Our story

BDSRA Australia is the Australian Chapter of the Batten Disease Support and Research Association (BDSRA Australia). BDSRA Australia was founded in 1995 by parents of children affected by Batten disease. Batten disease is a family of severe, devastating neurodegenerative disorders that primarily affect children. Children with Batten disease are typically born healthy and develop normally before symptoms begin to appear. As the disease progresses, children typically suffer seizures, language decline, vision loss, cognitive and motor decline, dementia and early death. Learn more about Batten disease.

BDSRA Australia is dedicated to improving the well-being of patients and families affected by Batten disease in Australia.

Our mission

BDSRA Australia seeks to:

  1. support Australian families affected by Batten disease
  2. fund vital research in this therapeutic area; and
  3. advance awareness of Batten disease in Australia

We rely on generous donations from the public to fund our services. Find out how you can help turn HOPE into a CURE.

BDSRA Australia maintains a national register of patients affected by Batten disease. This enables us to keep in contact and provide families with information on key updates, useful resources and family events. If you have received a diagnosis of Batten disease, please contact us to be included in the national register.

Our people

Kate Beattie is the President of BDSRA Australia. She is a commercial barrister at the Victorian Bar and holds a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Monash University and a Master of Law (Hons) from the University of Cambridge. Kate got involved with the BDSRA as a patient advocate after her son Tom was diagnosed with late infantile Batten disease (CLN2) in 2016.

Dr Michael Fietz is the Vice President of BDSRA Australia. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Science of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and holds a PhD and Bachelor of Science from the University of Adelaide. Michael managed the Australia National Referral Laboratory for Batten disease for almost 15 years and has been associated with BDSRA Australia for nearly 20 years. Michael presently works in the field of next generation DNA sequencing.

Amanda Meredith is the Treasurer of BDSRA Australia. Mandy is a qualified primary school teacher and spent her working life in Early Childhood programs facilitating the inclusion of children with additional needs into mainstream childcare services. Mandy is retired but busier than ever, mostly being a grandmother or cycling with her husband. Mandy’s granddaughter, Mia, was diagnosed with late infantile Batten disease (CNL2) in 2013.

Read Mia’s story.

Julia Mickler is the Secretary of BDSRA Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Macquarie University, a Graduate Diploma in TESOL from University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and a Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics from UTS. She is mother of three and became involved with the BDSRA after her daughter Emily was diagnosed with juvenile Batten disease (CLN3) in 2017.

Read Emily’s story.

Vanessa Anderson is the Public Officer of BDSRA Australia. Vanessa joined BDSRA Australia in 2000 and managed BDSRA Australia until 2015. She has been raising awareness and fundraising for Batten disease since her son, Jordan, was diagnosed with the late infantile Batten disease in 1996. Jordan passed away in 2002. Vanessa works in the disability sector for Life Without Barriers.

Dr Ineka Whiteman is the Medical and Scientific Affairs Manager for BDSRA Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Neuroscience through combined studies at the Universities of Oxford and Sydney, and a PhD in Medicine from the University of Sydney. With a research background in neurodegenerative disease and a professional background in government, academic and pharmaceutical sectors, Ineka is passionate about raising Batten disease awareness through education and supporting vital research in this therapeutic area.

Laura Smith is BDSRA Australia’s Family Support Officer. Laura works as a Social Worker at a hospital rehabilitation centre in Geelong, Victoria. She holds a Masters of Social Work and has previously worked for the National Disability Insurance Agency and as a Wish Coordinator for Make-A-Wish Australia. Laura is mum to Maggie (aged 6) and to Matilda, who was diagnosed with late infantile Batten disease (CLN2) in 2012 and passed away, aged 7, in November 2013. She is also the author of a beautiful blog site, TeamTilda.

Jay Riddle is a General Member of the BDSRA committee. Jay has been working in the gaming business for over 15 years across Australia and the United States. Jay’s daughter, Tayla, was diagnosed with Batten Disease (CLN2) in November 2016 and later participated in a clinical drug trial in the USA for cerliponase alfa (Brineura). Jay and his family have now returned to Australia.

Medical and scientific advisory board

BDSRA Australia's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board is comprised of leading medical and allied health experts with experience in diagnosis, treatment and management of Batten disease. The Advisory Board is a resource for other healthcare practitioners seeking advice on Batten disease management, and also supports BDSRA Australia’s research, education and awareness-raising efforts.

Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO MBBS PhD FAA FAHMS
Ingrid is a physician-scientist whose work as a paediatric neurologist and epileptologist at the University of Melbourne and the Florey Institute in collaboration with Professor Samuel Berkovic and molecular geneticists, has led the field of epilepsy genetics over more than 25 years. This has included the identification of the first epilepsy gene and many genes subsequently. Her major interests are in the genetics of the epilepsies, epilepsy syndromology and classification, and translational research. She collaborates on research on the genetics of speech and language disorders, autism spectrum disorders, cortical malformations and intellectual disability.

Professor Monique Ryan MBBS MMed FRACP
Monique is Director of the Neurology Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne Australia, where she is also head of the neuromuscular clinical research program and multidisciplinary Neuromuscular Clinic. This clinic oversees the care of more than 500 children with a variety of neuromuscular disorders. Prof Ryan’s research interests include natural history studies and clinical trials of new therapies for myopathies, muscular dystrophies, neuropathies and spinal muscular atrophy.

Professor John Grigg MBBS (QLD) MD (SYD) FRANZCO FRACS
John is head of the Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology and Eye Health at the University of Sydney's Save Sight Institute. He leads the clinical visual electrophysiology service, and has clinical responsibilities, at the Sydney Eye Hospital and the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, Sydney, including specialised clinics for inherited eye disease and glaucoma. He is a member of the eye genetics research group Save Sight Institute, Children’s Medical Research Institute and Children’s Hospital Westmead. His main areas of research are in inherited retinal diseases, glaucoma and electrophysiology of the visual system. He is also a chief investigator on several NHMRC grants looking into new therapies for inherited retinal disorders.

Professor Angela Morgan BSpPath(Aud Hons) PhD CPSP
Prof. Angela Morgan is an NHMRC Practitioner Fellow and leads the Speech and Language group at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. She is also Professor of Speech Pathology at the University of Melbourne. Angela has over 20 years of clinical-research experience. She is passionate about improving the communication abilities of children with disability, to optimise their development and enhance life outcomes. Angela currently leads the NHMRC CRE in Speech and Language which focuses on: (i) identification of new gene pathways leading to child speech and language disorders, (ii) conducting genotype- speech phenotype studies for rare genetic syndromes leading to more targeted therapies, and (iii) elucidating the neurobiology of speech and language disorders using quantitative brain imaging techniques.

Associate Professor Carolyn Ellaway, MBBS, PhD, FRACP, HGSA
Carolyn is a paediatrician and clinical geneticist with the Genetic Metabolic Disorders Service, Children’s Hospital, Westmead and Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick. She is head of the NSW Genetic Metabolic Disorders Service and a clinical associate professor at the University of Sydney. In her clinical role, Carolyn has been responsible for the care of children with a wide range of genetic metabolic disorders. This has included the multidisciplinary treatment of patients with lysosomal storage disorders and enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) delivery.

Dr Alexandra Johnson MBBS, FRACP - Advisory Board Chair
Alex is a child neurologist working at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick as well as Royal North Shore and Liverpool hospitals. She also consults from private rooms. She enjoys working with children across many different fields within paediatric neurology, including seizures, headache and disability. She has a special interest in epilepsy and NCL disease.

Dr Nicholas J.C Smith MBBS (Hon), DCH, FRACP and PhD (Cantab)
Nick is a paediatric neurologist at the Department of Paediatric Neurology at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, specialising in paediatric and adult neurometabolic diseases with a particular interest in the disorder of lysosomal function. He maintains a conjoint academic appointment with the University of Adelaide School of Medicine. His clinical and scientific research interests focus upon defining the pathological mechanisms underpinning neurological forms of lysosomal disease in order to inform the development of novel therapeutic approaches, including gene-based therapies for children and adults with lysosomal and related neurodegenerative disorders.

Catherine Horder Dip Sc (Nursing), B Sc (Occupational Therapy), SIPT Certification
Cathy is a paediatric occupational therapist. She works in her private practice and consults at Melbourne Paediatric Specialists, associated with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. She has a strong interest in children with sensory and movement challenges, and how this impacts their emotional and social development.

Lisa Tilbrook Master of Speech Pathology (MSLP)
Lisa is a senior speech pathologist at Thrive Health Centre in South Australia, managing a multi-disciplinary allied health team servicing people with disabilities and developmental delay. She has a special interest in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), providing communication access through assistive technology to people with complex cognitive and physical impairments. Lisa holds a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology from Flinders University.