Speakers

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.

 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.

   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.

 

  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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rahki Khanna
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.

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.