Speakers

OPEN AND WELCOME TO THE CONFERENCE

 Ahmed Saad

Ahmed Saad (born 9 October 1989) is an Australian rules footballer who formerly played for the St Kilda Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL). Saad is currently working on multicultural and diversity programs at the AFL.

“AFL is a game for all and if we can try to promote that and get as many boys and girls playing the game from any background, that’s exactly what we want,” said former St Kilda player Ahmed Saad, who is now managing the Medleys program. Given his background, having lived in Egypt for five years as a child, and his passion for AFL, Saad is an avid supporter of embracing and promoting diversity.

KEYNOTE PRESENTATION

 

Anthony Semann

Anthony Semann is one of the Directors and founders at Semann & Slattery. For the past 20 years he has worked as a researcher, consultant and manager with a broad range of government, non-government and private organisations.  His skills and expertise has seen him work with organisations across Australia and overseas including Columbia University (New York) as well as in France, Singapore and New Zealand. Anthony holds expert knowledge in both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. He is a much sought after facilitator and has delivered over 90 opening addresses at conferences, 150 conference papers and 15,000 professional development programs.  Anthony has an exceptional capacity to challenge organisations and people to reflect on how their approaches to communication, leadership, diversity, values, relationships and workplace culture affect their services, businesses and ultimately the community.

DIVERSITY FOCUS PRESENTATIONS

Concurrent Sessions A

FullSizeRender  Megan Van Den Berg

Megan Van Den Berg is a Yorta Yorta/ Dja Dja Wurrung woman who has worked within the child and family welfare sector for over 14 years specializing in training and Aboriginal community program development and delivery.

Megan currently leads a team of over 30 staff and several community programs including 4 supported playgroups for Aboriginal families in the Northern and Western regions.

anita photo   Anita North

Anita North is a Gunditjmara woman who has worked in early years, lead playgroups with vulnerable families and connected families to support services.  Anita leads 4 supported playgroups from development of weekly plans, engagement with Elders and local services and supports two early years Aboriginal staff to deliver the programs to over 160 Aboriginal families.

 

   Lou Ambrosy

Lou trained as an Occupational Therapist where her first interest developed in paediatrics as a student on placement. Lou has worked her entire career in paediatrics with a focus on children with disabilities. Much of this time was spent working for the Royal Guide Dogs, Noah’s Ark and Yooralla Early Childhood Intervention programs.

Today Lou is the Training Manager for Noah’s Ark’s in Victoria, Australia. In the last few years at Noah’s Ark she has worked alongside researchers and other professionals in the field to create the Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) course for ECI professionals in both Victoria and throughout Australia. She also coordinates the Key Worker Online Course which reaches Australian and international participants every year. She has presented papers at Early Childhood Intervention conferences in Australia, and was a keynote speaker for the second early childhood intervention conference in Malaysia. Her interests remain passionate about pursuing the best outcomes for families of all children including those with a disability.

  Tom Docking

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson runs ‘Signee Tots’ – a Deaf playgroup at the John Pierce Centre. She started learning Auslan 10 years ago as an elective in a nursing degree. Melissa is passionate about community involvement. She is continuing her language studies and enjoys creating materials in Auslan for young children.

 Mariana Voggenreiter

Mariana Voggenreiter is Deaf and works at the John Pierce Centre as a Pastoral Support Worker. Her focus is the well-being, happiness and health of her clients. Mariana has taught Auslan in a variety of settings, including a tertiary institution. She has a Bachelor of Pharmacy and will soon finish a Diploma of Auslan.

 Rakhi Khanna 

Rakhi Khanna is the Team Leader of Supported Playgroups at Yarra Ranges Council. She is an Early childhood and Community Sector trained Professional having over 11 years of experience working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families, refugees,  new migrants, disadvantaged & vulnerable families, children with special needs. Rakhi is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion and her work ranges from facilitating Cultural Competency workshops, Capacity building of staff at Inverbrackie Detention Centre (South Australia), Project officer, Inclusion Support Facilitator, and currently facilitating 3 Supported playgroups including one for Asylum seekers and Refugees.

Niquita Bekker
Niquita has been working at the Migrant information Centre for over 14 years,  she has a background in Community Development and her experience ranges from casework, to community capacity building  with  CALD communities, working with service providers and delivering cultural awareness training.  She has established and facilitates 3 CALD playgroups

Concurrent Sessions B

FullSizeRender  Megan Van Den Berg

Megan Van Den Berg is a Yorta Yorta/ Dja Dja Wurrung woman who has worked within the child and family welfare sector for over 14 years specializing in training and Aboriginal community program development and delivery.

Megan currently leads a team of over 30 staff and several community programs including 4 supported playgroups for Aboriginal families in the Northern and Western regions.

anita photo   Anita North

Anita North is a Gunditjmara woman who has worked in early years, lead playgroups with vulnerable families and connected families to support services.  Anita leads 4 supported playgroups from development of weekly plans, engagement with Elders and local services and supports two early years Aboriginal staff to deliver the programs to over 160 Aboriginal families.

  Helen Rimington

Helen Rimington is a Senior Program Manager at drummond street services in Carlton. She works with a wide variety of families including refugees, young sole parents, Aboriginal families and those experiencing problems like mental illness or family violence. Helen has a background in psychology and education and has worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Parenting Australia, beyondblue and the Salvation Army. Helen has a commitment to primary prevention and  trains professionals in this area for Vichealth. Her interests include drinking wine and cycling…(downhill only).

janet  Janet Farrow

Janet Farrow OAM, BSW, MBA, Grad. Dip.Law, Churchill Fellow, Williamson Fellow, GAICD, is an experienced health and welfare clinician, senior executive, company director, adjunct academic staff member and consultant. Janet is currently a Board member of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health and Children’s Protection Society. Janet has significant interest in playgroups as a means of engaging vulnerable and hard to reach families which stems from research she undertook whilst a Churchill Fellow. Insights gained from this research were the basis on which the supported playgroup model for the children of parents engaged in drug treatment services was established. In recent times Janet has completed an evaluation of Playgroup Victoria’s Transition Playgroup program funded by the Ian Potter Foundation.

Justine Jones

Justine’s interest in early childhood began in education through Montessori teaching in Hong Kong and english language teaching in Taiwan, including two years as manager of a international kindergarten in Repulse Bay. On her return to Australia her interest turned to tertiary education and international students, supporting families  through the transition to life in Australia. Subsequent roles at the University of Melbourne included communications and strategic planning. Following  graduate studies and community development work in the not for profit climate and energy sector she joined Playgroup Victoria to deliver the Ian Potter Transition Playgroup’s Project, partnering with families in the West of Melbourne to establish and develop playgroups.

Dr Anita Kochanoff
Dr Anita Kochanoff is the new Senior Manager of Early Years Development at the Brotherhood Of St Laurence and is charged with the expansion of their new programs – Growing LearnersPeep Learning Together and the 2Generation Approach. Anita has been a Senior Research Fellow with the Brotherhood’s Research and Policy Centre, where she has been managing the HIPPY Longitudinal Study, and expanding RPC’s capacity for research in the Early Years. With training as a developmental psychologist specialising in birth to age 6, Anita has 25 years of experience in the Early Years, mostly in the US. She started her career in teaching and research, having published on topics such as parent-child relationships, social-emotional development, defining school readiness, and how families with young children negotiate work and family issues, especially child care choices. She has worked with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, as well as the Departments of Education, Health and Welfare for several US states. She had directed an applied research centre at Temple University that focused on child and family policy, during which she worked on advancing early learning standards and assessment in several states. She has also evaluated many public and private programs that serve children and families, such as parenting interventions, early childhood interventions and family literacy programs.

 Annette Sax

Annette is a Taungurung and has worked in the early childhood profession for 26 years.
For the past 16 years, she has been the small business owner and Education and Creative Arts Director of Yarn Strong Sista Pty Ltd. Yarn Strong Sista is an Aboriginal Education Consultancy that provides storytelling, conducts cross cultural training with teachers, and develops culturally appropriate resources.
Annette feels blessed to be able to go out on Country where she has been taught her traditions and stories by her Taungurung Elders. She is passionate about passing on the knowledge they have given her permission to share.
Annette is a storyteller, artist and illustrator who paints using ochre and wattle sap on canvas. She also felts on silk. Annette has taught these mediums during Art projects in ECE programs in Melbourne and surrounding areas.

Concurrent Sessions C

 Nancylee Merzel

Nancylee Merzel has over 10 years of experience, working with playgroups throughout Victoria. Alongside Drummond Street Services, Nancylee is currently helping to deliver the Girls ‘n’ boys come out to play program, promoting positive messages about respectful relationships and gender equality. Nancylee has provided great attention to detail, ensuring that the positive ideas and concepts within the program are extended to people from all walks of life, including aboriginal communities, and rural and remote areas of the state.

Nancylee is also the Playgroup Resources Coordinator for Playgroup Victoria working towards providing the playgroup community with content including valuable, engaging, researched, reliable and relevant information which can be sourced surrounding ‘everything playgroup’ for families and professionals alike.

Amanda Testro - Hullaballoo Music For All1Amanda Testro

Straddling the divide between contemporary and preschool music has been a very comfy fit for Amanda for many years. With her Piano Accordion firmly strapped in place and her humour worn proudly on her sleeve, Amanda has nurtured, educated and entertained thousands of children over the past 16 years through her pre-school music work.

Following an invite from Drummond Street Services to create a pre-school music program built around gender equality and respectful relationships, Amanda’s company, ‘Hullaballoo! Music for All’ has partnered with Playgroup Victoria and Drummond Street Services to present this unique music program to various playgroups throughout Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria.

Belinda Davies 
Belinda Davies has over 25 years experience in the Community Services and Early Years sector including  facilitating group work programs for parents, children and staff. Belinda currently works for the Brotherhood of St Laurence as Coordinator of the Early Years Programs.  Belinda also enjoys creating and delivering workshops for families.

   Lou Ambrosy

Lou trained as an Occupational Therapist where her first interest developed in paediatrics as a student on placement. Lou has worked her entire career in paediatrics with a focus on children with disabilities. Much of this time was spent working for the Royal Guide Dogs, Noah’s Ark and Yooralla Early Childhood Intervention programs.

Today Lou is the Training Manager for Noah’s Ark’s in Victoria, Australia. In the last few years at Noah’s Ark she has worked alongside researchers and other professionals in the field to create the Best Practice in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) course for ECI professionals in both Victoria and throughout Australia. She also coordinates the Key Worker Online Course which reaches Australian and international participants every year. She has presented papers at Early Childhood Intervention conferences in Australia, and was a keynote speaker for the second early childhood intervention conference in Malaysia. Her interests remain passionate about pursuing the best outcomes for families of all children including those with a disability.

Karen Stagnitti

Professor Karen Stagnitti currently works as Professor, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia. Her area of research is children’s play. She graduated with a Bachelor degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Queensland. For over 30 years she worked in early childhood intervention programs in community-based settings as part of a specialist paediatric multidisciplinary team. She has worked with families with children with developmental delay, including children with autism.

She writes books and papers on her research into children’s play and is invited to present nationally and internationally. The website learntoplayevents.com has many resources about play for people working with families.

Felicity Marlowe

Felicity  is the current Executive Director of Rainbow Families Victoria, a community organisation she helped co-found in 2006. Rainbow Families Victoria represents parents, carers and prospective parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse or intersex, and their children, providing social and support activities, information and advocacy.

As a community advocate, Felicity led the campaigns that removed discrimination in access to fertility services and achieved legal recognition for same-sex parented children in Victoria in 2008, and then adoption equality in 2015, and was a litigant in the recent High Court challenge to the marriage equality postal survey.

Felicity has been a social justice advocate, an educator and a youth worker with LGBTIQ youth and rainbow families for twenty years. A member of the Darebin City Council Sex, Sexuality and Gender Diverse advisory group, Felicity is also a member of the Victorian government’s LGBTI Education Reference Group and previous member of Justice Working Group of the LGBTI Taskforce (2015 – 2017). Currently, Felicity is a casual trainer with GLHV at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and works as a consultant and trainer. Felicity and her partner Sarah have three children, twins aged 11 and a nine year old.

Concurrent Sessions D

  Joelle Whiting 
As a woman raised in a multi-racial and multi-lingual society, I feel comfortable being around people from diverse background. In October 2017, I will complete my Bachelor of Early childhood Education. I am a member of the Harmony Day Committee and community radio announcer for a multicultural program- Harmony Hub.

 Georgina Devereaux

Georgina has been working in children’s services for almost 30 years, both in Australia and the UK. Her experience includes child care, family day care, maternity care for mothers and babies and playgroup support and development in local government.

 Rakhi Khanna 

Rakhi Khanna is the Team Leader of Supported Playgroups at Yarra Ranges Council. She is an Early childhood and Community Sector trained Professional having over 11 years of experience working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) families, refugees,  new migrants, disadvantaged & vulnerable families, children with special needs. Rakhi is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion and her work ranges from facilitating Cultural Competency workshops, Capacity building of staff at Inverbrackie Detention Centre (South Australia), Project officer, Inclusion Support Facilitator, and currently facilitating 3 Supported playgroups including one for Asylum seekers and Refugees.

Niquita Bekker
Niquita has been working at the Migrant information Centre for over 14 years,  she has a background in Community Development and her experience ranges from casework, to community capacity building  with  CALD communities, working with service providers and delivering cultural awareness training.  She has established and facilitates 3 CALD playgroups

Judith Meyers
Judith Myers is a Dietitian with extensive experience in childhood nutrition across a wide range of settings nationally and internationally. She is passionate about engagement of highly vulnerable families and community groups; and the translation of best practice child nutrition evidence into practical guidance for families.

 Professor Chiemi Nakagawa

Chiemi Nakagawa is a  professor of Department of Social Services, Osaka University of Human Sciences. She has Master’s degree of Social Work in Kwansei Gakuin University Graduate School ofSociology of Social Work,Hyogo(1984). She has a keen interest in local child rearing support, especially the development of  parent support program and its facilitation. Recently, she has also been considering collaboration with maternal and child health and  school health as prevention of child abuse. She has opportunities to interact with people who run the HIROBA (like playgroup) in Japan. Through her presentation at this conference, she hopes that you will be interested in the current status of support from pregnancy in Japan and collaboration with maternal and child health.

Concurrent Sessions E

  Tilka Brown
Tilka Brown is an experienced primary school teacher and motivational speaker with The Language Toolbox. As a passionate advocate for additional language programs across all stages of education, her current role involves travelling to many classrooms – all over the world – teaching thousands of beautiful students and their teachers.

Jacinta Harper 
Jacinta Harper is the Playgroups Team Leader at Yarra City Council, and has worked in diverse roles in the Early Childhood and Community Development worlds for the past thirty years.  Promoting positive parent-child interactions and bringing communities together are her passions.

Louise Villanti

Louise Villanti has worked at Save the Children since 2014, and is currently Team Leader for Early Childhood Care and Development. She manages a team of Bi-Cultural staff who deliver community playgroups for diverse families across Inner Melbourne. Louise is a strong advocate for play-based learning and community led programs.

Belinda Davies 
Belinda Davies has over 25 years experience in the Community Services and Early Years sector including  facilitating group work programs for parents, children and staff. Belinda currently works for the Brotherhood of St Laurence as Coordinator of the Early Years Programs.  Belinda also enjoys creating and delivering workshops for families.

 Tom Fagernes
Tom Fagernes is the Senior Implementation Consultant at Dads Group Inc. Tom’s role includes consultation, design and development of work packages that can be scaled across the DGI network, driving and developing new dads groups and identifying ways to generate ongoing program sustainability. Tom is a business analyst and certified trainer with extensive experience from working with business analysis, project implementation and training within the not for profit sector, Government and SMEs. Tom joined Dads of Ringwood (DGI) after attending the yearly DGI event Man with a Pram in 2016. He loves being a part of the program, and started to work with them earlier this year. Tom and his wife have a three year old daughter and expecting their second baby soon.

  Mary Edmonds

Mary Edmonds has been PANDA’s Supported Playgroups Training Coordinator since 2012. She’s a qualified social worker and is very close to finishing her Bachelor of E-Health at University of Tasmania. Mary is passionate about the importance of social support and play for families experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression – especially for those in rural and remote areas.

Verona D’Archangeli is a long term volunteer with PANDA and is also a qualified counsellor, translator and engineer! Verona is one of our extraordinary team of volunteer peer educators, whom we train and support to share their experience of perinatal anxiety, depression and recovery in community settings including first time parent groups and playgroups, and in our training with health professionals.

  Jeannette Rowe

Melbourne-born Jeannette Rowe has been a best-selling Australian author and illustrator for over 25 years. She began her career in 1991 with Scallywag , an award-winning picture book she wrote and illustrated, and has since worked with many noteable Australian writers over the years, including Paul Jennings, Louise Park and Donna Rawlins. Jeannette’s passion for children’s writing stems from a strong educational background as both a teacher and curriculum writer. She has also worked as a primary school art teacher. After 30 years of creating Children’s picture books Jeannette Rowe  has devised an innovative way of making DIY Bilingual picture books in any language.

Concurrent Sessions F

Felicity Marlowe

Felicity  is the current Executive Director of Rainbow Families Victoria, a community organisation she helped co-found in 2006. Rainbow Families Victoria represents parents, carers and prospective parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender diverse or intersex, and their children, providing social and support activities, information and advocacy.

As a community advocate, Felicity led the campaigns that removed discrimination in access to fertility services and achieved legal recognition for same-sex parented children in Victoria in 2008, and then adoption equality in 2015, and was a litigant in the recent High Court challenge to the marriage equality postal survey.

Felicity has been a social justice advocate, an educator and a youth worker with LGBTIQ youth and rainbow families for twenty years. A member of the Darebin City Council Sex, Sexuality and Gender Diverse advisory group, Felicity is also a member of the Victorian government’s LGBTI Education Reference Group and previous member of Justice Working Group of the LGBTI Taskforce (2015 – 2017). Currently, Felicity is a casual trainer with GLHV at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society and works as a consultant and trainer. Felicity and her partner Sarah have three children, twins aged 11 and a nine year old.

 Joanne Tarasuik

Dr Joanne Tarasuik is the Research Manager at Playgroup Victoria. Her role is to illustrate that playgroups aren’t just for fun; create credibility for playgroups with stakeholders and policy makers. She also translates research into practical advice for playgroups, researches the playgroup platform, and informs evaluative processes.

  Tom Fagernes
Tom Fagernes is the Senior Implementation Consultant at Dads Group Inc. Tom’s role includes consultation, design and development of work packages that can be scaled across the DGI network, driving and developing new dads groups and identifying ways to generate ongoing program sustainability. Tom is a business analyst and certified trainer with extensive experience from working with business analysis, project implementation and training within the not for profit sector, Government and SMEs. Tom joined Dads of Ringwood (DGI) after attending the yearly DGI event Man with a Pram in 2016. He loves being a part of the program, and started to work with them earlier this year. Tom and his wife have a three year old daughter and expecting their second baby soon.

Rachel Saliba

How do we inspire and support our children to achieve their best? Rachel Saliba from Practically Learning is committed to addressing this question. With over 25 years’ experience in Design Thinking, Rachel uses creativity, innovation and insight to identify strategic approaches to the complex challenges facing children as they navigate their learning journey.

Rachel’s work focuses on developing relationships, improving communication, creating authentic partnerships and developing parent leadership to create a culture of learning that bridges the gap between home and school. From early childhood through to the final years of secondary school, Rachel works with parents, teachers and educational leaders to create connections that will support children to achieve their best.

Rachel has worked in various levels of education and currently has three children attending primary and secondary schools. She is currently the Executive Officer for Catholic School Parents Victoria and is the Victorian Representative for Catholic School Parents Australia, advocating for parents on various issues relevant for parents. She has been a guest lecturer for pre-service teachers at ACU in Melbourne on the importance of parent engagement in education and its impact on student learning outcomes, and was invited to travel to New Mexico in 2014 to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of parental engagement universally. Rachel has also designed and facilitated Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations and Project Management at Victoria University.

Having directly worked with many schools as a coach and consultant in parent engagement and culture development, Rachel has spoken at various educational and engagement conferences around Australia and conducts seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and educational leaders on ways to strengthen connections with children, both at home and school.
Her first book, entitled Staying Connected – Guiding and supporting children in their learning journey, explores the challenges and joys of the parent journey with children, how to remain in touch with their world and support them as they navigate learning through their education; towards a promising future.

The book is available now at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Concurrent Sessions G

Karen Stagnitti

Professor Karen Stagnitti currently works as Professor, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia. Her area of research is children’s play. She graduated with a Bachelor degree in Occupational Therapy from the University of Queensland. For over 30 years she worked in early childhood intervention programs in community-based settings as part of a specialist paediatric multidisciplinary team. She has worked with families with children with developmental delay, including children with autism.

She writes books and papers on her research into children’s play and is invited to present nationally and internationally. The website learntoplayevents.com has many resources about play for people working with families.

  Isabella Rosinsky
Isabella Rosinsky is the Coordinator of PlayConnect & MyTime in Victoria.  Isabella’s has completed a BA in Community Development, an Adv Dip in Community Welfare, a Post Grad Cert in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a Cert IV in Training & Assessment.  Her former roles include Managing a small not-for-proft early learning exchange program with South Africa called StarBright Learning Exchange; Coordinating Mission Australia’s Mentoring to Mobilise – Glenroy program for at-risk Year 10 students at Glenroy College; and several years at World Vision in a variety of coordination and admin roles.  She started work at Playgroup Victoria in the FaHCSIA Supported Playgroup Program in 2009 and shortly after took on PlayConnect and later MyTime.  New to the disability sector Isabella completed a number of courses on Autism including “Support for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder” to assist with her role in supporting PlayConnect facilitators and the PlayConnect playgroups.  Three years ago Isabella facilitated the process of getting PlayConnect in Victoria Certified by Amaze (formerly Autism Victoria) for ASD Early Childhood Standards.  Isabella is committed to implementing best practice standards in PlayConnect and MyTime and also increasing  awareness of the need for ASD support in all playgroups as the rate of diagnosis continues to increase.

  Meredith Drinkell
Meredith Drinkell is the Victorian/Tasmanian Manager for Sing&Grow Australia. She is a Registered Music Therapist and has experience working in a variety of areas including mental health, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and disability care. In 2012 Meredith travelled to Bangladesh to work with a community organisation in creating a sustainable music therapy project. She is passionate about using music to aid in capacity building for remote and rural communities, and hopes to incorporate this into her work with Sing&Grow.

Anne Webster
With a commitment to establishing Zoe Support on evidence-based research, Anne began completed two degrees in 2011, Social Work with Honours, and her BA majoring in Sociology and History. She is currently studying her PhD on Australian Adoption at the Australian National University.