Tortoise and the Hare), who wins in the end through sheer perseverance!

Christine Yu

Finance Officer and Accountant

Wei arrived in Australia in 2007 to study high school and pursue further education at the University of Melbourne with a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Professional Accounting in the University of Sydney and completed her CPA study in 2019.

Wei is a highly self-motivated individual with great attention to detail. She has several years of experience as an accountant across Retailing, Hospitality, Construction and manufacturing industries. This is her first time jumping into the Education field, and she is so excited and can’t wait to use her skills and experiences to work for Tombolo.

In her spare time, Wei loves hiking and travelling worldwide. She believes travel enriches the mind and educates us far beyond any textbook. It teaches us about humanity and gives us an appreciation, understanding and respect for different points of view and ways of life. We also learn about ourselves along the way.