At Valley Youth, we see young people as the centre of our work and as active decision makers in their own lives and communities. Our team is passionate about making sure young people are heard, engaged and empowered to live healthy and fulfilling lives. If you're a young person who spends time in Moonee Valley, we’d love to hear how we can support you, or how you can get involved.
Check out our staff profiles for some more info about us and the work we do!
Name: Francesca Pagani
Role: Coordinator Youth Development
- What I do is coordinate the Valley Youth team. I support our team members to be amazing leaders, so they can then support and empower young people to participate, create change and thrive in Moonee Valley.
- I’m into yoga, dancing, singing (in my car or the shower), hanging out with my awesome friends and family, hiking, spending time in nature, travelling, reading and having deep and meaningful conversations.
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is Queens Park, because there’s nothing like taking your shoes off and walking bare feet on grass at the end of a long day.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me at the gym, at yoga, at the market, brunching with friends or dancing like no one is watching at a bush doof.
- I love working with young people because they have limitless potential and I love helping them to step into their power, try new ideas and revolutionise our community and the world!
- My secret talent is talking to trees and plants and understanding them when they talk back! #forreals
Francesca has a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws from Monash University where she majored in social sciences and human rights law, as well as post graduate qualifications in project management and community development. Francesca has over 14 years’ experience working collaboratively with all levels of government, community service organisations and educational institutions to respond to the challenges facing diverse and marginalised groups. She has extensive skills in social planning, policy and program development, implementation and evaluation, and service delivery coordination. Francesca has driven a variety of stakeholder engagement initiatives and managed the delivery of leadership development and capacity building initiatives across a range of sectors within Australia and in Asia, Africa and Europe. Born in South America, Francesca is a native Spanish speaker and is passionate about empowering young people to embody the change they wish to see in the world. After all, young people are the future!
Name: Ilz Aslan
Role: Team Leader, Youth Counselling and Case Management
- What I do is manage our friendly Counsellors and Case workers, who help young people in Moonee Valley work through some of the challenges they may be experiencing. I also oversee the Thriving Minds Mental Health First Aid project.
- I’m into music! I love listening to music and collecting CD’s and vinyls – mostly metal and rock. I also love all things fashion – buying and looking!
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is all the cool cafés around the area because they have good coffee, and coffee is goood!
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me at home – decorating! Or in the city, drinking coffee, shopping and discovering new restaurants.
- I love working with young people because they are at such a pivotal stage in their lives as they navigate the world. It’s exciting to hear their ideas, important to listen to their struggles and be part of their journey as they head into adulthood.
- My secret talent is making birthday cards in the office and transforming spaces with my on point decorating skills!
Ilz has a Bachelor of Social Work from RMIT University, with experience working in youth and community development. Ilz also has a Diploma in Fashion Business, and has worked in the fashion industry in Australia and Canada. She has experience in managing community and youth participation, advocacy and mental health and wellbeing projects, as well as managing teams and support services. Ilz has also worked as an organisational trainer providing training packages to organisations about effective and meaningful engagement with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Ilz is super passionate about advocating for the needs of young people, particularly those who are vulnerable, and believes with some support and guidance they can achieve great things in life.
Name: Tessa Portelli
Role: Youth Support Officer
- What I do is provide one-on-one support for young people who need some help in reaching their goals! I help young people become more independent and resilient, while they work towards things like gaining employment, education, Centrelink support, life skills, finances and housing.
- I’m into shopping - for basically anything, mainly clothes! - travelling and planning overseas trips!
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is all the cute little cafes for brunch or coffee.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me brunching around the western suburbs with friends, or at Highpoint spending all my money.
- I love working with young people because I love building relationships and working alongside them, so they reach their full potential and get what they want out of life!
- My secret talent is working out percentages in my head… to work out my shopping discounts obviously!
Tessa has a Bachelor of Social Work (Hons) from RMIT University. She has worked with out-of-home care young people, to re-engage them back into education and training and encourage youth participation. She’s also delivered workshops to increase young people’s employability, independent living and life skills. Tessa has worked in the disability sector, providing respite care, advocacy and community engagement for young people, adults and their families. She’s also worked to assist families experiencing family violence and homelessness, provide crisis case management and emergency accommodation. Tessa is passionate about ensuring young people are given the opportunities they all deserve to participate within the community and to reach their full potential.
Name: Diana Amato
Role: Team Leader, Youth Engagement & Partnerships
- What I do is manage a team of enthusiastic youth workers, who deliver exciting programs for young people in Moonee Valley.
- I’m into music (literally ANYTHING from Opera to Hip-Hop) and am super-thrilled to have gotten a bluetooth speaker for Christmas!
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is along the Maribyrnong River because there’s always lots of wildlife to see and fun parks to bring the kids to.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me listening to my favourite podcast or music, or happily entertaining friends and family.
- I love working with young people because they teach me something new every day and this is truly inspirational.
- My secret talent is playing the piano, and my secret dream is to sing like Beyoncé!
Diana has worked within Youth Affairs for the past two decades. She is committed to partnering with young people, and empowering them to reach their full potential in every part of their life. Diana has a Bachelor of Arts (Youth Affairs) from RMIT University, and has also majored in Education and Psychology studies. Diana has significant skills and experience in youth policy and program development in Australia and the UK. She is a keen advocate for bilingualism and the benefits of raising children to speak two or more languages, and loves to travel and explore new countries, cultures and food.
Name: Jessica Trevena
Role: Youth Development Officer
- What I do is get out in the community to engage with young people in their schools and local hangouts.
- I’m into music and going to concerts, especially pop punk shows. I’m a huge fan of board games and video games (especially The Legend of Zelda) and definitely enjoy eating dessert. Oh, and I love Mulan purely for that song – you know the one… “Let’s get down to business, to defeat…the Huns!”
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is Queens Park. I discovered it when I was a teenager and couldn’t get over how amazingly beautiful it is!
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me playing video/board games, hanging out with friends and eating food.
- I love working with young people because young people have so much to offer the world. They have their finger on the pulse with their insight and intuition, and their voices should be heard in a world full of adults. Plus they’re a lot of fun to be around – I learn so much from them.
- My secret talent is I’m a singer. I’m a bit rusty but I love music and singing.
Jess has a Diploma of Youth Work from Australian Catholic University and a rich background in music and the arts from prior study at RMIT University. Jess gained skills in a number of volunteer roles. She was part of Frontyard Youth Services’ Youth Advisory Group raising awareness about youth homelessness and was on the City of Melbourne’s Citizen’s Jury to represent young people in the Future Melbourne 2026 Plan. Jess is excited about organising and facilitating programs and events for all young people, and hopes to give young people in Moonee Valley a voice to raise awareness about broader issues. She is incredibly passionate about situations affecting young people, especially surrounding mental health and equality in every sense of the word (employment opportunities, marriage, education and more). Jess believes in creating a sense of community by having discussions with others, most importantly young people, and strives to do this in all areas of her work.
Name: Peter Giannoukas
Role: Youth Development Officer
- What I do is create as many interesting opportunities for young people to engage with us, council and each other as possible. I do this by delivering programs, projects and events with young people and focussing on ways I can help you to build new skills, make new connections and run your own projects.
- I’m into music, big time! I play drums and love playing in bands (mostly alternative, rock or punk kinda bands). Also love movies. I studied and worked in film and TV before I was a youth worker. Besides arts, I’m into sports (mainly AFL and soccer) and videogames.
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is Union Road because it has a bunch of awesome cafés and restaurants and is walking distance from my house. I often meet friends there for catch ups.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me either at band prac, a gig, catching up with friends, or saving the world from angry aliens on my PS, haha!
- I love working with young people because it’s super rewarding! I feel like I have a chance to help make positive change. Even a small opportunity can be a meaningful one and make a massive difference to someone’s life.
- My secret talent is life tetris! Actually it’s kinda like two secret talents. I have a talent of collecting way too much stuff and then have a talent of being able to stack and store everything. I also manage to fit a whole drum kit plus people in my car (which is not a big car).
Peter has over 12 years of experience across youth services and community development roles. Originally a film maker (Honours Degree of Screen – Film and Television), Peter began his professional journey using arts based skills to deliver creative events and programs for young people. After returning to study (Diploma of Youth Work), he continued to develop his support skills working directly with young people as an outreach officer and case manager. Peter works from a reflective, person centred approach and values integrity and collaboration. He aims to make positive impacts across communities and to contribute to growth and development of community organisations, workers and volunteers.
Name: Annalise De Mel
Role: Youth Development Officer
- What I do is create and run events and activities that are the enemy of boredom and loneliness! I help young people feel more connected to where they live and each other, plus give them more opportunities to do fun things, explore their passions and support each other.
- I’m into big bright necklaces, dancing in the rain, dreaming about food and overseas travel, aerial yoga and the Eurovision Song Contest.
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is Queens Park because it’s a dreamy little escape from the bustle of the city. Fun fact: My husband and I had our first kiss in Queens Park in London, and got married in Queens Park in Moonee Ponds!
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me riding my micro scooter around Moonee Ponds, playing in various playgrounds with my little boy, or stuffing my face – I love that we have Ethiopian, Korean, Italian, Greek, Japanese, American restaurants, vegan eats and food trucks so close together!
- I love working with young people because of their energy, optimism, enthusiasm and big ideas to change the world for the better. Plus the adults that had my back when I was younger changed the direction of my life for the better, so I want to support the next generation in the same way.
- My secret talent is playing the timbal, a big Brazilian hand drum that you strap to your body. I’ve played it in bands in Carnaval in Salvador, Brazil and Notting Hill Carnival in London. I am also a magician and can make chocolate disappear in 0.172 seconds.
Annalise holds a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) and a Master of International Development, both from RMIT University. Annalise has been involved with the education and youth sectors for a decade, through working in journalism, public relations, community and international development. She has extensive experience in communications and campaign management, education program development, project management and is an experienced facilitator and presenter. She’s worked and presented in Australia, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, South Africa and South Korea. Annalise is a passionate social justice advocate, believes the most impactful change happens when people are empowered think critically and creatively, and works to inspire young people to be caring and curious active citizens.
Name: Rachael Fry
Role: Youth Planner and Team Leader
- What I do is lead an amazing team and our work, while varied, is about empowering young people in decision making processes and through participation opportunities, so they can create the change they want to see in their lives and community!
- I’m into roller derby, documentaries, good books and brunch.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me drinking coffee in the northern suburbs and walking my chocolate labradoodle Morrissey.
- I love working with young people because it makes me feel hopeful! It reminds me the potential we all have – to learn and grow and for things to change (even when it might seem impossible).
- My secret talent is accents!
Rachael holds a Bachelor degree with honours in Psychology from La Trobe University and a Masters of Politics and Policy from Deakin University. She has over 10 years’ experience working with diverse and marginalised populations across community service organisations and local government, including roles in youth homelessness, intensive youth outreach, youth justice, youth engagement and community development. Passionate about people and social justice, Rachael is committed to being an advocate for young people, their equal participation and supporting them to truly thrive. Rachael believes it is an absolute privilege to work alongside young people!
Name: Kristin Godby
Role: Youth Participation Officer
- What I do is coordinate the L2P learner driver mentor program to help people get their Ps. So if you are under 21 years of age and want to gain some driving experience, you can contact me!
- I’m into youth justice and am bit of a greenie. I love hanging out in in the forest and tending to my vegie patch.
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me walking my dogs down the Merri Creek near where I live and enjoying a good coffee!
- I love working with young people because they are so inspiring and teach me so much.
- My secret talent is looking after plants and animals.
Kristin is a qualified Social Worker with thirteen years’ experience in the community sector, managing programs and leading and supporting teams of both staff and volunteers. Kristin also has experience in therapeutic work with young people, families and children with complex needs as well as extensive experience in the field of family violence and the not for profit sector. Her work is built on a foundation of understanding the impacts of trauma and the structural causes of disadvantaged and commitment to community development principles of empowerment. As well as many years’ experience managing volunteer programs, Kristin herself volunteers with a rental housing cooperative that provides access to affordable housing, and with environment groups to protect wildlife and habitat in East Gippsland. Although she coordinates the L2P learner driving program, she rides a bike to work every day!
Name: Ruth Mihelcic
Role: Youth Participation Officer
- What I do is work with young people in Moonee Valley to build their capacity to become leaders in their community.
- I’m into frisbee, hiking, and listening to music.
- My go-to place to hang in Moonee Valley is any good coffee shop!
- When I’m not at work you’ll find me hanging out at the park with my dog.
- I love working with young people because they have many inspiring ideas of how the world around them should be improved.
- My secret talent is being an Excel ninja master and data overlord.
As well as working at Valley Youth, Ruth works at Wyndham City Council as a Projects Officer and Youth Participation and Leadership Officer. She works closely with schools and local young people to facilitate annual forums, leadership and project groups, and build up young people to be leaders in their local communities. She has studied community development, commerce and marketing, and journalism. Her previous experience has included working in the Victorian youth music and events field, and developing training for youth event committees. Ruth is passionate about getting young people involved in improving their local communities.