Meet our fearless Ambassadors – who use their profile to help raise awareness of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis nationally, share their lived experiences and promote the work of Crohn’s & Colitis Australia.
We thank CCA’s Ambassadors for representing our fearless community and helping to #FlushTheStigma through publicity, events and social media as well as CCA organised campaigns, such as Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month (May) and the Live Fearless Challenge (September).
Our Ambassadors are also champions that advocate on behalf of their local community, sharing their stories and helping to destigmatise these illnesses.
Australian Champion Surfer
Brittani Nicholl is an accomplished surfer from the Far North Coast of NSW, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the age of seven. Brittani’s surfing career achievements include various Pro Junior results, 3 consecutive NSW State Titles, an Australian Title, WSL WQS world ranking of 24, Australian representation in the 2016 and 2017 ISA World Surfing Games, and Australian Team Captain. Brittani’s health obstacles forced her to take a step back from competitive surfing, however, she is still involved in the industry and studying a university degree.
“It was a visit in hospital from a stranger at the time who picked my spirits back up and inspired me to continue living my life doing the things I loved. I am forever grateful for this visit.”
ABC Radio Melbourne Presenter & Author
Jacinta Parsons is a broadcaster, radio maker, writer and public speaker who currently co-hosts the Afternoon program on ABC Local Radio Melbourne. She began her radio-life at community radio station 3RRR over a decade ago, where she coordinated live music broadcasts and hosted several shows including Detour and Breakfasters. Jacinta has presented on ABC Radio Melbourne since January 2018. Jacinta speaks and writes about the impact of living with Crohn’s disease and is the author of Unseen: The Secret World of Chronic Illness.
“I hope by revealing my own challenges with chronic illness, that I can give voice to some of the millions of Australians living with chronic illness, unseen and unheard.”
Musician, Comedian & MC
Luke Escombe is an award-winning songwriter, musician, and patient
health advocate whose ability to take his real-life struggles with Crohn’s disease and turn them into laughter and music has earned him standing ovations on four continents. Luke is a member of the New South Wales Arts Advisory Panel, creator of ARIA-nominated kids band The Vegetable Plot and a teaching artist with the Sydney Opera House’s Creative Leadership in Learning Program. He is most often described by himself as the ‘Mick Jagger of inflammatory bowel disease’.
“I reached a point of acceptance with Crohn’s and started mining my horrific experiences for comedy gold. I think the fact that I could be honest but also funny about a disease that carries so much stigma helped me reach past people’s defences and activate their empathy.”
TV Presenter, Podcast host & Co-Founder of Girls Who Glow
Teigan Nash is a TV Presenter, GoPro Ambassador, Friend of Australia, Podcast host, co-founder of Girls Who Glow and lover of dogs. Teigan also lives with Crohn’s disease she was diagnosed in 2018, so while it is all still new and very early in the remission journey Teigan still lives a fulfilled life. Teigan has travelled the world working and living abroad and she loves the ocean and outdoors. She’s known for her role on popular kids show Saturday Disney and most recently as a host of a travel show on Channel 10, Roads Less Travelled.
“It’s important to feel comfortable with yourself and those around, so that you can open up and talk about IBD. All my friends and even work colleagues all know my needs around having an autoimmune disease.”
– Teigan Nash
Volunteer & The Bottom End podcast speaker
Justan Singh is a dedicated volunteer within the IBD community and has given his time to be a speaker for CCA events and The Bottom End podcasts. Justan was the face of CCA’s Awareness Month campaign ‘You’ve Got Guts!’ in 2021. Justan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease when he was two years old and has had many surgical operations to manage the disease. After surgery for a permanent ostomy when he was 21 years of age, he became interested in raising awareness about ostomies and positive body image.
“I embraced a new life that valued health and fitness. I always wanted to have the sort of body that can pull off bodybuilder photos that I could take showing my ostomy to raise awareness.”
Author, Speaker & Corethentic Founder
Flic Manning is an Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur. She is the founder of Corethentic, a wellness system created on the back of her experience living with inflammatory bowel disease. Flic is a certified wellness coach, personal and group fitness instructor, dance teacher, meditation coach, and a holistic pain management and mindfulness facilitator. She also has a Diploma of Neuroplasticity and a Certificate of Advanced Neurobiology. Flic has lived with Crohn’s disease for over two decades and is the author of Living Human, a book about her experiences with invisible illness.
“I found the process of having an invisible illness de-humanising. As I worked on rebuilding my personal humanity, I recognised that for my quality of life to be high I must not shy away from who I am and what I need and that the only way I could prevent someone else being de-humanised was to let them know what I had experienced and share what I had learned.”
Former Victorian Government Minister
Lisa is the Minister for Police and the Minister for Water in the Andrews Labor Government of Victoria.
Lisa took on the police portfolio in 2016 and since then has implemented a new strategic policy framework for community safety which is driving the biggest expansion in police numbers, technology and equipment in the force’s history.
She maintains a keen interest in issues and services for women and children, people with a disability and older Victorians.
Lisa was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1988, and like most people with Crohn’s, it took a while for medical professionals to correctly identify the disease.
Living with Crohn’s has meant many flare ups, surgeries, and complications – all side-effects of the disease that patients will know well.
In 2021, she experienced a major health scare which required an extended period of leave.
Prior to this episode, Lisa had managed Crohn’s very privately but her experience – particularly hearing from so many fellow Crohn’s sufferers – reinforced to her the importance of talking openly about this terrible this disease and the impact it has.
Lisa is proud to be an ambassador for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia and hopes to give inspiration to people by speaking out about this this silent and often invisible disease that impacts thousands of Australians every day.
Volunteer, Advocate & Ostomate
Melissa Lord was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 18 years of age and endured around 10 years of treatment for her symptoms, in and out of hospital. Her disease escalated towards the middle of 2009 and this outcome meant she needed major surgery to create a permanent ileostomy. Since surgery, Melissa has worked hard to live fearlessly. She achieved a massive life goal by travelling overseas in 2018 to trek the El Camino in Spain. Melissa has spoken at forums for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia and she was very proud to be a mentor at the CCA Youth Camp Fearless in 2019.
“It took a long time for me to realise it was okay to talk about my experiences with Crohn’s disease and the impact it had on my life. I’ve come a long way and am proud to have built up the courage to start conversations, to speak publicly, have a laugh about my ‘relationship with poo’ and to have mentored young patients.”
Tasmanian born and bred, Melita is an experienced and successful businesswoman and has been recognised as an outstanding relationship builder, being awarded the 2013 Tasmanian Telstra Young Businesswomen’s Award and the 2014 Fundraising Institute of Australia’s Young Fundraiser of the Year Award. Melita in 2019 campaigned for the appointment of an IBD nurse at the Royal Hobart Hospital where over 2000 patients were on the outpatient gastroenterology waiting list. Through rapid conversations with politicians, the Australian Medical Association and the hospital, Melita was successful in achieving funding for an IBD nurse in Hobart Tasmania in November 2019.
“I really look forward to doing what I can to help advocate for all in Tasmanian who are living with IBD.”
Volunteer & Advocate
Tracey Murrin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2005. 12 months later after a very aggressive year with a lot of hospital visits, she had most of her large bowel removed and a permanent ileostomy. Tracey is very passionate about raising awareness and helping others with IBD. She has walked the Great Wall of China with an amazing group of people to fundraise and raise IBD awareness, was a finalist in the Great Comeback Awards 2017, and walked in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. The most personal event though, was her son’s concert where he sang the song about their journey called F.I.B.D.
“The stigma of a bowel disease has made some baby steps but we have a long way to go. I think the general public think we have an upset tummy or maybe something like IBS, no actual idea of the pain, or the impact on mental health. Awareness is a constant goal for us all.”
Nurse Consultant, IVF Advocate & Ostomate
Sarah Starkey was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1998 at 13 years of age. Sarah is a Palliative Care Nurse Consultant working in the largest Palliative Care Service in South Australia. Sarah is a huge advocate for body positivity, empowering and inspiring others in their own journeys, whether that be IBD, IVF or miscarriage awareness.
“My stoma has given me the life I deserve. I love that I have battle scars to show where I have come from and how strong I am. For the past 12 years I have had control over my body and it feels incredible.”
Student & Youth Advocate Volunteer
Kiara Schonberger was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 16 years of age. Kiara’s diagnosis didn’t come as a shock due to her family history of Crohn’s disease and other autoimmune diseases. At the age of 18, Kiara experienced a significant flare up, leading to hospitalisation and an entirely new treatment plan. Kiara now receives regular Infliximab infusions, allowing her to keep up with her academic studies, part-time work, social life, and dancing. The 2019 Live Fearless Challenge was the first time Kiara spoke publicly about her diagnosis.
“By sharing my experiences of diagnosis at 16, hospitalisation at 18, changing treatment plans at 21, whilst maintaining a typical ‘young adult’ routine, others can begin to see how chronic illnesses can impact someone of any age.”
Crohn’s Warrior & Writer
Alyssa Shapland was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2016 and has become an advocate for the chronic illness community. Alyssa is a self-confessed Crohn’s Warrior and passionate writer. Alyssa volunteers for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia and has been the Perth support group facilitator. In 2019, Alyssa was interviewed on ABC Radio Perth for World Toilet Day.
“It often takes someone else to make you realise that it’s okay to feel things intensely; you just have to make sure there’s someone there to catch you when you work your way through it.”
Former Personal Trainer
Dylan Swan is a former personal trainer of 8 years, trains 5-7 days a week and competes in multiple events based around strength and fitness. Dylan has battled Crohn’s disease for a decade. Since diagnosis, he has had multiple surgeries including the removal of 80cm of bowel and numerous complications along the way. Starting Infliximab infusions bimonthly drastically improved his quality of life. As a proud family man and a father of four, he tries to lead a very healthy and active life spending the weekends going on hikes and adventures.
“So many people take their health for granted, but I, and anyone that suffers with Crohn’s, knows just how valuable and sometimes rare, feeling good actually is. When I know that I can do what other “normal” people can do, even though I have Crohn’s, it allows me to keep a positive mindset and belief that I won’t let my disease define me. “
Alexandra Sechi started her nursing career at Liverpool Hospital in 2008. In 2011, Alexandra was employed as the first IBD Nurse at Liverpool Hospital, establishing the IBD Service along with A/Prof Susan Connor and Dr Watson Ng. Alexandra is a current member of the IBD Nurses Australia (IBDNA) National Committee, the CCA Medical, Scientific and Quality of Care Committee, and is the past-Chair of the NSW & ACT IBD Nurses Group. Alex is an active attendee at IBD-related meetings and symposia and has been an invited speaker at meetings nationally and internationally. Alexandra has led nurse-initiated research and has co-authored a number of publications.
“Over the past decade I have had the opportunity to care for and work with so many amazing people. I have the privilege of our patients allowing me to walk their IBD journey with them, and see the very real lows and highs of living with IBD.”
Harrison (Haytch) Bence was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at 21 years of age. Prior to diagnosis, Haytch suffered with fistulas requiring many surgeries. Over the past 5 years, Haytch has had many ups and downs including persistent pain, 16 surgeries, chronic fatigue, opioid addiction and being judged by numerous doctors due to his appearance. Haytch’s aim is to be the best father he can be, but also to get back into competitive basketball and do all the normal day-to-day activities people take for granted. The Live Fearless Challenge allowed Haytch to spread the word about his daily life and the struggles people with IBD face.
“It’s hard for people to understand why I look okay on the outside, but can’t work a full day or I can’t go out for dinner often. The more people know about this disease the more understanding people will be.”