In order of presenting

Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien

Senior Kaurna Man

Mickey is a descendant of the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) and Narrunga (York Peninsula) peoples. He has been, sharing cultural engagement for a number of years. It is a role handed to him by his Father, Uncle Lewis Yerla Burka O’Brien. It is a position; he honors and respects greatly. He is a Foster Parent of seventeen years, to three beautiful children.

Mickey has travelled all across Australia, living and working in a number of Aboriginal Communities, delivering programs and benefits. He enjoyed the opportunity to support the Aboriginal Community, sitting on boards and Advisory Panels. He is a recipient of the Rotary Club Courtesy Award, for Community involvement working with youth. Mickey is also an Australia Day Service Award recipient, for my work as a volunteer on advisory groups. He enjoys sharing Cultural Knowledge and providing Welcome to Country, with people, not at people.


The Honourable John Gardner

Minister for Education

John Gardner has represented the seat of Morialta, in Adelaide’s north eastern suburbs and near hills townships, since 2010. He is a member, sponsor, or patron of a wide range of local community, sporting, and service organisations in his electorate.

John was appointed Minister for Education after the March 2018 state election, having previously served as Shadow Minister in this portfolio since January 2016.

John and his wife Trudi have two young daughters, both under three years. He supports the Adelaide Crows, the Norwood Redleg’s and the Campbelltown City Red Devils.

Peter Mader

Chief Executive, SASPA

Peter Mader is the inaugural Chief Executive of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (SASPA) having served as its full-time President from 2015 – 2020. Alongside his state-based role, Peter has worked nationally as a Board Director of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association (ASPA) and, since 2018, has served as its Vice President.
In 2017, Peter was a SA recipient of the Principal Australia Institute’s John Laing Professional Development Award and in 2020, he was recognised locally and nationally as the recipient of a Leadership Award from the Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL).
Peter is a PhD candidate at Flinders University where his research question is: How can education public policy design and implementation be better informed by school leaders? Peter’s educational interests include curriculum innovation, futures-focussed educational leadership, school improvement and accountability, strategic leadership, and the “politics” of education.

Professor Tanya Fitzgerald

Professor – University of Western Australia

Tanya Fitzgerald is currently Professor of Higher Education and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Western Australia. In her early career, Tanya was a secondary school teacher (History) and Dean of Students, and predominantly worked in low socio-economic schools. In the higher education sector, Tanya has held leadership roles in universities in New Zealand, England, and Australia. She is a strong advocate for public education, social justice, and ethical leadership. Tanya’s research is primarily focused on historical and contemporary understandings of gender, policy, and leadership in higher education.

Professor Martin Westwell

Chief Executive – SACE Board

Professor Martin Westwell is the Chief Executive of the SACE Board and has worked extensively with education systems and other organisations in using evidence to inform policy, practice, innovation and impact in education.

He is leading the SACE Board in an aspirational new vision of educational change and student transformation which brings the whole student into focus.

The SACE Board’s Strategic Framework 2020-2023 decisively reframes the education narrative so that the ability to prosper and flourish now and in the future is the intentional outcome of a SACE education … so that students thrive.

Associate Professor Scott Eacott

Research Associate, Professor – UNSW

Scott Eacott is an Associate Professor and Deputy Head of School in the School of Education at UNSW Sydney, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Educational Administration in the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan. He has previously worked at the University of Newcastle Australia, Australian Catholic University, and the New South Wales Department of Education. Scott’s research interests and contributions fall into three main areas: i) developing a relational approach for organising education; ii) educational leadership and management; and iii) school reform. Current projects include a national study of high-impact school leadership (with colleagues from UNSW, Monash and Curtin); a longitudinal analysis of regional school reforms; and a 3-year study of school autonomy across four states (with colleagues from Deakin, UNSW, Monash, and Curtin). He is active on social media and you can connect with on Twitter at @ScottEacott or at scotteacott.

Dr Amanda Heffernan

Dr Amanda Heffernan – Researcher

Dr Amanda Heffernan is an expert in educational leadership in the Faculty of Education at Monash University. Her research focuses on the contemporary challenges of principals’ work, and what that means for how we can better attract, support, and keep school leaders within the profession. She has a particular interest in leadership in complex school settings, including those in rural and remote areas, and the skills and knowledges that are needed to successfully lead those schools. Amanda is a former public-school principal who now works with future and current leaders, policymakers, and international researchers to highlight the important and complex work of educational leadership today.

Dr Chris Dolan

Dr Chris Dolan – Researcher and Teacher at UniSA

Chris Dolan has a long history in educational leadership in the SA state schooling system. After completing a PhD examining the constitutive impact of policy on the principalship, Chris led a University of South Australia research project in 2019-2020 investigating the experience and management of conflict and tension in the lives and work of principals. Conducted in partnership with SAPPA/SASPA, the findings of this research provide new insights into the shaping of principals and their work and support and inform the political involvement of principals within and beyond their schools.

Hon. Professor Adrian Piccoli

Hon. Professor – School of Education at UNSW

Professor Adrian Piccoli is the former Director of UNSW’s Gonski Institute for Education. The Gonski Institute was established in 2018 with a mission to address growing inequality in Australian education as well as improving access for students to high-quality education wherever they may live or go to school. Prior to his role with the Gonski Institute for Education, Professor Piccoli served as a Member of NSW Parliament for 19 years and as the NSW Minister for Education for 6 years from 2011 until 2017. Professor Piccoli is highly respected by the Australian education sector for his leadership in education policy particularly in relation to needs based school funding reform, his support and strengthening of the teaching profession in Australia and his focus on the learning needs of disadvantaged children particularly those living in rural and remote Australia. In 2017 he was made a Fellow of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders. Adrian has recently published his first book, 12 Ways Your Child Can Get the Best Out of School. Adrian lives in Griffith, western NSW with his wife Sonia and their two children aged 9 and 12.

Professor Pasi Sahlberg

Professor of Education Policy, UNSW’s Gonski Institute

Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the UNSW Sydney. He is a Finnish educator and author who has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland and has studied education systems, analysed education policies, and advised education reforms around the world. Professor Sahlberg is an inspirational speaker, lecturer and trainer. His passion is to advice and work with schools, communities, and nations to reimagining teaching and learning, school education, and system-wide efforts to improve equity and quality of education. He has gained working knowledge in over 60 countries around the world as a former senior education specialist at the World Bank in Washington DC, the European Commission in Torino, and director general of the Ministry of Education in Finland. His recent books include His recent books include “FinnishED Leadership: Four Big, Inexpensive Ideas to Transform Education” (2018), “Let the Children Play: Why More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive” (2019 with William Doyle), “Finnish Lessons 3.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland” (2021) and “In Teacher We Trust: The Finnish way to world- class schools” (2021 with Tim Walker). More in Twitter @pasi_sahlberg.

Rick Persse

Chief Executive, Department for Education

Rick Persse was appointed to lead the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in June 2016. The department name changed in 2018 to the Department for Education. Rick joins the department after a successful 4-year period as chief executive of the Attorney-General’s Department where he was central to delivery of the government’s program of criminal, civil and administrative justice reform. With expertise in policy and strategy development, change management, public sector reform and project delivery, Rick’s knowledge of public administration was gained from an expansive career working at a variety of South Australian central government agencies at an executive level. Prior to being appointed to the role of Chief Executive, Attorney-General’s Department, Rick worked with government and non-government clients as PricewaterhouseCoopers SA Government and Health Leader. Rick has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Adelaide and a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management from Griffith University.

Professor Gert Biesta

Professor of Public Education, Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy, Maynooth University, Ireland

Gert Biesta is Professor of Public Education at the Centre for Public Education and Pedagogy at Maynooth University, Ireland, and Professor of Educational Theory and Pedagogy at the Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh, UK. In addition he is Visiting Professor at the University of Agder, Norway, in the Faculties of Education, Fine Arts, and Mental Health, and Visiting Professor at Uniarts, the University of the Arts, Helsinki, Finland. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Centre for Research in Educational and Social Inclusion at the University of South Australia. From 2015 to 2018 he was a member of the Education Council of the Netherlands, the advisory body of the Dutch government and parliament. Since 2020 he is a member of the Scientific Curriculum Committee of the Netherlands, advising the government on the curriculum of primary and secondary education. Gert Biesta has published widely on educational theory and policy, and the theory and philosophy of educational research. So far his work has been published in twenty different languages. Recent books include The Beautiful Risk of Education (2014); The Rediscovery of Teaching (2017); Obstinate Education: Reconnecting School and Society (2019); Educational Research: An Unorthodox Introduction (2020); and World-Centred Education: A View for the Present (2021). www.gertbiesta.com

Jayne Heath

Principal, Australian Science and Mathematics School

Under Jayne’s leadership, the ASMS partners with the education, industry, business and community sectors, enabling students to work alongside STEM leaders and professionals, build industry networks, think critically and creatively to solve future problems and prepare students for a variety of career pathways. During her career, Jayne has designed the framework and guiding principles for the South Australian Department for Education’s STEM Strategy for Preschool-Year 12. She has developed valuable professional networks and skills in working with government policy and procedures.


Tim Costello AO

Australian Executive and Advocate

Rev Tim Costello is one of Australia’s best known community leaders and a sought-after voice on social justice issues, leadership, and ethics. For 13 years until October 2016, Tim was Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, placing the challenges of global poverty on the national agenda. Tim now directs Ethical Voice and is also Executive Director of Micah Australia. He is an Advocate for the Alliance for Gambling Reform and a Senior Fellow for the Centre for Public Christianity.




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