National Families Week 2024 Champions coming soon!

National Families Week 2023 Champions

Each year, a number of prominent Australians help spread the National Families Week message across the country. They promote the Week through their networks, by issuing media statements and attending events. Families Australia greatly values the role played by our fabulous Champions!

Scroll down to find out more:


Jamie Crosby – CEO Families Australia

National Families Week statement

Jamie Crosby is the Chief Executive Officer of Families Australia, an independent national peak body that advises the Australian Government on ways to advance family and child wellbeing. Jamie is also the Convenor of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing, Combining 20 years of work in the non-government for purpose sector and 10 years as a federal public servant, Jamie is an experienced senior executive leader with a proven track record of major strategic initiative delivery, financial and people management, and outstanding interpersonal and communications skills. Jamie has previously chaired the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria, was the inaugural Chair of the Australia Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC) and have been a board member of several Canberra based community organisations. Jamie has recently stepped down from a 10 year role as a community representative on the ACT Legal Aid Review Board.

As a non-Indigenous person, Jamie has a strong personal commitment to supporting self-determination of First Nations people and communities.

As a partner, father of two sons and an enthusiastic owner of a 6 month old Labrador pup, Jamie actively works and plays in the community in which he lives.

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Jo Sadler – CEO Wanslea

National Families Week statement

Jo Sadler is the CEO of Wanslea, an organisation committed to creating long-term social change.  As the CEO of Wanslea, Jo leads a large non-government service provider that delivers a range of early learning and care, early intervention, parenting, youth, family support, children protection and community development services.

Jo is an early childhood teacher by profession, and she has enjoyed a 25+ year career as a leader in community settings across all three tiers of Government, the corporate sector and within non-government organisations.  She has a strong personal and professional commitment to the child and family sector and after living and working in regional and remote settings for a period of ten years, she has a special affiliation with seeing genuine reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the equitable provision of services regardless of postcode.

A graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Jo is also on the Board of Western Australian Council of Social Services.

Jo is a keen early riser and each morning before the start of the working day, you’ll find her taking the time to walk her goofy Labrador Trevor in and around her community and watching the sun come up.  

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Ms Penny Hood – Barnardos Australia

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National Families Week statement

Penny is the Executive Leader, Children & Families for Barnardos Australia. Penny has been with Barnardos for over five years after an extensive 20+ year career with the NSW Government. As Executive Leader, Children & Families, Penny is responsible for all Barnardos services and programs.

Penny is well regarded for her strong leadership and interpersonal skills, which have seen her successfully lead large operational portfolios and strategic policy and program reform projects. 

Penny has extensive experience working with children, young people, their families and communities across early intervention and prevention, child protection, out-of-home care, domestic and family violence, disability and housing and homelessness.  Drawing on her in-depth knowledge of the sector and passion for children’s social care, Penny leads Barnardos practitioners through the ever-shifting landscape of child protection. 

Penny is passionate about her family, her local community, working with children, and exercise – having recently completed the 2023 Champions Ride with her daughter.

Qualifications: BA Arts, BA Law, M Policy Studies, Specialist Certificate Implementation Science


Ms Bernadette Black AM – Brave Foundation

National Families Week statement

Bernadette Black is CEO and Founder of the Brave Foundation and a Member of the Order of Australia for her work with young people, communities and local governments nationally.

Bernadette turns the tables on social and economic disadvantage in Australia. Instead of helping our most vulnerable ‘at the top of the cliff rather than at the bottom of the cliff with an ambulance,’ she believes our young people can be supported before the cliff is even in sight. Bernadette advises governments, private and public spheres to understand their roles in this by conveying specialist groups on the importance of ‘lived expertise’ tool kits, collaboration and ‘offramps to disadvantage mapping.’ She is a social Economic Empowerment Specialist, having demonstrated success alongside her team, with hundreds of our nations most at risk young people.


Ms Deirdre Cheers – Barnardos Australia

National Families Week statement

Strong families can form the basis of communities through the values, skills and attitudes that are gained in the day to day life of a secure and stable family. The family is where we can learn about communication, understanding, respect, compassion and resilience. When taken into community, this can only create a foundation for a connected and healthy community. Most of us are fortunate enough to have strong families we can rely on for help when things are tough. Raising families can be very tough without support. That is why Barnardos works to strengthen families and keep families safe.

Deirdre Cheers is an experienced CEO of Barnardos Australia and well-known and respected leader in Australian child protection and child welfare. With an extensive professional social work career, she has a broad range of skills and experience in management as well as direct service delivery of child protective services, family preservation and early intervention, and the full continuum of out-of-home care in Australian and international contexts.

With qualifications including Masters Degrees in Social Work and Public Administration, Deirdre has an extensive publication and presentation record across a range of areas concerning vulnerable children, young people and families, and including policy, practice and research. Deirdre is a former Chair and Deputy Chair of the NSW child welfare peak body ACWA (Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies), and current Board Director. She continues to participate in a variety of Advisory Committees and Ministerial Councils at both State and Australian government levels from 1994 to date, is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a long-standing member of the Australian Association of Social Workers.

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Ms Penny Dakin – ARACY

National Families Week statement

Being loved and safe is one of 6 key and interlocking domains of The Nest – the research that informs ARACY about what is required for young people to have wellbeing. Families, carers and communities are all part of the mix in helping our young people thrive.

Penny was appointed as CEO of ARACY in January 2019 having acted in the role since mid-2018. Penny has previously worked as General Manager for Policy and Strategic Engagement with ARACY. She has also worked in a number of senior capacities and with organisations including Insight Consulting, the Australian Government Department of Health, and A Village for Every Child. Penny also sits on a number of other boards. Penny is passionate about ensuring young Australians, regardless of their background or circumstances, receive every opportunity to reach their potential and is a firm believer in ARACY’s unique role as a driver of collaboration and a leader of alliances to help achieve this.

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Distinguished Professor Alan Hayes AM – Family Action Centre, University of Newcastle

National Families Week statement

While efforts to strengthen families and communities are not new, they have gained great prominence during the present global crisis. National Families Week is an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions of Australian families to their communities and the nation. The strengths and wellbeing of families are the firm foundation on which to build the recovery from the many and extensive impacts of these difficult times.

The pandemic has powerfully demonstrated the value of strong, cohesive and committed communities to mobilise individual and family strengths to address this clear, present and continuing crisis. Many of the impacts of COVID-19 have profoundly affected families both broadly and especially for those who entered the current pandemic with complex challenges and vulnerabilities.

Alan Hayes AM is the Inaugural Distinguished Professor of Family Studies and Director of the Family Action Centre, within the Faculty of Health and Medicine at the University of Newcastle, Australia. From 2004-15 he was Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Alan has longstanding interests in addressing disadvantage and facilitating social mobility, health and wellbeing. His research addresses prevention, early intervention and the role of opportunity. His current work explores better targeting of investments in community support for families with complex needs, especially through community-focused collective impact approaches. Professor Hayes was appointed as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2012 Honours List.

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Professor Daryl Higgins – Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU

National Families Week statement

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.

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.

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Ms Anne Hollonds – National Children’s Commissioner

National Families Week Statement

In National Families Week, let’s celebrate the important job that families do every day in supporting the wellbeing, development and rights of children.  Families have done the ‘heavy lifting’ during COVID and deserve all the help they can get to ensure all children have the best possible start in life.

Anne Hollonds is the current Australian National Children’s Commissioner. She was appointed to this role in November 2020. Prior to this Anne was the Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, responsible for conducting research and providing advice on child and family wellbeing to Australian governments.

A leading voice on child and family wellbeing, Anne is a psychologist and former CEO of government and non-government organisations focused on research, policy and service delivery in health, education and social services. Anne has had extensive front-line experience including in child protection, out-of-home care, domestic and family violence, child and family therapy, parenting education, and mental health.

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Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, Blue Knot Foundation

National Families Week statement

Recent bushfires, flood and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of connection and support.  Whether it’s your family of origin, the family you have created or the people you choose to have around you, reach out, stay connected and find the support you need and deserve.

Dr. Cathy Kezelman AM is a medical practitioner, mental health consumer advocate, President of Blue Knot Foundation National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma. She is a current member of NSW Child Safety Standing Committee for Survivor and Faith Groups. Cathy worked in medical practice for 20 years, mostly as a GP. Under her stewardship Blue Knot Foundation has grown from a peer support organisation to a national centre of excellence combining a prominent consumer voice with that of researchers, academics and clinicians advocating for socio-political trauma-informed change and informed responsiveness to complex trauma. She is a prominent voice in the media and at conferences, as well as author of a memoir chronicling her journey of recovery from child sexual abuse: Innocence Revisited- a tale in parts. She is co-author of multiple seminal Blue Knot Foundation documents.

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Dr Sue Packer AO

National Families Week statement

The important thing to remember is that times are very different – and challenging – but our families remain the core of our lives.  Celebrate this in National Families Week!

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. Sue was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2021 for distinguished service to children through roles in health, welfare and protection initiatives. In 2019, Sue was named Senior Australian of the Year in recognition of a lifetime’s work to improve outcomes for children.

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Ms Annette Michaux – Parenting Research Centre

National Families Week statement

Annette leads significant, evidence-informed practice and policy initiatives at the Parenting Research Centre that help our clients achieve their intended outcomes. She directs a number of government-funded, national and multi-year initiatives – including MyTime – and is responsible for leading a talented team of researchers and specialists in implementation, communication and knowledge translation and exchange.  Annette drives a number of our implementation projects in NSW, including trials of SafeCare and the Quality Assurance Framework for children and young people in out-of-home care.

Under her directorship we have completed projects for: The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; The NSW Department of Family and Community Services; and the Department of Education and Training in Victoria.

Annette also leads our work on influencing policy pertaining to parenting support. She has more than 16 years of executive level experience in helping governments and organisations improve outcomes for children. She has previously served as General Manager, Social Policy and Research, and General Manager, Operations (East and Central) at The Benevolent Society; and as CEO of the NSW Child Protection Council. 

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Mr Richard Weston – CEO Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation, Broken Hill

National Families Week statement

Indigenous Communities have been severely weakened by colonisation processes like Stolen Generations and we have been rebuilding our strength over many decades. Relationships are at the core of our cultures so families are critical to our children and communities thriving. If our families are strong and resilient our communities will be string and resilient. Strong Spirit, Strong Culture Strong People.

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 sectors. 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. Richard was appointed CEO of Broken Hill’s Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation in 2022, an organisation that provides support for all facets of Aboriginal health including chronic diseases and issues, pregnancy and childbirth, and general GP services.

Richard was the former CEO of The Healing Foundation supporting locally designed, developed and delivered solutions by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deliver measurable outcomes, and building the foundations of knowledge and evidence for effective Indigenous healing practice in Australia. Richard has worked on numerous boards, most recently for the NSW Children’s Guardian which regulates out-of-home care and child protection systems across the state of NSW.

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