Our executive

  Stephen Gniel 

Chief Executive Officer         
Mr Stephen Gniel  

Mr Gniel joined ACARA in November 2023, bringing to ACARA a wealth of knowledge, expertise and experience in education having held senior leadership roles in both Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory in early childhood, schools and post school portfolios with both policy and operational priorities.  

Stephen is a committed educational leader, having started his career as a primary school teacher and principal before moving into senior education system leadership roles. He is also the immediate national past president and chair of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, a position he held for six years between 2016 and 2022. 

  Russell Dyer website

Executive Director, Assessment and Reporting
Mr Russell Dyer

Mr Russell Dyer joined ACARA in June 2022, with over 40 years’ experience in education in Western Australia.

Prior to joining ACARA, Mr Dyer’s most recent position was Assistant Executive Director, Examinations, Certification and Testing in the Western Australian Department of Education supporting the School Curriculum and Standards Authority.

Mr Dyer began his career as a science teacher and has worked in a range of roles including supporting teaching and learning, gifted and talented, curriculum development, school performance and review, standards setting, senior secondary certification and the administration of Year 12 examinations and national and state testing, including NAPLAN and the Online Literacy and Numeracy Assessment. Russell has extensive experience on state and national initiatives, including implementing the reforms to the Western Australian Certificate of Education and leading the transition to NAPLAN online in Western Australia.

 Sharon Foster 

Executive Director, Curriculum
Ms Sharon Foster

Sharon Foster was appointed Director, Curriculum in November 2021. She initially joined ACARA in September 2020 as Senior Manager, leading the consultation process for the review of the Australian Curriculum.

Sharon came to ACARA from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA), where she was the Manager of the Victorian Curriculum: F-10 Unit responsible for the development and delivery of the Victorian F-10 Curriculum. Prior to that, she worked in senior program and policy roles across the Department of Education and Training, Victoria focused on developing and delivering curriculum projects and professional learning programs.

Sharon started her career as a secondary school teacher and progressed to assistant principal before moving into the health sector to develop education programs and projects. Throughout her career, Sharon has also worked as an education and communications consultant for a range of private sector and not-for-profit organisations.

 Farooq Mulla

Executive Director, Communications and Strategic Relations (acting)
Mr Farooq Mulla

Farooq Mulla joined ACARA in July 2023, with around 20 years of public sector experience in media relations and communications, both in the UK and Australia.

During his career in the UK Government, Farooq has been a ministerial adviser to several senior ministers, including prime ministers. He was press secretary to the senior education minister and delivered high-profile communications campaigns on major education reforms. He also led the crisis communications following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and was part of the London 2012 Olympics communications team.

In Australia, at Transport for NSW he helped lead the COVID-19 communications response, and following the 2019-20 bush fires helped restructure the communications function at NSW Rural Fire Service to deliver high-quality public communications during future natural disasters. More recently Farooq as a director of communications devised and delivered key campaigns on the NSW Government's education reforms.

 Thomas Begeng 

Executive Director, Corporate Services
Mr Thomas Begeng

Mr Begeng joined ACARA in October 2019. Immediately prior to joining ACARA, Mr Begeng was managing director of a consulting practice specialising in technology transformation projects. Mr Begeng has over 20 years’ experience in a range of board, senior finance and operations roles in the corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors, including chief financial officer and board member of Medibank Health Solutions, director of corporate services for Lifeline Australia and chief operating officer of HealthShare NSW.

Mr Begeng has a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) and is a member of the Institute of Public Accountants (Australia), Institute of Financial Accountants (UK) and CEO institute.