Jess McDonald grew up in the cultural melting pot of the inner Western suburbs of Melbourne and amidst diversity and disadvantage, developed the lens through which she views the world. She completed a Bachelor of Social Science at the University of South Australia in 2006. Jess then worked with the Red Cross Migration Support Programs to support and advocate for asylum seekers in immigration detention.
She was privileged to work with survivors of torture and trauma in mapping their forced migration journey and undertaking family tracing. As an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development in Bangkok, Jess co-ordinated services for urban asylum seekers and facilitated a community education project with the Somali community with unaccompanied minors on sexual health and respectful relationships.
Between 2007- 2009 she was involved in operationalising a program that provided an alternative to immigration detention for asylum seekers on Christmas Island. Jess moved with her family to the Northern Rivers in 2015 and has undertaken volunteer engagement, community development and family support work in the region. Jess is passionate about designing and implementing programs that empower and strengthen communities.