Dialog Box

Speakers & Abstracts | 2018

The Supporting Stronger Futures program includes international and local speakers with a focus on ensuring trauma informed supports are put in place for children who have come from hard places, and work towards better outcomes for them in later life. 

We will again hear from federal and state government on the permanency priorities, plans and progress.

International Speakers

David Cross Ph.D

Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development

Dr. David Cross is the Rees-Jones Director of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development and a Professor in the TCU Department of Psychology.

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Dr. Cross leads the Institute in its effort to create a world-wide  network of trauma-informed partners who can bring hope and healing to children from hard places.  He has authored or co-authored many peer-reviewed publications about issues regarding at-risk children.  Dr. Cross and Dr. Karyn Purvis co-authored The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family, as a way to help adoptive parents understand the needs of their adopted children.  Together, Drs. Purvis and Cross created Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®), a whole-child, attachment based, trauma-informed, and evidence-based intervention for children who have experienced relational trauma.


In order to meet the needs of children in care (residential care, foster care, adoption), the significant adults in their lives (caregivers, caseworkers, teachers, therapists, lawyers, judges) must be well-versed and practiced in the essential components of trauma-informed care and service, including the following: 

  • Understand the impact of relational trauma on children’s brains, behavior, bodies, and beliefs; 
  • Understand the complex needs of traumatized children, emphasizing their needs for felt-safety, connection, and guided self-regulation; 
  • Understand the central role of connection (relationship) in bringing healing to children who have experienced relational trauma; 
  • Cultivate a compassionate and trauma-informed mental model for understanding traumatized children and their behavior; 
  • Engage in an honest self-evaluation about how their own relationship histories might impact their caregiving behaviors; 
  • Understand and practice a core set of intervention strategies, including
    (a) engagement strategies,
    (b) ecological strategies,
    (c) physiological strategies,
    (d) proactive strategies, and
    (e) responsive strategies; 
  • Become system thinkers who can help create trauma-informed systems of care and service.
Ursula Elisara

Foster Carer and Author

Ursula Elisara, together with her husband, is an experienced foster and adoptive parent with over fifteen years of providing care (to over forty children) in the foster care system of New Zealand.

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Ursula shares her family’s journey of fostering and adoption in her book, Foster Care ~ Voices from the Frontline. Ursula is passionate about caregiving, and consequently co-founded Immerse Charitable Trust, where she now works as the CEO, committed to the vision of 'radically transforming the culture of foster care in Aotearoa (New Zealand)'. Underpinned by the therapeutic framework of Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®), along with the ongoing support of Dr David Cross and the Karyn Purvis - Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, Immerse now works at a government level to train, resource and support foster and adoptive families to thrive in their nation. W ~ immerse.org.nz

Michael Tarren-Sweeney

Michael Tarren-Sweeney is a clinical child psychologist, epidemiologist, and child developmental theorist. He is Professor of Child and Family Psychology at Canterbury University in New Zealand, and founding editor of the international research journal Developmental Child Welfare.

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From 1999 to 2009, he carried out the longitudinal Children in Care Study, an epidemiological investigation of the mental health and development of children residing in long-term foster and kinship care in New South Wales. He is presently designing a cross-national, longitudinal cohort study of the development of maltreated children who enter care and/or adoption, with a view to identifying the differential effects of impermanent versus permanent care.

How should society address the plight of children growing up in statutory out-of-home care? Insights from developmental science, history and philosophy.

In this lecture I consider the challenges that society faces in tending to the care and well-being of children who experience such severe and chronic maltreatment that they cannot (or should not) be raised by their parents. Such children leave their parents’ care with psychological and neurobiological systems that are adapted to cope with neglectful or abusive environments – but which are poorly adapted to normative social environments. Fortunately, they can experience psychological and neurobiological recovery in response to consistently sensitive, loving care, as well as other experiences and realities that engender ‘felt security’.

In thinking then about how we tend to the care and well-being of such children, who need to be raised by people other than their parents, I canvas three considerations. The first is restoring to them the opportunity to experience and enjoy what remains of their childhood in much the same way as do other children. The second is restoring the social and familial conditions that are necessary for healthy human development (including relational permanence), and which are also pre-conditions for these children’s development recovery. And the third is their need for specialized clinical services, and intensive caregiver support.

In this lecture I argue that our current statutory care systems are manifestly unable to provide these restorative social and familial conditions. This failure largely derives from our care systems being designed for a different purpose – namely provision of time-limited alternative care for maltreated children, where the case goal is restoration to parental care. To support this argument, I describe several common examples of how impermanent care systems fail these children, including placement instability, carer-child relationships that are qualified by the length of care orders, and developmentally inappropriate child protection and court decision-making timeframes. I conclude with a brief overview of Impermanence Theory – my attempt to explain the developmental effects of legally-impermanent care, drawing on various empirical research, attachment theory and general systems theory, history, ethnography and philosophy.


Hon Di Farmer MP (QLD)

Di was honoured to serve as the Member for Bulimba from 2009-2012, earning a reputation as a hard worker who is passionate about her community. She was delighted to be re-elected in January 2015, promising that, under a Palaszczuk Government, she would again be making sure that the voice of her community would be heard.

Hon Pru Goward MP

Pru Goward was sworn in as the Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for Social Housing, and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in 2017.

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Pru was first elected to the NSW Parliament in 2007. She has also held previous roles as the Minister for Mental Health, Minister for Medical Research, Minister for Planning, Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Health. 

Prior to entering Parliament, Pru served as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner and also Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination. During her time with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission she became best known for her advocacy of a national paid maternity leave scheme, the implications of demographic change, and the challenge of work-life balance.

An economist by training and a broadcaster by practice, Pru spent 19 years with the ABC as a reporter and national political commentator for television and radio. She has received a number of awards for journalism, including a special Walkley Award, journalism`s highest honour.

In 1997 Pru left broadcasting to become Executive Director of the Office of the Status of Women in the Commonwealth Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and was later appointed Government Spokesperson for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, responsible for media management of the thirty Commonwealth Government agencies.

Pru started work as a shop assistant and later as a cleaner and waitress. She has also been a university Economics tutor, a University lecturer in Broadcast Journalism, a high school economics teacher and media consultant. She has authored two books: A Business of Your Own, success strategies for women in business, and co-authored, John Howard, a Biography with her husband, David Barnett.

Pru is a former Chair of the Council for Australian Arab Relations, Deputy Chair of Anglicare (Canberra and Goulburn), and a former member of a number of boards including the John Curtin School of Medical Research. Pru has represented Australia at international forums and negotiations, including APEC, and has been an official guest of the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand and Israel. Her speeches have been reproduced in several important collections.

In 2001 she was awarded a Centenary Medal for her services to journalism and women’s rights, and in 2007 an Honorary Doctorate of Business from Charles Sturt University.

Hon Michelle Landry MP

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry first won the seat in the September 2013 election and made history by winning again in 2016. Michelle Landry has fought hard for the entire region, delivering on the infrastructure, programs and transformative projects that will lead Capricornia to an economically secure future.

Kylie Phipps

Executive Director, Child and Family Practice, Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women

Kylie has a background as a statutory child protection practitioner and over 20 years’ experience working across a number of human service agencies within the Queensland Government.

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Since 2014 Kylie has had the key leadership role in developing and implementing the Strengthening Families Protecting Children Framework for Practice across Queensland – a strengths-based, safety-oriented framework focused on achieving safety, belonging and wellbeing for children and young people.

Kylie is committed to improving outcomes for vulnerable Queensland children and their families through building a culture of professional practice in child safety that values family and community connection, partnership, cultural integrity, participation, strengths and solutions and curiosity.

For Kylie culture is integral to the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and through her leadership role seeks to ensure the cultural integrity of policies, standards and child protection practices in Queensland through partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners and communities.

Speakers and Panelists

Aunty Kerry Charlton

Aunty Kerry Charlton is Goo’enpul-Yuggera and Ngundan-Kabi Kabi of wider and coastal Brisbane and Walangama in the Gulf. She grew up between Stradbroke Island, inner Brisbane and Inala in a big extended family and is a devoted mother, grandmother and great grandmother.

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Aunty Kerry’s teaching and training background led to specialist roles involving cultural and anti-racism programs, leadership mentoring, Indigenous social justice, counselling, Reconciliation, organization and community building, and Committee and Board roles. Aunty Kerry is Co-Chair of the University of Queensland’s RAP Steering Committee.

With a love of people, creative arts and sharing stories Aunty Kerry continues to cultivate respectful ways of working together, to heal from our past and “re-frame” the Goori story into a fuller perspective about our shared history. A life-long interest in her family and community history, culture and language retrieval activated vital research into the Moreton Bay ancestors and Woolarang’uru, a historical language mapping project of the languages of south east Queensland, both will eventually be published.

Aedan Brittain

Aedan is a 25 year old Writer, Presenter and Systemic Advocate with lived experience of out-of-home care (OOHC).

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He is working to improve the OOHC system for future children and young people with the goal of improving their life outcomes. Aedan currently works for the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare as a Young Leader, as a Consultant with the Create Foundation and is completing a Diploma of Community Services. Aedan is also a writer, producing mainly memoir and opinion pieces, he has recently had one of his articles published by SBS. Aedan facilitates training for the sector to reflect and improve on their practice, he speaks about the importance of trauma-informed practice and the crucial nature of safe, long term attachments to adults for children and young people in OOHC.

The importance of permanency and stability in out-of-home care (OOHC).

From the perspective of someone with a lived experience of extensive placement change in the OOHC system.

This presentation will cover some of Aedan’s story living in OOHC. He will address the crucial nature of stability in the lives of young people who have already experienced so much change. This talk will link trauma-informed practice and permanency with giving children and young people with histories of trauma a real chance to heal and live up to their full potential.

Aedan conveys a message of hope, that no matter how much adversity a child experiences, with the right trauma-informed supports and chance to live in a long term placement and develop healthy and safe attachments to at least one primary care giver, there is a chance for the child to recover and go on to lead the life they dream of.

Brenda Carmen

CEO, Permanent Care and Adoptive Families

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Brenda Carmen is a Social Worker with overseas experience in the family service sector including in Out-of-Home-Care and has specialised in children with disability and education. Brenda has been running Permanent Care and Adoptive Families (PCA Families) for 5 years and leading change in Victoria. PCA Families provide education and support to deliver better outcomes for children and families in permanent care and adoption.

Dr Rosie Teague

Principal Advisor at Queensland Family and Child Commission

Dr Rosie Teague commenced her research career as a PhD student working on the Pathways to Prevention Project led by Professor Ross Homel. Her research interests include child wellbeing, out-of-home care and parenting. She is currently working as a researcher at the Queensland Family and Child Commission.

The Reunification of Children from Out of Home Care with their Families: What Insights can be Gained from the Current Evidence Base?

Very little research, particularly Australian research has focused on the reunification of children living in out-of-home care with their families. This presentation will review the current knowledge base around this issue. In particular it will explore available data on the frequency of reunification breakdowns. It also will present findings from research which has explored the impact of these breakdowns on children and young people, particularly in terms of further placement instability and child wellbeing. The importance of continuing to track children after they have been reunified with their families will be highlighted. Barriers to successful reunifications will be discussed as well as features of programs which have been shown to be effective in promoting safe and enduring reunifications.

Deborah Whittington

Continuum Consulting Aust Pty Ltd

Deborah has a B. Arts (Psych) (UWS), Grad Dip. Educational Studies (Primary) (UWS) Grad Cert. Counselling (UNE), Cert IV Training and Assessment (TAFE) and a Grad Cert. in Developmental Trauma.

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She has a strong background in both the child protection sector and leadership positions. Deborah is a trained practitioner in conducting reportable conduct investigations and well versed in legislation, policy and procedure in the Out-of-Home care sector.

Deborah manages the Continuum Consulting Australia Pty Ltd office in Penrith and leads the team in best practice service delivery. Since working with Continuum Consulting Australia Pty Ltd, she has recruited and developed an innovative team to respond to children’s needs an enhance relationships with families. Deborah also conducts comprehensive assessments for the organisation with a view to giving vulnerable children an opportunity for permanency in their placements.

Prior to working within the organisation, Deborah held management positions in the provision of Out of Home Care in the non-government sector and prior to that a career within FACS. She finished her time in FACS as a Senior Project Officer, running the Caseworker Development Program for new caseworkers. Learning and development is a passion of Deborah’s, she continues to provide internal and external training in child protection and specifically her areas of specialty, interviewing children in the forensic framework and parenting programs.

Facilitating family visits for children in out-of-home care

At Continuum Consulting Australia Pty Ltd, we facilitate family visits between children in Out-of-Home Care and their families. The model used is a facilitative model where the visit is not only supervised but facilitated.

In the current child protection climate, we are more aware of the transgenerational trauma and some parents that do not have a relational template conducive to engaging with their children. Our family visits are facilitated in our own rooms which offer a light, spacious and safe environment to build the relationship between children and their parents. The family visit facilitators are trained in Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and use elements of this practice and activities from the Theraplay framework. These assist parents to play with their children in an appropriate way whilst enhancing relationship. Throughout the delivery of the service parents have been surveyed in relation to their experience, children are asked scaling questions or picture cards are used to gather their thoughts and feelings about the visit and feedback is also sought from carers. Whilst parents indicate that they feel respected and rate their experience highly, carers have fed back that children are more settled after this kind of family visit than previously in a supervised contact style arrangement.

Amy Conley Wright

Amy is also an Associate Professor of Social Work and Honorary Senior Fellow at Early Start Research Institute, UOW. Her teaching, research, and practice experiences are in the areas of child advocacy, child and family policy, family support, and child maltreatment.

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The Institute’s strategic vision is to pursue an applied research agenda that will focus primarily on understanding open adoption practice and building the evidence about children and their best interests. A key focus for the Institute research agenda is the active exchange of research findings into policy and practice. Amy previously held academic positions in social work at University of Wollongong, where she is Honorary Senior Fellow at Early Start Research Institute, and in child and adolescent development at San Francisco State University. Her teaching, research, and practice experiences are in the areas of child advocacy, child and family policy, family support, and child maltreatment prevention, within Australia and internationally. She has served as a board member and has provided consulting on child and family services for a number of government and non-government organisations.

What Makes Contact Work for Children, Carers and Birth Parents? Findings from the Family Connections and Contact Study.

Authors: Susan Collings, Amy Conley Wright & Margaret Spencer

Purpose: International evidence indicates that birth family contact can help children adjust to permanent care and gain a sense of belonging to two families but, unlike Australia, most countries do not require ongoing face-to-face contact. Agency supervised contact is the norm in long-term foster care in Australia but families who pursue guardianship and open adoption are expected to maintain contact independently. NSW permanency reforms mean more families will be required to manage contact without agency support. There is evidence that contact is a source of concern for carers and dissatisfaction for birth parents. A study was undertaken to identify practices and attributes that build trust, empathy and understanding between adults and features of positive contact for children and their families.

Methods: Qualitative, arts-based methods were used to explore perspectives of contact for children, birth parents and permanent carers. Carers and adoptive parents participated in a semi-structured interview and birth parents shared their views an arts-based method. A group of young people took part in a focus group and a creative activity was incorporated into interviews with younger children to explore family relationships. Visual and textual data were analysed using an inductive thematic approach.

Findings: A pattern was identified in the quality of contact based on the level of commitment and connection by carers and birth parents. Commitment related to whether contact took place as planned and connection related to the whether the adults had a shared focus on the needs of the child. The pattern was either emergent or strong and was associated with placement type. A third of participants (N=19) were in the process of moving from long-term foster or kinship care to open adoption and guardianship which involved a transition from supervised to unsupervised contact. Families with low connection and/or low commitment may be less ready to make the transition to other forms of permanency for children.

Implications: The capacity to manage contact without agency support is an expectation in open adoption and guardianship. The results indicate that many families remain unprepared to manage contact independently and suggests there is a role for agency supervision during the transition to scaffold the budding relationships between carers and birth parents.

Jean Spencer

Foster Carer

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Jean Spencer has first hand experience of the barriers and frustrations that are frequently faced by foster carers seeking permanency for their children.

How much do you love me?”

Courtesy of his mother’s incarceration during her pregnancy, Bobby didn’t suffer from foetal alcohol syndrome like his closest siblings. Instead, he was borne into care. Unable to live with his family or community, Bobby was placed in the care of someone who would ultimately let him down in the most devastating of ways. He left his only known home in a back seat of a government vehicle.

Bobby spent the next few years with a family who loved and adored him. However, due to their significant years of maturity and ill health, he also left their care prematurely. But despite crying all the way to his new home, this time would be different. Bobby’s biological family were not willing or able to care for him so reunification was not on the cards. In fact, they had not even been in the picture for much of his life, so his new carers enquired about adoption. They wanted to provide him with permanency and stability -a forever home. But instead of being receptive to this idea, Bobby’s carers faced a tiresome, frustrating, non-sensical battle with the Department, whose wheels moved at a glacial pace, and often in the opposite direction.

Not a day goes by where Bobby does not ask his carers “how much do you love me?” multiple times. Thanks to his rough start in life, Bobby needs constant reassurance that he is worthy; he is loved, accepted, safe and secure. Sadly, Bobby is not able to access the permanency he craves, and deserves.

Trevor Jordan

President of Jigsaw Queensland

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He has had over twenty years experience in teaching and researching applied and professional ethics in a wide range of fields, including public sector ethics, criminal justice ethics, healthcare ethics, human services and social work ethics. He has a special interest is ethics and adoption. Meeting the ethical challenges of permanency: Learning from the past to improve the future.

Damon Martin

Damon Martin is the Manager of International Social Service (ISS) Australia’s Intercountry Adoption Service and Special Search Service.

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Damon is a qualified Social Worker and Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner who has worked for ISS Australia for nearly 11 years. Prior to that, Damon has worked for over 12 years in Government Child Protection teams in Australia, England and New Zealand.

Damon is a long standing executive member of the NSW Committee on Adoption and Permanent Care Inc. and the former NSW representative on the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group. Damon has extensive experience providing post adoption support, tracing and family reunification services to local and intercountry adoptees. He is also heavily involved in overseas projects for children in alternative care, currently leading a UNICEF funded project in Cambodia and has previous experience working and training on overseas ISS missions to Vietnam, India, Azerbaijan and Romania.

Lisa Dibb

Lisa has a heart for children and is committed to supporting and assisting families to provide children with stability, connection, community and culture.

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With the support of her four children adopted from Ethiopia & her award-winning jeweller husband, Lisa has been a child advocate for 18 years. She has been passionate about providing Ethiopian born children with access to their birth culture & communities, producing language tapes and organising cooking, weaving, cultural and dancing classes. The two Ethiopian dance & cultural groups that she managed have performed all over Queensland including the G20 celebrations. 

Lisa has held many roles in adoption support both nationally and within Queensland, and is co-founder and current president of a child advocacy organisation, Queensland Alliance for Kids. Her child advocacy work has seen her spend many hours consulting with and writing submissions for government, successfully advocated for permanency for children in Queensland foster care. Lisa also sits on an advisory panel for both the Department of Child Safety and Queensland University of Technology; and is co-owner of one of Australia’ leading custom making jewellery houses, Stephen Dibb Jewellery. Learn more about Lisa Dibb’ work see http://sdj.com.au/about-us/community-work/child-adoption-advocacy

Sue-Anne Hunter

Sue-Anne Hunter is an Aboriginal woman who is strong in her culture and descendents from the Wurundjeri people. Who is committed to self-determination, advocating for the rights of Aboriginal children, young people and families and strengthening culture within our families.

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Sue-Anne has worked at The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) for 18 years and is currently the State-wide Principal Practitioner at VACCA.

Sue-Anne has oversight of all the clinical healing services at VACCA and is the central point for the development of an integrated culturally appropriate and trauma informed approach to working with Aboriginal children and families. This approach looks at Australian history and how it has impacted on Aboriginal people. Theories of trauma, neurobiology, attachment and resilience building combine to assist in understanding and responding to Aboriginal children’s trauma. This approach makes sense of children’s presentations based on the impacts of history on Aboriginal people and the continuing traumatic effects on families today.

Sue-Anne is currently undertaking her Masters of Social Work and recently completed her Master Certificate in Trauma & Recovery with Harvard Medical School. Sue-Anne has also completed her Graduate Certificate in Clinical Family therapy, Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Diploma of Community Development and Diploma of Frontline Management.

Sue-Anne is also experienced in a number of therapeutic interventions and is experienced in Family therapy, DBT, Somatic therapy, DDP and EMDR with adults, children and groups. Sue-Anne brings a cultural lens to her therapeutic work including Aboriginal healing wisdom when working with Aboriginal community, children and families.

Mark Nixon

Mark has been consulting to the Human Services Sector for the past 20 years. He has provide advice to both Commonwealth and State governments on Disability, Foster Care, Aged Care and Social Housing Services. He is a specialist in public sector reforms encompassing policy analysis, market development, procurement, evaluation, performance improvement; corporate governance, pricing strategies, and business risk management. He has been an Assistant Secretary (SES) within the Australian Commonwealth Government and was involved in the formation of the Child Support Agency. He has over 30 years of Public Sector experience.

Leith Harding, BSSc (Hons) Psychology; DipEd

Academic and Doctoral Scholar, School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.  

Leith Harding is an academic undertaking research as part of her PhD. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the podium as a parent, educator and advocate.

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She is a biological and adoptive mother, and former foster mother, who has been directly and actively involved in fostering and adoption for approximately 30 years in both South Australia and Queensland. As such, she has experienced the differences in state policies and practices as well as following the state and federal legislation. As an educator she have been involved in an education and support capacity through the foster and adoption support networks and as an advocator has been involved in writing submissions, attending consultative committees and speaking at parliamentary reviews to bring about legislative changes in Queensland, through working with Intercountry Adoptive families of Queensland, the Australian African Children’s Aid Support Association and Queensland Alliance for Kids. 

'I'm not his mother, I'm ...' Foster carer identity and perception of their role: Does it impact on permanency outcomes for children in Out of Home Care? 

Foster and kin-carer's own understandings of their engagement with the children contrasts markedly from their understandings of the prescribed role of a foster/kin carer. Their identity as carers and their own reports of the children's understandings of their role are often discrepant.  It is hoped that through sharing the perspective of foster and kin carer, the audience will gain further understanding of the contradictions in foster care roles between the institutions of child protection and the individuals employed to deliver child care services by them, and how changes in the public context of foster care affects the longevity or permanency of this role. Specifically, the self-narration and self-perceptions of foster and kin carers, both positively and negatively may influence their interactions with the children placed into their care.

Proposed presentation of research undertaken by Leith Harding who has been have been investigating how foster parents see their roles in light of rapidly changing circumstances in the child protection field.  This presentation is a part of a larger research project being conducted by Leith Harding at the Queensland University of Technology in the Australian. Based on qualitative and quantitative research being undertaken by Leith Harding 159 foster and kinship carers reported on the stresses and satisfactions of the fostering role, during the period that Queensland legislated a shift in the Child Protection Act to include permanency of placement for all children (the last Australian state to make this shift). 

Dr. Ron Frey

Dr. Ron Frey is a psychologist with forty years' experience in various aspects of child protection. He lectured on developmental topics including the impacts of trauma on children, gender and sexuality in the School of Psychology and Counselling at the Queensland University of Technology for 26 and 1/2 years and worked as a child and family therapist with children in care at the Talera Centre (Carinity) for eleven and a half years.

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He served on the board of directors of DV Connect for ten years, and was involved with the Queensland Law Society in the development of best practice guidelines for lawyers working with domestic and family violence. He currently holds visiting positions with QUT and the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies, at the University of Tasmania, where he recently developed the Start Today Again program on the effects of violence on children and families. He continues to research all aspects of trauma, child abuse, family violence and vicarious trauma.

Dr Stacy Blythe

Senior Lecturer, Director of Engagement, 
University of Western Sydney.

Dr Stacy Blythe is a Registered Nurse, Out-of-home care researcher and an authorise foster carer Stacy’s collective skills and experience in the out-of-home care and health care systems positions her uniquely to provide insight into the needs of children and their carers.

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She is passionate about achieving optimal outcomes for vulnerable children and their families.

The importance of a Trauma Informed Education System

The experience of early adversity has significant implications for children’s development, including their capacity to learn. These negative experiences interrupt typical neurological development and result in a number of symptoms that are often misinterpreted and misunderstood. Understanding and managing these symptoms can assist teachers to create safe learning environments for the entire class, while assisting children with a history of trauma to achieve their potential.

This presentation will provide a brief overview typical neurological development, and how the classroom environment (and society in general) are designed to facilitate this development. Then an explanation of the neurobiology of trauma will be presented. Common symptoms of trauma, as they may be presented in a classroom setting, will be discussed. Strategies to create a safe learning environment for children with a history of trauma will be explored as well as ideas to manage disruptive behaviours. This information is transferrable to multiple contexts and informative for all professionals working with children.

Dr Karleen Gribble (BRurSc, PhD)

Dr Karleen Gribble (BRurSc, PhD) is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University.

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Her interests include infant feeding, children’s rights, child-caregiver and caregiver-child attachment, parenting of children with a history of trauma, and aspects of the treatment of infants and young children within the child protection, immigration detention and criminal justice systems.

She has published research on these subjects in peer-reviewed professional psychological, social work, and health journals and engaged in the training of health professionals, social workers, and humanitarian workers on these subjects. Karleen is an adoptive parent via intercountry adoption and adoption from out-of-home care and from 2010-2013 the NSW representative on the National Intercountry Advisory Group.

Belonging in two families: Exploring permanency options for children in long-term out-of-home care

Australia has a large number of children in long-term out-of–home care. In 2016-17 there were 32 638 children who had been in care for two years or more and 20 000 of these children were under the guardianship of the state until they attain the age of majority. There are a diversity of views about how children should be cared for when it is determined that they cannot ever live with their parents. The current available options are that: children continue in long-term foster or kinship care, they be cared for under guardianship orders, or they be adopted via plenary adoption. Discussion of these options in public fora including in parliaments and the media is common and reflects the contentious and highly emotive nature of this subject. The level of contention and the depth of feeling indicates that many believe that there are serious problems with the available models. However, most research in this area exclusively examines only the hard outcomes for individuals who grow up under these frameworks. While such research is useful, it does not provide a picture of what it is like for individuals including the children, their birth parents, their caregiving parents and broader extended families to live within these frameworks or allow such people to provide their views on these frameworks.

This presentation will report on new Australian research that examines the strengths and weaknesses of long-term foster care, guardianship orders and plenary adoption from the viewpoint of care leavers, adopted persons, families of children who have spent time in out-of-home care, foster and kinship carers, adoptive parents, professionals working with these groups and other interested parties. 

It will also consider simple adoption, a type of adoption that involves creating a new legal relationship between adoptive parents and children without removing the the legal ties the child has with their family of origin. Finally, it will present findings on views on post-guardianship and post-adoption support and birth certificates for adopted persons.

Alison Dougan

Alison Dougan is the Director/Principal Consultant with HOPE Consulting and Counselling P/L.

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Alison's area of interest is in the repair and recovery of traumatised children experiencing some form of developmental delays or struggles with managing their emotions, friendships, social groups, family lives or education.

She presents this information to help others gain an understanding of neuroscience, brain development and neuro-plasticity - how the brain develops, connects and can change. Alison is also a Registered Nurse, qualified Counsellor with additional qualifications in Disability, Community Services and Youth Work. Alison holds Certification in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), trained by Dr Bruce D. Perry.

Alison is also the National Association of Therapeutic Parents (UK) Australian and New Zealand members Mentor. She is an NATP Advisor providing support, advice, direction to resources, strength based problem solving and education to Regional members. Alison is qualified Counsellor and Registered Nurse. She is a Foster Parent with over 15 years experience with Developmentally Traumatised children.


The Neuro Sequential Model of Therapeutics and Therapeutic Parenting

The best of both worlds

This presentation will address an overview of The Neuro Sequential Model of Therapeutics (Dr Bruce D Perry) and how the Therapeutic Parenting model (Sarah Naish) work together to help children with Developmental Trauma recover and thrive whilst providing their caregivers the tools to maintain stability, longevity and inner strength.

A Brain Map example will be used to demonstrate the impact of NMT recommendations and Therapeutic Parenting.

Overview of the Neuro Sequential Model of Therapeutics:

This aspect of the session will focus on the unique opportunity carergivers, primarily, and supporting professionals have in influencing the life of children in their care. Specifically, we will explore how the brain develops and can change with effective relationships and activities known to help the child's brain repair. The Session will be built around the work of the Child Trauma Academy, Dr Bruce Perry and the Neuro Sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).

Overview of Therapeutic Parenting:

The aim of Therapeutic Parenting is to enable the child to recover from the trauma they have experienced. This is done by developing new pathways in the child's brain to help them link cause and effect, reduce their levels of fear and shame and to help them start to make sense of their world. Therapeutic Parenting is a deeply nurturing parenting style with a foundation of self awareness and a central core of mentalisation, developed from consistent, empathic, insightful responses to a child's distress and behaviours; allowing the child to begin to self-regulate, develop an understanding of their own behaviours and ultimately form secure attachments. (Sarah Naish - Founder and Director of the National Association of Therapeutic Parents)

We will outline the basic elements of Therapeutic Parenting and its role in supporting the continuation of neural pathway development, forming secure attachments over time and self nurture for the caregivers who undertake this demanding yet vital role in the child’s life. Compassion Fatigue will also be introduced as research indicates at least half of all caregivers at any given time will be experiencing Compassion Fatigue (CF) which is a major catalyst for family breakdown (placement disruption). Supporting professionals have a significant role to play in recognising and supporting the caregiver in Compassion Fatigue to maintain stability for the child.

Dr. Susan Tregeagle

Senior Manager Research and Advocacy for Barnardos Australia

Dr. Tregeagle holds qualifications in social work, social administration and a PhD and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney. She has published extensively internationally and in Australia on child welfare policy.

The Australian Experience of Using Open Adoption to Achieve Permanency for Children Who can never Return Home: 26 Year Study

This presentation will describe initial findings of the Australian Open Adoption Outcomes study, a collaboration between Oxford University and Barnardos Australia, which examined the outcomes of open adoption from 1987-2013. The study collected data related to all children adopted during this period, and conducted detailed interviews with some of the children, a proportion of whom are now middle-aged. Findings show that the children adopted were extremely vulnerable because of experiences within their birth families (ACES) and the care system. Despite this the vast majority were able to find permanent new families which sustained them through to adulthood. Many maintained active relationships with their birth families which was important for their sense of identity. Initial findings in regard to long-term life outcomes post adoption, including those concerning their relationships and ability to live independently, will be discussed. Directions for future research, including further analysis that is being conducted which looks at which children fared best and how policy can contribute to outcomes, will be highlighted.

Dr Betty Luu

Institute of Open Adoption Studies | The University of Sydney

Betty is a Research Associate at the Institute of Open Adoption Studies and has a firm research interest in understanding how the early environment can best support children’s development.

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With a background in developmental psychology, she has experience in implementing, managing and contributing to child-centred research studies within a broad range of topics, including: children’s psychosocial and cognitive development, the impact of early childhood teaching practices on children’s outcomes, as well as children and young people’s identity formation. In her current role, Betty is conducting applied research and practice development in open adoption from out-of-home care in NSW.

Supporting the move from foster care to open adoption: The views of foster carers in NSW

Authors:Betty Luu, Susan Collings, Amy Conley Wright, Suzanne Pope, & Margaret Spencer

Purpose:The NSW Government initiated major legislative and policy reforms to reduce the number of children in long-term foster care. These reforms prioritise Kinship care, guardianship, and open adoption when restoration is not a realistic option. This study explored the influence of these reforms on foster carers’ decisions to pursue open adoption of the children in their care.

Methods: An internet-based survey was conducted with 76 foster carers to understand their motivations and barriers to open adoption. Focus groups were also conducted with 30 carers to explore their caregiving experiences. Four main themes emerged: i) support the needs of children; ii) respect and autonomy for carers; iii) availability of credible, reliable information; and iv) relationships with birth families.

Findings: A key finding from this study is the commitment carers have towards the children in their care. Most carers had considered pursing adoption to provide children with a sense of security and belonging and to have greater autonomy as a family. However, many carers perceived the barriers to outweigh the benefits. Some felt confused about the information they received from agencies or believed that agencies had actively discouraged them from pursuing adoption. All carers emphasised that adoption should be about meeting a child’s needs for permanency, but many were concerned about their capacity to provide lifelong care for children from out-of-home care without additional support. The types of support most valued by carers included: ongoing financial support to provide for the children’s needs; access to therapeutic programs to address the children’s medical, educational and psychological needs; and support with managing birth family contact.

Implications: Adoptions from out-of-home care in NSW are unlikely to increase significantly without enhanced efforts to address the needs and concerns of foster carers. This includes transforming caseworker attitudes and providing post-adoption financial and non-financial supports.

Justine Harris & Estelle Paterson

Oz Child

Justine Harris is a Clinical Psychologist, and currently the National Clinical Advisor at OzChild. Justine is a recognised expert in parenting and family interventions in the area of child protection, juvenile justice and domestic violence.

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A Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years’ experience Justine has experience working with evidence based programs (EBPs) and developing evidence informed programs.

Known internationally for her work with MST, Justine served on the MST Services international advisory panel, due to the development work Justine undertook in bringing Multisystemic Therapy, an evidence based model to Australia and New Zealand. Justine was responsible for the implementation, dissemination, clinical consultation, training, quality assurance and program coordination for the delivery of MST in several government departments and NGOs in NZ and Australia.

Estelle Paterson is an experienced senior leader and currently Assistant Director, leading the implementation of services in Qld for Ozchild. With an MBA and range of qualifications and expertise in the community services sector, Estelle is a strategic thinker with more than a decade’s experience specialising in the delivery of tertiary, secondary and universal child, youth and family services in non-government organisations in Qld, and South Australia.

Estelle works tenaciously to promote the safety and wellbeing of individuals and communities and has a passion for championing the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and young people to grow up within their family, community and culture. Estelle is a strong advocate for measuring impact in the child and family sector and is dedicated to improving outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and families through implementation and delivery of evidence informed approaches.


OzChild’s vision is that all children are safe, respected, nurtured and reach their full potential. This vision underscores three broad outcome domains that all OzChild Services aim to achieve: Safety, Wellbeing and Permanency for children and families. OzChild has invested in training and personnel to advance the use of evidence informed practices within our services to achieve these outcomes. This includes introducing several internationally recognised evidence-based programs (EBPs) including SafeCare and Multisystemic Therapy for child abuse and neglect (MST-CAN) Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Treatment Foster Care-Oregon (TFCO) and an adaptation of an EBP Functional Family Therapy -Child Welfare across the Eastern seaboard of Australia.

This presentation will introduce these models, present initial findings from our implementation in Australia and highlight how these “off the shelf approaches” can provide a continuum of care response to child protection, providing either therapeutic foster care or home based therapy that is trauma informed, delivered utilising interventions that fit the families culture and are strength based with a holistic approach to working with the family with the belief they are the agent for sustainable change. Implementation challenges will also be discussed, including cultural suitability of the approaches and the training, supervision and coaching needs to ensure these approaches provide effective, sustainable solutions to improving permanency outcomes for children and young people.

Rebecca Blinco & Wayne Denning

Group Account Director Rebecca joined Carbon Creative in 2014 off the back of a 20 plus year career in marketing and communications in both the public and private sectors.

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Day to day at the creative agency she works closely with the creative team and side by side with clients, committed to helping bring their campaign and project visions and imperatives to life through innovative strategy; aimed squarely with the target audience in mind.

Rebecca’s extensive marketing and communications experience in her past life, as the client and now, in agency gives her an intuitive edge with clients, having walked many a mile in their shoes. With expertise across a vast range of categories including entertainment, pharmaceutical, insurance, medical, health, education and complex social issues, such as domestic and family violence, palliative care and foster care, she collaborates to deliver the most innovative and brave advertising and public relations possible to get the job done beyond expectation. 

In 2006 Wayne Denning, Managing Director and proud Birri Gubba man left a successful career in Federal Government to form Carbon Creative www.carbon-creative.com.au, a full-service creative agency with a difference.

Determined to give a positive voice to Indigenous Australians, Wayne set about creating innovative engaging design, content and strategy for children’s television and within the corporate arena and hasn’t looked back. Over a decade on, Carbon Creative has evolved. Today and every day Carbon through advertising, marketing and communication campaigns, helps shape and share stories and ideas, not only for our First Australians but for a diverse audience from the mainstream to the marginalised. Carbon takes great pride in our authentic, creative and strategic approach to whatever the challenge.

Beyond the creative agency, Wayne (and his team) ethos remains anchored in social change, steering him to seek out the ordinary in the extraordinary, attempting and being brave enough to tip things on their head. From this position, Carbon continues to develop its own initiatives working closely with Sesame Workshop creating customised content for kids in need and also establishing, STEM.I.AM. helping Indigenous children and young people find the inspiration to be part of and explore STEM related fields.

Wayne also embraces his board positions as the Deputy Chair of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and a Board member for AIME.

Does advertising have a place in finding foster carers?

When budgets are too tight to mention, it’s understandable money spent on advertising campaigns, may be thought of as a crazy waste of precious resources, better allocated to the tangible – more front line services or more resources. Added to this, advertising for commercial output, or in this case for social change, is rarely the silver bullet. Instead a piece in a much bigger, complex puzzle. Not easily measurable nor directly attributable, it’s a risk.

So why bother? In most cases, because organisations need it. Whether you’re raising money or needing people, in our non-stop 24/7 world, not for profits need a voice, authentic to your brand and purpose, that pulls both emotional and rationale levers, to raise awareness and encourage behaviour change.

In the context of foster care, and in the case of the My Forever Family NSW program, the challenge was the pressing need to recruit more foster carers. It’s no secret for any foster care agency trying to do the same; demand well exceeds supply and despite best efforts, relentlessly grows, the system is challenged and the barriers to entry are high, even for those intrinsically motivated.

While early days, the campaign for My Forever Family NSW Same but Different struck a cord resulting in website visits rising and enquiries about becoming a carer. In this session, we’ll share our insights into the campaign in the context of helping others in the sector think about developing their own marketing and campaign strategies. We’ll share the importance of drawing on existing research; developing a strategy; how to create customised content whatever your budget; and insights into what formats work most effectively.