We are delighted to announce our keynote speakers for the 2020 Rural and Remote Forum in Dubbo.  More speakers to be announced soon!

Nathan Wallis

Nathan is a father of three, stepfather to two  and foster father to many more.  His professional background includes early childhood teacher, child therapist, social service manager, university lecturer and neuroscience trainer.  Following his time at the University of Canterbury, he founded a private training consultancy with the goal of facilitating easy to understand professional development reflecting the latest neuroscience discoveries and their practical implications for everyday practice. Nathan is an advisor for the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and an expert advisor for New Zealand Ministry of Vulnerable Children.

Nathan is in hot demand as a guest speaker, delivering in excess of 150 presentations every year throughout Australia, New Zealand, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

His increasing media profile includes National Radio and TV appearances as a guest expert on parenting, teaching and understanding the developing brain of young people. Nathan has filmed a Neuroscience documentary screened in 2017 and produced two DVDs, Brain Development for Babies and The Teenage Brain,  exploring how the brain works and how neuroscience can better inform our day to day interactions with babies and young people.

Inspirational and charismatic, Nathan’s keen ability to translate neuroscience into every day life and practice engages all audiences.

“I didn’t realise that there was so much going on in my kids heads. This information has been awesome to hear. I really feel like I have a completely new understanding of why my teenager is like he is. I’m Not worried at all any more. Thanks so much Nathan you are an AWESOME communicator. You make everything so easy to understand.” 

Resource Teacher for Learning and Behaviour



Multi award winning singer, conductor, teacher, composer, producer, director, author and recording artist, Jonathon Welch is one of Australia’s most unique and diverse artists with a career spanning four decades.

Jonathon has performed around the World alongside many of the finest singers, directors and conductors including Baz Lurhmann, John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, kd Lang, Grace Bumbry, Frederica Von Stade and Dame Joan Sutherland in some of the world’s great Concert Halls and Opera Houses including Carnegie Hall, New York, Royal Albert Hall, London and Sydney Opera House.

In 2007, Jonathon’s work creating choirs for the homeless and disadvantaged in Australia was the subject of the internationally acclaimed ARIA, Logie and Helpmann award winning TV documentary ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’. He also created the ‘Jailbirds’ documentary in the Victorian Women’s Prisons in 2009, was a Judge on the highly successful ‘Battle of the Choirs’ TV series for Channel 7.

Jonathon has been recognised for his outstanding commitment to the music industry, youth music education and his work with marginalised and homeless communities with the Victorian and Australian of the Year Local Hero 2008, ANZAC of the Year 2009, an Honorary Doctorate, an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009 and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders.

In 2009 Jonathon created and launched ‘Social Inclusion Week’ making Australia the only country in the world to celebrate Social Inclusion nationally, and in September 2012 launched his vision for the future of arts, cultural and well-being programs for all Australians with the ‘School of Hard Knocks’ and ‘Play It Forward’ programs in 2018.



Sarah is the Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning in the second Berejiklian ministry since April 2019. She has been a Nationals member of the New South Wales Legislative Council since March 2011.



Laura Stone is the Early Childhood Education Producer for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Children’s Department in Sydney. Laura’s colleagues include Big Ted, Jemima, Kiya and Humpty!

Her production and advisory projects at the ABC are underpinned by years as an early childhood teacher and over a decade as an early childhood education consultant. With the belief that our youngest citizens have the right to amazing early childhood experiences and education, Laura strives to reflect their unique perspectives and the priorities of early childhood educators in world-class Australian made content.


Robyn Moore

Robyn’s tailored presentations aim to:

  • Re-ENGAGE the audience with their whole LIFE! Their Vocation/Job, Purpose, Family, Relationships, Community…Themselves!
  • Re-INVENT attitudes and behaviours…attendees access personal responsibility and self-determination. The bi-products are Leadership, Integrity and Authenticity.
  • Re-GENERATE Passion, Energy, Productivity, Laughter and Work/Home balance.
  • Re-MIND the audience about “what really mattered before the circumstances changed everything”. They get to experience Possibility, Optimism and Satisfaction again…and the desire to pass this onto their staff, team, customers and their families.
  • Re-STORE confidence, hope and resilience in challenging times.

Catharine Hydon

With a Masters in early childhood education, Catharine has extensive experience in the early childhood sector beginning as a teacher in a kindergarten program in the northern suburbs of Melbourne to lead roles in a range of services and projects for children and their families.

Catharine draws on her experience and ongoing practice research to consider how theory connects and informs practice.  Specialising in early childhood practice and pedagogy, quality improvement, policy and governance, the delivery of integrated services to engage vulnerable children and their families.

Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood sector is an important part of her commitment to the outcomes for children.  She is a long-time member of Early Childhood Australia (ECA) currently serving as the Co-chair of the Reconciliation Advisory Group and is a regular contributor in ECA publications. Catharine has been a member of the ECA Code of Ethics working group for the last two reviews and is a co-author on the recently published Ethics in Action Implementation guide. 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 VCAA and has recently been appointed as a second tier reviewer for ACECQA.

Dr. Sandra Cheeseman

Sandra Cheeseman is an early childhood leader, teacher and now senior lecturer and researcher at Macquarie University, Sydney. She brings to this role over 30 years of experience in the early childhood sector working in a diversity of roles. From directing not for profit early childhood settings, to managing professional learning programs and then senior executive, she has seen leadership from all angles. Her current work focusses on intersections between curriculum policy and educational leadership with a sharp eye on how educational leaders enrich the experiences of the very youngest children.

Perry Campbell

Perry Campbell’s career in the education and care sector spans over 25 years. Perry first worked in an outside school hours care service which led to work in long day care and then University. Perry then began working with local governments and then as a Director of two long day care services. After over 10 years of working in services, Perry became a Children’s Services Adviser with the NSW Regulatory Authority, working with all service types in both a support and regulatory role.

During his time in the Department he also worked in a regional team leader role followed by some time on the NQF implementation team. While with the Department he also spent six years teaching in the NSW TAFE system.  Perry joined ACECQA as the Manager of the Consistency and Review team where he works closely with all States and Territories to support the work of authorised officers. Perry is now the Deputy National Educational Leader at ACECQA.

Marc de Rosnay

Professor Marc de Rosnay’s research focuses on emotional development in early childhood, with particular emphasis on the ways that young children understand emotions and the inter-play between such understanding and their emotional experiences.

Prof. Marc de Rosnay is the current Professor & Academic Head of Early Start at the UOW. In this role, Prof. de Rosnay is leading transformational initiatives between the University and the community with the goal of improving educational and social opportunities for young children in regional, rural and remote contexts. Between 2003 and 2006 Marc was awarded a prestigious College Fellowship (Churchill College, University of Cambridge) in recognition of his original work on emotion understanding in infancy and early childhood. In 2006 he moved to the School of Psychology, University of Sydney, where he held and Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellowship between 2007 and 2010. Marc joined Early Start in 2014 because of his belief that early intervention provides the single best mechanism to improve children’s lives.

Fiona Phipps

Fiona is the Senior Disability Advisor at Royal Far West. She is an experienced development coordinator with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Fiona is skilled in Budgeting, Operations Management, Customer Service, Coaching, and Retail. She is a strong community and social services professional with a Diploma Of Disability focused in Disability Studies from University of Sydney. She has a BA Dip Ed Macquarie University and is currently undertaking diploma in Quality Auditing.

Fiona will be talking about the Invisible Children report.

Nat Heath

Nat Heath is proud Martujarra and Minang Aboriginal man. Nat grew up in Forster on NSW mid north coast and completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Major Social Policy and Aboriginal Studies) at the University of Newcastle. Nat has 15 years’ experience working in the Aboriginal education space working in early education, primary, secondary and tertiary education systems.

Debbie Yates

Be You State Manager, Early Childhood Australia.

Debbie is an early childhood teacher and holds post graduate qualifications in management.  Debbie has experience within early years and school settings and the health sector as both an educator, project officer and manager.  Debbie values the importance of early childhood education, learning and exploring new ways of working and is committed to the wellbeing of young children and their families and the long term benefits early support can provide.

Kirsten Maloney

Kristin is a trained and empathetic professional specialising in relationship/couples counselling and individual therapy – those experiencing difficulties with stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sexual assault and anger issues. Kristin also specialises in the implications of equine-assisted psychotherapy for the treatment of developmental trauma in both adults and children.

After working in different schools for 15 years, She decided to build her  own practice in 2009. She realised that in order for children to succeed in therapy we needed to work with the family as a whole. Following this she decided to further my education and went back to university. 7 years later she graduated with an Undergraduate Degree in Counselling and a Masters Degree in Social Work which has allowed her to effectively help couples, children, teenagers, police men and women, veterans, paramedics and ex-prisoners.

Tara Sutton

Tara is a Counsellor and Equine Assisted Therapist specialising in children and adolescents struggling with depression, anxiety or those suffering from bullying at school or work. Tara also offers home visits for parents with bubs with sleep issues or behavioural problems. This allows for an “at-home-advantage” to see how a child interacts in his/her natural environment and gives a more accurate clinical overview as to what is playing into the child’s troubles.

After witnessing the power of “metaphoric learning” offered in the EAGALA model, she partnered with Kristin in the business and  now head’s up the Equine Assisted Therapy program. This program is an insightful and gentle therapy that can be used in all situations. The horses provide an element that cannot be accomplished in a therapy room for both adults and children. It is a fascinating and highly effective form of therapy providing an interactive session with horses that enables metaphorical learning to find solutions. There is no horse riding or horse experience necessary.

Meg Mendham

Meg Mendham (CEO, CCSA)  has over 20 years’ experience in the Early Childhood Education and Care sector, with direct service delivery experience in Long Day Care, Multipurpose Centres, Preschool, Mobile Children’s Services and Playgroups as an Early Childhood Teacher and Director.

Meg has extensive governance and management experience, having held various executive positions on State and National boards including the NSW Mobile Children’s Services Association, National Association of Mobile Services and CCSA.  She has also served on steering committees and reference groups working with Federal/State government departments on the development of regulations, policy and funding models.

Meg’s extensive engagement with Aboriginal early childhood peak bodies such as the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and Aboriginal Early Childhood Support and Learning (AECSL), focussed on improving quality and rates of attendance for Aboriginal children in early childhood education.  Leading CCSA’s engagement with the Aboriginal community of Weilmoringle to establish a Community Safety Net preschool on behalf of the Department of Education.

Ian Alchin

Ian is the Services Development Manager at CCSA providing operational and professional support  with an improvement and solution focus. He has held the positions of teacher and director, as well as CEO and other senior management roles across all service types and organisations.

He is currently also a Doctoral Researcher and tutor with Western Sydney University and a consultant on leadership and management in the sector. His work promotes the development of a professional sector and the value of early years education based on the rights of children.

Ian presents locally and internationally focussing on creating healthy, capable and sustainable services. He is also a board member of Early Childhood Australia.

John Gunn

John is an experienced Finance and Business Manager in the information technology, healthcare and early childhood sectors. Qualified and experienced Company Secretary/Public Officer. His expertise in industrial relations, including acting as CCSA’s representative in Fair Work Commission Hearings.

John delivers CCSA training to ECEC services on Governance and Management. Supports ECEC services with governance reviews, including review of constitutions.  He has developed tools for the Start Strong Sector Support program, including enrollment projections, funding calculators and fee-setting / fee pass through decision support tools to facilitate community preschool compliance with funding requirements.