Thursday 30 May 2024

Beyond the rhetoric of ‘capability’ in workforce reform

Kerrie Ekinsmyth has had 20 years’ experience in the Victorian Department of Education leading a number of school operational and capacity building initiatives. She is passionate about improving access to learning for all students including students with disability and mental health.

Deb Parker has had 20 years’ experience in the Victorian Department of Education leading a number of school improvement and capacity building initiatives. She is driven by a passion to support people of all ages and backgrounds to succeed in life through learning and community participation.

Transforming all education systems to embrace inclusive education needs to take into account the complexities of implementing numerous reforms and priorities at both national and state levels.

This presentation explores the status of achievements in the Victorian public education system towards inclusive education beyond a narrow view of inclusion associated with disability, towards one about equity. In addition to improved outcomes for students with disability, reforms have also targeted mental health, behaviour, and broader wellbeing workforces to directly deliver supports to school staff to guide their practice change to impact all students.

From centralised coordination to regional implementation, and the provision of in-school practitioners, the presentation describes the common and bespoke elements which have helped to improve capability in these workforces and in schools. But this has not been without challenges, which the presentation will not hide away from describing so that other states and territories, as well as catholic and independent school systems, can benefit. It is only through sharing these practical experiences that all Australian education systems can work towards meeting the expectation of recommendation 7.8 of the Disability Royal Commission for improved workforce capabilities, expertise, and development.

Peer Mentoring: A pathway to inclusivity, engagement and wellbeing

Nancy Bonfiglio-Pavisich is a Leadership and Quality Teacher Consultant. With a focus on leadership, change management, induction, mentoring, and coaching, Nancy has worked with leaders, consultants, corporate clients, teachers, mentors, and coaches to grow and develop them personally and professionally. She has researched, designed, implemented, and evaluated system, organisational, team, and individual programs across Catholic, Government and Independent Schools. Nancy has a Ph.D. in Mentoring, a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, and qualifications in Business Management and Strategy, Neuro leadership, as well as Training and Assessment. With extensive experience as a senior leader in schools, Nancy is also a Lifestyles and Group Styles Inventory, DISC, EQI.20., Print and Educator Impact facilitator. Currently, Nancy lectures in Leadership and Education at Edith Cowan University, is a Sessional Tutor for the University of Notre Dame and also shares her expertise in leadership as a facilitator of the Australian Institute of Management MBA program. She is also qualified as a Life Coach. With a passion for growing and developing individuals and teams, Nancy’s leadership and teaching and learning practices are underpinned by evidence-based research and are documented in various professional and non-professional journals. Nancy was the recipient of the New Voice Scholarship Award (2020). In 2021, Nancy was recognised by ACELWA with a Certificate of Excellence in Educational Leadership, and in 2022, Nancy was awarded a Post Graduate Award from the Western Australian Institute for Educational Research. Nancy was also awarded the ACEL Fellowship Award in 2022

Mentoring Matters. What if we could develop a generation of students who could support and grow their peers in a way that is respectful, meaningful, and insightful? What if… this generation of students could foster a psychologically safe school culture that is bounded by inclusivity, engagement, and well-being? The presentation seeks to share the journey of a collaborative project between The University of Western Australia (UWA) and four government secondary colleges in Western Australia designed to support Years 7 and 8 students with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Autism via a cross-peer mentoring program.

Inclusion from the outset: challenges and strategies for inclusive early learning in Australia

Sam Brain leads Deloitte Access Economics’ work in inclusive education and is a national expert in inclusive education policy. His work has focused predominantly on inclusion in a schooling context, while extending at times to cover early learning and the training sector.

He specialises in supporting governments to set goals to progressively realise inclusive education and develop structures to achieve them. Sam’s work has led to improvements in system design, service delivery and financing at the federal level and in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the ACT.

With over a decade’s experience in public policy design and evaluation, he applies a range of economic and public policy frameworks to education issues. He draws on an extensive professional network of experts in disability, inclusive education and teaching practice.

As part of his participation in the Inclusion and Disability conference, Sam is hoping to share his insights into the adequacy of the current national framework for students with disability and learn from school leaders the challenges they face and opportunities they see to adopt inclusive education for all students.

In Australia, the inclusion of children with disability in early learning settings faces challenges due to an evolving policy environment, a lack of consistent data, and a complex framework of governance involving both federal and state levels.

This presentation explores these challenges using an ecological systems approach, highlighting the impact of policies and practices on the inclusivity of early learning environments.

It highlights the need for a cohesive strategy that promotes effective practice, embeds genuine accountability at multiple points and fosters a shared vision of inclusion. By examining the current landscape within an ecological framework, this presentation will outline actionable pathways towards a more integrated, inclusive, and effective early childhood education system.

Implementing PBL in a remote College context through culturally-safe practice in a first nations community: improving outcomes for all students

Michael Ward is the Executive Principal of Tagai State College, a unique K-12 school of 17 island campuses located across the beautiful Torres and Endeavour Straits. He travels by chopper, ferry and light aircraft most weeks. Michael’s diverse experience as a principal has included almost every type, location and size of school in Queensland. His leadership interests include First Nations education, the Arts, inclusive education reform, languages, leadership capability and culture change. Michael completed an M.Ed. (Inclusive Education) through a Department of Education scholarship in 2021 with Distinction, and has used some of his research papers to publish in professional journals. He has held his current position since November 2021. Michael is an accomplished musician trained to a professional standard, affiliated with the Australian College of Music. His other interests include gardening, semi self-sufficiency, travel and current affairs.

Zoe Molgaard is the Deputy Principal, Inclusive Education at Tagai State College, a unique K-12 school of 17 island campuses located across the beautiful Torres and Endeavour Straits. Zoe is an experienced special education teacher, who has been at Tagai State College for the past 16 years. She has been in a leadership role at the College for 15 years. Her leadership interests include First Nations education and Inclusive Education. Zoe lives on Thursday Island with her family and enjoys living in a remote Island community.

Yolanda McLean a proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island woman, has devoted her life to teaching and leadership, leaving an indelible mark on the educational landscape of remote communities. Born in Townsville, Yolanda embarked on a journey that would take her from urban centres to the heart of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. After navigating personal challenges and pursuing her own education, Yolanda's path led her back to the Torres Strait, where she found a compelling opportunity to effect systemic change in education delivery for Indigenous students. At Tagai State College, she emerged as an influential figure, spearheading transformative initiatives to address educational disparities and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Yolanda's dedication to excellence extends beyond the realm of education. A passionate athlete, she has represented her state and nation in various competitive sports, embodying determination and drive both on and off the field.

Jennifer Payne is a Teacher, Researcher and and Psychologist who is passionate about supporting educators to meet the needs of students. Jennifer loves taking the research into what works and making it “real” and useful for classroom educators. She is especially interested in rural and remote settings, and working with services who support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The umbrella term Positive Culture for Learning is used to encapsulate the 7 Essential Features of PBL, Classroom PBL, Trauma-informed practice, Social Emotional Learning to systematically, and through a steady lens of culturally-safe practice, build the consistent implementation of positive behaviour systems across a College of 17 campuses over 49000 kms in the Torres Strait. Tagai State College have undertaken a journey of PBL revitalisation by using data-informed decision-making, system design and implementation with expert consultation with Dr Tim Lewis and the team from Rypple. With intent, we have used context-specific challenges and reframed these into strengths:

  • Utilising on our teams familiarity with online engagement to drive consistent practice
  • Working with local staff to build a sustainable coaching team
  • Connecting PBL implementation to students home language and elements of cultural practice


Leveraging partnerships and networks to benefit students and staff

Carolyn has worked in the government and independent school sectors and has 20 years’ experience as a Principal in a diversity of schools. She is particularly interested in innovative ways to address the needs of disadvantaged students to break the cycle of welfare dependence, enhance students’ wellbeing and self-confidence and support them into employment or further education.

Carolyn is one of four 2022 recipients of the Menzies Foundation School Leader Fellowship which enabled her to visit schools in the UK and attend the 2023 Harvard Graduate Education program “Achieving Excellence in School Leadership”.

Carolyn and Nick will focus their presentation on the partnership between Katherine High School NT and Warakirri College an independent Special Assistance School in western Sydney. The presentation will explore mutually beneficial partnerships that support aboriginal students and young people with mental health challenges and social disadvantage.

Nick Lovering has worked in the Northern Territory for the last 2 decades as a teacher and school and system leader across the Department of Education. Recently Nick has been working as the Principal of Katherine High School and has led a turnaround in school behaviour, culture and community perception. Katherine High is an incredibly diverse school with 68% First Nations students from over 30 different language groups covering a geographical area the size of Finland. By activating and engaging the broad school community Nick has been able to stabilise an emerging and largely early career workforce and develop leadership capability. The key pillars in this development being a focus on staff growth and performance and increased cultural capability within and outside the classroom. Nick is a Menzies Foundation Leadership Fellow, recognising and supporting his work in building and increasing cultural capability within his school and across Big Rivers Region in the Northern Territory. In 2023 Nick was listed as one of forty-five educators recognised as the ‘Most Influential’ in Australia.

This presentation will illustrate the processes for developing mutually beneficial partnerships that enrich both school communities and offer experiences and opportunities beyond those that a single school could provide.

Students broaden their perspectives by connecting with students from another school and learning first-hand about the daily lives of others in disparate communities. New role models and broadened horizons raise students’ aspirations as their horizons expand.

Staff extend their professional experience and develop additional expertise through mutual sharing of strategies and resources. Schools share expertise around Administration, behaviour management, parent / community interactions, ICT solutions, funding maximisation and resourcing. Partnerships strengthen both schools – everyone benefits.

This presentation will draw illustrations from the partnership between Katherine High School in the NT and Warakirri College, a special assistance school in western Sydney.

Listening Matters: A Framework for Listening to Children in Educational Settings

Dr Michelle Andrews Luke is an academic at the Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne, and a practicing educational and developmental psychologist at St Margaret's Berwick Grammar (SMBG). With over two decades of experience in educational settings and private practice, Michelle’s research explores the links between strong relationships, active listening, and child mental health, highlighting the crucial importance of listening to children. Michelle serves as the Secretary of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) National Positive Psychology Interest Group and is a Fellow of the APS College of Educational and Developmental Psychologists. At SMBG, Michelle has led the co-design and delivery of a whole-school mental health strategy, earning an Excellence Award for Best Student Wellbeing Program at the 2023 Australian Education Awards. Michelle is dedicated to helping children and young people feel seen, heard, and valued so that they can live happy and healthy lives.

Over the past decade, there has been an increase in mental health challenges among Australian children and young people. This presentation will emphasise the vital role of active listening in nurturing the mental health and wellbeing of children. Recognising the important role of educational settings in supporting children's mental health, this session will explore how to cultivate environments that prioritise listening to children. To illustrate how these strategies can be put into practice, a case study from a school setting will be shared. By highlighting the practical steps taken in this initiative, this presentation will provide a framework for listening to children within educational environments.

"I hate maths but I love Singapore maths." A primary teacher's Case Study of supporting Year 7 students with learning difficulties.

Jen is a Lecturer in Learning Intervention at the Faculty of Education at the University of Melbourne. She has taught in primary, secondary and tertiary settings. Jen has a deep passion for Special Education, especially in helping students with learning diversities in dyslexia and dyscalculia. She is an active member of the Australian Dyslexia Association and Dyscalculia Association United Kingdom. In her PhD research, she focused on boys’ writing. Going forward, Jen wishes to explore on how girls learn to read and write, in addition to STEM subjects. She wants to empower girls to engage in STEM subjects more effectively. Jen has also been part of the Teaching Excellence Program with the Victorian Academy of Teaching specialising in Maths. She was the 2023 recipient of the ACEL New Voice and NextGen Scholarships.

In this presentation, I will be discussing a case study of my Year 7 Maths class. In addressing the learning difficulties such Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, ADHD and other Developmental Language Disorders in my class, I drew on my primary teaching experience to instruct the students at point of needs. The intervention lessons were drawn on Singapore Maths pedagogy sequences of Metacognition, Processes, Concepts, Skills and Attitudes. The rationale behind my intervention and lesson content was based on the learning from the content of the Dyscalculia Association UK. The rationale for modifying the post assessment task for these students was to boost their understanding of Algebra. By breaking Algebra down into the fundamental of number sense, the students were able to understand that the part of mathematics in which letters and other general symbols were used to represent numbers and quantities in formulae and equations.

What would you like to say matters in implementing the recommendations of the Disability Royal Commission on inclusive education?

Dr Scott Avery is a professor of Indigenous disability health and wellbeing in the School of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney. He is an Aboriginal man descendant from the Worimi people and is profoundly deaf.

Dr Scott (as he prefers to be known) is a recognised educator, researcher and policy adviser on Indigenous cultural approaches for the inclusion of people with disability. He has extensive experience in conducting community-based research and policy in Indigenous and disability organisations and is the research and education partner for the First Peoples Disability Network. He has authored the publication 'Culture is Inclusion: A narrative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability' (2018) based on his research. His community-based and intersectional approach has influenced national policy across Closing the Gap, the Australian Disability Strategy, and the Disability Royal Commission. He has been appointed as an expert advisor to numerous Government bodies including the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Disability Research Partnership, National Disability Data Asset, and the Research Advisory Committee of the Lowitja Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research. He is also a director on the board of disability service provider Achieve Australia Ltd, and was an Ambassador for the International Day of People with Disability.

The Disability Royal Commission handed down its final report in September 2023. Implementation teams across the Commonwealth and State governments are sifting through the recommendations and devising a response that will be instrumental in education policy in the coming decades.

This workshop will provide a voice for educators to pass a message to DRC implementation teams on what matters to them in creating an inclusive education system. Structured as a free-thinking and free-speaking forum, this workshop will provide attendees an opportunity to give their voice to questions such as;

  • Do the DRC recommendations fully capture what is needed to create a disability inclusive education? If not, what is missing?
  • What are the key barriers that educators see will need to be overcome to make an inclusive education a realty?
  • What is left undone and needs continued work?

Facilitated by Dr Scott Avery, a Conference Keynote speaker and Professor in Indigenous Disability Health and Wellbeing at UTS, the key themes of this forum will be written up as Conference proceedings and made available as resource for post-DRC inclusive education reform.


Friday 31 May 2024

Foundational knowledge for inclusive practice

Haley is an educational speech pathologist and final year PhD candidate at QUT, where she is investigating the impact of teachers’ use of Accessible Pedagogies™ on the classroom experiences, engagement and learning outcomes of students with language and/or attentional difficulties. Haley is a Senior Research Assistant in the Centre for Inclusive Education and is also a chief investigator on the Central Queensland Region Leading Inclusive Education Reform project.

Professor Linda Graham is Director of QUT’s Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) and a Professor in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice. She has authored over 100 scholarly publications including the best-selling book, Inclusive Education for the 21st Century, with the second edition now available. Linda is currently leading two major projects in QLD schools: the Accessible Assessment ARC Linkage project, and the Central Queensland Region Leading Inclusive Education Reform project.

Inclusive education requires school leaders, teachers, and support staff to have a shared understanding of what inclusive education is as well as the knowledge, skills, and desire to include all students in all aspects of school education. Genuine inclusion—that is, the type that makes a difference to students’ life outcomes—is more than welcoming and valuing diversity. Genuine inclusion, as defined by the United Nations Committee responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, requires changes to school cultures and practice to design out or remove barriers to curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, and social/physical environments. Shared understanding begins through educators engaging with the ‘big ideas’ underpinning inclusion. In this presentation, Linda and Haley explain how these ideas work together to enhance teachers’ problem-interpretation and problem-solving abilities, and why principals should invest in developing these abilities in their staff.

How can your school become more neuro-diverse?

Scott B Harris is a resilient survivor, educator and youth speaker, dedicated to sharing his insights on overcoming adversity. His journey is a testament to the power of resilience, as he triumphed over a life-altering motorbike accident that left him with both physical and mental challenges. Scott's resilient spirit led him through 15 years of hospital visits, demonstrating a stubborn will to survive and thrive.

In 2008, a sunny spring day marked a turning point when Scott's life was disrupted by a near-fatal accident. Battling for his life, he emerged with a profound understanding of the human capacity to overcome challenges. As a youth speaker, Scott channels his experiences to inspire students and educators, emphasizing the importance of a relentless mindset in the face of adversity.

Following four years of rehabilitation, Scott embarked on a global journey to assist individuals with disabilities abroad in realizing their dreams. Despite living with multiple disabilities, he returned 18 months later, armed with a wealth of knowledge on resilience. Scott shares invaluable lessons with students and teachers, focusing on the significance of responsibility, a success-oriented mindset, goal-setting, and unwavering perseverance. His story serves as a beacon of hope, illustrating that with the right tools, anyone can transcend obstacles and shape their destiny.

Neurodiversity can be a very challenging disability to handle, both from a teacher’s and a student’s perspective. Why? Because it lives in the brain and is mostly invisible, however, it is crucial to understand to help students succeed. In this workshop, we dive into the importance of equipping ourselves with the knowledge to facilitate students' journey towards achievement. Recognizing the diverse neurological disabilities within our classrooms, we explore strategies to create inclusive learning environments where every student can thrive. Through interactive discussions and practical insights, participants will gain a deeper understanding of neurodiversity and its impact on learning. From ADHD to autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, and beyond, we address common neurodiverse profiles and provide practical tools for effective support. By embracing neurodiversity and working with each student's unique strengths, we empower ourselves to create environments that promote growth, resilience, and success for all learners. Join us in this deep dive as we learn more about what your students may be struggling with, and things you can put in place to help your school become more inclusive.

Leading and implementing inclusive education – a practical example of transforming research and policy to whole school inclusive classroom practice by addressing attitudinal and knowledge barriers

Amanda Gibson is a teacher and current Head of Diverse Learners in a large P-12 day and boarding school. She is a passionate advocate for the provision of an inclusive education for all students, with her current work focusing on leading and implementing inclusive practices. Amanda is nearing the completion of the Masters of Inclusion and has shared her professional knowledge and learnings at prior conferences. She continues to do so with the belief that by collaboratively working together, celebrating success, and systematically addressing challenges, we can all implement inclusive practices where every student can access curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment in the everyday classroom with their peers.

Inclusive Learning Environments through Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Annalea McCurry is the Deputy Director: Teaching and Learning for Catholic Education Northern Territory. Her teaching career has included teaching primary and secondary schools overseas, in Victoria and the Northern Territory. She specialises in English, Drama, SOSE and Religious Education and holds a Master’s degree in Special Needs and Literacy. Annalea has extensive experience working in inclusion support, curriculum leadership and data informed practice. Annalea is based in the Northern Territory, and worked in remote and urban schools providing school support at a system level for over 14 years. Her work in Victoria and the NT included developing and facilitating professional development for teachers, schools and systems in the areas of curriculum planning and data informed, effective and evidence based pedagogy to engage and support differentiation. Annalea’s passion for supporting inclusive learning environments for all students, includes those with diverse learning support needs and who are learning through English while learning English as a language. Her work in Aboriginal communities in the NT highlighted the importance in developing culturally appropriate practice to build and enhance opportunities for students to experience success in remote schooling environments.

Cynthia Page, an Education Officer in Remote Curriculum for Catholic Education Northern Territory, holds extensive experience in teaching at primary and secondary levels in remote Northern Territory communities. With a focus on Aboriginal and Religious Education, Cynthia, a Marramanansji woman, excels in cultural knowledge and curriculum leadership. Dedicated to fostering inclusive learning environments, she prioritises tailored approaches for diverse student needs, particularly English as an additional language learners. Committed to enhancing student success in remote settings, Cynthia provides professional development programs system-wide. Passionate about Aboriginal education, she values Indigenous cultures and heritage, advocating for social justice and identity understanding in her curriculum development. With roles encompassing teaching, Indigenous Language and Culture coordination, Aboriginal workforce development, and Catholic Aboriginal leadership, Cynthia's vast expertise underscores her commitment to promoting educational equity and cultural respect.

Tasha is a Nyikina and Yawuru woman who was born, raised and educated on Larrakia Country in Darwin. She has a passion for ensuring cultural practice is consciously considered in the education system and has supported schools in their cultural responsiveness both in and out of the classroom. Tasha currently works as Education Officer: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, supporting schools across the NT in implementing culturally responsive pedagogy. Her teaching experience is in Secondary school HPE/Maths and she has worked within NGO’s in supporting schools at a systemic level to improve their cultural practice, particularly when it comes to social and emotional wellbeing.

Tasha has a firm belief that we as educators have a responsibility to ensure we are providing culturally appropriate opportunities for all students to succeed in their schooling, the challenge is how do we adapt these opportunities to the students rather than expecting the students to do all the adapting.

This session will explore how The Catholic Education Office NT has worked with leaders in our Aboriginal Catholic Remote Schools to develop individual pedagogical frameworks based on Tyson Yunkaporta’s 8 Aboriginal Ways of Learning. The presentation will share some of the work which aims to ensure that cultural wisdom, knowledge and understanding is integrated into pedagogy and curriculum. Developing culturally responsive pedagogy unique to each Aboriginal community supports local Aboriginal teachers and non-local teachers to collaborate and ensure a sustainable, strength based and inclusive learning environment. During this session, we will reflect on the benefits of culturally responsive pedagogy in enabling students to connect their learning to their Indigenous culture and language and support the very high percentage of students who have English as an additional language or dialect and significant learning challenges

Please note that speakers and session times within this program are subject to change without notice. If you have any comments or questions directly to the program, please contact:
[email protected]