We are delighted to announce our Keynote speakers for the 2023 ECA National Conference Kumarninthi—Becoming one: Old ways, new wisdom.
Richard Louv is a journalist and author of ten books including Last Child in the Woods, The Nature Principle, Vitamin N and most recently, Our Wild Calling. Translated and published in 24 countries, his books have helped launch an international movement to connect families and communities to nature. Richard was the recipient of the 2007 Cox Award, Clemson University’s highest honor, for ‘sustained achievement in public service’. In 2008 he was awarded the Audubon Medal, presented by the National Audubon Society. (Prior recipients included Rachel Carson, E. O. Wilson and President Jimmy Carter.) In 2020 he received the Garden Club of America’s prestigious Margaret Douglas Medal for conservation education. Richard speaks frequently around the world, including keynote addresses at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, the first White House Summit on Environmental Education, the Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Friends of Nature Conference in Beijing, China. He is co-founder and Chair Emeritus of the non-profit Children & Nature Network.
Dr Angela Pyle is an Associate Professor at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. She brings with her a decade of classroom teaching experience in both early years and primary education. These experiences inform and drive her research examining how young children develop personal, social and academic skills through play-based learning. This research uses a continuum-based conception of play that embraces the multitude of possible implementations of play in classrooms. Dr Pyle’s innovative work has led to partnerships with a variety of universities and organisations throughout the world, including Canada, Bangladesh, Columbia, Denmark, Uganda and the United States, where she leads research projects and professional learning opportunities that support teachers’ implementation of play as a developmentally appropriate pedagogical approach.
Dr Jools Page’s research on attachment-based relationships between adults and children under three years in early learning settings has brought her national and international recognition. Throughout her career, Jools has worked closely with young children and their families, and she is committed to research and practice that places the rights of infants, toddlers and young children at the centre. It is this view of children that inspired her academic research into the complex notion of attachment, intimacy, care and love in the earliest years of life. Most notably, it is her characterisation of ‘Professional Love’ that has captured the interest of contemporary scholars and practitioners alike, and which led to her being awarded the 2021 Louise Emanuel Award by the Association for Infant Mental Health UK. The award recognises those ‘who have demonstrated a significant contribution to Infant Mental Health in terms of practice or through their work in research and policy’.
Karen Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of Northern New South Wales. She is CEO of Reconciliation Australia and has a background of over 25 years’ experience in public advocacy, communications and social marketing. An architect of the landmark Australian Reconciliation Barometer, Karen works with governments, the business sector and civil society to advocate for change and is currently a member of the Australian Government’s Referendum Engagement Group.
Over the course of her career, Karen has been instrumental in some of Australia’s watershed national events including the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Centenary of Federation commemorations, Corroboree 2000, and the 1997 and 2021 Australian Reconciliation Conventions.
Karen is a Company Director of Gondwana Choirs, Sydney Festival, the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre (AILC), and Australians for Constitutional Recognition, and is a Member of Chief Executive Women. In 2023 she was announced the National Winner of the Australian Awards, Excellence in Women’s Leadership. Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and in 2021 she won the 2021 Indigenous Australian UTS Alumni Award.
Previous roles include: Director, Mary Mackillop Foundation; Deputy Chief Executive and General Manager Communication and Engagement, Reconciliation Australia; Senior Consultant, CPR Communications; and senior public affairs and communications roles with federal government departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet, Communications IT & the Arts, Health and Ageing, and Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Taylor Dee Hawkins is Managing Director of Foundations for Tomorrow, a not-for-profit with the mission of future-proofing Australia’s interests and advancing the consideration of the interests of future generations in government and industry decision-making. Taylor also runs her own boutique consultancy, Future Frontiers Group, which focuses on leadership development and sustainable business growth.
Taylor has designed and delivered leadership development programs for international organisations, was recognised in Smart Company’s 30 under 30, and has been trained by former US Vice President Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader.
She is a member of the Board of Directors for High Resolves Australia and holds several roles within the Global Shapers Community, including sitting on the Global Advisory Council, being a member of the Davos Lab Taskforce, and co-leading the Next Generation ESG pillar.
Taylor has spoken at COP26, Stockholm+50 and the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, as well as working directly with the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales to support intergenerational collaboration and the development of the future generations agenda.
Pasi Sahlberg is a Finnish educator and author. He has worked as a schoolteacher, teacher–educator and policymaker in Finland, and has advised education system leaders around the world. Pasi served as a senior education specialist at the World Bank (Washington, DC), Lead Education Specialist at the European Training Foundation (Torino, Italy), Director General at The Ministry of Education and Culture (Finland), and a visiting professor at Harvard University. He is the recipient of several awards for his lifelong service in education, including the 2012 Education Award in Finland, the 2014 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, the 2016 Lego Prize in Denmark, the 2017 Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Resident Fellowship in Italy and the 2021 Headley Beare Award in Australia. In 2013 Pasi’s book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland won the Grawemeyer Award in the United States for an idea that has potential to change the world. His most recent books include Let the Children Play: For the Learning, Well-Being, and Life Success of Every Child (2020, with William Doyle) and In Teachers We Trust: The Finnish Way to World-Class Schools (2021, with Tim Walker). Since his arrival in Australia in 2018, Pasi has held professorships at UNSW Sydney and Southern Cross University in Lismore (NSW). He is currently Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Melbourne. Pasi lives in South Melbourne with his wife and two sons.
Professor Sharon Goldfeld is a paediatrician and Director at the Royal Children’s Hospital’s Centre for Community Child Health, and Theme Director for Population Health at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She has a decade of experience in state government as senior policymaker in health and education, including holding the role of Principal Medical Advisor in the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Her unique career has seamlessly straddled research, policy and practice, with her cross-sectoral approach ensuring her research is robust and of high policy and practice for greater translation success.
Anne Hollonds is the current Australian National Children’s Commissioner. Prior to this role she was the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. For more than 23 years Anne was a chief executive officer of government and non-government organisations focused on research, policy and practice in child and family wellbeing. As a psychologist Anne worked extensively in frontline practice including child protection, domestic and family violence, mental health, child and family counselling, parenting education, and family law counselling. Anne currently contributes to several expert advisory groups, including the Family Law Council, Australian Child Maltreatment Study, NSW Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Council, National Plan Advisory Group (NPAG), and Early Years Strategy Advisory Panel.
Ros Baxter is Goodstart Early Learning’s Chief Executive Officer. Goodstart is Australia’s largest early learning provider with 665 centres across the country, employing over 15,500 educators and supporting over 17,000 children.
Ros has spent the last 25 years working and partnering around the idea that early intervention and education are the keys to addressing intergenerational disadvantage. Gains won in early childhood accumulate; disadvantage compounds. Since starting her career as a frontline social worker in child protection, she has worked across government and with partners in the community and research sectors to maximise understanding, investment and effective interventions for children and families.
She is a passionate public policy professional who believes in partnering closely with the families, educators and services who know and understand children the best. With four children of her own, she believes that every person is different and differently capable, and that everyone has the right to a great start in life.
Ros holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Law) from the University of Sydney, a Bachelor of Laws—First Class Honours (UQ), a Bachelor of Social Work—First Class Honours (UQ), and a Bachelor of Arts—Government major (UQ).
Catharine Hydon is the Director and Principal Consultant at Hydon Consulting. She has a master’s degree in early childhood education and extensive experience in the sector. She began her career as a kindergarten teacher and went on to lead a range of services and projects for children and their families. Her focus is on early childhood practice, pedagogy, leadership coaching and mentorship; quality improvement, policy and governance; and delivery of integrated services to vulnerable children and families.
Catharine’s involvement in the education sector is an important part of her commitment to quality outcomes for children. She is a long-time member of ECA and regularly contributes to ECA publications, webinars and online learning opportunities. In 2022 she completed a Diploma of Governance strengthening her commitment to effective policy and governance. Catharine is also a Board Member of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority and a second-tier reviewer for ACECQA.
Dr Sandra Cheeseman is Chief Executive Officer at the Creche and Kindergarten Association, Queensland (C&K) an organisation providing early learning to over 12,000 Queensland children each year. Over her 40+-year career in the early childhood sector, Sandra’s professional and academic roles have included early childhood teacher, director, senior lecturer in early childhood and more recently as a senior executive.
Sandra has been a key collaborator on projects and consultancies for Government and other education agencies. Her expertise spans early years curriculum, assessment, program quality and organisational leadership. Her research and professional work has focused on the translation of theory to practice – particularly in relation to early childhood curriculum. She is co-author of the book ‘Leadership -Contexts and Complexities in Early Childhood Education’ and co-editor of ‘Pedagogies for Leading Practice’ and ‘Conceptualising and Re-conceptualising Children’s Rights in Infant-Toddler Early Childhood Education and Care’.
Lester-Irabinna Rigney is esteemed Professor of Education and Co-Chair of the Pedagogies for Justice Research group in the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion, based in the Education Futures, Academic Unit at the University of South Australia. He is Distinguished Fellow at Deakin University and previous Distinguished Fellow at Kings College, London. In 2021 Professor Rigney was appointed member in the General Division (AM) for significant service to Indigenous Education and to social inclusion research. He is a member of the Centro Loris Malaguzzi Scientific Committee, for the Foundation Reggio Emilia Children. One of Australia’s most respected Aboriginal educationalists. He is well published and has led several research teams funded by the Australian Research Council and other competitive grants including: Indigenist Research Epistemologies; Addressing the Gap between Policy and Implementation: Strategies for Improving Educational Outcomes of Indigenous Students; and Towards an Australian culturally responsive pedagogy. Professor Rigney is a descendant of the Narungga, Kaurna and Ngarrindjeri peoples of South Australia. ORCID ID: 0000-0002-4756-2399