Our People

Our Team

The VANISH team are skilled professionals with specialist post-adoption training, search expertise, and an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of separation from family by adoption. Guided by our vision, purpose, and values, we work together to support people affected by adoption and separation from a child by adoption, using a person-centred, trauma-informed approach. Many of our staff also have a relevant lived experience as well as extensive experience working in post-adoption support.

Our Governance

Lived experience runs through every level of our organisation and this unique understanding informs everything we do.

Dr Michelle Blanchard

Chief Executive Officer

Dr Michelle Blanchard is the Chief Executive Officer of VANISH. Michelle is also an Honorary Senior Fellow in the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne. 

Prior to joining VANISH, Michelle spent two decades in the mental health sector leading key strategic research initiatives, driving service delivery efforts and advocating for policy change and reform, particularly around reducing structural stigma and discrimination and promoting more compassionate cultures of care. Michelle was Deputy CEO at SANE and Founding Director of the Anne Deveson Research Centre. 

Michelle has also held senior roles at the National Mental Health Commission, Butterfly Foundation and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.  

In addition to academic qualifications in psychology, political science, adolescent health and welfare and leadership and management, Michelle has a PhD in Youth Mental Health. 

Michelle was drawn to VANISH’s work because of the value it places on understanding and responding to the lived experienced of people who have experienced past injustices and harm and because she believes that understanding who you are and having the opportunity to choose to build meaningful connections with family is central to our identity and wellbeing.


VANISH Committee of Management 2022-23

Todd Dargan


Todd has served on the VANISH Committee of Management since 2018 and been Treasurer since 2022. Todd is an adopted person and first became involved with VANISH in 2008 when he undertook his search and reunion. He was a regular attendee at the VANISH adoptee support group and through this, he understands the unique experiences of adoptees and the common threads they share. Todd has an MBA from Swinburne and works for Westgate Community Initiatives Group (WCIG), an organisation which provides Employment, Disability, Youth and Training Services and also support to Social Enterprises. The youth services include engaging young people who are leaving out-of-home care to prepare them for the workforce and independence. Todd oversees Westgate’s quality and information management systems and manages their certification requirements, including NSDS and DHHS certifications. 


Maureen Long


Jon Phillips

Committee Members:

Amy Clarke, Simon Pryor, Aimee Shackleton, Hannah Spanswick

If you are interested in getting involved with the VANISH Committee of Management, please contact Todd Dargan (Chair) or Charlotte Smith (CEO) through VANISH, to discuss your engagement with us.

Our Patrons

Jan Owen AM

Jan is VANISH Patron and brings a personal experience to her passion for working to support people affected by adoption, intercountry adoption, donor conception and ‘Forgotten Australians’ who have lived in institutional settings. 

Jan is CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians and a pioneer of the youth sector in Australia.  She is a highly regarded social entrepreneur, innovator and child and youth advocate. From 2002 – 2010, Jan was Executive Director of Social Ventures Australia, which aims to increase the impact of the Australian social sector.  Prior to this Jan founded the CREATE Foundation and was its CEO for nine years.  She is the only non US citizen to receive a fellowship for leadership and innovation to the Peter Drucker Foundation (USA) and has been awarded membership of the Order of Australia for services to children and young people.  In October 2012, Jan was named The Australian Financial Review & Westpac Group ‘Woman of Influence 2012’ and Social Enterprise category winner.   The inaugural ‘100 Women of Influence’ awards recognised the important contribution female leaders make to Australia’s future.

Pauline Ley OAM

Pauline was born in Perth in 1945 to a single mother and then adopted as an only child by a Melbourne couple. At the age of 20 Pauline recognised, while searching for her mother, that that there was a significant unmet need for support and information to assist people affected by adoption. This led to the establishment of Geelong Adoption Program (GAP) in 1982 which Pauline convened for 15 years.  

For over 40 years Pauline has strongly advocated for law reform in adoption and assisted reproductive treatment. After Victoria became the first Australian state to reform its adoption laws in 1984 to give adult adopted persons the right to access their identifying information, Pauline and GAP played an important role in the establishment of VANISH. She has remain actively involved for the 30 years VANISH has existed, volunteering her time, energy and enthusiasm. In 2018 Pauline became the recipient of the Order of Australia Medal for service to people affected by adoption and reproductive technology.

Get in touch with our helpful team

Contact us to find out more about our services or have a chat about how we can best support you.