More speakers will be announced soon.

Keynote Speakers

Mark Courtney

Prof. Mark Courtney

Mark E. Courtney is the Samuel Deutsch Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. His fields of special interest are child welfare policy and services, the connection between child welfare services and other institutions serving families living in poverty, the transition to adulthood for marginalized populations including children in state care, and the professionalization of social work.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and the Society for Social Work and Research.

Dr. Courtney received the 2010 Peter W. Forsythe Award for leadership in public child welfare from National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators and the 2015 Distinguished Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work and Research.

He obtained his MSW and PhD degrees from the School of Social Welfare at the University of California at Berkeley.

Emily Munro

Prof. Emily Munro

Emily R. Munro is Professor of Social Work Research and Director of the Institute of Applied Social Research, and the Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, at the University of Bedfordshire. She has undertaken a programme of research on young people’s transitions from care to adulthood, including the first evaluation of Staying Put in England.

At an international level she is a founding member and current Chair of the Executive Committee of the International Network on Transitions from Care to Adulthood (INTRAC) and co-editor of Young People’s Transitions from Care to Adulthood: International Research and Practice.

Steve Walker

Steve Walker is the Director of Children and Families at Leeds City Council. Steve is responsible for all children and family services in Leeds including the initiative to make Leeds a Child Friendly City.

These services include: school admissions, support to schools and governors, school improvement, support to vulnerable learners, early help and children’s centres, Children’s Social Work Services including fostering, adoption and children’s homes, services to support children with learning difficulties and disabilities and a range of specialist services for children and young people including Family Group Conferencing, Youth Offending Services and Multi Systemic Therapy.​

Sarah Ashton

Sarah Ashton has spent the last 16 years working in the foster care system in service design, delivery and management with a particular focus on teenagers transitioning from care to adulthood. With experience in both NGO and government settings she is currently working with Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children on the development of the new Transition to Adulthood services launching 1 July 2019. A Secretariat  member to the Expert Advisory Panel which reviewed the current care and protection system in 2015, Sarah was part of a comprehensive review that drew on the experience and expertise of professionals, communities, caregivers, young people and families.

The resulting recommendations led to  an ambitious and substantial reform programme that will significantly extend the range of services provided to vulnerable children and young people and take a pro-active and life outcomes-focused approach to meeting their needs.

Iain Matheson

Iain Matheson is Director of the New Zealand-based Research Centre for Better Outcomes from Fostering and Residential Care, a consultant, speaker, mentor, facilitator, and trainer, and Adjunct Lecturer in Evaluation Research at Massey University. With a background in child welfare management, planning and policy, Iain has a career-long interest in transitioning from care, and his recent doctorate was with care leavers.

Lynne Pezzullo

Lynne is Lead Partner of Health Economics and Social Policy at Deloitte Asia Pacific, specialising in health, life sciences, aged care, disability and social policy reform and advice. Prior to joining Access Economics in 2000 to found the health and social policy practice, Lynne previously worked for a decade for the Commonwealth Government. She has also published widely, and provided expert advice to the NDIS ACT transition and the World Health Organization.  Lynne is an eminent health economist and a sought-after speaker.

Paul McDonald

Paul is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Anglicare Victoria. His previous positions have included Deputy Secretary in the Department of Human Services responsible for the leadership and management of Victoria’s Child Protection Services and Youth Justice Program. He also led the Governments response to the heroin overdose crisis that captured Melbourne in the late 1990’s to early 2000. He won, on behalf of the Department of Human Services, the Prime Minister’s Award for his Department’s work in harm minimisation during that time.

He is Chair of the Home Stretch Campaign, a national campaign which seeks to stop young people in state care becoming homeless, unemployed or in prison when they have their care terminated at 18 years.

Other Key Contributors

Julie Alexander

As CEO and founder of CHANGING CHANGE INTERNATIONAL (CCI), Julie has a particular focus – making companies great places to work and the world a better place to live in.

Julie and her team help clients realise high impact outcomes and dramatic shifts in performance through changing the way change happens.

A sought after MC, speaker, facilitator, and human behaviour specialist, Julie has extensive experience working with teams and clients such as Lloyds Banking Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the British Government, CBA, ANZ and Visa Consulting.  She chairs her own monthly #CULTUREBites lunchtime sessions, and is a regular chair of the Women in Leadership Summits in Sydney.

You will also find her walking on fire; jumping off bridges, 55ft high poles, cliffs and out of planes; sleeping rough; and wearing gardening gloves – all in a good cause.

Eleni Hale

Author and former foster child.

Eleni considers herself one of the “lucky ones”. , She went back to finish high school, then university and found her passion in writing. She became a reporter at the Herald Sun, a communications strategist for the union movement and has written for many print and online news publications.

Her short story fig was published as part of the ABC’s In their branches project and she has received three Varuna awards. Inspired by true events, her debut novel, Stone Girl, is the confronting story of a young girl in the foster care system and has been shortlisted for multiple literary awards and has won the Readings Book Prize for Young Adults.

Eleni lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children. When she is not working on her next novel or being a busy mum, she teaches creative writing and is an advocate for improving the state care system.

Philip Mendes

Associate Professor Philip Mendes teaches social policy and community development, and is the Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit (SISPRU) in the Department of Social Work at Monash University in Victoria, Australia.

He has been researching young people leaving state care for 20 years, is the Australian representative on the Transitions to Adulthood for Young People Leaving Public Care International Research Group, has completed major studies pertaining to youth justice, employment and mentoring programs, disability, and Indigenous care leavers, and is currently leading a national study of Indigenous young people leaving care funded by the Sidney Myer Foundation. He is the author or co-author of 12 books.

Justin Mohamad

Justin Mohamed is a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg in Queensland who currently is the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People of Victoria.

Justin has worked with Victorian Aboriginal communities for 20 years before moving to Canberra to take on national positions  as Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia. Prior to his move to Canberra, Justin held positions based in the Shepparton region as the Inaugural Director of the Academy of Sport, Health and Education (ASHE), CEO and later Chairperson of Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative Ltd.

He chaired the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) and chaired the Hume – Regional Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council (RAJAC). Justin has held positions on multiple community, state and national working groups, committees and boards and continues to be a Director of Vision 2020, Co-Chair Cricket Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee, Board Member of Kaiela Institute and Director of Supply Nation.

Dylan Langley

Dylan Langley is a speaker who is passionate about seeing young people reach their full potential in life.

Since the age of 16, Dylan has been an advocate for social change and he is currently an ambassador for several local projects based on creating better outcomes and connections.

Dylan has appeared on ABC TV, Channel 10’s The Project and has spoken in Federal Parliament and is regularly asked to share his insights in educational, government and corporate settings. 

Samantha Hauge

Samantha came to the Foster Care Association of Victoria with nearly 30 years’ experience in the Victorian public sector, and 5 years’ experience as a board member at Kidsafe Victoria.

Samantha has been a carer for over 14 years now.

Some of her most recent roles include CEO of the Coroners Court of Victoria, after establishing and then managing the Court’s Coroners Prevention Unit. Prior to the Court, she worked with the Department of Health and Human Services for 16 years, initially as a child protection worker and later in various managerial positions.

Samantha takes up the mantle of leading the FCAV as it builds influence towards changes our carers need and deserve from the sector on behalf of our precious young people.

Dr Joseph McDowall

Dr Joseph McDowall has a PhD from the University of Queensland in Social Psychology. He joined the Board of the CREATE Foundation in 2008 and is now Executive Director (Research). He has written several reports for CREATE concerning transitioning from care in Australia.

In 2013, Dr McDowall produced the first comprehensive survey of life in the Australian care system from the perspective of children and young people. Subsequently, he has reported on the placement of siblings in OOHC, and the connection to culture experienced by Indigenous young people.

Recently, he completed the report on CREATE’s National Survey 2018 representing the voices of 1275 children and young people. Currently, he is a Visiting Fellow at the Queensland University of Technology in the School of Public Health and Social Work. He also is a member of the Australian Psychological Society, the Royal Society of Queensland, and is a Fellow of the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences.


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Every child deserves to be supported into adulthood – extending out of home care until the age of 21 will give thousands of young people the additional guidance they need to have a real shot at life.


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