ACT Branch News

Message from the Branch President, Kirk Zwangobani


I hope this newsletter finds you well and that you were able to recharge and reflect over the semester break. It’s always helps to start the final term of the year in good spirits.

ACEL National Conference

I will start this month’s newsletter by saying thank you to the ACEL National team for convening a successful National Conference, held virtually online during the break. As expected, the host, conference provocateur, keynote speakers, and concurrent sessions were insightful, inspiring, action oriented, and at times provocative. In all they offered delegates a real sense of what is happening here and now in educational leadership and what we can do into the future to strive for “Excellence through Equity”.

Thank you to those ACT ACEL members who could make it (remember, conference videos will be available for viewing until the 31st March 2022). And, for those that couldn’t, the 2022 National Conference is only 12 months away!


Each year ACEL ACT calls for nominations for the ACEL ACT Branch Awards. These awards honour those educational leaders, who in the view of their peers, have made a significant contribution to the understanding and practice of educational leadership. Indeed, in speaking with the award recipients last week, I got a real sense that it was this recognition of their peers that made the award so valuable to them.

It is my pleasure, then as ACEL ACT President to announce this year’s award recipients:

ACEL ACT Fellowship Award

This year’s recipient of the ACEL ACT Fellowship award is:

Joanne Garrisson
Senior Manager of Strategic Programs
Association of Independent Schools of the ACT

ACEL presents Fellowships to those, like Joanne, who have made outstanding educational leadership contributions to ACEL and/or whose work has influenced educational practice at a state and/or national level.

ACEL ACT Excellence in Educational Leadership Award

This year’s recipients of the ACEL ACT Excellence in Educational Leadership Award are:

Kirrally Talbot
Director of Curriculum, Executive Teacher
Gold Creek School

Jan Herold
Assistant Director Programs and Services,
Education Support Office – Service Design and Delivery
ACT Education Directorate

This award is presented to Kirrally and Jan for demonstrating excellent leadership in implementing an educational initiative and/or for conducting research which leads to improved educational outcomes for students.

ACEL ACT Trish Wilks Award for Collaborative Practice

This year’s recipient of the Trish Wilks Award for Collaborative Practice is:

The ACT Board of Senior Secondary Studies (BSSS)

The Trish Wilks award is awarded to the BSSS team, who in the spirit of collaboration has demonstrated:

  • Exemplary teaching practice
  • A significant contribution to the learning of others
  • Sustained and successful collaboration within a school or across schools
  • Evidence of the difference made by collaborative practice.

Thank you to all the nominators and nominees in this year’s awards. It was a small but competitive field, and all nominees deserve an honorary mention for their leadership efforts.

Due to the current restrictions in place in the ACT we will not be holding an ACEL ACT Awards Event this year, however the ACT Executive is coordinating several small events with the award recipients in honour of, and to recognise, their achievements.

Please take your time reach out to and congratulate our 2021 ACEL ACT Award recipients.

Meet Your ACT ACEL Executive

This newsletter, I would like to introduce our ACT Branch Executive, Lachlan Ellis.

Lachlan’s teaching career began as a teacher and school leader in the ACT Public System. With a Primary Teaching background Lachlan initially spent several years teaching mainly in the lower primary. During 2013 Lachlan took up a leadership position as a Low SES Field Officer as part of the National Partnerships program before joining the leadership team at Malkara Specialist School in 2014. In 2016 Lachlan moved into the ACT Education Directorate’s student support team until he joined Catholic Education in mid-2018 where is now the Child Protection Manager.


As schools grapple with the forced disruption of the pandemic, Education Leaders once again find themselves facing the question of how to return to normality while making up for lost time. A veritable task of massive proportions in which schools creatively find ways of giving students more value in less time and space, like Mary Poppins pulling objects from that wonderfully impossible carpet bag. Much of the commentary I observed following the lockdowns of 2020 commended the flexibility shown by schools when disruption occurred and praised the impact education continued to have for students. While complementary, this commentary failed to acknowledge the disrupted state teachers have always worked under.

During my 10 years working in schools, I counted myself among the long-suffering victims of the plague of the new initiative, that ever revolving door of new approaches promising to ‘change everything for the better’. Over that decade I witnessed two new curriculums (the National one being subjected to at least two reviews), three approaches to reading instruction (‘Balanced Literacy’, ‘Synthetic Phonics’, ‘Reading Café’), three online learning platforms before Google Classroom or MS Teams arrived, the mandating (and subsequent mysterious disappearance) of 150 minutes of physical education each week, the advent of teacher registration and subsequent growth in teacher professionalism and the real term budgetary implications of the fabled Education funding wars. They’re just the big hitters so it seems somewhat underwhelming to laud the profession for making it through by being flexible – the very way we always did. It does, however, give assurance. Assurance that even in times of flux, schools are immensely beneficial. That the positive influence teachers and school leaders have on the lives of students continues regardless of the temporal implications.

With this in mind, the question of the path to normality facing Education Leaders may be able to be grappled with less urgency. After all, once the pandemic is over, there’ll be a new initiative for us to sink our teeth into, one which will undoubtedly change everything.

Lachlan Ellis

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