Professor Andy Marks

Executive Director, Centre for Western Sydney
Pro Vice-Chancellor, Strategy, Government and Alliances, Western Sydney University
CEO, NUW Alliance

Professor Andy Marks leads major strategic and development initiatives across the Centre for Western Sydney, NUW Alliance and Western Sydney University in collaboration with government, industry and the community.

He has a PhD and first-class honours in political science and literature.

Andy writes regular columns for the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph. He is also a panellist on ABC Sydney’s ‘political forum’.

Andy is also the Chair of the Western Sydney Community Forum and a Non-Executive Director with Wentworth Healthcare Ltd. He is the founder of the CatalystWest interactive policy forum, and co-founder of the Launch Pad start-up incubator.

Prior to his current roles, Andy was a researcher in the social services sector, a Council member at the University of New England, and an ARIA nominated professional musician and composer.

Dr Rhonda Itaoui


Dr Rhonda Itaoui is a social researcher with global expertise in the geographies of diversity and multiculturalism in urban spaces.

Rhonda Itaoui has a PhD and first-class honours in human geography. Her PhD research on the geographies of Islamophobia in Sydney, Australia and the San Francisco Bay Area, USA revealed the need for place-based strategies for cultivating inclusion across public spaces. She has produced anti-racism tools, resources and training in both Australia and the United States of America.

Rhonda is particularly passionate about using research to advocate for communities through consultation, partnership, and meaningful engagement.

Rhonda was appointed as the Centre for Western Sydney’s inaugural Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 2022 and has been appointed as the Centre Director in 2023.

Rhonda is the lead researcher and author of the Centre’s impactful ‘State of the Arts in Western Sydney’ project with Western Sydney Creative and Business Western Sydney.

In 2022, Rhonda contributed to ‘Parramatta 2023: Vibrant, Sustainable, Global’ – also known as ‘The Glover Review’ – which worked to position Parramatta as a global city. Following ‘The Glover Review’, Dr Itaoui spearheaded the consultations with the Parramatta community, which captured the perspectives of residents, workers and visitors on the future development of their city. The resulting Parramatta 2035: Community views on the future of our region’ report was released in May 2023.

She is also a key contributor to the Centre’s Western Sydney Votes commentary on the NSW Election and was a recipient of an inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Centre for Western Sydney Fellowship, producing a ‘Scoping Review on Western Sydney’ which will also be launched in 2023.

Professor Neil Perry

Chief Economist

Professor Neil Perry is the Chief Economist at the Centre for Western Sydney and the School of Business at Western Sydney University. Neil analyses social, economic and environmental issues using cost benefit analysis and other tools of economic evaluation. Using these tools, Professor Perry has analysed the productivity benefits of the Sydney Metro North West for TfNSW and Sydney Metro, and the value of cooperative housing in an ARC Linkage grant. Neil also works on transitioning economies taking a community-led approach, and has analysed the future economy in the Hunter Region under progressive climate change policy and the transitioning economy of Lithgow. 

Professor Neil Perry specialises in the field of ecological, environmental and natural resource economics. Neil’s theoretical research incorporates social, cultural, community and ecological values into economic thinking and modelling. Neil’s work on the economics of biodiversity conservation and environmental policy has been published in prestigious international journals such as Ecological Economics and the Journal of Economic Perspectives, and in interdisciplinary journals such as Wildlife Research. In other published research Neil defines and contributes to the field of heterodox environmental economics. 

As a result of this theoretical and applied focus on cost benefit analysis and transitioning economies, Neil is an invited member of the Advisory Committee of the Maldhan Ngurr Ngurra – Lithgow Transformation Hub and the Strategic Reference Group for the Lithgow Emerging Economy Plan. In 2023, Neil was appointed to the NSW Government’s Regional Expert Panel for the Central West, which advises the relevant government minister on priorities for the Central West under the NSW Government’s Royalties for Rejuvenation scheme. 

At the Centre for Western Sydney, Professor Perry will be the Chief Economist on key projects including Unlimited Potential: An Economic Plan for Western Sydney, Unlocking Women’s Potential and Unlocking Green Infrastructure in Western Sydney: A Resilience Strategy, and the development of a framework for assessing the social and environmental impacts of public and private projects. 

As the Chief Economist at the Centre for Western Sydney, Professor Perry will lead the development and implementation of the Unlimited Potential economic plan, as well as broader strategic work on transforming the future economy of Western Sydney. His role will include conducting comprehensive economic analyses, mapping key economic priorities in the region, and producing influential research that advocates for Western Sydney.

Danielle McInness

Centre Manager

Danielle McInness is the Centre Manager of the Centre for Western Sydney.

Danielle has worked at Western Sydney University in a range of roles since 2005. She began her career at the University as a Media Assistant; has held roles as a Web Coordinator, Senior Media Officer and Executive Projects Officer; and acted as the University’s Manager, Media and Public Relations, in 2018.

Danielle is a media and communications professional and was a member of the University’s Coronavirus Communications Team which was awarded a Citation for Meritous Service to the University during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Danielle has a Bachelor of Communication (Writing and Publishing); a Master of Convergent Media; and is currently studying a Master of Research at Western focused on the media representation of Western Sydney.

As Centre Manager, Danielle is responsible for overseeing all administrative functions of the Centre including finance and budgets, human resources and recruitment, research management and reporting. Danielle also oversees the Centre’s stakeholder engagement, communications, and media activities, and coordinates its official social media accounts.

Dr Angela Smith

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Angela Smith is the Centre for Western Sydney’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Angela is an interdisciplinary social researcher with expertise in political and human geography, focusing on the relationship between people, place and movement.  She brings over a decade of experience as a practitioner working with diverse communities and international organisations. 

She has worked as a consultant with the Centre for Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo, the North Africa Mixed Migration Task Force, Transparency International, UNHCR, IOM, the World Social Forum, and Forensic Architecture research agency.  

Through this expertise, Angela offers a nuanced understanding of migration and belonging, informed by both local realities and global geopolitical dynamics. Her research skills include qualitative and quantitative methods, monitoring and evaluation, research design and research project management. Her research interests include themes of human mobility, colonial histories, and border dynamics, bringing a critical perspective to contemporary global challenges. 

Thomas Nance

Policy and Strategy Lead

Tom Nance is the Manager, Strategy and Delivery with Western Sydney University. He is a leading contributor to the Centre for Western Sydney’s research, partnership and activation platforms, shaping regional narrative and conversation in a way that prioritises equity and

Tom is a key contributor to the Centre’s Western Sydney Votes commentary on the NSW Election, and authored the issues papers ‘Western Sydney Votes – NSW Election 2023,’ ‘Western Sydney Votes: The Results’ and ‘Paying the Price: Gambling-related harm in Western Sydney.’

Tom has an extensive track record of cultivating partnerships and delivering results for government, business and community stakeholders in a way that addresses a range of complex social, economic and systemic issues. He has been sought after to comment on a broad range of issues that affect the region, including gambling-related harm, urban planning and development, education and politics.

Previously, Tom held senior leadership roles in the not-for-profit sector, where he co-authored a range of reports that have shaped policy development and service delivery in Western Sydney, including Communities of Change, Home in Western Sydney and The Culturally Responsive Framework to Address Gambling Related Harm.

Andrew Phong

Project & Research Support Officer

Andrew is the Project & Research Support Officer to the Centre’s Executive Director and Pro Vice-Chancellor, Strategy, Government and Alliances at Western Sydney University.

As a proud member of the multicultural community in Western Sydney, Andrew is passionate about leveraging culture and diversity as a fundamental driver for growth and sustainability. He aims to support the Centre’s efforts in advocacy and impact, to empower people of colour to be proud of their identity and ultimately change the narrative of perceived shame associated with the region.

In acknowledgement of his passion and contribution to Western Sydney as a young professional, Andrew has received numerous recognitions including the University’s The Academy ‘Collegiate’ (2017) and ‘Alumnus’ (2019) Excellence Awards and was the ‘Community Leadership Award’ recipient in 2018. He has represented Western Sydney abroad on eight separate scholarships (China, India, Thailand, Vietnam and the United Kingdom) where he lived, worked and studied in a variety of capacities. He has supported Australia’s soft-power foreign policies through work with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (2018) and in his role as an appointed Alumni Ambassador and Mentor to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s ‘New Colombo Plan’ initiative. He aims to continue this advocacy for global citizenship and emphasise the importance of Western Sydney to the country’s strategic future.

Prior to his time at the Centre, Andrew was an Engagement and Change Consultant with Aurecon, Marketing and Partnerships Officer at the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue and a team member in a number of differing roles across the University. He is a former Co-Chair of the Australia-Vietnam Leadership Dialogue’s Steering Committee and was a member of the Deloitte Australia’s ‘Shaping Future Cities’ SteerCo.”

Gabriella Gerace

Research Assistant

Gabriella is a research assistant and honours student, currently completing an Honours in Psychology with a focus on cognitive psychology.

Gabriella holds a Bachelor of Music and Sound Design and a Bachelor of Psychology and has a strong interest in the arts and social sciences.

Cat-Thao Nguyen

Special Advisor

Cat-Thao Nguyen is the Managing Director of Global Ready LLC and Lumina Learning Partner, specialising in cultural intelligence and inclusive leadership.

Born in a refugee camp in Thailand during the Vietnam War, Cat-Thao has since called Western Sydney home. Her ‘We are Here’ memoir captures the story of perseverance, adversity, and the Australian Dream perfectly and is reflective of the many migrant families settled in Western Sydney.

She is the Co-Founder of the Australia-Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue, former Head of EY Vietnam and was an Advisory Board Member for SBS Australia, Ethnic Communities Council of NSW, Loreto Vietnam.

In 2019, Cat-Thao was recognised at the 40 under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australian Awards in 2019 for her leadership and contribution to the community.

Cat-Thao assists the Centre for Western Sydney in a volunteer capacity as a Special Advisor – contributing insights on community sentiment in Western Sydney and representing her community at the Centre’s public events and initiatives.