We are delighted to announce our Keynote speakers for the 2021 ECA National Conference Young Citizens: the right to play, learn and be heard.



Sir Kevan Collins

Kevan Collins is a Board Member of Goodstart Early Learning. Kevan has worked in the UK public service for more than 30 years. In 2011, he became the first chief executive of Education Endowment Foundation—an independent charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement—and led the organisation for eight years.

Prior to this role, Kevan led a varied and distinguished career in education. After starting off as a primary school teacher in London, UK, he went on to lead the English Primary Strategy as national director, and then served as director of children’s services at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Kevan’s international experience includes working in Mozambique, the US and Australia—particularly, supporting the development of a national literacy initiative in the US, and advising on the development of a national early years initiative in Australia.

Kevan completed his doctorate focusing on literacy development at Leeds University in 2005. He is a visiting professor at the University of London and was knighted for services to education in 2015.


Grace Tame - 2021 Australian of the Year

Grace Tame is an advocate for the survivors of child sexual abuse and a leader of positive change. After being groomed and raped by her maths teacher when she was just 15 years old, Grace spent the next 10 years of her life turning her traumatic experience into something positive. Recognising the injustice of Tasmania’s gag order that prevented survivors from identifying themselves publicly, Grace spent several months campaigning with the #LetHerSpeak campaign. In 2019, she finally won the court order to speak out under her own name.

Now, 26 and based in Hobart, Grace is dedicated to eradicating child sexual abuse in Australia and supporting the survivors of child sexual abuse. Her focus is on enabling survivors to tell their stories without shame and educating the public around the process and lasting effects of grooming. She works with policy- and decision-makers to ensure we have federal legislation that supports the survivors, not just the perpetrators.

Grace is also a passionate yoga teacher, visual artist and champion long-distance runner, having won the 2020 Ross Marathon in a female course record time of 2:59:31. She was recently named 2021 Australian of the Year.

Anne Hollonds

Anne Hollonds commenced as the National Children’s Commissioner in November 2020. She was previously the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, an independent statutory authority of the Australian Government responsible for research and advice on child and family wellbeing. During five years in this role, she was also Director of the Australian Gambling Research Centre. Over more than 23 years, Anne has been the chief executive of several government and non-government organisations focused on policy, service delivery and research in health, education and social services, including the Benevolent Society and Relationships Australia NSW.

Dr Anita Heiss

Dr Anita Heiss is an award-winning author who specialises in genres such as non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, children’s novels and poetry. She is a proud member of the Wiradjuri Nation. Anita is a Professor of Communications at the University of Queensland and an Ambassador for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Worawa Aboriginal College and the GO Foundation. She is also a Board Member of the University of Queensland Press, Circa Contemporary Circus and the National Justice Project.

Anita’s children’s literature includes Harry’s Secret, Matty’s Comeback, Our Race for Reconciliation and a novel about the Stolen Generations—Who Am I? The diary of Mary Talence—which has been published internationally. She has also co-written several children’s books, including Kicking Goals with Goodesy and Magic (with Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin) as well as  Yirra and Her Deadly Dog and Demon Guards the School Yard (with students from La Perouse Public School).

Anita is currently adapting her 2014 novel Tiddas for the stage, and her latest novel is Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray.

Steve Sammartino

Steve Sammartino is Australia’s leading futurist. He’s created technology firsts, written extensively and he has a rare ability to communicate it all on stage.

Steve starting coding at age 10 and set up his first startup by age 12. He has since built and sold a number of businesses, including one of the first sharing-economy startups, Rentoid.com, which he launched in 2006. Respected global business media giants—including Forbes, Fast Company and TechCrunch—have credited it to be the start of the sharing economy movement that gave birth to Uber and Airbnb.

Steve is a mentor for startup entrepreneurs, and a technology investor. His tech projects have gained global attention and renown: he built the world’s first drivable car entirely out of LEGO bricks—viewed more than 100 million times globally; he sent a toy space shuttle into the earth’s orbit by hacking together a rig for under $2000; and he’s currently building the world’s most modern 3D-printed house—the subject of a new documentary film.

Steve has authored two bestselling books and he writes about technology for Marketing magazine. He’s also written white papers on the future prospects of various industries, and he’s been authoring Australia’s leading business blog for more than 10 years.

Currently, Steve’s on the technical advisory committee for the design of Australia’s new drone regulations. He’s also the country’s most respected media commentator on all things future.



Dr Anne Kennedy

Dr Anne Kennedy works as a consultant, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate in early childhood education. Anne was on the Charles Sturt University team that developed the national Early Years Learning Framework, and currently sits on the Board of the Australian Education Research Organisation and The Front Project, where she is a non-executive director. Anne’s interest in professional ethics was furthered through her doctoral research, which examined early childhood education as an ethical concern. She was a member of the working groups that reviewed ECA’s Code of Ethics in 2006 and 2016, and co-authored the related implementation guide, Ethics in Action.

Professor Sue Irvine

Professor Susan Irvine is an early childhood professional with diverse work experience across early childhood education and care (ECEC) contexts. She has held leadership roles in child and family policy, ECEC service provision and higher education. Currently she is the head of the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at Queensland University of Technology.

Belinda Rule

Belinda Rule is a Director and Teacher at C&K Eimeo Road Community Kindergarten in Mackay. Her practice centres around STEM, inclusion and embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait perspectives. She has published widely on these topics.

Helen Gibbons

Helen Gibbons is the Executive Director of Early Education at the United Workers Union. Helen trained as a teacher and spent 20 years working in early education before becoming a union leader. She is a passionate advocate for high-quality early education and the educators that make it happen.

Aunty Denise Proud

Denise Proud was born in Wakka Wakka country, Cherbourg, Queensland and has been involved in early childhood education since the 1960s. Having worked as a cultural advisor in Queensland Corrections, Aunty Denise has extensive experience across the broad spectrum of community services including, children, youth, men, women and a range of Aboriginal organisations. She is also a board member of Reconciliation Queensland and an Honorary Senior Fellow of USC.


Professor Marilyn Fleer

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer, Monash University, was awarded the 2018 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council. She holds the positions of honorary Research Fellow with the University of Oxford, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and Aarhus University, Denmark. She received the 2019 Ashley Goldsworthy Award for Outstanding leadership.

Cheryl Vardon

Cheryl Vardon is the Chief Executive and Principal Commissioner of the Queensland Family and Child Commission.
Cheryl has a distinguished career in education, community and children’s services and areas of complex public policy, with a sound track record of leadership and expertise in the oversight of policy into strategies and outcomes. On behalf of the Queensland Government and the community, Cheryl has led a series of reviews leading to practical systems reforms to keep vulnerable children more than safe.

Robyn Monro Miller

Robyn Munro Miller is a former child with over half a century of experience in being playful. Her early years were spent building unsafe structures in gum trees in the bushland in the south of Sydney.

Play followed her into adulthood and her work with children led her first to teaching and then to the outside school hours care sector, where she remained for 28 years. Robyn has held representative leadership roles in Australian children’s services at a state and national level, and her work as an advocate for children’s services was recognised with a Commonwealth Centenary Medal. 

A Board Member of the International Play Association (IPA) since 2011, Robyn was part of the 2012 international delegation to the UN in Geneva for the development of the UN General Comment on Article 31, ‘The child’s right to play’. She is currently a Board Member of Play Australia and, since 2017, President of the IPA.

Catherine Liddle

An Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, Catherine Liddle has a strong background in senior management positions with First Nations organisations. She has also held senior roles within the Northern Territory Education Department, the ABC and NITV/SBS.

A journalist by profession, Catherine’s motivation has always been to drive change that leads to positive outcomes and options for First Nations peoples. Over the past 10 years, she has led multidisciplinary teams, overseen workplace transformations and advocated for policy reform.