Guest Speakers

Joyce Cleary, PhD candidate, Lifecourse epidemiology, Deakin University and Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Victoria, Australia

Joyce Cleary is currently a PhD candidate at the Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development at Deakin University. She holds a BSc (Hons) in Psychology from University College Dublin and an MSc in Applied Social Research from Trinity College Dublin. Joyce brings over 15 years of applied experience and leadership in government in the design and translation of evidence at state and local levels. This includes prior leadership of the Victorian Child and Adolescent Monitoring System and the annual State of Victoria’s Children reports. As a former Director within the Department of Education and Training Victoria, Joyce also led evaluation, evidence translation and strategic research functions, including responsibility for the Research in Schools and Early Childhood Settings program.

Paul Hon, Senior Education Improvement Leader, Department of Education and Training, Victoria, Australia

Paul Hon is responsible for government schools support and improvement in the local government areas of Loddon and Campaspe in The North Western Region of Victoria. He has held this position for seven years, drawing on around 15 years’ experience as a Principal.

Jane Hosking, Executive Officer, North Central Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), Victoria, Australia

Jane is currently the Executive Officer of the North Central Local Learning and Employment Network. She holds a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from La Trobe University. Jane brings over 20 years of experience primarily in Early Childhood Intervention Services, Project Management and Community sector leadership.

Dr. David Howes, Deputy Secretary Schools and Regional Services, Department of Education and Training, Victoria, Australia

Dr David Howes is the Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services. Immediately prior to this, he was Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA). David began his career as a teacher in the western suburbs of Melbourne, where he worked for ten years as a teacher and in a range of school leadership roles. He has since held a number of positions, both in Victoria and overseas, including working as an educational adviser to the Royal Government of Cambodia between 2003 and 2006.

David holds a BA (Hons), Dip Ed, MEd and PhD degrees from the University of Melbourne and an Executive Masters of Public Administration from Monash University.

Jerri Nelson, Careers and Pathways Program Manager and Industry Engagement, North Central Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), Victoria, Australia

Jerri is the former Executive Officer of the North Central LLEN, she holds qualifications in Business Management, Human Resource Management and has over 30 years’ experience in community development roles in rural settings. Over the last 35 years Jerri has lived and worked in rural communities and is linked to the agriculture industry through family ties to a 5th generation mixed farming enterprise.

She is passionate about ensuring that decisions which impact on children, young people and rural communities are influenced by those who will be most affected and based on evidence.

Professor Craig Olsson, NHMRC Leadership Fellow, Alfred Deakin Professor/Director, Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED), Deakin University, Victoria, Australia

Professor Olsson is a lifecourse epidemiologist specialising in populated based longitudinal studies of child and adolescent development. He holds a National Health and Medical Research Council Fellowship (Investigator Grant 2020–2024) and prior to this was a recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery Outstanding Researcher Award. He leads one of Australia’s longest running studies of social-emotional development, the ATP Generation 3 Study, which has followed over 2000 young Australians from infancy, to childhood, to adolescence, to young adulthood and into parenting the next generation since 1983. He is actively involved in a number of other long standing national and international cohort studies, most notably the Triple B Pregnancy Cohort Study (est. 2010), the International Youth Development Study (est. 2002), the Victorian Intergenerational Cohort Study (est. 1992), the Norwegian HUNT Study (est.1984), and the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Parenting Study (est. 1972). Professor Olsson is National Convenor of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) Longitudinal Studies Network, directs the Deakin Centre for Social and Early Emotional Development and co-convenes the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute LifeCourse initiative.

Tom Peachey, Project Manager, ACIL Allen, Victoria, Australia

Tom has fifteen years’ experience in supporting policy formulation and review through roles as a government executive, manager and principal consultant across a range of social policy areas, including education, health, and human services. At ACIL Allen, Tom has led numerous consulting projects, including program evaluation, business case and strategic policy development with clients from Commonwealth and state governments. Tom joined ACIL Allen from his role in strategic policy for the Victorian government. Through these experiences Tom’s consistent focus has been practical advice that combines stakeholder insight with rigorous research and evaluation.

Dr. Kimberly Thomson, Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Colombia, Canada

Dr. Kimberly Thomson is a postdoctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) in the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, and with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHÉOS), Providence Health Care Research Institute. Her research investigates how social determinants within children’s early environments are associated with future mental health and wellbeing throughout the life course and into the next generation. She is particularly interested in research that informs policy and works with the comprehensive child development monitoring teams in BC and Australia to collect population-level data for informing decision-making that promotes child and youth mental health.


Master of Ceremonies

Catherine Watkin Nolan, AEDC Coordinator and Project Director Comprehensive Monitoring: AEDC Extension Project, Victoria, Australia

Catherine is Project Director for the Comprehensive Monitoring Project and the Victorian State & Territory Coordinator for the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). As a Child Health Advisor in Victorian Government since 2004 and in her current role as AEDC Coordinator, Catherine has coordinated the implementation of the School Entrant Health Questionnaire (SEHQ) between 2004 and 2009 and the AEDC in Victoria since inception nation-wide in 2009. She has a broad and deep understanding of the value and utility of large population data and its critical importance to policy development, practice, service delivery and research.

Community projects

Loddon-Buloke, Victoria – Strong Families Strong Children

The Strong Families Strong Children (SFSC) initiative supports children and young people in the Loddon and Buloke Shires of Victoria. SFSC is a partnership between the North Central Local Learning Network (LLEN), the Shires of Loddon and Buloke and the Department of Education and Training (DET). Their challenge – a significant number of children and young people in North Central Victoria facing barriers to active and successful participation in education, training and employment.

Following the success of early interventions into literacy and numeracy, the community examined their AEDC results further and found that their children were not doing well in the social and emotional domains of the AEDC on entry to school. Loddon and Buloke Shires decided to follow up student progress by implementing the Middle Development Index (years 5 and 8). These findings showed increasing vulnerability over time.

Loddon and Buloke are now a pilot sites for the Comprehensive Monitoring program of work (CMP). CMP is an  AEDC extension project, a partnership between DET and the Centre of Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED) at Deakin University. This pilot will involve monitoring the social and emotional growth of children and young people every 3 years and building a website for timely evidence based interventions. The data being collected through the AEDC extension project will support monitoring and evaluation of their success and progress over time. SFSC has now been extended to Strong Youth Strong Communities and will now also incorporate Gannawarra Shire.


Moreland, Victoria – Ready, Set, Prep!

Merri Health’s Ready, Set, Prep! has supported an increased number of children starting primary school on track. In three years, the number of children starting primary school developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains decreased from 36.6 per cent (2015), to 25.5 per cent (2018).

Long-term change in population-level outcomes takes time and requires not only resources but sustained collaborative effort. Despite some early success in Fawkner, AEDC results from 2018 show that vulnerability remains higher than Moreland and Victorian averages (Moreland: 20.0, Victoria: 19.9) So, they continue the work, adopting a co-designed approach that supports community-driven, localised solutions to tackle the highly complex barriers facing children and families living in the northern suburbs of Moreland.

By working in a broader, cross-sectoral partnership with early years services, schools and communities, this initiative will empower children and families to reach their full potential. The 2015 AEDC results provided compelling evidence to implement a concentrated, whole of community focused, school readiness intervention to improve educational outcomes in Fawkner.


Benalla, Victoria – Tomorrow Today Foundation

The Education Benalla program is a Tomorrow Today activity. The Foundation works with individuals and organisations across business, government, families, schools and the community to create and sustain vibrant projects in Benalla. The aim of Tomorrow Today’s Parents Early Education Partnership (PEEP) program is to ensure all children in Benalla are ready to learn when they start school.

In 2015, 32.9 per cent of Benalla and district’s children were assessed as developmentally vulnerable on one or more of the AEDC domains – the highest proportion of any of the 79 local government areas in Victoria. The AEDC data for 2018 showed that the same measure had reduced significantly – from 32.9 per cent to 23.5 per cent. Benalla was one of the top four most-improved local government areas in the state.

Tomorrow Today’s PEEP program (Parents Early Education Partnership) has been running weekly in Benalla since October 2012 and is credited with playing an important role in the area’s dramatic reduction in levels of child vulnerability, and improvement in percentage of children developmentally ‘on track’.

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