Ambassadors

Each National Families Week a number of prominent Australians are designated as National Families Week Ambassadors. They promote the Week through their networks, by issuing media statements and attending events.

Families Australia greatly values the role played by our fabulous Ambassadors!

The National Families Week 2017 Ambassadors are:


Dr Brian Babington – Families Australia

A social change proponent, diplomat and author, Dr Brian Babington has worked for over three decades for stronger communities, families and individuals in Australia and developing countries, particularly in Asia.

Since 2005, he has been the CEO of Families Australia, a national, not-for-profit peak body that advises the Australian Parliament and Government on ways to improve the wellbeing of disadvantaged families and children. He plays leadership roles in numerous national and international bodies, particularly as convenor of the National Coalition on Protecting Australia’s Children and as a director of a major international child-centred community development agency, Plan International Australia.

He established an innovative social venture firm to advance Indigenous leadership, authored a book on managing personal adversity, and directed Australia’s aid program in rural and remote parts of Burma. He represented Australia at four UN General Assemblies on development and economic issues, and was awarded a PhD by the Australian National University for his research into Indonesian Government policymaking with regard to children in orphanages.Families are society’s most important building block.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Stronger families equate to stronger communities because they embody caring for others, connectedness with people, and providing hope, support and comfort. Dr Brian Babington, has written about the Week here.

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 Dr Roslyn Baxter – Department of Social Services

Ros Baxter is Group Manager of Families Group in the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services.  Her group leads the Government’s work on the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children; manages significant programmes to support children, parents and families; takes the lead on birth, adoption and care policy; and manages federal income management and financial wellbeing interventions. Ros has worked in social and welfare policy and practice in both Australia and the United Kingdom, and in local, state and federal government.  She has been a presiding member of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, and has also worked as a consultant, providing advice to public and private sector organisations in developing regulation and prosecuting strategic policy. She has degrees in government, social work and law from the University of Queensland, and a PhD in law (welfare reform) from the University of Sydney.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

In Australia today, there are more blended families, single parent families, couples without children and less married couples than 30 years ago. Regardless of their composition, families remain the building block of our communities. The Department strives to strengthen families and communities and their important role in Australian society.

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Ms Barbara Bennett – Department of Social Services

Barbara is a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Social Services with responsibility for Families and Communities.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families in Australia play an important and vital role in our society, with almost three out of four Australian households occupied by families. As Australian families continue to change and develop, the Department works to help strengthen families and communities as the building blocks of our society.

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Ms Alison Brook – Relationships Australia

Alison has been the National Executive Officer for Relationships Australia for the past seven years. In that role, she is responsible for leading a small team in developing national policy in a broad range of social policy areas, representing Relationships Australia’s interests to Government, advocating on issues of importance to the Relationships Australia federation and to promoting the work of the organisation. She also liaises frequently with other peak bodies, such as Families Australia, in her role. Prior to her move Canberra in early 2010, Alison had 20 years’ experience in the NSW Senior Executive Service in the area of law enforcement. She also worked for a number of years in a regional university in NSW as well as a range of different roles in the private sector. Alison holds a Masters degree in Management (UTS) and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is a Justice of the Peace in NSW. Alison’s current role is well suited to her personal interests in the Australian political process, social policy and social justice.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

When families function well they are a potent predictor of excellent health and wellbeing for family members. The opposite outcome occurs in families that do not or cannot function well. Families Week gives us an opportunity to celebrate when families are loving, supportive and safe and to remind ourselves of the need to support families who do not provide a nurturing environment for their children.

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Ms Deirdre Cheers – Barnardos Australia

Barnardos Australia CEO Deirdre Cheers is a well-known and respected leader in the child welfare sector. Prior to her appointment with Barnardos in July 2015, Deirdre was the Executive Director of CatholicCare in the Diocese of Broken Bay. During her tenure at CatholicCare Broken Bay, she grew the organisation by almost 2½ times. Deirdre is on the Board of the industry body, the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA), and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Deirdre has Masters Degrees in both Social Work and Public Administration and has published extensively on welfare research and policy issue.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Everyday families doing their best to care for and nurture children form the backbone of our community. When families are in crisis due to violence, mental illness, poverty, homelessness and substance abuse, it’s often the children who suffer most. It is crucial that families are supported to keep children safe at home – this in turn strengthens communities and gives all Australian children the chance of a better future.

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 Dr John Falzon OAM – St Vincent de Paul Society

Dr John Falzon is an advocate for social justice. He is the author of The language of the unheard (2012) and has worked in academia, in community development and in social analysis and research. He has been the Chief Executive of the St Vincent Paul Society National Council of Australia since 2006 and a poet since 1973. He has written and spoken widely in the public arena on the structural causes of inequality in Australia.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

If we want a society in which all families are cherished and supported we could begin by making sure that everyone has a place to call home, that a well-funded and equitably resourced education system is strengthened for all, that there are jobs for those who can work and adequate income support for those who cannot, and that health is enjoyed as a human right for all rather than a commodity that can only be afforded by some.

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Professor Daryl Higgins – Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU

In February 2017, Daryl was appointed Professor and Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University. His research focuses on public health approaches to protecting children, and child-safe organisational strategies. A registered psychologist, he has been researching child abuse impacts and prevention, family violence, and family functioning since 1993.
Prior to joining ACU, Prof Higgins was the Deputy Director (Research) at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, where he had responsibility for its research program and knowledge translation and exchange functions focusing on policy- and practice-relevant issues affecting families in Australia.
He has extensive experience in managing and supervising research, and has led projects looking at child abuse and neglect, child protection, children in out-of-home care, child-safe organisations, family law and allegations of child abuse, disability and family care, welfare reform, family and interpersonal violence, jobless families, past adoption and forced family separation practices, and community development approaches to child and family welfare issues. He has considerable experience in qualitative and quantitative evaluation methodology and frameworks, and has a sound knowledge of state and territory policy and service delivery contexts across Australia.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

My research has explored some of the complexities that confront both those who frame social policy and those involved in the legal systems that intersect with child and family issues. I have analysed both historical perspectives and current views, identifying challenges for future directions in policy and law relating to the protection and wellbeing of children and their families in Australia. Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies highlights the value of positive family functioning and connection to community for the wellbeing of all Australians.

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Dr Cathy Kezelman AM – Blue Knot Foundation

Dr Cathy Kezelman AM is a medical practitioner, President of Blue Knot Foundation (formerly ASCA) , member of the Mental Health Community Advisory Council (NSW), on the Advisory Panel of Tzedek and Jewish child protection taskforce (NSW). Under her stewardship Blue Knot Foundation  has grown into the leading national organisation working to improve the lives of adults who have experienced childhood trauma in all its forms.

She is a prominent voice in the media and at conferences, author of a memoir: Innocence Revisited- a tale in parts; co-author of nationally and internationally acclaimed Practice Guidelines for Treatment of Complex trauma and Trauma Informed Care and Service Deliver and co-author of the 2015 Economic Report into the Cost of Unresolved Childhood Trauma and Abuse in Adults in Australia.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Healthy attachments are critical across the life cycle both for the health and wellbeing of individuals but also in fostering cohesive robust communities.   Many adults who have experienced childhood trauma have fractured family bonds. Healthy interpersonal relationships of trust and mutual support can replace traditional blood ties and build ‘de facto families’.

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Professor Morag McArthur – Australian Foster Care Association

Morag has spent the past 30 years conducting research, teaching social workers and consulting on issues related to vulnerable children, young people and their families. Her extensive research in the area has included studies on; 1) child protection 2) juvenile justice 3) homelessness 4) families experiencing multiple disadvantages and their service use 5) family relationships 6) substance misuse in families and 7) the development and implementation of integrated services systems for children, young people and their families.
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Mr Andrew McCallum AM – Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies

Andrew commenced his working life as a primary school teacher after completing a Diploma of Teaching at Ballarat Teachers’ College. After studying in the United Kingdom he moved into the welfare sector as an Education Officer/Supervisor of Residential Services at Orana Children’s Homes in Melbourne. In 1981 he took up the position of inaugural Director of Wimmera Community Care (Uniting Church agency) based in Horsham; a position he held for five years before taking up the position of Chief Executive Officer of St Luke’s Anglicare in the Loddon Mallee region of Victoria. A position he held until January 2006.

Andrew has held many board positions on state and national bodies including five years as President of the Children’s Welfare Association of Victoria (CWAV) and Chairperson of the Child and Family Welfare Association of Australia.  In 1999 Andrew was awarded life membership of CWAV. Andrew is a past President and life member of the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), and during 1999 – 2001 Board and Executive Member of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS).  Andrew McCallum was elected President of ACOSS in 2001 a position he held until December 2005. Andrew has worked as a consultant in the community services sector and is currently CEO of the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies [ACWA] based in Sydney. In 2011 Andrew was made a Member of the Order of Australia for leadership in Social Advocacy especially in relation to children and families.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families in all their many and varied forms provide the critical foundations of a caring and cohesive society. They face tremendous pressure and expectations in our ever changing world and it is incumbent on all of us to nurture the values that families imbue and ensure they are supported. So often we forget the vulnerable, alienated and marginalised when we speak of “family Life” and the tremendous support it can provide. We must however ensure that when we speak of families it is inclusive of those who too often are spectators to what so many of us take for granted. Families week is a time to generously embrace all in our community with a view to the future.

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Ms Anne McLeish OAM – Grandparents Australia

Anne is currently National Director of Grandparents Australia and state director of Grandparents Victoria. Recent national work includes a national survey of grandparents from every state and territory and all walks of life to determine their views about the future for their grandchildren and the conduct of a campaign to highlight the need for better childcare provision as an issue of national significance. Anne was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the community through Grandparents Australia in the 2009 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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Mr Gerry Moore – SNAICC – National Voice for our Children

A Yuin man from Wreck Bay, located on the southern coastal region of New South Wales, Gerry has worked in Aboriginal Affairs for over thirty years, with experience in health, housing, education, youth and Land Council. Gerry has vast experience representing his people and developing policies for the benefit of his people at national level: Passionate not only about improving the conditions and living standards of his people, but also of providing a powerful voice for future generations, Gerry possesses the commitment, leadership, experience and skills required to lead in this complicated sector and ensure the rights and needs of our children and families are met.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

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Ms Tricia Murray – Wanslea

CEO of Wanslea for 12 years. My background is in child protection – particularly out of home care, families, homelessness, family violence, child care, and a range of community based programs. I am also the Chair of the Child and Family Welfare Association of Australia and Deputy Chair of Families Australia.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families, in whatever their form, are the backbone of our community. They provide the basis for being and belonging; the structure of our society and the place for children to grow and be nurtured.

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Professor Patrick O’Leary

Professor Patrick O’Leary is an internationally recognised researcher with significant expertise in child protection, child protection in social development and humanitarian contexts, social work, gender-based violence, long-term impact of child sexual abuse (especially in men) and socially excluded young people.Professor O’Leary’s work has influenced international domestic violence and child protection policy and practice. Currently Professor O’Leary is commissioned as an Expert Academic Advisor to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse with a particular focus on male victims and the long-term effects.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Family fundamentally is part of our identity. It is diversely understood and conceptualised. Family can be something that we have from our origins but equally is something that is always forming and becoming. This forms the basis of families’ strength and forms the way communities can be transformed to be civil societies.

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Dr Sue Packer AM – NAPCAN

Sue has been a paediatrician since 1972 and has worked as a Community Paediatrician with a special interest in child abuse and abuse prevention since 1990.  Sue has worked in the ACT Health funded Child At Risk Health Unit in ACT over this time. Since her retirement in December 2011, she continued part time work at CARHU, where she follows up a number of children she has been seeing for years, as well as providing back-up for the regular team of doctors when needed and continuing her teaching and mentoring roles. Sue is a member of the ACT Child Death Review Committee, the ACT Domestic Violence Prevention Committee. Sue is currently Vice-President on the NAPCAN (National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) National Board. She is also on the Boards of Canberra Mothercraft Society (QE2 Family Centre), Families Australia, Kidsafe, Lyons Early Childhood School and Medical Women’s Society of ACT and Region, all helping inform her contemporary knowledge of children. Other commitments are the steering committee of the ACT Family Law Pathways Network and the ARACY. (Australian Research Alliance of Children and Youth) Early Years Chapter. Sue also chairs the Community Expert Reference Group of the ACT Asbestos Taskforce currently. In 1999 Sue was awarded an Order of Australia for services to Paediatrics, Child Protection and the Community. In 2013, the Canberra Centenary, Sue was ACT Citizen of the Year “in recognition of her personal efforts and significant contributions to the ACT community, particularly as an advocate for the safety and wellbeing of children”.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families are the first experience for all of us of being loved, considered and kept safe. Families themselves need similar recognition and safety and this is best achieved by families working together to develop and support a community where all those in it can thrive.

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Mr Finn Pratt AO PSM – Department of Social Services

Secretary of the Department of Social Services

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

National Families Week provides an important opportunity to celebrate the role of families, recognising that families are the building blocks of society. Strong and healthy families, where members support each other to prosper, support stronger communities. Familial relationships are enriched and communities are strengthened when families and communities come together.

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Mr Paul Rajan – Families Australia Board

Paul is Executive Director Transport Services Northern Territory Department of Transport. He previously held senior positions in the NT Departments of the Chief Minister, Education and Local Government. Paul has worked in both government and community sector human services agencies since 1975. As Principal Policy Officer and later Assistant Director, Young Offender Services in the W.A. Department of Community Services, as General Manager of Creative LINKS Foundation and Chair of state and national youth services peak organisations, he has significant experience in policy development and analysis and in the practical application of policy in the development and operation of community programs.

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Mr Paul Ronalds – Save the Children

Paul Ronalds is one of Australia’s leading voices on poverty eradication and international development. He joined Save the Children Australia as Chief Executive Officer in July 2013 and is responsible for leading the organisation to increase its impact for vulnerable children and their families. Paul is committed to ensuring Save the Children is a world leader in saving children’s lives, standing up for their rights as well as helping children everywhere fulfil their potential.

His diverse background encompasses senior executive roles in government, the private sector and domestic and international non-government organisations (NGOs). From co-founding one of Australia’s first online companies to assisting tsunami-affected people in Sri Lanka, Paul’s experience gives him unique insights into some of the world’s most significant social, economic and political challenges.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Happy and healthy children are the foundation for strong communities – and parenting is a critical element in the well-being of children. Strong families and good parenting equip children with resilience and self-esteem so they can play an important part in improving and developing their community.

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Ms Camilla Rowland – Marymead Child & Family Centre

For the past 27 years I have worked in the community services and health sectors in executive, management, clinical, and educational roles in rural and metropolitan regions on the eastern seaboard of Australia. I was appointed in 2015 as CEO to Marymead, a not for profit community service organisation   assisting families in the ACT and surrounding NSW regions.  Marymead has a 50 year history of developing and delivering early intervention and therapeutic services for children, young people, parents and families, aiming to transform their lives and their community.

I am passionate about a community development approach which seeks to develop collaboration across sectors, as well as addressing cross-sector and cross jurisdictional border challenges which affect families. I have worked in regional, rural and national movements and capacity building in the sectors, as well as experience with the development of partnerships. I hold qualifications in Social Welfare/Social Work, adult education, HR, board governance, and executive leadership.  I currently sit on the boards of Playgroup Australia, ACT Council of Social Services (President) and Alzheimers Australia ACT.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families and their networks in every form are the foundation of local communities across Australia.  It is part of our cultural heritage to understand that it takes a community to raise a child and community organisations dedicated to early intervention activities and working collaboratively with families to build strong communities!  More than ever as the ever-growing gap of haves and have nots in our Australia society is developing, strategy, investment and commitment to capacity building of families is essential to keep our families strong.

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Dr Anthony Ryan – Playgroup Australia

Dr. Anthony Ryan is the CEO of Playgroup Australia.  Playgroup Australia is the peak body for a parent lead playgroup movement that has been part of the Australian social fabric for over 40 years and our playgroup model has assisted millions of Australian parents/carers and children in both regional and metropolitan areas. Our vision is for every young Australian child to participate in a playgroup. Playgroup State and Territory Organisations (STOs) are currently providing valued support to approximately 100,000 families actively participating in over 6500 weekly playgroups across 80 per cent of Australian postcodes.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Family units are our societies’ most important social structure.  Functional family units enhance mental and physical health.  The first and most influential educators are usually family members.  When times are tough (e.g. old age, disasters), families come together to provide each other with the most valued support.  When healthy family units connect and network with each other, then the result is a healthy community.

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Mr Simon Schrapel AM – Uniting Communities

Simon Schrapel has enjoyed a 30+ year career of working in the Social and Community Services field in Australia and abroad in a range of policy, planning and management positions, principally focused on the funding and delivery of services by the non-government community services sector.   He is currently the Chief Executive of Uniting Communities, a South Australia based community service agency committed to social justice and inclusion.  Throughout his career Simon has undertaken a number of leadership positions in sector peak bodies, advocacy groups and advisory boards, including his leadership as President of the Australian Council of Social Services from 2009-2013 and of the South Australian Council of Social Services and Child and Family Welfare Association of Australia.   Simon is currently the Chair of Foodbank SA and a Board member of Foodbank Australia, the Chair of the South Australian Council for the Care of Children and has been a Board member of Families Australia since 2008.   Simon’s work and commitment in the area of child protection and family support has seen his active involvement in the National Forum for Protecting Australia’s Children, the National Family Matters campaign and in various other State and National bodies and advisory Boards focused on children and families. Simon was awarded an Order of Australia for significant service to the community, particularly to children and families through social welfare organisations, programs and initiatives in 2017.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families in all their shapes and guises remain the essential building block of our society.  Relationships formed in families offer levels of informal care, connection, nurture and affirmation that are fundamental to wellbeing and a healthy life.   Strong and functional community is predicated on positive family relationships – something we must all protect and promote.

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Professor Lyndall Strazdins – National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, The Australian National University

I am a Clinical Psychologist and Associate Professor (PhD Psychology, M Clinical Psych) at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, the Australian National University. In 2011 I was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship investigating time as a resource for health. I lead the work and family component of the Federally funded Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a study of 10,000 families, and have or currently serve as a scientific consultant to Government, including the ACT Health Promotion Branch, the Department of Veteran Affairs Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and the Defence forces and a consultant to the Paid Parental Leave Evaluation.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

My research focuses on contemporary predicaments of work and care and their health and equity consequences for mothers, fathers and children, viewing health as inter-linked within families. More recently I have been developing theory on time as a social determinant of health and seeking to understand the significance of time as a resource, like money, which not only structures power relations and gender inequality  but also families’ capacity to be healthy.While we seek to build a strong economy, especially as global uncertainties and pressures increase, I would like our leaders to be reminded that it will always rest on having strong families. Strong families build strong communities and in this way build the foundation for a truly strong economy. I would hope that all decisions about our nation, and all future policies, weigh up what is best for families and consider how each decision or idea might affect families (or some families more than others), and bring families and communities to the political table along with the other stakeholders.

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Mr David Templeman – Families Australia Board Member

Director General, Emergency Management Australia (2000/06) CEO Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (2006/2014) CEO Australian Council of Deans of Education (2015 to date) Current Voluntary Appointments include President of the Public Health Association of Australia and Chair of Karralika Programs in the ACT. Former Board Director of Families Australia and Chair of the National Rural Law and Justice Alliance

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Recognition and understanding of and action on the many societal, financial and health impacts on families can lead to improved outcomes and better environmental circumstance for families,  When we consider the many social health determinants such as employment, housing, chronic pain, mental well being, child welfare, substance abuse, domestic violence, if we look at these in a joined up and integrated way will lead to improved consideration of family priorities and need, all in the best interests of community.

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Ms Raelene Thompson – Wesley Mission Victoria

Ms Raelene Thompson, formerly the Executive Director of the Australian Emergency Management Institute (AEMI), joined the Wesley Mission Victoria Board in January 2013.  She brings a wealth of experience having held many senior positions in more than 30 years of public service within the Department of Health and Ageing, Social Security, Employment, Education and Workplace Relations and the Attorney General’s Department. She holds various academic qualifications including a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Graduate Diploma of Management and Graduate Certificate of Business.  During her career, Raelene has dealt with many areas of policy, regulation and compliance, which have required strong leadership skills and attributes. The area of Aged Care presented particular issues and events which challenged and honed her skills in crisis leadership. She has an abiding interest in quality management principles and practice, ethical leadership and social policy.  After more than three years on the Wesley Board, Raelene relinquished her position as Deputy Chair (and Director) to lead the important work that Wesley does in the community and to ensure a smooth transition to the newly formed ‘Uniting Victoria Tasmania’, (which is a merger of 22 community service agencies of the Uniting Church in Victoria and Tasmania).  Raelene was appointed as Chief Operating Officer in September 2016.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Strong families, in all their various forms, create resilient people and resilient people build resilient, stronger communities. At Wesley Mission Victoria, we focus on supporting people in vulnerable situations so they can grow and prosper as individuals and as members of families and the broader communities in which they live.

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Ms Prue Warrilow – Chair, Families Australia

Prue has more than 30 years extensive knowledge and understanding of children’s services through her work including:

  • Families At Work
  • Current member of the Commonwealth Early Childhood Ministerial Council (ECMAC) convened by Senator Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training. The ECMAC is a forum where strategic policies affecting the child care and early learning sector can be considered, and through which informative consultation can take place.
  • Current member of the NSW Carers’ Advisory Council convened by John Ajaka, the NSW Minister for Disability Services and Minister for Ageing. This Council is tasked with advancing the interest of carers through making recommendations to the Minister and Government on legislative or policy proposals that would have significant positive impacts on carers.
  • Current National Convenor of Australian Community Children’s Services (ACCS) a national advocacy group for not-for-profit children’s services.
  • Current Chair and immediate past board member of Families Australia, the national peak non-government body dedicated to promoting the needs and interests of families, focusing on children and families with additional needs and those experiencing vulnerability.
  • National Stakeholder Reference Group implementing the Council of Australian Governments’ National Quality Framework for children’s services (2010, 2012).
  • Past board member and Chair of Contact Inc. a project for Rural and Remote Children’s Services.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

Families in their broadest sense, are the glue of a community.

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Mr Richard Weston – Healing Foundation

Richard is a descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait. Over the last 20 years he has worked in Indigenous affairs in both the government and non-government sector. He led the successful regional Aboriginal health service – Maari Ma Health – in the Murdi Paaki Region of far west NSW from 2000 to 2009 where he established a range of health and workforce development strategies that delivered tangible health outcomes and created a highly skilled Indigenous health workforce. Since 2010 he has been the CEO of The Healing Foundation. The work of The Healing Foundation to date has supported locally designed, developed and delivered solutions by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that have delivered measurable outcomes. It is also building the knowledge and evidence for effective Indigenous healing practice in Australia.

How do you think stronger families form the basis of stronger communities?

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