Catharine Hydon

Catharine Hydon is the Director at Hydon Consulting. Over the last 10 years she has worked as an independent education consultant to a range of organisations and government to support the articulation of quality and inspire change. Catharine has extensive experience in the early childhood sector beginning as a teacher in a sessional kindergarten program in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Since then Catharine has lead a range of services and projects for children and their families. 


Catharine has a Masters in Early Childhood Education specialising in early childhood practice, policy and governance, the delivery of integrated services and the exploration of innovative programs to engage vulnerable children and their families.  Catharine draws on this study and her ongoing practice research to consider how theory connects and informs practice. 


Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood field is an important part of her commitment to the sector.  She is a long-time member of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), currently serves 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. 


Catharine is a dynamic speaker and collaborative facilitator and is skilled at engaging professionals in reflective dialogue and creative conversations.

Kerryann Walsh

Proudly sponsored by AlburyCity and Wodonga Council

Kerryann Walsh is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education in the Faculty of Education at QUT. Kerryann served as Co-Director of the $5.3M Australian government-funded Excellence in Research in Early Years Education (EREYE) Collaborative Research Network (CRN) involving QUT, Charles Sturt University, and Monash University (2013-2015). Kerryann has researched and published in the areas of child protection policy, child safe organisations, school-based child sexual abuse prevention programs, professionals’ reporting of child abuse and neglect, and training interventions for mandatory reporters. Kerryann served as an Academic Advisor to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and completed several research projects including an Audit of School Policy and Curriculum and the Scoping Study for Research into the Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse. 

Alison Maher

Alison was admitted to practice as a lawyer in 1999.  She joined Hume Riverina Community Legal Service in 2011, and became a Senior Lawyer since 2016, and works mainly in the areas of family law and family violence. Alison enjoys working in the community legal sector and has a strong commitment to social justice. Alison will speak about key aspects of the family law system relating to children’s arrangements when parents have separated, and in the context of an educational setting.

Jessica Staines

Jessica is passionate about reconciliation, sharing her culture and creating culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families. The Koori Curriculum has been a vehicle that has allowed her to support more services on their journey. Jessica operates Koori Curriculum, an Aboriginal early childhood consultancy based in Sydney’s inner west. Consultants at the Koori Curriculum facilitate a range of professional development workshops for educators that help guide the inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives in early childhood curriculums. Jessica strives to support early years services to embed culturally sensitive Aboriginal culture into their programs.

Associate Professor Jay Phillips

Jay is a Wakka Wakka Gooreng Gooreng woman and educator from southeast Queensland. Originally educated as a primary school teacher, she has been teaching, researching, and advocating for Indigenous students and communities in universities for over 20 years. She is particularly interested in the interaction between Indigenous knowledge systems and western colonial traditions with regard to colonial identity construction and intellectual authority, and teaching for optimal learning in contested spaces.

Jay completed her PhD in 2011. Her thesis, Resisting Contradictions, investigated the resistance of non-Indigenous students to compulsory Indigenous studies and examined how these students managed their learning, and articulated shifts in this resistance. Jay has presented nationally and internationally on curriculum development for face-to-face and online contexts in universities. She has also taught and presented on Indigenous and Indigenist research methodologies, and the ways in which Indigenist pedagogies can mobilise student resistance to deepen learning by authorising Indigenous peoples and knowledge's as empowered subjects, rather than objects.

Jane Caldwell

Maternal and Child Health Nurse

Wodonga Council

Dr Jane Caldwell is a registered nurse, registered midwife, maternal and child health nurse and a researcher. Jane has worked extensively throughout Australia and overseas. For the past 17 years she has been working with the most vulnerable families in metropolitan and regional centres in Victoria. Jane has a passion for researching parenting as well as the impact of early literacy in vulnerable families. She is currently researching the impact of multiple variables on early literacy outcomes for vulnerable children in Foundation Year.

Natalie Thomspon

Natalie is a lecturer in Inclusion and Literacy Studies at Charles Sturt University within the School of Education. Natalie is close to finishing her PhD, in which, guided by her supervisors Dr Noella Mackenzie and Dr Laura McFarland, she is researching inclusive literacy education through children’s perspectives.  Prior to this, Natalie was a local teacher working in a range of inclusive classroom environments.

Chris Varney

Proudly sponsored by Wodonga TAFE

Chris Varney is Founder and Chief Enabling Officer of I CAN Network. I CAN Network is driving a rethink of Autism so that young Australians on the spectrum think ‘I CAN’, not ‘I Can’t’, in response to their challenges and opportunities. Chris was inspired to start I CAN from the exemplary support his family and friends provided in helping him channel his Asperger’s.

Max Williams

Proudly sponsored by Gateway Health

"Max was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum at age 19. Despite facing considerable anxiety issues, he was able to travel nearly 400km away from his tiny country hometown to go to University in the city, and in 2011 he graduated with a Bachelor degree in Social Sciences, followed by a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism in 2013. Max’s autistic specialty is his writing, which is a staple of both his work with I Can Network (as both Speaker and Editor in Chief) as well as his blog, Max's Shop of Horrors

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Naomi Hunter

Naomi is a dual ABIA shortlisted author, with her first two books both being nominated for the prestigious awards. She is a passionate author of children’s story books that nurture and empower children. Her first book, A Secret Safe to Tell has been nominated for awards, has been translated into several languages and has positively impacted children and adults around the world. Her second book, Even Mummy Cries, has helped many families experiencing hardship, illness or grief.

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Steve Murphy

Steve Murphy is a lecturer in Generalist studies in education at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga. In his previous life, he was principal and assistant principal in several schools across country Victoria. His focus as an educator and educational leader was on building positive relationships with families and the local community. Through these relationships, his educators worked to meet the social and emotional needs of every child as an essential foundation for learning.

Marlo Wild

My journey with autism began when my son Cooper, now 13, was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two. Soon after he began Early Intervention, supported by speech and occupational therapy. I attended workshops and conferences to learn as much as I could about his disability. With my teaching background and interest in Autism I was employed by our local Early Intervention provider, Aspire, to facilitate a parent educational group. I did this for three years before returning to teaching. During this time I was inspired to write a picture story book titled My Squares and Triangles. It explores how people like Cooper see the world around them. I wanted to create a valuable resource that explains autism for audiences that include children on the spectrum, their families, professionals and staff and students in educational settings. My Squares and Triangles promotes autism awareness from our families lived experience of love and acceptance.

Rachael Webb

Rachael studied her under-graduate in Early Childhood Education at CSU and post-graduate  Masters in Special Education at University of Newcastle. Rachael has worked in early childhood intervention and disability for 12 years, prior to that in mainstream early childhood settings. Rachael also completes sessional work with CSU for the School of Teacher Education and has been an active member of Early Childhood Intervention Australia (ECIA). She is very passionate about inclusion for all children and implementing best practice services within ECI services.

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