Keynote Speakers

Richard Michael Gargiulo

Professor Emeritus, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Richard M. Gargiulo is currently Professor Emeritus of special education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Prior to receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Richard was a public school teacher educating fourth graders and young children with intellectual disability. Upon receiving his doctorate he served as a teacher educator and university administrator for over four decades.

A frequent contributor to the professional literature, Richard has authored or co-authored over 100 publications including 21 textbooks. Additionally, he has given numerous national and international presentations to professional associations and societies. He served as the first Fulbright Scholar in special education assigned to the former Czechoslovakia.

A member of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Richard served as president of the Division of International Special Education and Services as well as president of the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

Teaching, however, has always been Richard’s passion. He received the University’s President Award for Excellence in teaching as well as being recognized as the Alabama outstanding special education teacher educator.

From Isolation to Full Inclusion: The Evolution of Special Education Services in the United States

An historical analysis of the changing educational and social environments encountered by students with exceptional learning needs over the past half century. Perspective offered through the lens of a special educator who is also the parent of four daughters who were recipients of a special education.

Dr Denise Powell

Senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury in the College of Education, Health and Human Development

I am a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury in the College of Education, Health and Human Development, and coordinator of the Specialist Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing training programme. Since initially training as a primary school teacher and later a teacher of the deaf in the mid-1980s I have gained a wide range of experiences both within deaf education and the wider disability community. I have seen many changes throughout this time and strongly believe we can learn from the past to inform the future.

I was recently awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to travel overseas to investigate whether co-enrolment environments could be a possible part of the future of deaf education in New Zealand and am excited to share my findings with anyone interested!

Inclusion is a Feeling, Not a Place

We hear a lot about the importance of inclusive education and the right of a child to be educated in their neighbourhood school. However merely being ‘present’ is not the same as being ‘included’. In order to provide quality education we require quality teachers who understand the importance of equity and inclusion. I truly believe as teachers we have the opportunity to make a difference and have a positive and lasting impact on the students we teach, which ultimately feeds the society we live in. Using the lens of the experiences of Deaf and hard of hearing students, this presentation will focus on how we can become inclusive communities where all students not only communicate with others and feel they truly belong, but also develop confidence, self-belief, real friendships and an understanding of diversity.

Bree Jimenez

Special Education and Research Consultant, Mater Dei, Camden and Honorary Research Associate in Special Education, Faculty of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney

Dr. Bree Jimenez is a Special Education Pedagogy and Research Consultant with Mater Dei School in Camden, New South Wales and an Honorary Research Associate in Special Education with the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney.

Her research focuses on mainstream curriculum access and assessment for students with intellectual disabilities, including autism. She has published several research manuscripts in peer reviewed journals, multiple book chapters, academic programs, and several books on strategies to support academics for students with disabilities. She works closely with teachers, executives, school systems and state departments of education both nationally and internationally. Dr. Jimenez presents at national and international conferences and at state department of education and school system professional development for teachers, parents, and service providers of students with intellectual disabilities on the topics of assessment and access to the mainstream curriculum.

Dr. Jimenez received her bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Central Florida, master’s in Curriculum and Supervision from UNC at Charlotte, and her PhD in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has worked in the field of special education for 20 years, as a classroom teacher supporting students in both primary and high school, grant-funded research liaison between a local school system and university, then Lead Research Associate for an U.S. federally funded grant with the department of Special Education and Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Prior to moving to Australia in January of 2017, she was an assistant professor of special education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Building Teacher Capacity of Research and Evidence Based Practice

A vital component of improving academic student outcomes is high-quality teacher professional development (PD; McLeskey et al., 2014), involving strong focus on learner (e.g., teacher, teacher assistant) development within the classroom and the learning community (McLeskey, 2011). Due to complex support needs of students with disability, it can be challenging for teachers to implement research and evidence-based practice individualised for their learners, yet still implemented with fidelity.

One key quality of learner-centered professional development is the identification of teacher needs that are consistent with their beliefs, values, and knowledge (Polly et al., 2011). Sustainability of teacher-directed learning must include building teacher’s capacity for growth-minded continuous improvement (Shurr et al., 2014).

Research demonstrates that learner-centered PD, often includes the use of coaching and mentoring to support educators as they use evidence-based practice to support their classrooms (Jimenez & Barron, 2019). Allowing teachers to self-identify their own professional learning goals provides opportunity for teacher “buy-in” and increased implementation fidelity of research and evidence-based practice. Research has also shown that teachers who participate in a rigorous ongoing mentoring/coaching program show significant growth in implementation of fidelity, sustainability, and generalization of their identified professional learning goals. As part of the coaching/mentoring cycle, teachers often demonstrate greater approximation of identification of future goals appropriate for their current teaching capacity. Additionally, teachers who are supported to identify and implement their own learning goals demonstrate greater leadership skills to self-monitor (finding evidence-based resources to support learning, self-questioning, and teacher-leadership within their school to support peers).

Karni Liddell

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Queensland Ambassador

Karni Liddell’s journey to become one of Australia’s most successful Paralympians began a lot differently than most elite athletes, as she was born with a neuro-muscular wasting disease and her parents were told that their first-born child wouldn’t walk, crawl or live past her teenage years.

Karni is the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Queensland Ambassador, she sat on the United Nations Women’s board (Queensland Charter), is a member of the Queensland Premier’s Domestic and Family Violence Council, is a radio broadcaster, a presenter for Channel 7 and is the the Patron of the International Day of People with a Disability, as well as being an Ambassador for Kids Help Line, Muscular Dystrophy Queensland and Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association.

Karni is an Internationally acclaimed and sought-after keynote speaker and her 2014 TEDx presentation, which has been watched by thousands of people around the world. She was the only TED speaker on the day to receive a standing ovation.

Karni broke her first World Record at the age of 14 and went on to medal at every Paralympics she competed since. She regards being captain of the Number 1 team at the Sydney 2000 Games her greatest achievement.

John Munro

Professor of Educational Psychology and Exceptional Learning, Faculty of Arts and Education, Australian Catholic University and a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne

Dr Munro is Professor of Educational Psychology and Exceptional Learning in the Faculty of Arts and Education, Australian Catholic University and a Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He is a primary and secondary teacher and a psychologist. His teaching and research interests are in exceptional learning, literacy and math learning and learning difficulties, gifted education, instructional leadership, school improvement and learning internationally. He developed that VELS English Curriculum and the creative and critical thinking general competencies in the Australian Curriculum. He has produced teaching and professional learning resources for the state and independent school systems. He is a consultant to several school improvement projects in Australia and to international education projects including the Aga Khan Academies and the International Baccalaureate. He has written 6 books and over 80 published articles covering the research and application of aspects of exceptional learning.

Understand knowing and learning and the disability is less disabling

This presentation examines disability from a learning – teaching perspective. Australian classrooms have students with a range of disabilities. All teaching makes assumptions about how students learn. The extent to which these assumptions match how any student actually learns determines the success of the teaching.

One of the biggest potential barriers to successful learning by students with disabilities is the quality of the pedagogy. This includes the teaching and formative assessment procedures implemented, the differentiation of the curriculum, the classroom culture and climate. The barrier is lowered when teacher decision-making is referenced on an appropriate model of learning.

The presentation will describe a contemporary synergistic model of learning that teachers can use to identify how students with disabilities learn, to plan teaching, to unpack the assumptions their teaching makes about learning and to differentiate their teaching.

The model has explicit implications for effective school leadership at all levels of a school’s activity, from the whole school policy level, to its work in instructional and pedagogic leadership for students who have disabilities, to its role in leading the understanding of and advocacy for these students.

A disability is a characteristic or attribute of an individual. The extent to which this attribute is disabling in the classroom context is determined by the strategic professional knowledge and activity of teachers and school leaders. An explicit knowing and learning framework enhances this knowledge.

Georgina Harrisson

NSW Deputy Secretary Educational Services Georgina Harrison

As Deputy Secretary, Educational Services, Georgina leads a division focused on the learning and wellbeing of our students. The division delivers the policies, support and services that NSW public schools need to improve student outcomes. The division works closely with School Operations and Performance to ensure that system support is integrated with the daily business of teaching and school leadership. Georgina has 15 years’ experience in public policy across three jurisdictions, and is passionate about translating policy into impact for the community.

Lofty Fulton

Australian voice-over artist

Lofty Fulton is a freelance voice-over artist, who has been working in the Australian and overseas market since the early 1990s. Since then, he’s worked across almost the entire spectrum of voice-over and for some of the biggest names in advertising, from McDonald’s to Toyota, and all and sundry in between. He has been the branding and promotional voice for major radio and TV network stations, both at home and overseas.

Over recent years, as the narrator of MasterChef Australia, his voice is heard in over 180 countries worldwide. Chances are you’ve heard him and don’t even realise it. He is represented by EM Voices in Australia and Vox Inc. and the Sheppard Agency in the USA.

Lived Experience: My Life in Short

Australian voice-over artist Lofty Fulton knows what it's like to have the odds stacked against him: Born with achondroplasia, which is a form of dwarfism, his grandmother thought he should be locked away from the world. At school, he suffered years of relentless bullying, believing the lie he would never be loved or good enough. At 15, Lofty's voice broke, giving him a unique gift that paved the way for his future.

LOFTY: My Life in Short is a deeply personal memoir that Lofty tells with vulnerability, courage and humour. Lofty unpacks the events of his traumatic childhood, public bigotry, a failed marriage, the highs and lows of a successful radio career and his struggles with crippling general anxiety disorder, clinical depression and a serious gambling addiction.

Lofty's story is a combination of light and shade; a reflection on what it means to be human, to search for meaning and purpose. From brokenness to breakthrough, Lofty has slayed many of his inner demons, rising to become one of Australia's most sought after and recognisable voices.

Michael Milton

Skier, cyclist, trekker, triathlete, runner, world and Australian record holder, Paralympian, Olympian

Michael Milton is one of Australia's best-known athletes. His four-gold-medal haul at the Salt Lake Winter Paralympic Games endeared him to a sport-loving nation and earned him the title of Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

In April 2003 Michael tried something new: speed skiing, the drag racing of alpine sport. On the steepest slope in the world he clocked over 193km/hr, smashing a 16-year-old world record and becoming the fastest skier with a disability.

Every year after that he bettered his own world record until, in April 2006, he clocked a staggering 213.65km/hr to also become the fastest Australian skier ever.

Milton then pursued a new sport: cycling. After six months of intense training, he not only won a gold medal in the 3000m Individual Pursuit at the Australian Track Cycling Championships in February 2007 but also broke the Australian record.

His dream to make the Australian team and compete at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games was sidelined when he was diagnosed with Oesophagael Cancer in July 2007. He then made an amazing comeback from this serious illness to record times at the 2008 Australian Track Cycling Championships comparable to his results in the same events 12 months before.

Conference Addresses

Hon. Sarah Mitchell, MLC

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning

Since entering parliament in 2011, Sarah has served on numerous committees and as Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health and Western NSW. In 2017, Sarah was appointed Minister for Early Childhood Education, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Assistant Minister for Education. In 2019, Sarah was appointed as Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning.

Sarah was born and raised in Gunnedah and has spent most of her life living in North-West New South Wales. She continues to live in Gunnedah with her husband Anthony and their daughters Annabelle and Matilda.

Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in politics, international relations and sociology from the University of New South Wales.

Prior to entering Parliament Sarah worked for former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson in Gunnedah and for the Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, in Moree.

Sarah is a graduate of Gunnedah High School and is passionate about education, particularly in regional and remote parts of NSW. As Minister, she is committed to ensuring every child – no matter where they are from – has access to a top-quality education.

Sarah is an active supporter of local community organisations and has been involved with a number of local charities including the Gunnedah Family and Children’s Services and Gunnedah Paediatric and Maternity Support (PRAMS).

Sarah’s eldest daughter has just started kindergarten at a local government school, so she is personally invested in NSW’s education system as a parent. Her regional background and her community mindedness has given her a thorough understanding and appreciation for the issues affecting communities right across NSW, and in particular a connection with the regional and rural people she represents.