Dialog Box

Speakers & Abstracts

International Speakers

Sir Martin Narey
Born in 1955 in Middlesbrough, the eighth of nine children, he started his working life in the NHS.

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By his mid twenties he was, very happily, managing a group of hospitals in Lincolnshire. But in 1982 - to the astonishment of friends and colleagues – he resigned to train to be a prison governor.

He worked as a Prison Officer at a local Prison, as a Borstal Housemaster and then an Assistant Governor at a top security prison before moving to a succession of Whitehall posts. This period included working as a Private Secretary to a Home Office Minister, work on reducing delay in the criminal courts, and the introduction of email (he was told it was just a fad) into the criminal justice system.

After six years in Whitehall he returned to the Prison Service in 1997 and joined the Prisons Board in a new post introduced to improve the Service’s poor record in reducing reoffending.  When his predecessor suddenly resigned the next year, he was appointed as Director General (Chief Executive). In his dairies, Chris Mullin described him as “decent, humane, level headed. We couldn’t hope to find a better man to put in front of the nation’s jails.”

Following a merger of Prisons and Probation in 2003 he became the first CEO of the National Offender Management Service. During this period he received the Chartered Institute of Management’s Gold Medal for Leadership, the first public sector recipient in ten years of this single annual award.

He resigned from the Civil Service in 2005 to become Chief Executive of Barnardo’s where he stayed for five years, during which he chaired The Campaign To End Child Poverty, and saw Barnardo’s grew by almost 40% to become, once again, the UK's biggest children's charity. He left Barnardo’s in 2011 after a little over five years and was immediately commissioned by The Times to write a major report on adoption. At about the same time he was invited by Michael Gove to become the so-called Adoption Czar for England.

He now now advises The Ministry of Justice about penal issues and the Department for Education about children’s social care issues. After being commissioned by Number 10 and DfE, he has recently completed a major review of the quality of care for the 9,000 children living in residential homes in England and has just embarked on a similar review of Fostering.

He is Chair of the Trustees of The Brain Tumour Charity, Chair of the Portman Group, and a non-executive board member at The Sage, Gateshead. He speaks regularly to large organisations about the struggle of leadership, particularly leadership during adversity. Recent clients have included Barclays, UK Sport, Vodafone, Lloyds, Royal Sun Alliance, The National Audit Office, the Conference of Anglican Bishops, the BBC and Manchester United.

He has written regularly for The Times and other newspapers and is a visiting Professor at the Universities of Durham, Sheffield Hallam and Manchester Metropolitan.

He has been married for 39 years to Jan and they have two adult children and two grandsons. He and Jan fortunate enough to live in the beautiful seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire.

Fighting For Permanence For Neglected Children: The English Experience Of Boosting Adoption Numbers


Fighting For Permanence For Neglected Children: The English Experience Of Boosting Adoption Numbers

Sir Martin will describe the media, political and professional prejudice against removing children from neglect that he experienced when leading Barnardo’s (the UK’s biggest children’s charity). He will discuss his report for the London Times on the need to re-assert the primacy of the interests of the child, removing more, not fewer, into State care and which called for a boosting of adoption numbers. At the time there had been a reduction in adoption numbers in England (from about 25,000 a year in 1975 to fewer than 3,000 in 2011).

The prejudice against adoption and the puncturing of a series of myths which had hastened its demise will be examined, including:

  • the spurious belief that adoptions broke down in large proportions;
  • attachment theory and the fallacious belief that a baby should never be separated from its birth mother;
  • the well intentioned but un-evidenced belief that children must only be adopted by parents of identical ethnic background and the grave consequences for some children in care;
  • the well-intentioned belief that siblings had always to be adopted together and the deleterious consequences for many such siblings.

Sir Martin will discuss the English experience in addressing political and media antipathy to adoption; turning around the reduction in adoption numbers; the considerable annual increases since 2011; and more recent falls, as some of the above myths have re-asserted themselves. The likely future of adoption numbers in England will be considered.

Dr. Sylvia Rowlands
Dr. Sylvia Rowlands is Senior Administrator with twenty-five years of social service and health care industry leadership, large system transformation expertise, executive change management experience and executive management by data experience.

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In 2010, Dr. Rowlands opened the Implementation Support Center (ISC). Since then Dr. Rowlands has served as the principal for numerous national and international social service and health care transformation initiatives. The ISC has provided pre-intention, readiness and implementation of organizational change to 22 NYC public services agencies, 5 US states, 4 Australian states, London, and Scotland. She has provided expert reform consultation to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, China, Japan, Scotland and England.

Currently, Dr. Rowlands serves as:

  • Chairperson of the NYC Value Based Payment Community-Based Organizations (CBO) Think Tank
  • Chairperson of the Collaboration of Children and Families (CCF) Health Information Technology Sub-committee
  • Contributing member of the CCF Health Home Policy and Practice Sub-committee
  • Chairperson of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) Evidence Based Workgroup
  • Contributing member of the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development National Policy Council
  • Contributing expert at the Medical University of South Carolina Scaling and Sustainability Convening
  • Expert advisor on the Road Map for Reform in Victoria, Australia
  • Appointee to the NYS Children’s Clinical Advisory Group advancing a value based payment scheme for children’s Medicaid reimbursement
  • Governance Committee for NYS Behavioral Health Care Collaborative
  • NYS “First 1000 Days of Medicaid Redesign” Working Group

Dr. Sylvia Rowlands creates a leadership environment where clients make progress on addressing their barriers to change while gaining the skill to anticipate and excel in the face of transformation. In this way, Sylvia combines building today’s organizational capacity with tomorrow’s ability to stand on the bleeding edge.

Exploring evidence based programming in the permanency continuum from prevention and reunification through adoption and post-adoptive supports in real world implementations


Exploring evidence based programming in the permanency continuum from prevention and reunification through adoption and post-adoptive supports in real world implementations

Dr Sylvia Rowlands will provide attendees with an opportunity to explore programming in the permanency continuum from prevention and reunification through adoption and post-adoptive supports. Personal, research and worldwide experience have shown that there is a group of carefully crafted interventions, which have proven effective and efficient for improving the permanency outcomes for children.

Learning Objectives: This interactive, clinical presentation will provide attendees with practical information about

  • How to organize permanency interventions to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of implementation by matching youth/permanency resources-family to appropriate levels of care
  • The factors involved in integrating effective permanency programming in social welfare systems,
  • Clinical recommendations about how to effectively engage and motivate permanency resource/family members into the change process,
  • Clinical recommendations about how to effectively change referral problems and associated risk factors using family-based strategies, and
  • Information about the effectiveness of family-based strategies in real world implementation.

Sandrine Pepit
I hold a Masters in Law specialising in family law and a Diploma of Psychology (Attachment theory).

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I have nine years of experience as a legal officer and advisor in adoption (international and domestic). I have a thorough practical knowledge of international law, particularly treaties dealing with child protection matters, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Hague Intercountry Adoption Convention and other international instruments on adoption.

I have experience working for The Hague Conference on Private International Law where I actively participated in the drafting of the Guide to Good Practice No 2 on Accreditation and Adoption Accredited Bodies. I have also worked on reviewing several draft national adoption decrees.

I finally have a solid expertise in providing necessary services and support to adoptive applicants, demonstrated by my work at Adoption Central Authority in Canada and adoption accredited body in France.

The French Adoption System: the ins and outs of a dual system


The French Adoption System: The ins and outs of a dual system

This presentation will give an overview of the French adoption system (national and international). It will highlight the difficulties that France is facing and how to tackle them in the best interest of the child.

It will discuss, in depth, one of the main concerns of the past decade: the situation of children under state protection and the situation of children ward of the state.

Finally, it will be the occasion to compare the two existing types of adoption in France - the full adoption and the simple adoption - from a legal point of view.


Beth Allen
Beth Allen (PSM) is the Assistant Director of Child Protection within the Children, Youth and Families Policy division with the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services.

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Beth has over 30 years’ experience in the management of child protection operations and in her current role is responsible for the design and development of legislation, policies and practice advice concerning children and families involved with child protection. This includes leading Victoria’s reforms to support the transition of Aboriginal children involved with child protection to Aboriginal community controlled organisations. In 2016 Beth led the legislative amendments to strengthen permanency for children involved in the statutory child protection system.

Simone Czech
Simone is the Executive Director, Design Innovation Safety and Permanency in the NSW Department of Family and Community Services (FACS).

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Simone has extensive operational experience in child protection and out of home care programs as well as extensive experience in the development of policy and reform initiatives. She holds degrees in Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and a Masters in Public Administration.

Simone joined the then Community Services in 1998 as a Child Protection Caseworker and over the years has taken on numerous operational and executive roles. Simone also has experience working in the disability sector.

Most recently, as the Executive Director, Design Innovation Safety and Permanency, Simone has been responsible for leading the reform of the Child Protection and OOHC service system in NSW. Simone has a passion for vulnerable children and young people and in particular is dedicated to ensuring children and young people in OOHC receive quality services and leave OOHC with the same opportunities as their peers.

Hon Pru Goward MP
Pru Goward was sworn in as the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for Social Housing, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in 2017.

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Pru was first elected to the NSW Parliament in 2007. She has also held previous roles as the Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Medical Research, Minister for Planning, Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Health.

Prior to entering Parliament, Pru served as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner and also Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination. During her time with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission she became best known for her advocacy of a national paid maternity leave scheme, the implications of demographic change, and the challenge of work-life balance. An economist by training and a broadcaster by practice, Pru spent 19 years with the ABC as a reporter and national political commentator for television and radio. She has received a number of awards for journalism, including a special Walkley Award, journalism's highest honour. In 1997 Pru left broadcasting to become Executive Director of the Office of the Status of Women in the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was later appointed Government Spokesperson for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, responsible for media management of the thirty Commonwealth Government agencies.

Pru started work as a shop assistant and later as a cleaner and waitress. She has also been a university Economics tutor, a University lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, a high school economics teacher and media consultant. She has authored two books: A Business of Your Own, success strategies for women in business, and co-authored, John Howard, a Biography with her husband, David Barnett. Pru is a former Chair of the Council for Australian Arab Relations, Deputy Chair of Anglicare (Canberra and Goulburn), and a former member of a number of boards including the John Curtin School of Medical Research. Pru has represented Australia at international forums and negotiations, including APEC, and has been an official guest of the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand and Israel. Her speeches have been reproduced in several important collections.

In 2001 she was awarded a Centenary Medal for her services to journalism and women’s rights, and in 2007 an Honorary Doctorate of Business from Charles Sturt University

Julie Harcourt
Julie Harcourt has been the Manager of Family and Child Research at the Queensland Family and Child Commission, and before that, the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, for over ten years.

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Julie’s focus has been for the Queensland Family and Child Commission to conduct research that has the potential for practical application to inform advocacy, policy or legislation to improve the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people. Research areas have included seeking the views of children in out-of-home care, children’s participation, bullying, children’s rights, and ways in which to give children a say in significant matters that affect them, and placement stability.

Anne King
Anne King is Senior Advisor to the Minister for Family and Community Services in NSW. Anne has a 30 years history working in community services in NSW. Working in disability aged care and child protection has instilled a drive to help vulnerable people help themselves.

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More recently Anne has focused on driving policy and legislative change to improve the lives of children and families who come into contact with the child protection system. Anne is committed to improving outcomes for people by helping them build capacity and independence. Evidence based programs and building on strengths are key priorities in Anne’s work. Anne values the work and strengths of the people she works with and families she works for.

Permanency and adoption – the challenges, opportunities and improving outcomes for children


Permanency and adoption – the challenges, opportunities and improving outcomes for children

In NSW there are over 18000 children in care. Over the past 5 years there has been great effort by government to reduce the number of children in care and improve outcomes for them. Driving government reform is never easy. There is an art to communicating the need for change, there are supporters and there are anti-reformers. These influences are constantly at play when trying to change the way you work and communicating a message that everyone can hear and reflect on. In the context of adoption in Australia this messaging becomes even more difficult and reform and the need for change can at times seem almost too difficult to undertake. To the NSW governments credit there has been a significant investment and commitment to lifting the rate of open adoption from out of home care. This is just one way the government has tackled the issue of growing numbers of children in care, constant moves in care and poor outcomes for children. Alongside this it has been important to always consider how we help families change so that adoption is only for those children who really cannot stay home safely. Talking about investment in adoption whilst talking about investment in helping the parents of children at risk change is paramount to achieving reform. There is good reason why people feel afraid of an increased focus on open adoption, that is why we must make a greater effort to tell the story of how we are helping families stay together where possible. The presentation aims to communicate how NSW has achieved reform, what the challenges are and how we continuously try to keep children at the centre of our thinking.

Kathryn Mandla
Kathryn is a senior executive in the Department of Social Services (DSS) responsible for children’s, family and family violence policy and programs.

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She previously managed central policy systems for DSS including international relations, policy planning, performance, evaluation and research. Kathryn has also managed the Australian Government’s housing and homelessness policy and programs.

Kathryn is elected Chair of the OECD Working Party on Social Policy and represents the Australian Government on that committee.

Prior to joining DSS, Kathryn worked for the Queensland State Government. Her roles included Executive Director for child protection policy and programs, and leading the Office for Women. Kathryn also worked in a variety of roles across the departments of the Premier and Cabinet, Emergency Services, Police and Education and the Commission for Children and Young People.

Kathryn is elected Chair of the OECD Working Party on Social Policy and represents the Australian Government on that committee.

Lifelong relationships and a sense of belonging: Guiding principles for best practice in achieving permanency


Lifelong relationships and a sense of belonging: Guiding principles for best practice in achieving permanency

We know that children in out of home care for extended periods, and who experience instability through multiple placements, are at significant risk of poorer immediate and long term health and wellbeing outcomes. The Commonwealth and state and territory governments are committed to do more to improve permanency outcomes for children involved in child protection systems. But what is permanency and how is it best achieved?

Governments have recently agreed Guiding Principles to support Best Practice in achieving permanency and to a shared definition of permanency through the following Outcomes Statement:

Children and young people, including those in out-of-home care experience

  • safe and stable care
  • timely decision making on permanency that takes into account the views of the child, and
  • lifelong relationships and a sense of belonging, identity and connection to culture and community to achieve better life outcomes and realise their full potential.

This session will explore the elements of the outcome statement and guiding principles, considering

  • pathways to permanency
  • relationship, placement and legal permanency
  • providing children with stable care and connections to develop a sense of belonging
  • timeliness of decision making, and
  • measuring outcomes - how do we know our efforts are having a positive impact

Jackie Tang
Jackie Tang is an experienced corporate executive leader.  Having graduated as a social worker, Jackie spent many years in the WA Department of Corrective Services in a range of positions from front line service delivery, through to Deputy Commissioner.

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She has overseen statewide operational service delivery related to community reintegration, healthcare, education and rehabilitation for disadvantaged and vulnerable people, as well as having senior executive experience in strategic planning, risk management and financial and human resource management. Jackie also undertook a year’s secondment as the Director General at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.

During 2011 Jackie chose to leave the public sector to work for BHP Billiton where she was involved in the negotiation and implementation of Native Title Agreements across the Pilbara. For the past year Jackie has been working for Sodexo as a member of the senior management team, and most recently at the Melaleuca Remand and Reintegration Facility, a maximum security prison for female prisoners. Jackie is looking forward to returning to the WA public service and particularly to leading the statewide service delivery of child protection.  Her key focus will be building upon the important reforms that have been undertaken in recent years to enhance the safety of children across this State.

Senator the Hon Zed Seselja
Zed Seselja was sworn in as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs by the Governor-General on 19 July 2016. Zed was first elected to the Senate for the Australian Capital Territory in 2013.

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Since his election to Parliament, Zed has been appointed to a number of committees including the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme National, the Senate Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Community Affairs, where he served as Chair, and the Senate Select Committee on Health. Zed is also a KeepWatch Ambassador with the Royal Lifesaving Society, an Ambassador for Focus ACT, Healthy Harold Life Education, Kulture Break, a volunteer for St Vincent de Paul, and was a mentor for Menslink.

Zed was born in Canberra to Croatian immigrant parents and was raised in Tuggeranong Valley. He is married to Roslyn and they have five children. Before entering politics, Zed studied Arts and Law at the Australian National University and then moved into the Commonwealth Public Service working for the Department of Transport and Regional Services.

Kathryn Jordan (SA)
Kathryn Jordan is the Executive Director, Strategy and Performance in the South Australian Department for Child Protection with responsibility for policy, strategy, Aboriginal strategy and engagement, data, performance, legislation, research and evaluation, inter-government relations, audit and risk, communication and reform implementation.

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Kathryn has a lead role in implementing the South Australian Government’s response to the Nyland Royal Commission A Fresh Start which comprises 256 accepted recommendations towards systemic reform of the child protection system working with staff, across government and in partnership with the non-government sector./p>

Kathryn has an extensive background in early childhood education and care and was instrumental in establishing South Australia’s Children’s Centres for Early Childhood Development and Parenting including four centres focused on the needs of Aboriginal children and families. These Children’s Centres provide a community based response to vulnerability through integrated provision of early childhood education, child care, child health services, family support and community development and provide a universal platform for early intervention and help to prevent children entering the child protection system.

Speakers and Panelists

Eric Bailey
As one of the world’s foremost speakers on motivation and vision, Eric draws on his successful careers in professional sports, executive management and sales as well as life experiences such as his difficult start growing up in South Central Los Angeles delivering powerful and inspiring keynotes that will lead you or your group in the right direction.

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As a Certified Speaking Professional with over 20 years experience inspiring and motivating millions of people, Eric commands a room like no other and leaves audiences in awe. Whether delivering his message from his own radio show to corporate team building speaking engagements, student programs, personal mentoring and coaching, Eric Bailey is the spark that can ignite the burning passion that dwells in each of us.

The Power Of One!!!


“Families don’t have to match. You don’t have to look like someone else to love them.” - Leigh Anne Tuohy - (Adoptive mother portrayed in The Blind Side)

To be adopted is almost a magical event. But with all the love and support the adoptee receives when adopted the issues of abandonment, grief and mourning are still at play long after the ink has dried on the adoption papers.

Adoption is also about applying oneself in any situation. It’s adapting to new surroundings and situations whether it be a new job or new relationship.

To “adapt” you must “adopt”. Adopting is making a decision and adaption is dealing with that decision and all the emotions that go along with it.

“Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – Howard Jackson Brown Jr.

We all need acknowledgement and praise on occasion. We all need some form of a “pat on the back” even if it comes from you and you alone. That said, we don’t do for others merely for a praising acknowledgement, we do it or should do it from the good of our heart and what inspires us in a healthy and honest direction to help others.

There is that old saw that what you put out to the universe comes back to you tenfold. It’s the concept of “paying it forward”. That is wonderful but also not a reason for doing something for others. More than not, doing something for someone who cannot give back is the most rewarding. That is the true philanthropist spirit; doing something without expecting something in return.

Heather Baird
Founder of A Better Life For Foster Kids Inc.

My name is Heather Baird and I would like to tell you a story about what has encouraged me to go down the path of helping foster children.

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After being in an orphanage and many foster homes from around the age of 2 1/2 years old and experiencing many horrible situations, the one that stuck in my mind was going to school in our rags and all the other kids knowing that we were "homies" from the way we were dressed. Our clothes belonged in the 1920's.

l remember wishing and praying that l could have nice things like the other kids.

Once l left the homes at the age of 17 nearly 18 it was a real struggle to fit into the world l knew nothing of, the easiest way to cope with my life to this stage was denial, how I wished someone had taken the time to explain how the real world worked, I had not seen a Supermarket until then, it was like being in another time zone.

I always wanted to help other children in similar situations, at the age off 56 l had the chance at making my dream come true.

l completed a Diploma of Social Services with the intention of working in the child welfare system, while doing my work placement l realised l could do more good advocating for foster children, and that is what brings this charity to life.

With financial counselling cert and studies in trauma related behaviour in Foster Children I believe permanency in a loving environment is essential and will bring these children to a happier adult life.


Adjunct Professor Muriel Bamblett Hon DLittSW AM

Muriel Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung woman who has been employed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency since 1999.

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Muriel is active on many boards and committees concerning children, families and the Indigenous community, including the Victorian Children’s Council; the Aboriginal Treaty Interim Working Group; the Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum and the Aboriginal Justice Forum.

Muriel has been the recipient of a number of awards and received a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2004 Australia Day Honours for her services to the community, particularly through leadership in the provision of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. In 2009, she was appointed by La Trobe University as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy. In April 2017 Muriel was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in Social Work by the University of Sydney in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Aboriginal child and family welfare.

Applying the Placement Principle and Preserving Culture.


Twenty years on from the release of the report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from the Families – Bringing Them Home - the number of Aboriginal children in out of home care has risen by 600%. In this context, a mechanism that sets the timer for permanency planning of many Aboriginal children is a recipe for this crisis to be institutionalised giving credence to the view that we are knowingly creating another “Stolen Generation”.

SNAICC’s Family Matters roadmap spells out an alternative to this current, apparently inevitable pathway for many Aboriginal children into a future that is likely to be one of disconnection and loss of identity and culture.

We want a future for Aboriginal children in which they are connected to their communities and their culture. That is also in accord with the Aboriginal Child Placement which has itself been around for forty years or more. The child protection system must operate in accordance with the best interests of children and that means issues of identity, including the need for cultural stability, should be a central consideration.

Muriel’s presentation will argue that permanency and stability is important for Aboriginal children but only if this is being permanently connected with their families, community and culture so that they can grow up to fully functioning Aboriginal people contributing to their communities and the wider society.

Matthew Bambrick
Matthew Bambrick is a 21-year-old from South East.

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Matthew has extensive lived experience with the Child Protection System and will confess that he has been through many ups and downs during that time. Over the last 5 years Matthew has traveled around Australia advocating for change within the system and has set out to change policy and see outcomes working with numerous stakeholders and organizations.

Matthew is a young consultant with the create foundation, a young member for Ipswich West, full time public servant for the Department of Housing & Public Works and has worked with the Family Commission, Next Step After Care and Life Without Barriers.

“If my words create a spark - which then leads to create a wild fire for generations to come then I have done what I set out to do"

Professor Selena Bartlett

Professor Bartlett is an award winning neuroscientist, and Group Leader in Neuroscience and Brain Fitness at the Translational Research Institute at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. She is a passionate advocate for people who are marginalised and understands some brains just need a little rewiring.

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She is a trained Pharmacist and completed her Ph.D. in neuropharmacology in 1995 and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Neuroscience at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra, Australia in 1998.

From 2004 to July 2012, Selena was the Director of the Preclinical Development Group at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Centre, one of the world’s top alcohol and addiction research centres, at the University of California in San Francisco. Dr Bartlett focused on the translation of basic research discoveries into druggable targets and new treatments for neurological diseases such as addiction, pain, stress, anxiety and depression.

In 2014 Selena launched a Brain Vitality Index (BVI) mobile app and presented a TEDx talk about brain fitness and the neuroplasticity revolution. The brain fitness programs are designed to enable companies to improve innovation, decision-making and performance; aid children to improve learning outcomes; assist women and men improve brain health and for retirees to have more vital lives. Selena’s approach takes advantage of the plasticity of the brain and applies practical neuroscience tools that help people look after their brain and lead better lives. In 2016, she launched her first book called MiGGi Matters: How to train your brain to manage stress and trim your body and a website www.miggimatters.com. We are aiming to start a Centre for Youth Wellness that implements the tools of neuroplasticity and neuroscience to improve the lives of children.

Professor Bartlett won the Women in Technology (WiT) Biotech Outstanding Achievement Award, the Biotech Research Award and was an Ambassador for the Women in Technology organisation. She has authored eighty scientific papers in neuroscience. Selena presents public lectures to organisations, governments, universities and schools and is currently working on a book to help people understand the importance of their brain’s health across the world.

Selena values cultural diversity, empathy, kindness and generosity. She believes that the innate human capacity of giving to others is one of the most selfish things we can do for our brain, as it causes our brain synapses to grow. Selena believes every brain has the capacity to love, be loved and act with kindness. She is a passionate advocate for people who are marginalised and understands some brains just need a little rewiring.

Sheryl Batchelor
Sheryl Batchelor has over 25 years teaching and leadership experience in a variety of educational settings including Early Childhood Centres, Primary and Secondary schools and in the Community.

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For the last seven years, Sheryl has delivered a suite of evidence-based neuroplasticity programs to help people who are disadvantaged and those that have experienced trauma across the lifespan improve their lives. She has worked with students in Foster Care, Youth Justice, Schools and the long-term unemployed. She is currently one of the Directors of Stronger Brains which is an international organisation using proven scientific programs to help people improve their lives.

Improving Brain Health by integrating trauma informed practices with evidence based neuroplasticity interventions.


Improving Brain Health by integrating trauma informed practices with evidence based neuroplasticity interventions.

This presentation highlights the critical findings from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study involving more than 17,000 participants in the US and the health risks – both physical and mental - that result from childhood trauma (Felitti and Anda, 1998).  Scientists have now documented the neurological processes that govern the brain’s ongoing ‘plasticity’ that have now shown that the damaging changes in the brain attributable to persistent high stress can be reversed via specific forms of training.   We will discuss how evidence-based multi-domain computerised and non-computerised cognitive training programs and strategies are being used in schools in Australia and overseas to improve a student’s cognitive and social skills which in turn has led to better life and academic outcomes. 

Jennifer Buckingham
Dr Jennifer Buckingham is a Senior Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and director of the FIVE from FIVE reading project.

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The FIVE from FIVE project is a policy research and advocacy campaign to bridge the gap between evidence and practice in reading instruction, and thereby improve literacy levels. Jennifer has been writing on education policy for almost two decades, and has published influential papers on school choice, school funding, literacy, international assessments, NAPLAN and My School, religious schools, boys’ education, teacher training and employment, class size, and educational disadvantage. Jennifer recently chaired the Australian Government's Expert Advisory Group on a Year 1 National Literacy and Numeracy Assessment. She is a non-Executive Director of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

Joel de Carteret
Joel is a renowned film maker and world-class storyteller. CEO & Chief Storyteller at Stories In Motion, he makes beautifully crafted stories that touch the heart and fill the soul.

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Joel is a sought after keynote speaker. His life-changing story of tracking down his birth family after nearly 31 years has reached over 22 million people around the planet.

Search for Origins


Search for Origins

Joel de Carteret was adopted and raised by an Australian family. 31 years later Joel embarked on what seemed like an impossible mission to track down his biological mother. With virtually nothing to go on except knowing the date and location he was found, that his mother was a dress maker and father was a jeepney driver, Joel undertook a journey that shows how sheer grit, persistence and determination can overcome even the most insurmountable odds.

Joel talks about how his skills as a film maker, director and producer, along with millions of filipino’s, aided him to the reunification of his long lost parents. His story has reached over 22 million people and featured on GMA’s Kapuso Mo - Jessica Soho, BBC Outlook, 60 Minutes and Readers Digest.

Paul Chandler
Paul Chandler is a former Australian Research Council Fellow (UNSW) and Dean of Education (UOW).

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During his career, he has accumulated tens of millions of dollars of research and research project funding into cognition and instruction. He was the vision behind the $44 million Early Start Project at UOW, of which he is now Foundation Chair. Professor Chandler has also received countless research and teaching awards, including the ARC/Thomson Direct Award, as one of 10 most valuable Australian scientists. Professor Chandler sits on numerous private, not for profit and government Boards. He has recently been appointed to four new boards, including the position of Executive Director of the newly formed NSW Educational Standards Authority. Professor Chandler currently holds the position of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Inclusion & Outreach) at UOW.

Getting an Early Start to learning and life


Getting an Early Start to learning and life

Worldwide research shows that the years from 0 to 8 are the most critical for the healthy development of a child. Nobel prize winning Laureate, James Heckman systematically showed that investment in the very earliest years reaps the best outcomes in terms of education, social cohesion and mental health. The $44 million Early Start Facility built at the University of Wollongong with 41 Engagement Centres located throughout NSW is based on the work of Heckman. This talk will focus on how Early Start engages families with foster and/or adopted children in a deep and systematic manner.

Kerry Chikarovski

One of Australia’s most respected former politicians, Kerry was Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party from 1998 to 2002. Today Kerry is a successful businesswoman, and brings her experience and understanding of complex issues to the Board of Adopt Change.

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Encouraged by a brief but memorable meeting with a dashing young Robert Kennedy, Kerry knew from an early age that she wanted to be a politician and in 1991 she won pre-selection against the odds for the safe seat of Lane Cove on Sydney’s north shore – one that had been earmarked for a male colleague.

In Government Kerry held a number of Portfolios including Minister for Consumer Affairs, Assistant Minister of Education, Minister for Industrial Relations, and the first Minister for the Status of Women appointed in NSW. In 1998 Ms Chikarovski was elected Leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party, the first woman to lead a major political party in NSW.

Today Kerry is a highly sought after and successful businesswoman. Chika’s own government relations business, Chikarovski & Associates, advise clients across a range of industry sectors on policy and regulatory issues, as well as in relation to major projects and procurement. Kerry brings to the Board of Adopt Change her strong political background, vast experience in dealing with government and business, and an ability to understand complex issues across a broad sector.

Lisa Dibb
Lisa is a wife and partner to Stephen, parent to 4 children, and long-time advocate for vulnerable children both here and overseas. Lisa has volunteered as a child advocate since adopting her first children from Ethiopia in 2000.

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She works alongside government and non-government organisations to improve adoption and promote permanency for children in foster care.  Since 2001, Lisa has continuously held  executive positions in a number of adoption support organisations, including as President of the International Adoptive Families of Qld (IAFQ) and State Representative for Adopt Change.

Lisa is an advocate for birth family contact and is active in supporting her children’s cultural identity. Lisa & her husband have gently found all their children’s family members (including birth parents) & built loving & respectful relationships with them.  Lisa has developed community links to ensure that all Ethiopian adopted children in South-East Queensland and Northern NSW have access to Ethiopian culture and the local Ethiopian community. She has also worked tirelessly educating the general public on children’s issues of attachment and connection through speaking at forums and community gatherings.

Lisa is currently the president and co-founder of Queensland Alliance for Kids (QAK), the only permanency-focussed organisation in Queensland. Their role in advocacy includes providing education and written submission to the Queensland Department of Child Safety (DCCSDS).Under her leadership, QAK has made a major contribution to the impending legislational amendments that can see 1,000s of children in the Queensland foster care system find permanent homes - changing their lives forever (www.qak.org.au).

Zufi Emerson
Zufi Emerson is a 21 year-old young woman from Canberra, Australia. She was born in Ethiopia, and adopted to Australian parents when she 5 months old.

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She has 2 younger brothers who were also adopted from Ethiopia. Zufi's adoption story is a happy one - something she is grateful for. Speaking from personal experience, Zufi believes that adoption truly follows the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – that it is the best interest of children to be a part of a loving family. She believes that every child deserves to feel loved, and feel like they have a home where they feel safe and belong.

Zufi is currently studying at the Actors Centre of Australia in Sydney. She is so grateful and happy to have the opportunity to spend every day doing what she loves - learning from and with people she admires. She is looking forward to contributing to the industry of her passion. She believes that every child, regardless of who they are, should also have the chance to be educated, feel safe, happy and most of all empowered to make a difference by doing what they love. Zufi is excited to continue her involvement with Adopt Change and is looking forward to contributing to changing adoption systems in Australia - from a frustrating process laden with bureaucratic red tape and confusion, to a supportive process that gives children in need the best possible chance to be part of loving families who want to care for them.

Mark Galvin
Mark is a Partner in EY’s Government and Public Sector practice and leads the firm’s Evaluation Practice Network.

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He is also leading the Adoption Transformation Program for the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) and designed and implemented the Action Learning model underpinning the Adoptions Taskforce.

The Taskforce has been the catalyst for record numbers of children adopted from out-of-home care (OOHC) in NSW. Mark is an economist with over 15 years of experience as a professional advisory consultant. He has extensive experience in the child protection and OOHC systems, having led numerous engagements for State and Commonwealth clients. Mark is passionate about the use of traditional skills to transform systems and achieve better outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our community.

Action Learning: The role of the Adoptions Taskforce in transforming the out-of-home care adoptions process


Action Learning: The role of the Adoptions Taskforce in transforming the out-of-home care adoptions process

Child centred approaches demand a different way of delivering community services. The work of the Adoptions Taskforce and partners is supporting FACS to develop a creative, flexible and successful system focussed strategies that delivered a record number of adoptions in 2017. 

As at 1 July 2016, there were some 470 children in the out-of-home care adoptions process, with many matters taking over seven years to finalise. The Minister for Community Services directed the Department of Family and Community Services (FACS) to clear accumulated cases and improve the timeliness of the process. 

Some of the challenges faced by the Department included how to tackle a process that had become increasingly complex and confusing over time, engage the wide range of stakeholders to the process, introduce change to reduce processing times and lift performance without negatively impacting on the progress of cases already in the system. 

As important, was the challenge of ensuring that FACS took away key learnings from the intervention that could translate back into practice and ensure long term sustainability. This involved challenging existing practice and culture, reducing processing times and ensuring an improved experience for children, their carers and birth parents. 

An Adoptions Taskforce was established by FACS working alongside FACS and NGO resources. The Taskforce employs the principles of an Action Learning Model, involving a small group empowered and trusted with the necessary resources, taking action, and learning as individuals, as a team, and as an organisation. 

A key feature of the action learning model are fast cycles of build, measure and learn which makes it flexible and able to rapidly adapt and evolve in mid-flight. Clarity of purpose and performance was key to designing an evaluation approach that best supported the Taskforce model. 

This presentation draws on the recent experience of the Adoptions Taskforce in NSW to share elements of the Action Learning approach and the role it has performed in building the productive capacity of the Department and NGOs in the adoptions process.

Michael Hawton
Psychologist and teacher, Michael Hawton, has spent nearly 30 years working with families and children, many of whom have been involved in the child protection system.

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He has written well over 1,000 child welfare reports in both The NSW Children’s Court Clinic and in The Family Court of Australia. He is an experienced assessor of parenting capacity and in the assessment of risk in child welfare matters. Michael is also an experienced trainer who provides Professional Development that is practical and method-based.

Tough Conversations in Child Protection


Tough Conversations in Child Protection

In this workshop, participants will learn part of a method to:

  1. Comprehensively gather information for holding a factual conversation with a parent so that as many of the facts (as can be reasonably gathered) are brought to bear in a tough conversation with parents.
  2. Defuse antagonism in tough conversations while holding a firm line so that an 'initiator' of a tough conversations can keep control of the conversation.
  3. Identify important ‘dashboard’ markers for parents so that everyone is on the ‘same page’ about what’s expected, within a given timespan.

You will learn one important way to assess the main issues in a child protection matter (using a simple worksheet template) and how to respond if you are interrupted.

Millie Ingram
Millie Ingram was CEO of Wyanga Aboriginal Aged Care Program in Redfern for 10 years before retiring in 2013 and is now on the Wyanga Board.

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Millie was born and raised on an Aboriginal reserve called Erambie, in Wiradjuri country (Cowra) in central NSW. She has worked in Aboriginal affairs all of her life at a community level and in government.

In the 1960’s Millie was involved with the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs under the management of Charlie Perkins, attending meetings and their social functions, dances, Debutante Balls and volunteering in the Foundation and in its café.  She was there during the Freedom Rides although she wasn’t involved in them.

Millie was around when the AMS, the ALS, the Tent Embassy and other Aboriginal controlled organisations were being set up in the 1970’s.  She was a founding member of Murawina Multi-purpose Child Care Centre in Eveleigh Street Redfern, which started off in Shepherd Street Chippendale, together with her sister Norma, Mum Shirl and other active women of the day.

From 1982 Millie worked in government for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for thirteen years as the Assistant Secretary advising the government on community/state relations. She was there when the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in February 1982.

She was an elected Councillor for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council for four years representing the Wiradjuri Region of NSW, being the only woman popularly elected by the community on a council of 13 people.

Millie received a commonwealth bicentenary award in 2001 from former Prime Minister John Howard for her services to the community.

Millie is a JP and was a finalist for the 2010 International Woman of the Year for NSW which was celebrated on 8th March 2010.  Millie was also awarded “Woman of the Year” in 2010 for the electorate of Heffron, which was held at the time by The Hon Kristine Kenneally MP and Premier of NSW.

Trevor Jordan
Trevor Jordan is President of Jigsaw Queensland. He has had over twenty years experience in teaching and researching applied and professional ethics in a wide range of fields, including public sector ethics, criminal justice ethics, healthcare ethics, human services and social work ethics. He has a special interest is ethics and adoption.Meeting the ethical challenges of permanency: Learning from the past to improve the future


Meeting the ethical challenges of permanency: Learning from the past to improve the future

Trevor L Jordan, Phd. President, Jigsaw Queensland Inc.

Confronted with the task of providing permanent care for children, we must learn from the past. To meet the needs of children who cannot by parented in their families of origin, policy and practice must be based on evidence, reason and imagination This includes ethical imagination. While avoiding the moralism of the past, we will need strong values-based practice. These values must be negotiated not imposed and they are needed to inform decision making at all levels, social, professional. familial and individual.

This requires a fundamental change in the public conversation about child safety practices and family formation. We need to move beyond marketing positions to discussions about values, identities and relationships that can help build lifelong family commitments. We need to stop fixing breakdowns and reorganise policy & practices to ensure that the lifelong interests of children are met.

Those practices should involve participation of government, professionals and peer support groups. They should be organised around three guiding principles: openness and honesty, commitment to the lifelong interests of children, and the provision of adequate emotional and informational support to all parties. The termination of parental rights ought not to require terminating identities and relationships.

Respectful engagement is paramount, not least because the realities that need to be addressed are complex and multidimensional (not simple) and there are often competing interests and values at work. We will need to be more collaborative than adversarial, building bridges rather than walls between the various stakeholders. Those affected by past policies and practices must not be forgotten and deserve continued support. New practices do not replace exisiting obligations to right past wrongs.

It is not just what we do, but how we do it that makes the difference; its as much about processes and relationships, as it is about resources. Flexibility will be required. There may not be one best way to do things, but many. We also need to accept that, as in all areas of life, politicians, professionals and parents will be more than adequate, adequate and not adequate in their ability to cope with the challenges that confront them.

Damon Martin
Damon Martin is the Manager of International Social Service (ISS) Australia’s Intercountry Adoption Service. Damon is a qualified Social Worker and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner who has worked for ISS Australia for nearly 10 years.

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Prior to that, Damon has worked for over 12 years in Government Child Protection teams in Australia, England and New Zealand. Damon is a long standing executive member of the NSW Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care Inc. and the former NSW representative on the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group. Damon also has extensive experience working and training on overseas ISS missions to Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Azerbaijan and Romania.

Leigh Mathews
Leigh is a highly experienced consultant with over 12 years diverse experience across Australia and Asia in child rights and child protection. Leigh is a recognised expert in the issues of institutionalisation, residential care of children, and voluntourism.

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Leigh is the Co-Founder and Coordinator of ReThink Orphanages: Better Solutions for Children, a cross sector initiative that works to prevent the unnecessary institutionalisation of children by shifting the way Australia engages with aid and development.

Leigh is also the Founder and Principal Consultant at ALTO Global Consulting, working closely with the philanthropic, non-profit, corporate and government sectors globally to ensure that all children are protected from harm. ALTO provides expert technical advisory on issues impacting children, with a special interest in children living outside of family care.

Leigh is the recipient of the Victorian Young Australian of the Year Award (2009), the Australian Leadership Award (2009), and the JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (Human Rights and World Peace 2009). She holds a postgraduate degree in Business Administration and a 2014 alumni of the Asialink Leaders Program.


Gianna Mazzone
Gianna Mazzone is the Coordinator of the Intercountry Adoption Family Support Service at LifeWorks Relationship Counselling and Education Services.

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This service provides free Australia-wide counselling, information and support, and education services to families formed through intercountry adoption including expats and adult adoptees.

With over 20 years’ experience working with families of all configurations, Gianna is committed to supporting parents and carers in creating strong, healthy families. She has extensive experience in the delivery of parenting support and psycho-educational programs and therapeutic services to a variety of communities. In addition, she has collaborated with agencies who provide Foster Care services and parenting support to Aboriginal and CALD communities in developing tailored parenting programs.

Nyunggai Warren Mundine AO
Warren is a highly respected and influential businessman, political strategist and advocate for empowering the First Nations of Australia to build businesses and sustainable economies.

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His life and career have been shaped by a personal commitment to community and economic development.

Warren’s appointment as Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council in 2013 which he held until 2017 follows a long career in the public, business, policy, arts and community sectors. He is a former National President of the Australian Labor Party and Deputy Mayor &amp; Councillor of Dubbo City Council. He also served on Prime Minister John Howard’s National Indigenous Council.

Warren is a regular opinion contributor to major Australian and Indigenous newspapers including The Australian, Australian Financial Review, Daily Telegraph, Herald Sun & Courier Mail and the Koori Mail. He appears regularly on Sky News and ABC television and radio. He has received recognition for his contribution and commitment to Australia, including being made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2016.

Warren is a member of the Bundjalung First Nation of Australia and a descendant of the Gumbaynggirr and Yuin First Nations of Australia.

Permanency provides family


Family is the foundation of all societies. Permanency provides the family that government-controlled care never can.

Brad Murphy
Brad Murphy is a former AFL player for the Western Bulldogs, 2002-2006, and now coaches and plays for semi-professional Aussie Rules club, Melton.

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Brad was born to drug addicted parents and grew up in foster care in Victoria from 16 months. Young Brad was never going back to his birth parents — his mum “did a runner” to Western Australia soon after a previous overdose, while his dad spent most of Brad’s childhood in Pentridge prison. “The thing that chewed me up was not being able to be adopted. I felt I didn’t belong to anyone,” he says. He wanted to be adopted; his foster carers wanted to adopt him, but his dad wouldn’t provide consent. Brad was adopted by his long-time foster parents at the age of 18.

Mark Nixon
Mark is a leader in EY’s Human Services practice and has been consulting to the sector for over 15 years. He has provided advice to both Commonwealth and State governments on Disability, Foster Care, Aged Care and Social Housing Services.

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He is a specialist in public sector reforms encompassing policy analysis, market development, procurement, evaluation, performance improvement, corporate governance, pricing strategies, and business risk management. He has been an Assistant Secretary (SES) within the Australian Commonwealth Government and was involved in the formation of the Child Support Agency. He has over 30 years of Public Sector experience. His passion for child protection comes from his 10 years as a NSW Police Officer.

Karl O’Callaghan
Karl O’Callaghan is the former Police Commissioner for Western Australia, retiring in August this year after 13 years as Commissioner and 43 years as a Police Officer.

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He is the longest serving Commissioner in Western Australia post the Second World War. He is a passionate advocate for social change and is well known in his State and on the national police stage for his public comments calling for more sensible Government in regards to crime, substance abuse, domestic violence and children in need of protection. He is a Churchill Fellow, a Paul Harris (Rotary) Fellow and has been awarded the Australian Police Medal. In 2017 he was awarded Community Citizen of the Year by the Perth City Council. He was the first Police Officer in Western Australia to be awarded a PhD. He is married with four children, six grandchildren and he and his wife are foster carers, currently looking after three boys.

Child Protection: Dual Perspectives


Child Protection: Dual Perspectives

Karl O’Callaghan is the former Police Commissioner of Western Australia and has been vocal on the need for better child protection structures and a more sensible approach by Government. This has included writing a number of opinion pieces for the State newspaper. He was so concerned about the numbers of children in need of care and protection that he and his wife qualified to become foster carers and now care for three boys 8, 10 and 12. He is in the unique position of being able to talk about child protection from the perspective of one of the most senior government employees in Western Australia and as a carer.

Jeremy Sammut
Dr Jeremy Sammut is a Senior Research Fellow at the Sydney-based think tank, The Centre for Independent Studies.

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The author of a series of ground breaking research reports for the CIS on the child protection crisis in Australia, Dr Sammut is a leading advocate of greater use of adoption to give abused children safe and permanent homes.

His work has influenced recent child protection reforms in NSW and Victoria, and has led the national debate on adoption.

Dr Sammut’s book, The Madness of Australian Child Protection: Why Adoption Will Rescue Australia’s Underclass Children, was published in 2015.

Advocating for Change and for Children: Navigating the Policy Making Maze


Advocating for Change and for Children: Navigating the Policy Making Maze

Complex service systems often fail to meet the needs of ‘clients’ as intended.  This truism is relevant to the quest to create child-centred child protection systems in Australia.

This session will explore how advocates of reshaping services for children and their families can negotiate the maze of competing interests and perspectives that surround contentious issues including ‘drift’, permanency, and adoption.

Drawing on their diverse experiences as advocates of policy change, the speakers will share their insights into the strategies that can help drive the system-wide improvements to child and family services that are needed to ensure child protection systems truly operate ‘in the best interests of the child’.

Jack Thompson
One of Australia’s most loved and respected actors Jack Thompson has appeared in numerous Australian and American films.

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His appearance in Breaker Morant (1980) won him an Australian Film Institute award for Best Actor, and an award for Best Supporting Actor at the Cannes International Film Festival. In 1994, Jack was awarded the 'Raymond Longford Award' by the Australian Film Institute for his outstanding contribution to Australian cinema, and in 2009 was awarded the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) 'Lifetime Achievement Award' for services to Australian Film and Television.

When Jack was four years old his mother tragically died from an illness. His father, while loving his sons, was unable to care for them. Jack’s aunt arranged for the brothers to board at a school in Narabeen called Lake House. It was while he was at Lake House that he met a boy called Peter Thompson. Jack was adopted by the Thompson family. The boys grew up ‘joined at the hip’ and to this day, Peter is both Jack’s brother and closest friend. 42 years later, Jack again met his biological father.

Dr. Susan Tregeagle
Dr. Susan Tregeagle is Senior Manager Research and Advocacy for Barnardos Australia and Barnardos Centre for Excellence for Open Adoption.

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She holds qualifications in social work, social administration and a PhD and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. Sue has published extensively internationally and in Australia on child welfare policy. Areas of interest include: technology in social work, prevention of entry to care, open adoption, provision of out-of-home care.

Previous life experiences and vulnerabilities of children adopted from care in Australia: Implications for practice


Previous life experiences and vulnerabilities of children adopted from care in Australia: Implications for pratice

Barnardos Australia moved 210 NSW children from welfare care to adoptive families between 1987- 2013. The Australian Outcomes of Open Adoption study, provides practitioners and policy makers with a profile of the traumatic life experience of many of these children prior to entering their new families.

Many of the children placed for adoption from care had already encountered a high rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) within their birth families. These include significant abuse and neglect and are known to be associated with poor life outcomes. Furthermore, many had subsequently experienced protracted periods between first notification and entry to care, failed restorations, disrupted kinship care placements, and multiple foster placement breakdowns. Many had been separated from their siblings; some had lost contact with all their relatives. A high proportion had significant emotional or behavioural problems. All of these factors paint an overall picture of extreme vulnerability that may be compounded if planning does not consider their risk of continuing instability and premature discharge from out of home care.

We know that adoptive families can be recruited to take children damaged by abuse, neglect and very poor early life experiences. However, this paper presents us with the practice implications of preparing families for the task of caring for children who have experienced abusive, chaotic and stressful early lives. It hints at the identity challenges that these children may face.

Amy Conley Wright
Amy Conley Wright is Associate Professor of Social Work and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies at the University of Sydney.

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The Institute’s strategic vision is to pursue an applied research agenda that will focus primarily on understanding open adoption practice and building the evidence about children and their best interests.

A key focus for the Institute research agenda is the active exchange of research findings into policy and practice. Amy previously held academic positions in social work at University of Wollongong, where she is Honorary Senior Fellow at Early Start Research Institute, and in child and adolescent development at San Francisco State University. Her teaching, research, and practice experiences are in the areas of child advocacy, child and family policy, family support, and child maltreatment prevention, within Australia and internationally. She has served as a board member and has provided consulting on child and family services for a number of government and non-government organisations.

Research gaps and critical areas of enquiry in open adoption studies


Research gaps and critical areas of enquiry in open adoption studies

This session will present an overview of The University of Sydney Institute of Open Adoption Studies research initiatives and the gaps in local research evidence in the areas of permanency planning, post-adoption support, and practices to support contact and communicative openness. This will be followed by interactive small group dialogue around the challenges and opportunities within NSW and Australia to foster research and practice partnerships to address these gaps. The session will conclude with report back from small groups and discussion of future research plans by the Institute, including longitudinal research.

Community Sessions

Professor Selena Bartlett &
Sheryl Batchelor

See profiles above.

Workshop: Brains, Neuroplasticity and Parenting
A growing mountain of research in psychology and neuroscience has now clearly shown, the ways in which trauma degrades organic brain health and impairs social and educational development.

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In parallel with those studies, scientists have now documented the neurological processes that govern the brain’s ongoing ‘plasticity’ that have now shown that the damaging changes in the brain attributable to persistent high stress can be reversed via specific forms of intensive brain training. This workshop will discuss several evidence-based multi-domain computerised and non-computerised cognitive training programs and strategies that have been used in schools in Australia and overseas to improve a student’s cognitive and social skills which in turn has led to better life and academic outcomes. Topics such as: Learning About your Brain; Strategies for Calming the Brain; Neuroplasticity Programs to improve Brain Health; Screening for Cognitive Strengths and Weaknesses; Case Studies and Research to support the implementation of neuroplasticity programs into schools will be explored.

Kelly Gray

President, The Adoption and Permanent Care Association of NSW

The Adoption and Permanent Care Association of NSW (APANSW) facilitates a support network of families who have been brought together through their experiences of adoption and permanent Care in NSW.

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The APA is run by volunteer parents who seek to form connections for parents waiting to be placed and families with children through adoption and permanent care in NSW and from around the world. Each year the APA facilitate support camps, playgroups, and significant cultural events. As a registered charity we also provide financial aid to projects in developing countries.

Connecting with your Support Network


Connecting with your Support Network

With the conference theme 'Connections for Life', the Adoption and Permanent Care Association of NSW (APANSW) will present on the value of the support network of families who have been brought together through their experiences of adoption and permanent care in NSW. This talk will highlight ways in which community connections support parents and families before, during and after placements; and the ways we support lifelong connections to children's origins.

Karleen Gribble

Karleen Gribble (BRurSc, PhD) is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University.

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Her research interests focus primarily on the parenting and care of adopted and foster children with a history of trauma and various aspects of infant feeding. She is an adoptive parent via intercountry adoption and adoption from out of home care and from 2010-2013 was an advisor to the Federal Attorney General as the NSW representative on the National Intercountry Advisory Group.

Promoting attachment in foster parents


Promoting attachment in foster parents

The ability of foster parents to provide sensitive care and responsive care to thei children flows from the attachment that the caregiver has for the child. A caregiver who is strongly attached to their child will seek to promote their wellbeing even at the expense of their own wellbeing. Having an attached foster parent results in better outcomes for children including an increased likelihood of the child developing a positive internal working model of themselves and a decreased risk of placement disruption. It appears that the fear of loss, or actual loss of a child when a placement ends, hampers the ability of foster parents to attach to children. Foster parents need assistance to attach to their foster children, despite anticipating that children may not stay in their care. They also need assistance to healthily grieve when a child leaves. This presentation will summarise existing research and present recommendations on the ways in which foster parents can be aided to attach to their foster children. It will also discuss foster parent grief and loss and provide practical suggestions on supporting foster carers through grief so that they can maintain the ability to continue fostering and to effectively attach to future foster children.