Early Childhood Australia National Conference 2019



We are delighted to announce our keynote speakers and panel members for the 2018 ECA National Conference in Sydney.

International Keynote Speakers

Dr Stuart Shanker

Dr Stuart Shanker, D. Phil. (Oxon), is a distinguished research professor emeritus of psychology and philosophy from York University, and the creator of The MEHRIT Centre and the Self Regulation Institute. His expertise has been sought internationally as an advisor on early child development and self-regulation to school boards and government organisations. His five-step Self-Reg model—The Shanker Method®—is a powerful process for understanding and managing stress in children, youth and adults.

An internationally acclaimed speaker, educator and author, Stuart has written many influential books and articles including the top-selling educational book, Calm, alert and learning: Classroom strategies for self-regulation (Pearson, 2012). His newest book, Self-Reg: How to help your child (and you) break the stress cycle and successfully engage with life (Penguin, 2016) has garnered glowing reviews, and is being translated and published around the world.

Professor Paul Ramchandani

Paul Ramchandani is LEGO® Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning (PEDAL) at Cambridge University, United Kingdom (UK). He leads a research team investigating the role of play in children’s early development, and works as a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in the UK National Health Service.

After undertaking medical studies, Paul obtained a degree in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He then completed training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and obtained a DPhil from Oxford University in 2005. Prior to taking up his appointment in Cambridge in January 2018, Paul led the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Group at Imperial College London.

Paul’s research is focused on early child development, with a particular interest in the prevention of emotional and behavioural problems in the early years of life. This research has been supported by Fellowships awarded by the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust, and more recently by substantive grant funding from the National Institute of Health Research. 

Paul works with a multi-disciplinary team including expertise in psychology, neuroscience, education and psychiatry. Details of the current work of the team, and recent publications, can be found on the PEDAL and pPOD websites.

Dr Cindy Blackstock

Dr Cindy Blackstock is Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She is also a member of the Gitxsan First Nation, and has 25 years of social work experience in child protection and Indigenous children’s rights.

Cindy’s promotion of culturally based and evidence-informed solutions has been recognised by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, Indspire, Front Line Defenders and many others. 

An author of over 50 publications and a widely sought-after public speaker, Cindy has collaborated with other Indigenous leaders to assist the United Nations Committee on the rights of the child in the development and adoption of a General Comment on the rights of Indigenous children.

Australian Keynote

Stan Grant

Stan Grant is the Indigenous Affairs Editor for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and special advisor to the Prime Minister on Indigenous constitutional recognition. A multi-award winning current affairs host, author and adventurer, Stan’s career in journalism has spanned more than 30 years. In that time he has travelled the world covering major stories, such as the release of Nelson Mandela, the troubles in Northern Ireland, the death of Princess Diana, the war in Iraq and the Pakistan earthquake.

Stan has been a political correspondent for the ABC, a Europe correspondent for the Seven Network and a senior international correspondent for the international broadcaster CNN. He has won many major awards including an Australian TV Logie, an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award and the prestigious US Peabody Award. He is also a four-time winner of the highly prized Asia TV Awards, including reporter of the year.

Panel on Ethical Leadership

Dr Simon Longstaff AO

Dr Simon Longstaff began his working life on Groote Eylandt (Anindilyakwa) in the Northern Territory. Following a period studying law in Sydney and a brief career teaching in Tasmania, Simon undertook postgraduate studies in philosophy from Cambridge University.

Simon commenced his work as the first Executive Director of The Ethics Centre in 1991. Simon’s distinguished career includes being named one of Australian Financial Review’s BOSS True Leaders in 2016, with Carol Schwartz AM noting: ‘I don’t know one CEO or chairman in corporate Australia who has not worked with Simon Longstaff’. Simon is a Fellow of CPA Australia and, in June 2016, was appointed an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University’s National Centre for Indigenous Studies. Simon also serves on a number of boards and committees across a broad spectrum of activities. In 2013, he was made an officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the community through the promotion of ethical standards in governance and business, to improving corporate responsibility, and to philosophy.

Catharine Hydon

With a Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood) and an MEd in Early Childhood Education, Catharine Hydon has extensive experience in the early childhood sector in Australia and overseas. Beginning as a teacher in a sessional kindergarten program, she went on to manage a range of services for children and their families—from long day care settings to community hubs.

Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood field is an important part of her commitment to the sector. She is a long-time member of the Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and currently serves as the Co-chair of the Reconciliation Advisory Group. She is a regular contributor to ECA publications. She is a co-author on the recently published Ethics in Action—A practical guide to implementing the ECA Code of Ethics. Catharine is also a member of the Respectful Relationship Expert Advisory Group for the Victorian Department of Education, and the EY-10 Curriculum and Assessment Committee for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA).

Anthony Semann

Anthony Semann is a Founding Director at Semann & Slattery, a research, consulting and professional development company. As a university qualified early childhood teacher, he has witnessed, researched and published in the area of leadership for over 20 years. Anthony continues to work internationally, advising on issues of leadership, curriculum, pedagogy and environments for learning. He remains hopeful that a new way of leading may strengthen organisations and free those who suffer under poor leadership.

Professor Linda Newman

Linda Newman is Conjoint Associate Professor for the School of Education at The University of Newcastle. Recent research has included work on the project Futuro Infantil Hoy (Children’s Futures Today) in Chile to build capacity in literacy learning with early childhood educators, families and communities.

Panel on Transitions and future directions in early education and care

Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson is the Deputy Secretary for Early Childhood and Child Care. She is leading the implementation of the Australian Government’s comprehensive child care reform package coming into effect in July 2018. The reforms will deliver on the Government’s commitment to a more affordable, accessible and flexible child care system.

Prior to her current position, Jackie was a Deputy Secretary at Social Services, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Immigration. She has also gained significant experience from a number of senior positions in a variety of Commonwealth portfolios in program and policy areas, including health, disability, community services, education, employment, budget and finance issues.

Jackie has a Bachelor of Science degree from the Australian National University and is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Judy Hebblethwaite

Judy Hebblethwaite is Chair of the Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority (ACECQA) Board. She has worked for more than 35 years in education, including more than 13 years in various roles associated with early childhood. She was a teacher before holding a number of senior positions in the Tasmanian Department of Education. These included Director, Early Years, as well as managing the child care regulatory unit in the Department.

Judy has a strong commitment to quality early childhood education and care. She oversaw the final development, introduction and implementation of the state Child Care Act in 2000, and was responsible for much of the establishment phase of the Child and Family Centre program in Tasmania. Judy also led Tasmania’s participation in the development of the National Quality Agenda framework and the Universal Access to Early Childhood Education initiative.

Ros Cornish

Ros has worked as a strong advocate for the early childhood education and care sector for over 30 years in roles including teacher, centre director and public servant.  As Chief Executive Officer at Lady Gowrie Tasmania, an organisation that provides a range of services to children, families and early childhood professionals, allows her to keep abreast of current issues to support the advocacy role.’

Geraldine Atkinson

Geraldine Atkinson is a Bangerang/Wiradjuri woman who has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available to Koorie people through education. She is President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI), Deputy Chair of SNAICC—National Voice for our Children, and the chairperson of Lidje MACS and Batdja Aboriginal Preschool in Shepparton.

Geraldine represents VAEAI on a number of national and state committees while maintaining her involvement at the regional and local level. She represents all Indigenous Education Consultative Bodies (IECBs) in Australian states and territories on the Ministerial Council on Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEEDYA).

Julia Davison

Julia Davison is the CEO of Goodstart Early Learning, which is Australia’s largest provider of early learning and care—with 649 centres across Australia.  Goodstart employs over 13,500 people and has an annual revenue of almost $1 Billion.  Goodstart was created by a partnership with four of Australia’s leading charities – Mission Australia, Social Ventures Australia, The Brotherhood of St Laurence and The Benevolent Society – who saw the potential to operate the failed ABC Learning Centres as a Social Enterprise.

Goodstart is a not for profit that reinvests all of its surplus in its people, its centres and its purpose.