Her hope for the sector and The Apiary’s work is “grounded in what works best for children and families – working alongside families to encounter contemporary challenges and opportunities.”
Director, Weaving Cultural Stories
Ranu is a Papuan Australian with lived experience and a deep belief around inclusion and the right of all people to connect with their culture.
She holds over 30 years’ experience in early childhood working across all areas of the sector including working directly with children, their families and Educators. Ranu has had extensive experience creating resources for the Early Childhood Education and Care Sector, these resources are for Educators, Students, RTO organisations, Management, Children and Families. In recent years this has included supporting educators to develop their cultural proficiency by critically reflecting on their own cultural awareness and how this translates into practice.
Ranu believes early childhood services are important in providing culturally inclusive spaces for all children, including those who identify as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or from one of the many culturally and linguistically diverse communities across Australia.
“We all have a right to know who we are, who our people are, where we are from and the stories of our family and cultural connections. I believe that early childhood services can be spaces where children can experience this.”
Statewide Consumer Carer Coordinator, Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health
Nicki holds a Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood and a Bachelor of Business (Human Resources) and in her early career worked in Early Learning Centres and schools as an Educator, Teacher’s Aide and Outside School Hours Care Coordinator.
Nicki has also spent many years working in Human Resources in the Early Childhood sector, supporting and strengthening the sector workforce. Nicki brings a passion for ensuring that perinatal and infant mental health services listen to the needs of children and families, and in 2022 Nicki was appointed Statewide Consumer Care Coordinator at the Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health.
In this role, Nicki uses her own lived experiences to connect with children and families to understand their needs, journey and experience, and ensures that the perinatal and infant mental health service system listens and responds to the voices of children and families.
“I feel that the ECEC sector should feel accessible, 'easy' and non-judgemental for our children and families - places where families can gather, be supported and where children get the critical best start to their lives.”
CEO, Lady Gowrie Tasmania
Mat has a background in the social services sector and policy, where he became aware of the Early Childhood sector and the role it plays in Children’s early development.
Mat is an experienced CEO with a long history of working with people and families in the not-for-profit sector. He is currently the CEO of Lady Gowrie in Tasmania.
“My vision is that the early childhood sector should look and feel for children and families as a safe, nurturing and essential place for children from 0 - 5 to start their learning and set them up for the rest of their lives.”
Aboriginal learning and support officer, Ballina Coast High School, NSW
Nakeisha is a First Nations woman living on the Bundjalung Nation on the Far North Coast of New South Wales.
Nakeisha has been working in the education sector for 3 years as Aboriginal learning and support officer where she utilises her cultural lens to support and guide young people with their culture, wellbeing and education and advocates for them to ensure that their voices are heard.
Nakeisha also leads a Goori leadership group, guiding students to take on leadership roles and ensuring that there is a cultural lens on school activities. Nakeisha is passionate about the importance of the early childhood sector and learning institutions working collaboratively with children and families, listening to their voices to better meet their needs.
“My vision is for the early childhood education sector and learning institutions to collaboratively work with their students regularly to gain feedback and insight on what will work best for the students and their needs.”
Director and Educational Leader, Choice Childcare, NSW
Karthika is an experienced Early Childhood specialist with a history of working in the education management industry.
She has a background in teaching and teaches at TAFE, one of Australia’s leading vocational education and training provider, and Sydney University. She is also a researcher at Sydney University.
Karthika also works as a trainer and consultant at Community Early Learning Australia with a specialisation in Child Protection issues as well as early literacy and numeracy development.
Karthika’s current role as Director and Educational Leader of two long day care and OOSH centres in Western Sydney, provides her with the opportunity to work closely with families and other support organisations to service a very low socio-economic area with many refugees and new migrants.
“All children should have access to early learning, regardless of their parents' or carers work or visa status. I am currently advocating that anyone with work rights in Australia should automatically have access to the Child Care Subsidy system.”
CEO, Australian Childcare Alliance, WA
Rachelle has been part of the Early Childhood sector for the past 14 years and has held various roles over the course of her career.
She found her niche and passion within the sector in 2009 with her current position as CEO of the Australian Childcare Alliance, where she oversees and implements the activities of the association.
Rachelle has enjoyed the opportunities the role has bought her over the years, taking her across the country, visiting services and building relationships with those working directly with families.
It is these experiences that have informed Rachelle’s belief of the importance of collaboration in making a difference to children and families, and she has recently submitted a paper which focuses on Child Health Services in WA and how collaboration and interaction could make a huge difference for families and children.
“All children must have access to quality early learning in a safe, caring, secure, developmentally appropriate environment. Families must feel secure knowing that the early childhood sector is there as another arm for them; to help support, care and educate their children.”
Senior Project Officer, Early Childhood Education and Care, QLD
Aunty Merle is an Aboriginal Nguigi women from Quandamooka Nation and Kunju from the Thipan people.
She has over 35 years experience supporting the community, working for the Department of Education in Queensland. She grew up and started working in schools in Far North Queensland, working at Gordonvale SS and numerous schools in and around Cairns. From Far North Queensland, she moved to South East Queensland and then transferred to Brisbane, working in Mitchelton SHS and worked in and around sounding schools in the South East Queensland.
Aunty Merle then moved into the Metropolitan Regional Office, working as a Regional Community Education Counsellor and then spent over 5 years working as a Senior Project Officer for the Culture in Community programme. Her time in Early Childhood Education and Care has been very important to her to make change. She believes that the need to make change in Education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families starts in the Early Years, helping our jarjums to become strong learners. In history this has not always been given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Education.
“In all of my roles it has been an honour to be a voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Education. I have had to adapt and navigate through the government systems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and it was always important to me not give up my cultural identity, as it did conflict with my Culture. Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives is and always will be my passion. Building Cultural Capability, is also a very strong part of my values, to know and understand the True History – Hidden History of the First Nations people of Australia”
Policy and Research specialist and Acting CEO, Early Learning Australia, VIC
Megan has over 20 years of experience in the Early Childhood sector as an education systems leader, evaluator, researcher, policy consultant, public servant and academic.
She has a long history in developing research driven policy and effective programs targeted at young people who are more likely to make a poor transition from school to further education and employment, and in providing evidence-based approaches to addressing vulnerability in early childhood.
Megan also holds extensive experience in leading high performing teams to implement transformational reforms, and holds deep relationships across Victorian early childhood education and care sector. From 2017-2018, Megan was director of the Mitchell Institute, and lead the institutes focus on early learning and youth transitions.
“The sector should be welcoming and inclusive and deliver the highest quality of education that meets the needs of children and families”
Evidence and Research Lead, Orange Compass and Implementation and Evaluation advisor, Monash University
Sarah holds a clinical and project background, beginning her journey into the Early Childhood space as a Paediatric Occupational Therapist.
She later progressed into project management, working on several projects in clinical settings and community settings. A particular highlight was developing a new model of care for 0-6 year olds with developmental concerns at the Royal Children’s Hospital, which won the Victorian Healthcare Award Excellence in improving Maternal, Child and Family health in 2022.
Sarah’s recent role as Partnership Manager at Our Place, has presented her with the opportunity to utilise her learning from her Master of Public Health and build her understanding of how the various areas within the Early Childhood sector interact. Her passion lies in making the theoretical and academic practical for action.
Sarah is currently employed as Evidence and Research Lead at Orange Compass and in Monash University's Health and Social Care Unit as an Implementation and Evaluation advisor.
“I believe that we need to utilise a systems lens in order to understand which components need changing and where our leverage points lie for change”
Pedagogy and Practice Manager, G8 Education, NSW
During her time as a lecturer, tutor and research assistant, Nicole worked with pre-service teachers to develop their pedagogical understandings in child development, play, creative arts, and educational theory.
Nicole undertook a research project examining the educational provision in Zimbabwe, where she worked with the local teachers to facilitate experiences for children in early childhood centres in remote areas. This experience transformed her professional journey in recognising the role that systemic political and sociocultural issues have on short and long-term outcomes for children.
As Pedagogy and Practice Manager, Nicole works collaboratively with stakeholders to elevate pedagogical approaches and practice development across the centre network, enabling her to influence and challenge systems and processes leading to ongoing continuous improvement.
“Children need to be empowered to lead their own learning journeys. They need to be supported by educators and teachers who foster their dispositions for learning, provide opportunities to challenge their thinking, and enable them to be active and creative in their play, while promoting a social, inquiry-based learning environment.”
Early Learning Manager, Gowrie Victoria
Alistair dates his passion and interest in early learning when he became enamoured by its theory and practice whilst completing a Master of Teaching in Early Childhood, and then spending several years as an ECT teacher.
He then branched out into a leadership role as Educational Leader at a community-run service and led a whole service approach to anti-bias education.
Alistair currently oversees the operational delivery of two services, engaging with the multifaceted experiences and connections a child and family will have in early childhood. His passion for early learning has seen his career support and guide organisations, centres and educators in their journeys exploring anti-bias education and leadership. In recognition of his work and programs, Alistair has received the Anti-Bias Award from the Social Justice in Early Childhood Foundation for which he is now a Board Member.
“For how the sector should look and feel for children and family, the word that comes to mind for me is support. Through understanding the individual contexts and needs, we can work within our systems to ensure a fair and just start to life.”
Policy and Government Relations Executive, Early Childhood Australia, VIC
Dan has worked in early childhood and community services for more than twenty years. Dan has extensive experience in service innovation, policy and practice development, and advocacy with an emphasis on improving outcomes for children and families.
He has held several project-based and collaborative roles, led service development and the implementation of evidence-based programs across early childhood, community and statutory service settings.
Dan has an interest in community development, integrated service delivery and consulting with children. He has undertaken PhD research focussing on policy, professional identity and integrated service delivery in early childhood education and care settings.
“My vision for the early childhood system is one that prioritises children’s wellbeing at its core. A system that is focussed on children’s rights, voice, and contribution, where children are able to see their value reflected in their communities.”
Centre Performance Coach, Goodstart Early Learning LTD
Jo is a committed and respectful professional with strong leadership experience, both within the sector as well as in other business arenas, having supported both not for profit and commercial entities.
She has strong, proven and evidenced experience in exemplary service operations, budgetary knowledge and undertakings, staff development, detailed and ground-breaking inclusive project experience, with internal and external stakeholders, and innovative change management, with a current coaching commitment and journey her organisation is embarking on. Her current focus includes a strengths-based approach to the continued integration and embedding of practices that include the value of coaching as an integral part of the organisational way of innovatively moving forward in a transformational manner.
She is a deeply passionate advocate for all children and their families and staff, committed to tirelessly engaging in advocacy work that leads towards real change, where its most needed.
This is extended to include a strong and passionate focus on regional Early Childhood matters and the importance of ensuring engagement in change management is inclusive of the dynamic and extensive needs within these areas.
She has strong teachings in Mental Toughness and Resilience (current accredited facilitator) and is a long standing and proud supporter and champion of Anti-Bullying concepts for all children and ensuring Child Safe inclusions are at the fore of all undertakings and decisions.
“I'm a proud employee within the sector and my aim is to continue to support, coach, mentor and advocate and build a strong entity for our children, families, educators and staff.”
Chrysalis Key Assets Transformation Hub, Key Assets Australia, NSW
Jamie is a senior executive, with qualifications in social impact and social work and has worked within State and Federal government departments and non-for-profit organisations in his 25-year career in the human services sector.
A large part of his career has been in direct service provision in education, health, statutory child protection, family support and disability, which have provided him with valuable insights into the challenges facing the early childhood sector, and how it sits within the wider system. Jamie has worked in various leadership roles over the course of his career and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Chrysalis Transformation Hub, a newly established independent team within Key Assets Australia.
Within his role, Jamie leads the newly established transformation hub, which is elevating the way that Key Assets Australia achieves positive and lasting outcomes for children, families, and communities. A key principle within the hub focuses on elevating and embedding the voices of children and young people across the organisation and embracing evidence-based learning, with the goal to have system influence.
“A systems approach values inclusiveness and collaboration, recognising that everyone has a role to play in creating a better future for children. This aligns with my personal and professional values of empathy, social responsibility, and a desire to create positive, lasting change…”.
Director, People and Strategy, Early Childhood Management Services (ECMS), VIC
Stuart has worked in the international development and education non-profit sectors for the last 12 years and has dedicated his career to working towards social justice.
The evidence around the correlation between a child’s experiences in their early years and children’s outcomes at school – and into adulthood – have led him to early childhood and place-based change as Director of People and Strategy at ECMS. In his role, which has a particular focus on transformational change, systems thinking is integral to how ECMS can influence the direction of the sector.
“I value the authenticity of distributed leadership, where leaders from across a sector (or, better still, leaders across sectors…), opt into their role as custodians of the collective future.”
Head of Education and Quality, Only About Children
Angela started her journey in Early Childhood 27 years ago as an assistant educator and has since worked in varied roles across the sector, ranging from assessment and training, to long day care and home-based care roles which have given Angela the opportunity to design and deliver training across both settings.
Currently, Angela is the Head of Education and Quality at Only About Children where she leads the education team who are responsible for ensuring the quality and consistency of pedagogy and practice for the organisation.
“I beleive that every child and their family has the right to an early learning journey that complements their need, values and community. one that is flexible and suitable to their needs, one that they choose to be part of.”
Executive Director, Early Childhood Management Services (ECMS), VIC
Rebecca has been a leader in early childhood education and care for 30 years. She began her leadership journey in South Australia as a teacher in both prior to and school settings.
Rebecca has led early childhood education and care operations, regulation, policy and curriculum development at the executive levels, within both government and the non-government sectors across South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
“My vision is - no mess in the middle. Families and children move through the 0-8 early education pathway, without confusion, without difficulty, and with clarity about what learning matters the most.”
Director of Awabakal Preschool, NSW
Bella has been in the Early Childhood sector for 12 years, starting as a preschool educator at Awabakal Preschool, a leading Aboriginal organisation in Newcastle, New South Wales.
For the last four years, she has been director of one of the Awabakal Preschool Services. Bella is a descendant of the Bunjalung Nation. She is passionate about embedding Aboriginal perspectives in programs and practices and providing culturally safe spaces for children and families, including nature and play in learning. She is pursuing her passion for cultural inclusion by completing a Bachelor of Early Childhood and in a consulting and advocacy capacity.
“My vision for the early childhood sector would be for all children, families and staff to have access to a safe, supportive, accessible and inclusive space, no matter what background, vulnerability experience, race, culture, gender, financial capacity remoteness and more.”
Lyndsey Healy has a career spanning some 20 years across multiple roles and program areas at Gowrie South Australia.
She has experience working directly with children and families as an educator, teacher and service leader, as well as roles in facilitating professional learning and grant-funded projects around parenting and community programs. As a service leader, Lyndsey has authored multiple articles, guided families through legislative, financial and discriminatory barriers, and believes that early childhood education is an educational right of every child.
"I would like to see a shift in flexible policy approaches and funding models across the sector that are designed to enable rather than restrict access to services so that all families can access services for their children on an equitable basis around individual circumstances. The Apiary Fellowship enables professionals from different parts of the early childhood sector to deconstruct traditionally held professional silos and learn from one another's funds of knowledge."
Alexandra Heard is the Engagement Coordinator at the Association of Graduates of Early Childhood Studies while also working as an Early Educations teacher in Fawkner.
It is this mix of on-the-ground experience and broader consultation work that has shaped Alexandra to be a collaborative leader who recognises the importance of teamwork, understanding the systems lens and the role of disadvantage in the sector. Alexandra saw an opportunity to make a meaningful and direct difference in the lives of others and has a vision of a sector that makes children, families and sector professionals feel welcome and valued,
"My vision for the optics of the sector is that children and families feel welcome and valued, and that this is a reciprocal feeling towards the staff as well.”
Jason Roberts comes with extensive experience in early education as a senior leader. After completing his term as the CEO of G8 Education in 2018, Jason Roberts Founded the Sector, -a digital publishing company specialising in the ECEC sector.
He also acquired two small community focused for-profit centres in Sydney. Jason believes that his job as a participant in the ECEC community is to ensure that the families, team members and children are cared for and nurtured to the very best of his ability. Jason’s broader vision for the sector is that that all providers are as committed to the very best outcomes for those that are involved in their services as he his.
“There is no right or wrong way to deliver ECEC services. We are all on our journey and must strive to be better. If we are better, more unified, our stakeholders will be too.”
Jane Austen has spent years in strategic policy and intergovernmental relations roles at the Department of Education before joining C&K as the Manager of Advocacy and Communications.
Jane would like members of the ECEC sector take up active roles as advocates for child development and child agency and lead the broader education sector in adapting educational delivery models to the changing needs in society. Bringing an understanding of a systems lens as connecting elements and collaborating under shared values and purpose, compliments Jane’s natural outlook. I would greatly welcome an opportunity to further develop those skills and deepen that understanding. Her role at C&K combines advocacy and communications – a purposeful strategic combination that both leads the advocacy agenda and brings the workforce along on that journey; that empowers the workforce to influence and create ideas for change, with the expertise and opportunity to influence agendas of decision-makers
"My understanding of systems lens – connecting elements and collaborating under shared values and purpose – compliments my natural outlook. I would greatly welcome an opportunity to further develop those skills and deepen that understanding."
Melissa has worked in the early childhood sector for over 30 years. Her experience includes service delivery in long day care, pre-school, family day care, outside school hours care and occasional care.
Melissa has worked for different levels of government organisations - Commonwealth, State and Local government and has a good understanding of the influence of politics in the ECEC sector. Melissa has led the development of a Children's Services Strategy to ensure an aspirational vision for planning in the local community. Her experience also includes the development of a Child Safeguarding policy and Children's Services RAP. Melissa has been part of leading a national team who conducted quality assurance visits to services across Australia.
“Early childhood services are valued as an essential part of a healthy and engaged community. Integrated learning services and play-based approach are a quality benchmark for early childhood learning that should be available to all children in every community. Early childhood education should be accessible, equitable, flexible and enable community connections and support community values.”
Courtney Hala is the Statewide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perinatal and Mental Health Coordinator for the Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service.
Courtney is a registered midwife and a strong, proud Aboriginal Wiradjuri woman who actively participates in her local (Brisbane North) Aboriginal community. With experience in government, non-government and Aboriginal Community controlled organisations, Courtney has first-hand knowledge of the integral role that early education services play in reducing the gaps in the health and wellbeing of communities.
“I believe that everyone, with the right support, has the potential to achieve positive growth for themselves and participate meaningfully in society … we need to work together and support our community through the journey of healing in a culturally safe and culturally appropriate way.”
Maurita Cavanough is a Bundjalung woman from Ballina NSW, who has worked in the Early Childhood sector for the last 20 years.
As the director of Jarjum Centre, an aboriginal early childhood service, Maurita has overseen a transformative approach to education. And in 2020 Maurita joined both the Board of the North Coast Aboriginal Alliance and the NSW ECED Aboriginal advisory group. The NSW ECED Aboriginal Advisory group co-designed with the Department the First Steps strategy which was launched in 2021. Maurita recognises that working with a system lens provides a great method to collaborate and co-design with many knowledge holders effectively and constructively. Systems thinking is how she has learnt to culturally identify, make meaning and connection to the world around her. She has a strong belief that to learn and act collaboratively there must be a shared vision and opportunity to hear and learn from one another.
"The early childhood sector should be reflective and responsive to the context of the community that it is situated in. I also recognise that our world is quickly changing, and I think that now is a great time to consider how to better prepare children for the future."
Birgitte Maibom started her career as a teacher, solidifying her belief in education and its power to make positive change in the world.
As the CEO of Learning Links, since 2015, Birgitte embodies the role of a leader with a long-term vision to remove the barriers that exist for children affected by learning difficulties and disabilities. Since 2021, Birgitte has participated as a partner in the Thrive By Five initiative which aims to bring much-needed reform to the early childhood system. By participating in Harvard Business School’s Perspectives in Non-Profit Management in 2019, Birgitte recognises the importance of global approaches to collaboration and social impact and the immense potential of the systems lens.
“My vision is an early education sector that is an integrated part of an equitable, affordable and high-quality inclusive education system that is welcoming and open to all children and families irrespectively of socio-economic status and children's abilities, cultural background, and other characteristics.”
Michele Carnegie’s experience of the early childhood sector is one of great strength, shaped by the education needs of children and care requirements of parents.
Michele is the CEO of Community Early Learning Australia (CELA), where her leadership and management decisions since commencing her role as CEO, have depended on applying a systems lens. Michele believes that working with a systems lens view enabled CELA to become the highly influential and financially successful organisation it is today.
Michele’s vision for the ECEC sector is of integrated education, health, and family service where children are at the centre of all decisions, where all families feel culturally safe and genuinely belong, and where educators are professionally supported, valued, and suitably remunerated and leaders are resourced to build the type of positive culture that inspires teachers and educators to enrich the lives of every child they work with.
“Acting collaboratively amplifies the collective voice, which can have an influential and powerful impact, particularly when individuals that make up the collective voice are recognized for their integrity, experience, expertise, and knowledge.”
As the National Training Manager at Catalyst Education, Katherine Hussar has 17 years of experience in the Early Childhood sector.
Katherine’s vast experience has given her a unique opportunity to be able to continue down her own path of making a difference in the lives of children and families by supporting the training and development of Educators of the future. Katherine champions working collaboratively with a range of people that come with this unique perspective provides an opportunity for everyone involved to widen their knowledge, skills, opinions, and thoughts. Katherine has a passion to create a greater opportunity for impact.
“As a sector, we should continue to question process and continuously reflect and grow to meet the ever-changing needs of children and families in a constantly changing and evolving world. All children should have an opportunity to access Early Childhood Education and should not be disadvantaged in any way to be able to access this.”
Starting out as an early childhood educator for 18 years, Elfie Taylor has a wide range of experience in early childhood education.
Currently the manager of an Early Childhood Improvement Branch within the Department of Education, she has in-depth knowledge of the Early Childhood reform and the functions and responsibilities required by the Department, the sector, and key stakeholders. Through her experience both in managing the Early Years Management Implementation and the Quality Assessment and Regulation Division, Elfie has solidified her voice as a senior expert in early childhood education.
“High quality can only be successfully achieved if we all do our part...I love the concept of capacity building rather than rules and compliance. I feel once others understand the why you can bring them along for the journey. They then, in turn, can own their part of that journey.”
As a qualified early childhood teacher, Carrie Rose has over 30 years of experience in various positions ranging from lead educator, assistant director, director, educational leader and as an approved provider.
Carrie's early learning centre received a service's highest rating under the National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education in 2016 and 2019. In addition, in her role as a consultant, Carrie has supported over 300 early learning centres to improve practices, pedagogy and leadership through coaching and mentoring.
Carrie believes that remaining up to date with professional theory can inform significant change and improve the outcomes for children and families.
"Learning and acting collaboratively "is where innovation can happen … early childhood in Australia deserves those who can and will be a voice for improvement."
Dr Mia Christensen is a registered teacher, early childhood researcher and professional, facilitating and leading innovations and partnerships in the early childhood education and care sector.
Mia has been a teacher for nearly 30 years working in remote, regional, and urban settings in Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia. For the past fifteen years, she has worked as an academic at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Mia is currently working as the Education Innovations and Partnerships Manager at G8 Education. In 2020, she was the recipient of the prestigious Jean Ferguson Memorial Award in Early Childhood Education recognizing the significant contribution her Doctoral studies have made in building the capacity of teachers and educators to support young children’s access and engagement in early childhood sustainability education. Mia’s research for her Doctoral thesis enabled the voices of young children, specifically in relation to the complex concept of sustainability, to be heard.
“My vision for the future is a sector that celebrates and embeds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives, promotes inclusion and strengths-based approaches, celebrates and communicates the benefits of a play-based curriculum, and where the broad concept of sustainability is valued and informs transformational early childhood education and care.”
Tracey McKay is an innovative, collaborative leader with strategic and business planning experience across the ECEC sector, including operational, financial, human resource and stakeholder management.
Tracey has over 18 years of experience in early education and since March 2021, has been the Chief Executive Officer of Swinburne Children’s Centres . Tracey is an skilled communicator with proven ability to build relationship networks. She brings experience managing, leading and motivating teams in order to achieve goals and objectives for change. Tracey believes that the early education sector should offer high quality education and care that is affordable and accessible for all Australian children, regardless of family circumstances.
“I believe that every child has the right to learn and thrive in Australia, regardless of race, religion, gender or postcode. A systems approach can help identify and understand the cause of problems and what is needed to break the cycle of disadvantage. Working across the whole system can influence change at all levels, improving early learning outcomes for all children.”
Having begun as an enthusiastic graduate teacher in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands in 1981, Penny Cook has over 40 years of experience in the early childhood sector.
She has worked in New South Wales; city, rural and remote South Australia and New York, in a wide range of roles including teacher, consultant, site leader, and project and policy officer. Penny is now working as Director of an integrated site in rural South Australia. Penny would like families to experience equity and respect for their cultural practices and beliefs to be able to rely on stable processes in a system that is easy to navigate.
“I love it when we have a professional learning community that can ask each other questions such as ‘what makes you say that?’, ‘how have you come to do things in this way?’ ‘who might be advantaged or disadvantaged by this action or thought?’ We’re currently working towards this at our centre and it takes trust, practice and unlearning.”
Andrea came into the early childhood sector by creating a service for her own children, Leor, which provides children with access to quality education and care in their own home.
It quickly evolved to deliver early intervention to children accessing the NDIS and now incorporates holistic allied health therapies. Early childhood education has been a lifelong passion, from her mother’s own Montessori school in Sri Lanka, to going on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Educational Studies (Early Years) at the Australian Catholic University after establishing Leor in 2018. In October 2021, Leor was acquired by G8 Education and Andrea was appointed to the Executive Leadership Team of G8 where she brings a child-centred voice to the future direction of the organisation. Andrea advocates to Government and other leaders to create systems change for children in vulnerable and complex circumstances who often fall between the gaps. Andrea is also a lawyer and has a passion for social justice and human rights.
“The future success of our sector and Australia’s children is dependent on our commitment to collaborating and advocating for systemic and societal change. However, structural change alone, including policy reform, will not be enough to create a brighter future for our children. Addressing power imbalances, removing societal biases, and adopting innovative thinking has the potential for exciting results, which will hopefully achieve greater access to education for all children. To be a success, this new approach needs to be tackled from numerous angles, with input invited from a multitude of people, organisations and perspectives.”
Barbie has extensive experience in the early childhood sector, beginning as a paediatric occupational therapist at primary and secondary health and not for profit community sites for children up to 12 years.
This includes those with a developmental delay, disability or challenging behaviour and their families, in urban, remote, aboriginal and multicultural communities, managing early intervention multi-disciplinary teams for children under school age. As the manager of a regional funding body, she supported children with additional needs in close to 100 preschools and oversaw the development of early literacy resources for mainstream, Aboriginal and multicultural families. The founding Executive Director, Barbie has grown Paint the Town REaD into a national movement that builds the early literacy capacities of children under school age, now operational in 6 States and over 80 communities.
“My vision for the future of early childhood education in Australia is for it to evolve into a strength-based, collaborative system, built to best-support children, their families and community. I believe we can build a system that not only gives every child the best possible start in life, but also sets them up to thrive once they enter the formal school setting, and beyond throughout life.”
Cara is a kindergarten teacher of 15 years, worked predominantly with refugee and CALD children 0-5 years of age and their families across a variety of communities, demographics and service provider types.
She joined the AEU Branch Council, then Branch Executive, then completed the AEU’s ‘Women in Leadership’ program. From there, Cara accepted an invitation to stand for deputy vice president of early childhood. After three years in that position, she was elected vice president. Activism, advocacy, and leadership play a strong part in Cara’s vision for early childhood educators. She sees these elements as an essential part of the educator role, but believes more members need to recognise how they can exercise them broadly, as part of everyday practice.
“In the coming years I would like to see an early childhood education system that is well-funded, operates within the best conditions, and is run by professionals who feel valued, respected and fairly-paid. For this to happen, we need to foster deeper community engagement to ensure a widespread understanding of the benefits of play-based learning. We also need to develop stronger relationships with other professionals, to enable the development of a multidisciplinary approach. Ultimately, we need to ensure the voices of children are heard, and that we keep striving towards universal access to preschool education for every child.”
Julie started at CCC in mid 2016 to lead the establish and development of the Victorian Inclusion Agency.
She has a long history of working for the not-for-profit sector. Her previous roles have given her a deep understanding of the community education and care sector, and current policy contexts. Julie set up and managed the Professional Support Coordinator Program Qld for the Health and Community Services Workforce Council. She worked as part of the leadership team for that organisation for nearly 10 years, managing workforce planning and development programs. Her other roles include four years as Director of Gowrie Qld’s Training and Consultancy unit. Prior to 1990, she worked as an educator and director in child care centres and family day care. Julie’s vision is to build on the strong history of CCC as a leader and advocate for not-for-profit and community owned education and care services.
“In five years, I hope the sector and all the professionals who dedicate their lives to it will be recognised for their extremely important work, and the vital role they play in shaping the lives of young children and their families. I would like to see this recognition extend across the broader community, with fair acknowledgement of the role we play in the development of Australia’s future. The result would be a society that is willing to invest in the resources required to provide the high-quality education and care all young children need.”
Kelly’s focus is on the role of social policy for transforming and improving the quality of life of Australians.
In her role at Goodstart Early Learning, she advocates systems, policy and funding change to improve access and affordability to quality early childhood education and care. Kelly has almost 15 years’ experience in the Queensland Government, primarily in legislative reforms and strategic funding negotiations. She has worked right across the social services spectrum, including homelessness, mental health, child safety and early childhood, with a particular focus on improving the experience of children and young people at risk of abuse or neglect.
“My vision is for an inclusive early childhood education sector that supports access to quality learning and genuine participation for all children, regardless of their background, location or family situation. For genuinely inclusive participation to occur, we need to recognise that often some children need more support than others, or support delivered in a different way. Furthermore, to ensure this can happen, our educators, teachers and service providers need access to the appropriate support and resources that will allow them to welcome any child, at any time.”
Kim’s career to date has always been within the early childhood sector.
Starting out as a Group Leader in Occasional Care in the Northern Territory, to now leading the education arm ECMS, she has worked with and alongside children, families, communities and colleagues in the day-to-day delivery of high-quality early childhood programs. Kim has undertaken the role of lecturer within a dual institution, offering TAFE and higher education degrees. She has previously worked within the Inclusion Support Program, leading a regional agency and for large non-profit ECEC organisations across three states in leadership roles, facilitating high quality outcomes for children and the workforce.
“Fundamentally, the future success of the sector will be built upon strengthened government and community support. This support will be based on an understanding of the value, role and importance of education during a child’s first 1,000 days. Regulations and policy positions should be about more than simply meeting minimum standards. Instead they should be driven by what is best for our children. Evidenced-based pedagogical practice should be the standard, with contemporary professional development opportunities readily accessible. And based on all of the above, I hope to see our committed and passionate workforce appropriately recompensed for their skills and qualifications, and the impact they make.”
Lennie’s experiences range from being an early childhood educator for fifteen years mainly in vulnerable communities (remote, rural and metro) to university teaching, research, writing and advocacy.
Lennie’s advocacy work focuses on social justice and universal access to quality early childhood programs that benefit children, families and their communities. She works with organisations (govt and non-govt), advocacy groups and with many people across a wide context of early childhood settings e.g., schools, early childhood settings, playgroups, family and community centres, government committees and projects, research centres and teaching early childhood pre-service and post graduate early childhood students.
“The early childhood education sector needs a knowledgeable, skilled, well-remunerated, and healthy workforce. This will ensure we can create and deliver dynamic programs for children, families and their communities. These programs should be universally accessible from the prenatal stage and throughout childhood. My vision for the sector is one that invites and welcomes participation and comment from a variety of audiences, to further support the journey towards transformational change.”
Lisa has extensive experience working in a range of settings from birth to twelve years and adult vocational education.
She has worked for Goodstart Early Learning for the past 14 years. In her role as Operations Manager, she provides leadership, coaching and mentoring to a group of 10 Area Managers across NSW. As part of the State Leadership Team Lisa plays an integral role in the development of the State Plan to deliver on state and national priorities and initiatives in line with Goodstart’s vision, purpose and strategic plan. Lisa values the provision of quality early learning and focuses her efforts to ensuring that centres can deliver on commercial and quality goals, hand in hand and not either in isolation.
“My vision is for an Australia where all children have access to high quality early education, regardless of their geographical address, family situation, or social status. All children should have access to active participation and involvement in early education opportunities and have the confidence to start school successfully. A particular priority is making sure this is the case for children with additional needs and for children experiencing vulnerable or at-risk circumstances. We should take this opportunity to come together with the common goal of advocating and influencing government policy. We should push for investment in new research and commit to sharing strategies that will continually build the capability of the sector. The ongoing improvement of child safety and protection measures within our learning environments should also remain a top priority.”
Lisa works on the Grassroots level as it is her way of giving back to her mob as she supports jarjums (children) in their learning and advocates for their families by being their first point of call and breaking down cultural barriers within the wider community.
For the past 4 years Lisa has been a Senior Educator with Goodstart and has now taken up a role as Cultural Design Lead. Locally, she is on the Board of Directors at Jumbunna Early Intervention and Community Preschool, she is a trained facilitator in various parenting programs and a Cultural Consultant within the Bundjalung Nation. Nationally she has joined the Big Steps – United Workers Union Special Learning Reference Group and Globally she is currently working on a Nationwide Advocacy Project as a Global Leader for the World Forum Foundation in America as well as representing her people in the World Forum Foundation Indigenous Peoples Action Group. Lisa believes we have the most important role as Early Childhood educators in changing this country and moving forward. We have the next generation in our hands who are open minded and willing to learn, so let’s teach them, it’s time.
“Most Australians are increasingly wanting to learn more about our true history and diverse culture and, like all learning, the best place to start is in the early years. They must work alongside us to better understand the true richness across our nation so we can move forward together on our cultural journey.”
Mel dates her passion for ECEC from her first engagement working on the floor in the toddlers’ room of a long day care centre.
As Centre Director of an employer sponsored long day care centre, she focused on the critical importance and value of relationships with families, always acknowledged that parents were their child’s first teachers. Formerly General Manager for Playgroup NSW, Mel believes passionately in working with children and families for impact within the broader early childhood sector. She led Playgroup NSW through a complete transformation of their early childhood strategy and vision for young children, their families, their communities to drive outcomes for the 40,000 families, and 20,000 children that attend playgroups across NSW.
“Influencing sustainable change is the basis of my vision for the sector over the next five years. I want to see a deeper analysis of the challenges we face, and give the right people a seat at the table, who can work collectively in leading authentic improvement. At the core of my vision is that children’s voices are heard, listened to, and actively engaged with as we make crucial decisions around the evolution of our practice. For parents and families, my hope is that they only ever have to tell their story once. Beyond this, they should expect we will remain committed to working with them in an ongoing and holistic manner, connecting them to appropriate services, and establishing strong relationships that are centred around meeting the needs of their children.”
Nicole is currently the Executive Manager, Early Learning at Gowrie Victoria and member of the committee of the Victorian branch of Early Childhood Australia.
She has previously been a Board member of the Early Learning Association of Australia (now a life member). Nicole has worked as an educator, a teacher and a manager of early learning services. Her recent experience has included working in local government as both a Pedagogical Leader and Manager of kindergartens and an engagement at the University of Melbourne in a research role, co-authoring the final research report for the Victorian Advancing Early Learning Study (2017). Nicole has also co-designed and facilitated a range of training programs for early years professionals focused on the Abecedarian Approach Australia (3a) across several jurisdictions. In her role at Gowrie Victoria Nicole leads five early learning services focused on operations as well as developing strategy focused on building capability of the early childhood workforce with the ultimate goal of supporting learning and development for all children. She has a specific interest in building capacity in the early childhood workforce, with a particular focus on emerging leaders.
“If I had to sum up my vision for the early childhood education sector with one word it would be ‘impact’. I believe the sector can continue to build and raise its profile, not only amongst potential new teachers and educators considering a career in the sector, but more generally within the community as a means of positively influencing the trajectory of our children’s learning and development outcomes. We must continue to strive to raise the quality of the programs and services we offer, particularly in areas where children and families experience the most vulnerability.”
Coming from over 30 years of diverse experience within the early childhood education sector, Kim wanted the opportunity to engage with other leaders in an environment that “enabled a balance of provocation to ensure rigorous debate and questioning across The Apiary cohort”.
She has found that the benefit of The Apiary is to enable a collective group to think about systems change and to unpack the complex ecosystem of the sector. She is currently the CEO of Big Fat Smile.
Bringing 35 years of experience in the early childhood sector, Sandra joined The Apiary to connect with others who aligned to her interest in futures thinking and systems change.
Her hope for the sector and The Apiary’s work is “grounded in what works best for children and families – working alongside families to encounter contemporary challenges and opportunities.”
Having had a diverse set of experiences across a range of early years settings and positions, Prue joined The Apiary to further enhance her understanding of systems change, and to engage with ways to bring about change for children.
Her vision for the future of the system is one where “all children have access to affordable high-quality education and care”.
As an active teacher in the early childhood field, Danielle joined The Apiary for the opportunity to challenge her thinking about the Sector, while also sharing her extensive knowledge and experiences.
Danielle says that The Apiary has “lead me to broaden my thinking about our sector, meet the other amazing Fellows and built my confidence to continue to advocate for children, families and our Early Childhood Sector”.
With a wealth of experience in professional learning, teacher education and research in the sector, Cathrine joined The Apiary for the opportunity it presented to connect with other leaders who share her commitment to “high quality educational experiences for young children”.
She feels that the systems approach taken by Fellows is essential and necessary for bringing about change and has found her experiences with the group to date to be “enriching both personally and professionally”.