Each member of our team is passionate about the role we play in making a positive impact in the community. Learn more about the people behind the passion and what makes them proud to be part of the work we do.

Introducing Renee 

A head and shoulders photo of Renee. She has shoulder length wavy brown hair and glasses.

I was born in Michigan in America and moved around a fair bit when I was younger between America, Germany and Australia. Australia has been my home since I was 8 though, and I mainly grew up in Geelong with my parents, who are both Dutch, and my older brother.
We also used to travel to Holland once every 2 years to see family when I was growing up,
so the Netherlands also feel a bit like home.

I’ve always been a creative person, but I’m also very interested in history. When I finished school, I first completed a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Media and Communications and a minor in Culture Studies. After that I felt I wanted to learn some more practical creative skills, so I did a Bachelor of Communication Design as well. I’m very passionate about culture and that influences my love of design, art, history and music.

What is your role at the Information Access Group?

I’m a graphic designer at the Information Access Group. I’m one of the people who create the images that illustrate the text in our Easy Read documents, as well as laying out and styling the documents. I also occasionally work on branding and website jobs.

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do at the Information Access Group?

I find the ability to make a difference to a lot of people most rewarding about our work at the Information Access Group. I think people should be empowered to access the world in a way that suits their needs and I find it rewarding to be able to help facilitate that. I also find it rewarding to be a part of work that allows people to have as much agency over their lives as possible.

One of the projects I’ve worked on and am proud of is the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability (the Disability Royal Commission) Final Report. I was lucky to be able to work on the image development for that job, which included 13 Easy Read translations. This job dealt with very important information about the abuse and difficulties that people with disability face. Because of that, it felt very important to make it accessible so that a diverse audience can interact with it and learn about the Disability Royal Commission’s outcomes.

I also felt proud of the New South Wales Health document about voluntary assisted dying. This document explained eligibility for voluntary assisted dying and outlined the steps that people can follow. It was important to keep trauma sensitivity in mind when illustrating this document because it deals with quite sensitive information, so it was a unique document to work on. I’m proud of it because I think that it is very important for people to be empowered to understand their rights and options when dealing with their health.

You specialise in user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) – how do you think these skills come into play when designing for accessibility at the Information Access Group?

They most often come into play because their goal is to make things simple to use. In our UX classes we were encouraged to read Steve Krug’s book Don’t Make Me Think and a lot of the advice in that book is very applicable to my graphic design work for Easy Read. It basically says that in UX design things should be designed so that the user doesn’t need to think about what to do or where to click. I try to apply elements of that to designing for accessibility, because the goal is that we should aim to make things as easy to use as possible.

You have created some beautiful illustrations for magazines using the process of hand drawing and then adding colour in Photoshop – do you have a favourite style or process to use?

I do enjoy the process of hand drawing and then adding colour digitally, but while I’ve worked at the Information Access Group,
I’ve also gotten a lot more comfortable with using Illustrator for illustrations. When I make illustrations I generally always start with pencil and paper because that tends to feel less like I need to commit to a composition, then it can be fun to bring those hand-drawn elements into Illustrator or Photoshop. This makes them quite flexible so you can experiment with colours and composition without making destructive edits. I also really enjoy drawing with oil pastels and have been playing with some lino cutting and printing as well.

You have an interest in art history – which is your favourite art movement?

It’s very tricky to pick a favourite movement because I love learning about art history as a whole, but one of my favourite things to learn about is artists whose works look a lot newer than they are. For example, when I first saw some of Louis Wain’s later works,
I assumed they must have been from the 1960s, but he actually lived from 1860 to 1939. I also found this with Mary Delaney’s works. She made a lot of floral works made from small bits of cut paper and they look like they might come from the 1920s or 30s, but she lived from 1700 to 1788.

You have been playing cello since you were in grade 3 – was that your first passion?

Initially I chose to start playing cello because we were encouraged to pick an instrument at my school, and I thought cello looked cool. I ended up sticking with it because it’s physically fun to play, I think they sound beautiful and some incredible pieces have been written for cello. For example, Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 cellos in G minor and Gabriel Fuaré’s Elegie (the Jacqueline du Pré recording is incredible).

I never seriously considered trying to turn professional because I would have needed to study cello at university and I was more interested in working in other areas, but I still really enjoy playing for fun. I enjoyed playing with my school orchestra and the Geelong Symphony Orchestra and I used to busk around the city at Christmas time playing carols to earn some extra money during uni.

Did playing the cello naturally lead you to want to learn the bass?

Playing cello definitely led me to want to learn bass. I’m still yet to properly pick up bass because I’ve only played around with a few very simple riffs so far, but it’s my ambition to learn more. I love cello music, but I most often listen to rock, punk, metal and indie music day to day. Learning to play bass would let me broaden the genres of music I can play, which seems really appealing
to me.

You travelled to South Korea earlier this year, what were some of the highlights?

A close up of white cherry blossoms

One of the highlights was getting to join in with a temple stay near Busan in the South. We got to stay at a Buddhist temple called Beomeosa and learn about life at the temple. We also got to join in with the evening service in the main temple and take part in a meditation, after which we were able to do a question and answer with one of the monks. It was really interesting to experience an alternative way of living and it challenged my ideas of what attracts people to becoming a Buddhist monk or nun.


White cherry blossoms against a light blue sky

One of the other highlights was the cherry blossoms. We happened to be there when a lot
of the cherry blossoms started to bloom, and they really transformed how the cities felt.
I brought my dad’s old film camera with me on the holiday and was able to get some fun blossom shots.

Tell us about your journey to becoming Australian since leaving America

Since leaving America for the second time when I was 8, my family has permanently moved to Australia. So the journey to becoming Australian felt quite gradual. When we first moved here, I had a very strong American accent which has completely faded away now.

I think I have always felt closer to the Dutch part of my identity than the American part. I think this is in part because I was only a baby when we lived in America for the first time, so then when we went back it felt a bit more like a new experience. Whereas when we moved back to Australia, I had some memories of living here before, so it felt more like coming back to a home.

The Netherlands has always felt a bit like a second home because all our family lives there, so I associate it with family and friends. I do have great memories of America though and had a great time living there as a kid. Michigan gets very cold in winter, so I have a lot of fun memories of making snow forts and of Halloween being super fun. We also had a lake near our house, so my brother and I did a lot of swimming and fishing in summer.

Can you tell us about the ‘Gezelschap’ project you created as part of your Monash University studies?

Two hands holding a booklet. The booklet is white with two photos of hands holding spoons and the word Gezelschap in orange

Two hands holding a booklet. The booklet is open to a double spread page of spoons sitting on a black background

In my final year studying design, I did a project where we needed to make a publication about a collection of some sort. I decided to document my Nana’s old silver spoon collection, which she collected throughout her life in the Netherlands. Altogether, the collection is made up of 25 silver spoons.


With this project, I wanted to draw a connection between the spoon collection and the idea of keeping each other company and enjoying time together. As the spoons were frequently used when my Nana had family or friends over for coffee or tea, they represent the idea of ‘gezelschap’ to me, which means ‘being together with someone’ in Dutch. The spoons also document some important moments in Dutch history.