Dialog Box

Speakers & Abstracts

International Speakers

Terry Cross

Founder and Senior Advisor of NICWA – National Indian Child Welfare Association

Terry L. Cross, (Ha-ne-ga-noh), MSW, ACSW, LCWS, an enrolled member of the Seneca Nation of Indians (Bear Clan), is the founder and, now Senior Advisory to the National Indian Child Welfare Association. He received an honorary Doctorate from Portland State University in 2015.

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He has published more than 60 professional papers, curricula, articles, chapters, and books, including Positive Indian Parenting, Cross-Cultural Skills in Indian Child Welfare, Customary Adoption for American Indian and Alaskan Native Children, and “Toward a Culturally Competent System of Care.” For the past five years, he has been part of a team of authors creating an online “Adoption Competency Mental Health Training” and recently provided consultation to Sesame Street on foster care. He has 46 years of experience in child welfare. He has organized culturally specific services, training curricula, and technical assistance programs, and has developed culturally based models for social work practice, research, and leadership development.

Reference Points for Belonging:
Connectedness and for Life-Long Permanency


Terry L. Cross will present an American Indian perspective on permanency and discuss the mental health implications of separation, loss, and grief that is an inherent, yet unspoken part of all adoptions. He will summarize the negative history of American Indians and Alaska Natives regarding foster care and adoption, the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, and the development of tribal services and the National Indian Child Welfare Association. Mr Cross will provide an overview of the Touchstones of Hope approach to child welfare for Indigenous populations, highlighting how many Indigenous communities in the United States are ensuring safety, permanency, and well-being through healing intergenerational trauma and by preserving the child’s reference points for belonging.

Harriet Ward CBE

Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward CBE Honorary Research Fellow, Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education University of Oxford UK

Harriet Ward is Emeritus Professor of Child and Family Research at Loughborough University. She is currently working with the Rees Centre as an Honorary Research Fellow.

In 2002 she founded Loughborough’s Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR), an independently funded research centre designed to produce methodologically sound, policy relevant research on issues concerning children’s social care. She directed the centre until she stepped down in 2014.

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Harriet has over 30 years of experience both as a research director and field researcher, as an adviser to policymakers and service providers, and as a social work practitioner. She was academic adviser to the joint DH/DfE research initiative on safeguarding children and chaired the DfE working party on neglect. She has given invited expert evidence to parliamentary committees and inquiries on looked after children, child and family social work, child protection and foster care. She represents England on the Board of EUSARF (European Scientific Association on Residential and Family Care for Children and Adolescents), and is a founder member of the international network of research on transitions to adulthood from care (INTRAC). She has a EUSARF lifetime achievement award, and was awarded a CBE for services to children and families in 2012.

Harriet joined the Department in 2018, and acts as a consultant to (and participant in) the programme of research on fostering and education situated in the Rees Centre.

Harriet’s research interests focus on the relationship between the state and the family both now and in the past. Her research programme includes: the construction and piloting of a methodology for assessing the outcomes of local authority care (the Looking After Children Project); studies of the relationship between costs and outcomes in children’s services; an empirical study of the experiences of children who entered the Waifs and Strays Society (Children’s Society) in the nineteenth century; and an eight year prospective longitudinal study of children identified in infancy as likely to suffer significant harm. She is currently working on a major study (with Barnardo’s Australia) of the outcomes of open adoption in New South Wales. Findings from Harriet’s research programme have underpinned developments in policy and practice concerning child protection, looked after children and adoption in the UK, the USA, Australia and parts of Europe.


Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston

Minister for Families and Social Services

Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, has been a Senator since September 2012.

Senator Ruston was appointed Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in September 2015. She was subsequently appointed as Assistant Minister for International Development and the Pacific in August 2018. Senator Ruston is also the Manager of Government Business in the Senate.

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Prior to becoming a Senator, Anne held several senior positions in government and the private sector, including as the inaugural chief executive of the National Wine Centre. She was also a primary producer and irrigator, owning and operating the largest commercial rose garden in Australia.

Born and raised in Renmark, on the River Murray in South Australia, Anne is a proud member of the community where she still lives and works to this day. She is the only Senator for South Australia based in a regional area.

Outside of politics, she supports Adelaide United in the A-League, enjoys walking her Labrador and spending time with family and friends.

The Hon Michelle Landry MP

Michelle Landry grew up in Rockhampton, and was elected as the Federal Member for the central Queensland seat of Capricornia in 2013. Re-elected for a third consecutive term in May 2019, Michelle is well known as a tenacious advocate for her electorate.

As the Assistant Minister for Children and Families in the Australian Government, she is committed to delivering permanency reform for the 45,800 children in out-of-home care, and strengthening early intervention support and child protection for our nation’s most vulnerable kids.

Megan Mitchell

Megan Mitchell is Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, appointed in 2013.

Megan has previous experience in both government and non-government roles in child protection, out-of-home care, youth justice, disability, and early childhood services. Megan also holds qualifications in social policy, psychology and education.

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In her role as Commissioner, Megan focuses solely on the rights and interests of children, and the laws, policies and programs that impact on them.

Each year, Megan presents a statutory report to federal Parliament on the state of children’s rights in Australia. In her work to date, Megan has focused on the prevalence of suicide and intentional self-harm in children and young people, the impact of family and domestic violence on children and young people, the oversight of children and young people in correctional detention, and the experiences and trajectories of young parents and their children.

A child’s right: Adults acting in their best interests

Michael Coutts

Michael Coutts is the Manager of Queensland’s Adoption and Permanent Care Services. Adoption and Permanent Care Services is a state-wide unit and the only area able to arrange for the adoption of children in Queensland. Michael has a background in social work and public sector management and has spent over 20 years working in child protection and adoption in a variety of roles. Michael has the unique experience of managing work units in both child protection and adoptions. He has a strong interest on achieving permanency and stability for children in the child protection system when it is determined that they cannot return home to their family.

Craig Layton

Craig Layton is the Executive Director, Child and Family, in the NSW Department of Communities and Justice. He is responsible for policy and programs to protect children and families and support them to thrive, including out-of-home care, child protection, and preservation.

Craig has worked in policy, strategy and human services in the NSW Government for over 15 years, and has been involved in developing and managing a number of major social policy reforms, including the Permanency Support Program to reform out-of-home care, the NSW transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Stronger Together 2 and Ready Together disability reforms, and the NSW Ability Links program.

Tracey de Simone

Tracey de Simone is the Official Solicitor in the Office of the Child and Family Official Solicitor in the Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Tracey has been a solicitor for 22 years. She currently leads a team of 75 lawyers and paralegals across Queensland from Cairns to Roma and situated in child safety service centres. She has previously worked at Legal Aid Queensland in a variety of roles. She started her career in private practice. She specialises in family law, domestic violence cases, independent children’s representation and separate representation in child protection matters. She has also practised in criminal law and anti-discrimination law.

Speakers and Panellists

Alannah Andrews

PCA Families

Born and bred in NSW it was there Alannah studied and first worked as a Nursed in both general and psychiatric hospitals. A move to Western Australia saw further study and registration as a Social Worker.

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Working in a hospital with pregnant Indigenous women, the call of community work was strong. A shift to a leading parenting organisation provided a strong foundation in Child Development and Community Engagement. This was further consolidated on joining the State’s Child Development Service. Alannah was the lead SW in the Southern Autism Assessment Team, Problematic Eating and ADHD programs. Delivering support within prisons to fathers, alongside work as a Project Officer for a University, fine-tuned her ability to deliver a strong analytical approach across multiple systems. Since moving to Victoria three years ago, Alannah has worked with Permanent Care and Adoptive Families. Providing information, support and advocacy to children, young people and families is her passion. The additional needs of children within an ‘out of home care’ setting is where her commitment and focus now lies.

Andrea Lauchs


Andrea recently joined EY as a Senior Manager. Andrea has over 15 years experience in Child Protection Services and was recently the Executive Director, Child and Family Operations, within Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Andrea is a highly experienced leader in child protection practice with a well-developed framework in risk assessment, family contact, reunification and case planning. She has leveraged her deep knowledge to design, deliver and evaluate programs within the sector.

Amy Conley Wright


Amy is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Sydney and Director of the Institute of Open Adoption Studies. There she leads a program of applied research focused primarily on building the evidence about children and their best interests in open adoption and other permanency pathways in out-of-home care.

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A key focus is the active exchange of research findings into policy and practices through substantial engagement with policymakers, practitioners, judiciary and people with lived experience in out-of-home care and adoption. Current projects focus on family contact for children in permanent care, support for cultural identity development, evaluation of Family Group Conferencing and carer recruitment and training. 

In collaboration with National Taiwan University, she is conducting research exploring interest in connection to culture and family of origin in the context of intercountry adoption, from the perspectives of adult adopted persons, adoptive parents, birth mothers and adoption professionals. Amy has published three books as well as authored more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and numerous commissioned research reports, on topics including child advocacy, family support and disability. Her work has been recognised as influencing child and family services in the U.S., Australia, Romania and other countries.

Contact for fostering family connections and identity: Challenges, opportunities and practice development

Betty Luu

The University of Sydney

Betty Luu is a Research Associate at the Institute of Open Adoption Studies, The University of Sydney. She is currently conducting applied research and practice development in the area of permanency for children and young people in out-of-home care in NSW, particularly in open adoption (but also restoration, kinship care, and guardianship). With a background in developmental psychology, she has a firm research interest in understanding how the early environment can best support children’s development.


A case file review of sibling relationships and contact for children adopted from out-of-home care

Brad Murphy

Ex-Pro AFL Player & Adoptee

Brad Murphy is a former AFL player for the Western Bulldogs, 2002-2006, and now coaches and plays for semi-professional Aussie Rules club, Melton. Brad was born to drug addicted parents and grew up in foster care in Victoria from 16 months.

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Young Brad was never going back to his birth parents — his mum moved to Western Australia, while his dad spent most of Brad’s childhood in Pentridge prison. “The thing that chewed me up was not being able to be adopted. I felt I didn’t belong to anyone,” he says. He wanted to be adopted; his foster carers wanted to adopt him, but his dad wouldn’t provide consent. Brad was adopted by his long-time foster parents at the age of 18. Brad will be speaking on his experiences in the Carer/Parent session and will join the main conference as a panellist.

Danielle Draper

Accredited Mental Health Social Worker

Danielle is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker; Psychotherapist; Court Clinician; Training Facilitator; and a lecturer at the University of Wollongong.

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With a career that spans over two decades in the community services sector, Danielle has worked in many frontline and leadership roles across New South Wales in both city and regional/remote communities. In 2013 she founded her own company, Continuum Consulting Australia Pty Ltd and more recently has been engaged by University of Wollongong as lecturer and subject co-ordinator in social work.

Danielle is passionate about creating positive outcomes for children through leadership and the development of good practice. She established Continuum Consulting as a platform to create practice change in the areas of family visit facilitation and assessment work. Danielle also conducts training and coaching, and undertakes assessments for the Children’s Court Clinic for the company. More recently Danielle has developed therapeutic services at Continuum specialising in trauma-focused CBT, EMDR, and Theraplay, all specifically tailored to support children with developmental trauma.

She leads a team of 40 staff across two Continuum Consulting offices, Wollongong and Penrith, and a satellite team located around New South Wales, including regional and remote areas.

Danielle has a Bachelor Social Science (Psychology); Master of Child and Adolescent Welfare, Master of Social Work, Cert IV in Training and Assessment, a Grad Cert Developmental Trauma and a Grad Cert in Executive Coaching and Leadership. She is qualified in TF-CBT, EMDR and Theraplay as focussed psychological strategies for working with children and families in a therapeutic framework.

Danielle is an accredited member of the Australian Association of Social Workers, NSW Chamber of Business – Illawarra, The EMDR Institute, EMDRIA, ISPCAN and more recently has been a finalist in the Illawarra Business Awards for the ‘Excellence in Leadership’ Award.

Deborah Whittington

Continuum Consulting Aust Pty Ltd

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

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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 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 and had a five-year 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.

Best Practice in Facilitating Family Time


A meaningful connection to family, kin and community helps a child or young person develop a sense of belonging and hope.

Creating and keeping relationships and emotional permanence for a child or young person, through informal and formal types of contact, plays an important role in:

  • easing the pain of separation and loss for a child or young person, their family and significant others
  • reducing the child or young person's sense of abandonment
  • reassuring the child or young person of their family's wellbeing
  • promoting cultural and spiritual identity
  • supporting restoration by maintaining relationships.

Whilst the focus is on the child in undertaking family visits, often competing attention is experienced by birth family and carers needs. How these needs are addressed are important to successful family visits being achieved is important. We will discuss these needs and identify practices that help shape best practice in facilitated family visits.

Deborah Willick

Program Manager adoption OOHC Illawara Barnardos Australia

Deborah Willick is an experienced practitioner who has worked in early childhood services and a range of intensive family support services and out of home care programs with Barnardos Australia, the last four years in the Find-a-Family adoption program. Deb firmly believes casework in out of home care services should be strongly focused on the child’s best interests, considering their holistic developmental and psychological needs.

Making contact meaningful in OOHC adoption

Deborah Willick and Elizabeth Cox 


Open Adoption is legislated practice in New South Wales. The purpose of this paper is to describe practice learning on how to achieve successful contact arrangements.


This presentation is based on practice experience about casework within the pre-adoption phase of placements.

Information about case examples was taken from a file review of children where adoption orders were made within a 4 year period (1/1/2014 – 31/12/2017) across 6 adoption programs. We considered the perspectives of the child, the adoptive parent and the birth parent when closely examining a case study from each of the 6 programs. Using qualitative interviews with direct staff we examined some of the obstacles to navigate when arranging face to face contact and how these can be overcome in order to enhance the quality of visits for all parties.

The paper is based on casework practice within Barnardos Find-a-Family program. All children in the program have been permanently removed from their birth parents’ care due to directly experiencing neglect and abuse or being at significant risk of neglect and abuse. All children have long term Children’s Court orders allocating Parental Responsibility to the Minister until they attain 18 years of age upon entry to the program. Over recent years, Barnardos have specifically focussed on working with children under 5 years of age to secure an Adoption Order in a timely manner with time frames supporting the commencement of the adoption processes within 12 months of placement. The children are placed into a permanent foster care placement “with a view to adoption” as identified in their Care Plan. Our adoption program works with some of the most vulnerable parents in society, those who experience homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, poor mental health, incarceration and often a history of being in care themselves.


Despite the obstacles, most children in the program have ongoing and regular contact with their birth family, including parents, siblings and other significant extended family members. This contact is usually face to face and it is rare that direct contact between a child and parent would not be supported by adoptive families. Face to face contact between a child and their birth parent occurs several times each year, usually between 2-6 occasions. Contact potentially has significant advantages for the child and the birth parent with benefits including: open knowledge and understanding of biological identity for the child, the birth parent’s opportunity for ongoing involvement in the child’s life and facilitates communicative openness outside of visits for adoptive parents.

Elisha Rose

MC – Carer Sessions

Lawyer, mum and volunteer Elisha Rose is also known as The Other Mother.

Elisha came to foster care wanting to help children overcome trauma, given her own traumatic childhood never expecting to end up with guardianship of two indigenous boys.

Elisha writes a blog called The Other Mother sharing her experience of fostering in Australia.

Elisha is a keen volunteer for Adopt Change and advocate for change to the foster care system.

Elizabeth Cox

Executive Manager
OOHC NSW/ACT Barnardos Australia

Elizabeth Cox has a Bachelor Social Science and an MBA and has over 32 years’ experience working with children and families in Out of Home Care. For the past 30 years, Elizabeth has been employed by Barnardos Australia; initially in case management and more extensively in management. Elizabeth current holds the position of Executive Manager OOHC NSW and ACT. In her career in OOHC Elizabeth has developed extensive skills in achieving permanency for children through permanent family placements and open adoption.

Janise Mitchell 

Deputy CEO

Janise Mitchell is the Deputy CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation and Director of the Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care. She is also an Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Arts and Social Sciences with Southern Cross University.

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Janise has 30 years’ experience in the field of child protection and child welfare, with a focus on therapeutic care. She completed a Master of Social Work (Research) in 2008 in which she researched the implementation of therapeutic foster care in Victoria. In her current role, Janise has been instrumental in the conceptualisation, development and implementation of the ACF therapeutic care programs with partner agencies.

Janise has experience in child protection, high-risk adolescents, public policy analysis, program development and evaluation. She has extensive experience in the development of innovative therapeutic programs for traumatised children and young people. Janise has provided consultancy to many governments on the issue of therapeutic services for children and young people and regularly participates on state and national Advisory Groups seeking to address the needs of children and young people in the child protection, out of home care, secure care and youth justice sectors. Janise has a commitment to evidence-informed practice and believes strongly in the participation of young people in the development of services, policies and programs that seek to support them.

Janise has presented nationally and internationally and has a range of publications, most recently as lead editor on a new book The Handbook of Therapeutic Care for Children: Evidence-Informed Approaches to Working with Traumatized Children and Adolescents in Foster, Kinship and Adoptive Care edited by Janise Mitchell, Joe Tucci and Ed Tronick, 2019, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Networks of relationships as permanency – thinking beyond placement and planning for life.

Joel de Carteret

Filmmaker & Adoptee

Joel is CEO & Chief Storyteller at Stories In Motion, where he makes beautifully crafted stories that touch the heart and fill the soul. As featured recently on Channel 9's 60 minutes and GMA’s Kapuso Mo - Jessica Soho, Joel’s story has reached over 22 million people around the planet.

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Joel was born in the Philippines but was separated from his family and found in a busy marketplace at age five. Nearly 31 years on, having been adopted and raised by an Australian family, Joel embarked on what seemed like an impossible mission to track down his birth mother. With virtually nothing to go on except knowing the date and location he was found, Joel undertook a journey that shows how sheer grit and determination can overcome even the most insurmountable odds. His skills as a film maker and producer, along with millions of Filipino’s, aided him to the reunification of his long lost parents.

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.

Infant feeding in foster care: Experiences and education needs of foster carers


Karleen Gribble and Stacy Blythe

National and international health recommendations are that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then continue breastfeeding into the second year of life. These recommendations are in recognition of the growth, immunological and developmental support provided by breastfeeding. In situations of maternal vulnerability, breastfeeding has increased importance because of the positive impact it has on maternal caregiving capacity. As a result, the newly released National Breastfeeding Strategy specifically calls for support for breastfeeding within the child protection system. Where infants are not breastfed, Australian guidance is that caregivers should be provided with individual education on feeding infant formula via the health system.

Each year about 2500 infants enter out-of-home care (OOHC). The feeding of these infants can prove difficult, whether they are breastfed or formula fed at the time they enter care because of issues associated with maternal separation, trauma, and the health conditions they commonly experience. An added challenge is that foster and kinship carers are not routinely linked into the health system. There have not previously been studies exploring the facilitation, or not, of ongoing breastfeeding in the context of foster/kinship care. Neither have there been investigations into whether foster/kinship carers are aware of the correct selection, preparation and administration of infant formula or expressed breast milk.

Our research with foster and kinship carers and professionals within the child protection system explored the challenges associated with infant feeding in foster care. This included carers’ previous experiences with infant care, management of contact where infants are breastfed, handling and use or discard of expressed breastmilk, decision making concerning formula feeding, bottle feed challenges, and perceived education needs. This presentation will discuss the results of this research.

Lanai Scarr


Lanai is Federal Political Editor for the West Australian and an Adopt Change Media Ambassador. She has worked as a journalist for more than 11 years covering federal politics, business, women, families, mental health, immigration, tourism, social affairs, education, along with a range of other topics at the forefront of the Australian media landscape.

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Lanai was made a ward of the state at age five and experienced significant tragedy in her childhood. Her mother died by suicide when Lanai was seven and her father died of a heart attack when she was 16. Lanai was determined to not let her past define her and worked hard to achieve success in the competitive media landscape. Lanai has travelled Australia and the world with her writing, been on the frontline of election campaigns, leadership spills and natural disasters. Lanai will moderate a series of discussions and will talk on her own lived experience as a panellist.

Mark Galvin


Mark is a Partner in EY’s Government and Public Sector practice and leads the firm’s Evaluation Practice Network. Mark is an economist and evaluator with over 15 years of experience as a professional advisory consultant. He is passionate about the use of traditional economic and evaluation methodologies to transform systems and achieve better outcomes for the most vulnerable people in our community. Mark leads EY Oceania’s Evaluation Practice Network and leads work across the human services spectrum on behalf of the government and for-purpose clients.

Starting her carer with OzChild in the kinship care team more than eight years ago, Robyn has also worked across, foster care, disability and the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program, currently holding the position of TFCO Program Supervisor.

Passionate about children’s rights and connections to family, Robyn has a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology and Genetics), Graduate Diploma of Educational Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Psychology.

With a team of eight working alongside her, Robyn and the TFCO team in Victoria have achieved some outstanding results since the programs inception more than three years ago.

Improving Timeliness in Permanency Decisions for Children in Care

Andrea Lauchs1, Mark Galvin1, Dr Melissa Kaltner1, DSS Rep2, Mohita Kapoor3

1Ernst & Young, 2Department of Social Services, 3CREATE Foundation


Despite the efforts of all states and territories, an increasing number of children continue to enter Out of Home Care (OOHC) across Australia. Reflection on the body of evidence in child development suggests that delays in the achievement of permanency and stability are likely to be associated with poor outcomes for children in care. This evidence has underpinned the inclusion of timeliness in permanency planning policies in many Australian jurisdictions, with the introduction of requirements for timely decision making in the consideration of reunification and for the achievement of permanent orders in some jurisdictions.

In order to best understand the role of timeliness in permanency decision making, a consortium led by EY is currently supporting the actions associated with the Fourth Action Plan (2018 – 2020) for Protecting Australia’s Children. This project is being undertaken in partnership with the Department of Social Services (DSS), SNAICC and the CREATE Foundation, leading engagement across jurisdictions to support the development of a national approach towards timeliness in permanency planning to best meet children’s needs.

This workshop session will present our findings to date in exploring the relevance of timeliness in permanency achievement to children’s lives. We will share insights gained from across Australian jurisdictions on the role of timeliness in achieving permanency, including hearing from the voices of children. A workshop activity will then be facilitated within the session to consider the role of timeliness in decision making, with the views provided by the audience to be integrated into our work to shape recommendations for a national approach to timeliness.

  1. Clare Tilbury & Jennifer Osmond (2006). Permanency Planning in Foster Care: A Research Review and Guidelines for Practitioners, Australian Social Work, 59:3, 265-280, DOI: 10.1080/03124070600833055 
  2. Susan Tregeagle, Lynne Moggach, Helen Trivedi & Harriet Ward (2019). Previous life experiences and the vulnerability of children adopted from out-of-home care: The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and child welfare decision making. Children and Youth Services Review, 96, 55-63, ISSN 0190-7409.
Dr Melissa Kaltner


Melissa recently joined EY as an Associate Director where she leads program evaluation projects. Prior to joining EY, she worked within various Queensland and New South Wales Government Departments where she was responsible for the development and coordination of state-wide programmes of child protection and health research. 

Melissa holds a PhD in child protection and has authored both book chapters and numerous peer reviewed publications in the area. In 2015, she received a Churchill Fellowship to support her international research into adoption and permanency in foster care. Her career is dedicated to facilitating applied, practice-focused research and evaluation projects which address health and wellbeing inequalities faced by vulnerable members of our community.

Mohita Kapoor

CREATE Foundation

Mohita Kapoor is the NSW state coordinator for CREATE foundation. CREATE is a the National consumer Peak body for the voices of children and young people with a care experience.

Mohita has 15 years’ experience working within a therapeutic framework with vulnerable communities. She is passionate about client centre approaches when addressing and improving practices through evidence based models.

Mohita joined CREATE to lead NSW in advocating the importance of building meaningful participation and relationship with vulnerable children and families.

Muriel Bamblett Hon DLittSW AM

Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency CEO

Muriel Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung woman who has been employed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency since 1999. Muriel has recently been appointed as Chairperson of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (the peak agency representing Indigenous Child and Family Services nationally) and was previously Chairperson from 1997 to 2008.

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Muriel is active on many boards and committees concerning children, families and the Indigenous community. These include the Victorian Children’s Council; the Aboriginal Treaty Working Group; the Indigenous Family Violence Partnership Forum and the Aboriginal Justice Forum. Muriel is on a number of Ministerial Advisory Groups, including for Aboriginal Affairs; and for Roadmap Implementation. Muriel is a Board Member of the Aboriginal Community Elders Service.

Muriel’s contribution to her community and to Victoria has been recognised in many awards. In 2019 Muriel was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in the Australia Day Honours for distinguished service to the Indigenous community in Victoria as an advocate for the self-determination and cultural rights of children. Muriel has also received the Centenary of Federation Medal; the 2003 Robin Clark Memorial Award for Inspirational Leadership in the Field of Child and Family Welfare; and the Women’s Electoral Lobby Inaugural Vida Goldstein Award. In 2011 Muriel was inducted into the Victorian Indigenous Honour Roll in 2017 and the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2011. Muriel was a finalist for a Human Rights Medal with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Academic institutions have also recognised Muriel’s work. In 2009 Muriel was appointed by La Trobe University as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy. In 2017 Muriel was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters in Social Work by the University of Sydney in recognition of her outstanding contribution to Aboriginal child and family welfare.

Oliver Hill

OzChild Treatment Foster Care Oregon

With a strong background in child welfare and development, and extensive experience working with evidence-based programs ion both government and non-government organisations, Oliver has been working with OzChild’s Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) team for more than three years, the last 12 months as National Practice Leader for the program working across Victoria, NSW and QLD.

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Having started his journey with OzChild in 2016 as the Program Supervisor for the TFCO-Child program in Victoria, Oliver’s experience extends across a variety of portfolios in the community services sector including intensive family support services, juvenile justice and child welfare and has seen him work in the Northern Territory, New Zealand, and New South Wales.

With a keen interest in evidence-based models, Oliver brings experience as a Multisystemic Therapy (MST) Clinical Supervisor in both New Zealand and New South Wales to his role within the TFCO program and is focused on ensuring better outcomes are achieved for children and young people in out-of-home care.

Robyn Jackson

OzChild Treatment Foster Care Oregon

Robyn is the parent of three teenagers and has more than 20 years’ experience in the community and welfare sectors.

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Starting her carer with OzChild in the kinship care team more than eight years ago, Robyn has also worked across, foster care, disability and the Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) program, currently holding the position of TFCO Program Supervisor.

Passionate about children’s rights and connections to family, Robyn has a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology and Genetics), Graduate Diploma of Educational Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Psychology.

With a team of eight working alongside her, Robyn and the TFCO team in Victoria have achieved some outstanding results since the programs inception more than three years ago.

Treatment Foster Care Oregon, an evidence-based approach to family reunification.


OzChild has been delivering Australia’s first evidence-based foster care model, Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO) since April 2017, and now has five teams operating across VIC, NSW and QLD.

TFCO is an intensive short-term foster care model with effectiveness in addressing behavioural difficulties in children and young people, transitioning them into less intense placements. OzChild delivers both the Child model (7-11) and the Adolescent model (12-17), with the primary aim of to reduce the number of children and young people in residential care and reunify them with family.

OzChild’s Oliver and Robyn will provide an overview of the treatment components, outline the importance of the Family Therapist role, and discuss the way in which OzChild has adapted the model for our cultural context. You will also hear of the life-changing outcomes for a child who has successfully completed the program and has been reunited with her birth family.

Dr Sarah Wise

Dr Sarah Wise currently works as a research specialist within the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. She has worked outside academia, in a leading Commonwealth government research centre and significant industry research roles. Her fields of research include child and family welfare, early childhood development and systems change. She is currently leading a research program focusing newborn and very young children and child protection and permanency for children entering care.

The Permanency Amendments Longitudinal Study: Understanding the impact of legislative change to promote permanency for children entering care


Significant amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 were passed in September 2014 and came into effect on 1 March 2016. The amendments aimed to promote the permanency of care arrangements for children subject to child protection intervention and unable to safely remain at home. Timelines for achieving family reunification were introduced along with the earlier commencement of case planning to achieve permanency objectives.

Also, case plans for all Aboriginal children in out-of-home care are now required to address their cultural support needs. Upon taking office in November 2014, the Minister for Families and Children, Jenny Mikakos, requested the Commission for Children and Young People undertake an inquiry into the impacts of the ‘permanency amendments’.The resulting “…safe and wanted…” report recommended the Victorian Government initiate a study to determine whether the permanency amendments are achieving their objectives. In response, the Victorian Government appointed a consortium led by the University of Melbourne and including the Universities of Sydney and of New South Wales, to undertake the study.

This paper provides a detailed overview of the permanency amendments and their intention. This will be followed by a presentation of the multi-method study approach developed by the academic researchers to determine whether the permanency amendments that have been implemented are having their intended impact on children, families, carers, professionals and the functioning of the whole child protection system. Other aspects of the study, including investigators, governance structure, timelines and communications will be described.

Shellie Morris

Adoptee & Musician

Shellie is a singer, songwriter and musician, and the NT Australian of the Year in 2014. Adopted into a Sydney based family as a baby, Shellie remains very close to her adoptive family, who encouraged her to seek out her biological family more than two decades ago.

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Her journey took her, via Link Up, to the Northern Territory and on continuous learning of her Wardaman and Yanyuwa heritage and into more than 70 remote communities of this country.

A favourite and celebrated vocalist, Shellie has spent the past 25 years creating and engaging in music as a healing tool. She imparts the importance of having a voice and that each individual is important. While she has been in the spotlight over the years for her involvement with Black Arm Band, Deadly Awards, ARIA nominations, Music Australia award, NAIDOC Award, G.R. Burarrawanga Memorial Award and Australian of the Year award; by and large, she works on the ground empowering and gently effecting change. Shellie creates music and sings in around 17 Aboriginal languages, many considered “sleeping”. Since discovering her family, she has tirelessly worked to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians, especially in the Northern Territory.

Dr Stacy Blythe

Western Sydney University

Dr Stacy Blythe is a mother, foster carer, and senior lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Western Sydney University.

Her program of research is concerned with the health and well-being of children in out-of-home care, and their families. Stacy’s teaching focus is in infant mental health. She holds a PhD in relation to foster care and has post graduate qualifications in developmental trauma.

Sue-Anne Hunter

Aboriginal Cultural Consultancy

Sue-Anne Hunter is a proud Wurundjeri and Ngurai illum wurrungwoman, committed to self-determination and advocating for the rights of all first nations peoples. 

Prior to the establishment of her business, Aboriginal Cultural Consultancy in 2019, Sue-Anne worked in the Aboriginal child and Family Welfare field filed for over 18 years and is committed to ensuring the rights of her people.

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Sue-Anne is currently undertaking her Master 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.

She has an in-depth understanding of developmental, trans generational and community trauma’s as well as western modalities of therapy, her studies have been both nationally and internationally and she is proficient in multiple therapeutic interventions, in which she combines with cultural knowledge to bring about healing change for her people. Sue-Anne is passionate in ensuring her people receive a high quality of service delivery particularly in the space of health and wellbeing.

Sue-Anne brings a cultural lens to her therapeutic work including Aboriginal healing wisdom when working with the Aboriginal community, children and families.