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ABOUT US​

Capable Spaces provides occupational therapy for adults with neurological conditions.

Meet the team

Press on the photos to learn more.

Karen

Occupational Therapist/iCare External Case Manager/Managing Director

Cheryl

Senior Occupational Therapist/Clinical Lead

Christina

Senior Occupational
Therapist

Vanessa

Senior Occupational
Therapist

Ashley

Allied Health Assistant/
Support Team Leader

Nerina

Allied Health Assistant Coordinator/Massage Therapist

Karen Maurer

Karen is the Founder and Clinical Director of Capable Spaces. Karen has worked as a senior Occupational Therapist in both public and private health sectors across the Hunter region for more than 20 years.

Karen enjoys leading our team of passionate occupational therapists and has worked in Hunter/Newcastle Australia for over 25 years.

Karen has a passion for supporting adults with progressive neurological conditions, spinal cord injury, and palliative care, and is an approved Case Manager with icare.

As an educator, Karen presents online training to empower OTs across Australia in devising innovative solutions to help meet client needs. For fun, Karen enjoys walking at our amazing beaches, going to musicals, visiting Disney parks, and weightlifting.

Karen Alexander

For over 17 years Karen has been working as an Occupational Therapist in the Hunter Valley, working with people with disabilities to find creative ways to live their best life.

Karen is always wearing a warm smile and has an optimistic attitude. She likes to work as a team with her clients, where mutual respect is the foundation.

Karen is a Hunter Valley local, who graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle in 2002.

Karen has extensive experience, having worked in both the public and private sectors, including senior and specialist positions, as well as in hospitals and in the community. In occupational therapy circles she is well known for her expertise in home modifications, particularly those of a complex nature. She is also recognised for her work in community-based spinal cord injury rehabilitation. She is well regarded and has a strong network of contacts, developed throughout her years of work.

At Capable Spaces, Karen works predominantly with our clients requiring complex home modifications and those with spinal cord injury or other degenerative neurological diagnoses. In addition, she can provide one off or ongoing clinical supervision to other occupational therapists requiring guidance with home modifications, as well as home modification consultative services, including attending home visits with a client’s primary Occupational Therapist or peer reviewing funding applications. Despite specialising in this way, Karen also has a strong skillset in prescription of all other assistive technology, such as manual and power wheelchairs.

Cheryl

Cheryl is warm and friendly and enjoys getting to know people and their stories. She is passionate about working collaboratively with clients, families and other health professionals, with the client at the heart of the relationship. Cheryl wanted to be an Occupational Therapist since she first read about it when she was about 13 years old and is still excited about her job.

Cheryl grew up in rural NSW and Newcastle and has worked in regional Australia and in Ireland before returning to Newcastle to practice for the last 16 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle in 2001. In recent years, Cheryl has returned to University of Newcastle as a casual academic to engage in training the next generation of Occupational Therapists.

Cheryl has experience in rehabilitation, acute hospital care, residential aged care and community care, working in the public and private sector in senior and specialist roles. Cheryl is a clinical specialist in Oncology. She has a special interest in pressure injury management, has presented on this topic at conferences and been the allied health representative on Wounds Australia National Committee. Cheryl has a passion for holistic care, incorporating breath regulation and mindfulness into work with shortness of breath and anxiety management.

At Capable Spaces, Cheryl enjoys working with a range of clients with a particular interest in progressive neurological conditions, palliative care and oncology. Cheryl is confident in the prescription of assistive technology and home modifications and brings a breadth of experience, flexibility, and enthusiasm to her work.

Erika

Erika has lived in the Hunter Valley for most of her life. She graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the University of Sydney in 2009 and a Masters of Public Health from the University of Sydney in 2018.

Erika is a kind hearted and empathetic person who has a caring nature and inquisitive attitude.

Erika has recently commenced her role as an Occupational Therapist after a period of time away. During her time away from OT practise, she has developed a deep understanding of the NDIS and its intricacies. Erika has also been involved in the public health system where she is a member of a number of committees at a local, district and NSW ministry level working to better the human experiences for all consumers of healthcare and advocate for the general populations’ needs. Erika has lived experience of disability and uses these experiences to shape the way she approaches each client’s unique situation.

At Capable Spaces, Erika works with a variety of clients with physical disabilities and utilises her knowledge of the NDIS processes to work towards achieving the best possible outcomes for all. Erika has a strong skillset in completing functional capacity and housing assessments and is confident in AT prescription.

Tracy

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Tracy came all the way out to Newcastle to pursue her studies in Occupational Therapy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy in 2021 and enjoys the ability to help people throughout different stages of life when returning to activities that are meaningful and important to them.

Tracy worked in the hospital sector until she joined the CS Team in 2023. She works with a variety of clients with different neurological conditions and has a strong desire to help people fulfil their life roles and participate in activities they need or want to do.

Tracy enjoys working as a team with her clients and values her client’s input to help achieve their goals. After all, you’re the expert in your own life. Tracy works hard to do whatever she can to help support you and your team along the way.

Outside of work, you’ll find Tracy doing all sorts of outdoor activities, including snowboarding (during winter seasons of course), scuba diving, rock climbing, camping and hiking.

Creating capable spaces for full, active lives.

Capable Spaces provides occupational therapy for adults with neurological conditions.

Respect

You are the expert of your own life. We’ll offer options and solutions to help you achieve your goals, but you make the final call. As your needs change, we’ll be flexible and responsive.

We will give you regular updates, turn up on time and let you know if we’re running late. We will treat you as a person and not a number in a queue.

Empower

In all that we do we want to empower you to live your best life, and do the things most important to you. We help you overcome challenges to maintain your independence and dignity.

We listen to your story and learn what’s important to you. Once we know what you want to achieve, we’ll develop a customized solution and teach you how to get the most out of every opportunity.

Equip

We aim to train and equip you and your support team so that you can achieve your goals.

We offer online and face-to-face training options customized to meet your needs.

Capable Spaces is passionate about supporting our local community. We support LIVEFree Project.

LIVEfree Project is a Newcastle based non-for-profit supporting victims of domestic and family violence:
from crisis throughout their recovery journey. To learn more about LIVEFree project visit their website

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Karen Maurer

Occupational Therapist / iCare External Case Manager / Managing Director

Karen is the Founder and Clinical Director of Capable Spaces. Karen has worked as a senior Occupational Therapist in both public and private health sectors across the Hunter region for more than 20 years.

Karen loves leading our team of passionate occupational therapists, and has worked in the Hunter/ Newcastle Australia since 1998. Karen has a passion to support adults with progressive neurological conditions, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and palliative care, and is an Approved Case Manager with icare (Lifetime Care and Support and Workers Care).

Karen strives to maximise the use of assistive technology so that people can do things as independent as possible to overcome challenges from disabilities. This could include anything from a complex wheelchair, moving and handling solutions, or anything that maximises your ability to enjoy everyday life. She uses home automation and electronic assistive technology to help people to control their home environment and use computers, phones and tablets even if they can only move one muscle! She even helps to make gaming accessible so that anyone can give playing electronic games a go. (Truth be told she is terrible at even playing Mario Kart; it’s a good thing she has a team of skilled gamers to help!).

As an educator, Karen presents online training and provides clinical supervision to OTs across Australia. She has a goal to train clinicians to use innovative solutions to help people to live with empowerment so that disabilities don’t hold people back from living life to the max. 

For fun Karen enjoys walking at our amazing beaches, going to musicals, singing loudly in the office when she thinks no one is listening, exploring Disney parks, and power lifting.

Cheryl

Senior Occupational Therapist / Clinical Lead

Cheryl is warm and friendly and enjoys getting to know people and their stories. She is passionate about working collaboratively with clients, families and other health professionals, with the client at the heart of the relationship. Cheryl wanted to be an Occupational Therapist since she first read about it when she was about 13 years old and is still excited about her job.

Cheryl is warm and friendly and enjoys getting to know people and their stories. She is passionate about working collaboratively with clients, families and other health professionals, with the client at the heart of the relationship.  Cheryl wanted to be an Occupational Therapist since she first read about it when she was about 13 years old and is still excited about her job.

Cheryl grew up in rural NSW and Newcastle and has worked in regional Australia and in Ireland before returning to Newcastle to practice for the last 16 years. She graduated with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from the University of Newcastle in 2001.  In recent years, Cheryl has returned to University of Newcastle as a casual academic to engage in training the next generation of Occupational Therapists.

Cheryl has experience in rehabilitation, acute hospital care, residential aged care and community care, working in the public and private sector in senior and specialist roles. Cheryl is a clinical specialist in Oncology. She has a special interest in pressure injury management, has presented on this topic at conferences and been the allied health representative on Wounds Australia National Committee. Cheryl has a passion for holistic care, incorporating breath regulation and mindfulness into work with shortness of breath and anxiety management.

At Capable Spaces, Cheryl enjoys working with a range of clients with a particular interest in oncology, progressive neurological conditions, and palliative care.  Cheryl is confident in the prescription of assistive technology and home modifications and brings a breadth of experience, flexibility and enthusiasm to her work.

Christina Hawes

Senior Occupational Therapist

Christina is a dedicated and passionate therapist who really enjoying listening to one’s journey and getting to know the individual and support network. Christina has a passion for mental health and promoting independence and facilitating participation in daily activities. Christina comes with a strong background in Occupational Rehabilitation and Mental Health, she provides comprehensive assessments and personalised intervention plans which includes prescription of assistive technology through to capacity building. My goal is to empower clients to achieve their fullest potential and lead fulfilling lives.

Christina is initially from New Zealand, moving over to Australia in 2011, and recently relocating to Newcastle from Queensland. 

Outside of work you will find Christina with her partner and one year old son hiking up a mountain, going for a day trip or trying out a new café.

Vanessa Graham

Senior Occupational Therapist

Vanessa grew up on the Mid-North Coast but has called Newcastle home for the past 20 years. Vanessa was inspired to become an occupational therapist after becoming a carer for her father.  Vanessa has enjoyed a variety of occupational therapy experience across the lifespan including Aged Care, Paediatrics and NDIS service delivery. She has identified a passion for helping people with neurological disorders and progressive illnesses to live their best possible life. Vanessa believes in being an advocate for her clients and working collaboratively to overcome barriers.  Empowering her clients has led her to a special interest in assistive technology and equipment prescription. 

On a personal level, Vanessa loves attending live music events, and getting out in nature, food and permaculture. Her husband, children and extended family provide constant inspiration as Vanessa loves to create family meals and memories! In fact, if she wasn’t an OT she would probably be a food video logger or even a cook. 

Ashley Forsyth

Allied Health Assistant / Support Team Leader

Ashley is the friendly voice at the end of the line when you call our office. She helps to keep us all organised so that the therapists can do what they do best. She lets the team shine! 

Ashley has a passion for mental health and well-being, and applies this in her role of allied health assistant and support team leader at Capable Spaces.

Outside of work, you’ll often find Ashley camping with her husband and three kids, or having impromptu Taylor Swift dance parties with her daughter in her living room. 

Ashley is an avid fan of Harry Potter, Friends and Gilmore Girls. She also loves gaming and has recently started archery. 

Although Ash claims to be a homebody, she does love going out to concerts and comedy shows. 

What does she see as the best part of her job? “Working with a team who are passionate about what they do and genuinely care about others and each other.”

Nerina Hart

Allied Health Assistant Coordinator / Massage Therapist

Meet Nerina! She is our Allied Health Assistant Coordinator and Massage Therapist.

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails” – Dolly Parton

Nerina is a fervant ally for individuals wanting to achieve their health and wellness objectives, she thrives as part of a holistic team and is dedicated to supporting those around her.

As a roller derby coach, Nerina developed a keen interest in human movement and injury management. Completing her Diploma of Remedial Massage in 2014 inspired her to take a hands-on approach in caring for others. 

In her role as the Allied Health Assistant Coordinator at Capable Spaces, Nerina focuses on enhancing client outcomes by offering consistent, hands-on and administrative assistance, which enables our Occupational Therapists to concentrate on the more complex aspects of our client’s care. 

Fun Fact – Nerina has been involved in a medieval “living history” group since the age of five.

On weekends, you might find her spending time with family, donning an elaborate costume for a medieval event, immersing herself in the rich history and camaraderie of the SCA. 

Nerina also enjoys gardening, musicals, NFL football, and movies as some of her other hobbies.

She is always ready for a good laugh, a silly dance, and/or a coffee.

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