Forum Speakers

The 2024 Forum will feature a lineup of exceptional speakers known for their high-quality presentations and extensive expertise in the field. These sector leaders will provide valuable information and share their in-depth industry knowledge, offering effective strategies to early childhood educators, leaders, and administrators. Attendees can expect engaging sessions that focus specifically on addressing the needs and challenges faced by professionals in the early childhood education sector.

Keynote Speakers

Sara Shams

Sara is a disability advocate, speaker, model, and health care professional. Growing up disabled, it was rare to see people with disabilities in leadership positions. This lack of visible representation of people with disabilities impacted how Sara perceived her abilities and identified with her disability.

Combining her professional experience, education, and lived experience, Sara is determined to change the narrative around people living with disabilities in every industry and platform.

Marlee Silva

Marlee Silva is a twenty-six-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Gamilaroi and Dunghutti tribes of NSW. Starting her career in the non-profit sector, Marlee’s path was shifted toward a more public profile when she was employed as the Co-CEO of Aboriginal education charity AIME Mentoring.

A role which saw her shadow the work of AIME’s CEO for twelve months and in turn, act as the representative of the organisation’s story and direction, in the media and through keynote speaking.

Guest Speaker

Hon Fiona Nash

Having grown up in Sydney, Fiona has spent several decades living and working in regional Australia. For many years she was involved in a farming enterprise in the central west of NSW, which her sons Will and Henry are now running.

She spent twelve years in the federal parliament as a Senator for NSW and also held ministerial positions including Rural Health, and in Cabinet the positions of Regional Development, Regional Communications and Local Government and Territories. She also held the position of Deputy Leader of the Nationals.


Christopher Phoenix

Danielle Spence

Christopher is an author, keynote speaker, researcher, and the wellbeing specialist for the Phoenix Cups, and Phoenix Support for Educators. He is the co-author “The Phoenix Cups: A Cup Filling Story“, and tours Australia and beyond delivering the Phoenix Cups framework.

Christopher began his career in the corporate sector, however, his passion was for philosophy, wellbeing, and understanding human behaviour, grew his side hustle into a colourful full time career as an author, mentalist, and hypnotherapist.

Danielle Spence is an Exercise Physiologist with a passion for using exercise prescription to promote optimal physical, cognitive, social and emotional development in children. With a strong value of evidence-based practice and a working background within the NDIS space, Danielle has developed a valuable skillset to effectively deliver exercise as therapy, to promote behaviour regulation and improve functional skills, such as communication, focus and attention and overall gross motor function.

Danielle is currently implementing gross motor intervention groups and generalised exercise programs within early childhood centres in Cowra, NSW, to achieve these outcomes. Danielle also provides professional development and support to educators and disability support workers, who are beginning to program and implement physical activity programs into their daily routines with children.  

Debbie Yates

Nina Ross

Debbie Yates is a Be You National Manager with Early Childhood Australia. Her experience includes teaching across both early learning and primary school settings and working as a manager at a range of community organisations with a focus on supporting families and children.

Debbie holds post graduate qualifications in management (non-profit sector) and her current focus is supporting the early learning sector to grow mentally healthy learning communities.

Nina Ross is a proud Aboriginal woman with connections to Anaiwan and Dunghutti Lands while living and working on Wonnarua Country. She is a mother, wife, artist, and teacher and has 22 years’ experience in secondary schools, including writing educational resources for New South Wales Education Standards Authority (NESA).

She has written professional teacher learning programs that embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives to build cultural understanding. Nina believes reconciliation is everybody’s business and wants to help educators access and use resources in their classrooms. Since joining Reconciliation Australia’s Narragunnawali team, Nina leads the program’s Professional Learning and Curriculum strategy. 

Dr Sandra Cheeseman

Sarah Powell

Dr Sandra Cheeseman is Chief Executive Officer at the Creche and Kindergarten Association, Queensland (C&K).  Over her 40 or so year career in the early childhood sector, Sandra’s professional and academic roles have included early childhood teacher, director, senior lecturer in early childhood at Macquarie University, Sydney and more recently she has returned to where the action is to lead a large not-for -profit early childhood provider.

Sandra has been a key collaborator on a variety of projects and consultancies for Government and other education agencies. Her subject expertise spans early years curriculum, assessment, infant and toddler pedagogies, program quality and leadership. 

Sarah is Senior Lecturer in Creative Arts in the School of Education at Macquarie University. She works with Early Childhood and Primary School preservice teachers to prepare them to incorporate the Arts and be creative in their practice.

She teaches in the areas of Music and Movement/Dance, and her research focuses on the power of singing with children. She is particularly interested in encouraging teachers to use music, singing, and movement in creative and integrated ways.

Skye Taylor

Sue Lane

Skye Taylor is a Child Safe Officer with the OCG. She conducts training for early childhood educators, helping them better understand the Child Safe Standards and how these Standards can be applied in their services.

Skye also conducts training for the SAFE Series protective behaviours program, an initiative that aims to reduce the potential for children to be harmed by helping them recognise situations where they feel scared or unsafe.

Sue Lane has had much experience as a music specialist and classroom teacher in a variety of school settings on the Central Coast of NSW. She worked for many years with pre-service teachers in Early Childhood and Primary Music and Dance Education programs at the University of Newcastle and the University of Technology, Sydney. She has also been employed as a professional development manager, presenter and consultant with Musica Viva Australia.

Sue’s research focuses on arts education provision in Australian schools. She has been actively involved with the Orff Schulwerk Association of NSW for many years, supporting educators in the presentation of creative music experiences with their students.