Assertive Advocacy


Special Guest Keynote Speakers


Bachelor of Arts (Hons), Diploma of Social Studies, Master of Social Work, Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, Fellow Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Sandie’s career in the child and family services field commenced in the early 1970’s with the Department of Human Services, where she worked as a case worker and then in senior positions in management and policy development, both in regions and Head Office.  Since 1989, Sandie has worked in the community sector, in both policy and management roles.

Sandie was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street 1994 when it merged with Sutherland Homes for Children and held this role until she ‘retired’ in December 2017.  Under her leadership, Berry Street became a highly respected organisation, providing services across metropolitan, regional and rural Victoria, with a budget of over $100M and 1,100 staff.

In all her roles, Sandie always demonstrated a strong commitment to working collaboratively and a passion for improving life opportunities and choices for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people, women, families and communities. Sandie contributed to many national, state and sector forums and is currently the Deputy Chair of the Victorian Children’s Council.

Sandie has been recognised for her leadership and commitment through: receiving a La Trobe University Distinguished Alumni Award (2017); being inducted into the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll (2011); an award of Member (AM) through the Order of Australia (2009); the Robin Clark Memorial Award for Inspirational Leadership (2008); accreditation as a partnership broker through the Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme (2006); the Vida Goldstein Award for Women in the Professions – Welfare (2004); a Harvard Club of Australia Fellowship to attend Harvard Business School in the USA to undertake the Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management course (2004); and Life Membership of The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (2001).

Judge Amanda Chambers

President of the Children's Court of Victoria.

Judge Amanda Chambers was appointed a Judge of the County Court of Victoria on 9 June, 2015 and for the next five years, President of the Children’s Court of Victoria.

Prior to her recent appointments, Judge Chambers served as a Magistrate of the State of Victoria for over eight years and as Supervising Magistrate of the Sexual Offences List for three years.

Judge Chambers also served as a part-time Commissioner of the Victorian Law Reform Commission from 2008-2012 on references including Protection, Applications in the Children’s Court, Jury Directions, Sex Offender, Registration and Guardianship laws.

Prior to her appointment as a Magistrate, Her Honour was a solicitor specialising in the area of industrial relations.

Professor Louise Newman AM

Louise Newman is the Director of the Centre for Women’s Mental Health at the Royal Women’s Hospital and Professor of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne

She was the founding Chair of Perinatal and Infant Psychiatry at the University of Newcastle and the previous Director of the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry. In January 2011 she was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia for work in child protection.

She is a practising infant psychiatrist with expertise in the area of disorders of early parenting and attachment difficulties in infants.  She has undertaken research into the issues confronting parents with histories of early trauma and neglect.  Her current research focusses on the evaluation of infant-parent interventions in high-risk populations, the concept of parental reflective functioning in mothers with borderline personality disorder and the neurobiology of parenting disturbance.

She was recently awarded grants for intervention studies in Domestic Violence, and she has published in the areas of infant mental health, attachment disorders trauma, and prevention of child abuse.

She is the Convenor of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Group. She has been a Government advisor on asylum seeker and refugee mental health and contributed to the development of policy for mental health screening and response to torture survivors. She has been involved in research into the impact of immigration detention on child asylum seekers. 

Professor Louise Newman AM

Professor Fiona Arney

Prof Arney was awarded her PhD in the field of Psychiatry. She is an internationally renowned child protection researcher, leading major child protection research concentrations across Australia. She is the Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Child Protection, and is a mixed-method researcher with experience in incidence and prevalence studies, experimental trials, measure development, administrative data analysis, and grounded theory. She has won numerous awards for community engagement, contributions to child health and for women in leadership. She has more than twenty years’ research experience in the fields of parenting support, child and adolescent mental health and wellbeing, and child protection research. Fiona has provided support to numerous child protection inquiries, led significant committees and has guided system reform efforts.

Professor Fiona Arney

Dr David Caldicott

Irish Emergency Physician, working in Canberra.

Specialist interest in novel illicit drugs and drug policy.

Designed and piloted the Welsh Emergency Department Investigation of Novel Substances (WEDINOS) project in the UK, a unique program using regional emergency departments as sentinel monitoring hubs for the emergence and spread of novel illicit products associated with harm.

Currently replicating this work in Australia with the ACT Investigation of Novel Substances (ACTINOS) Group.

Clinical lead at Australian Drug Observatory, (ANU)

Spokesperson for the Australian Science Media Centre on issues of illicit drug use and the medical response to terrorism and disasters.

Michael Bromhead

Mike Bromhead has been a Counsellor/Advocate at Foundation House for 20 years, providing assessment, therapeutic interventions and advocacy for child, adolescent and adult survivors of torture, war related trauma and persecution. Mike has also been a Trainer-Facilitator in the Professional and Organisational Development team since 2014. He has a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in psychology and politics at Monash University, and has further studied in trauma psychotherapy. He has been a past Coordinator of Foundation House direct services in the Melbourne northern region, and for the past fifteen years has specialised in working with asylum seekers. Mike has developed a sound understanding of the socio-political / persecutory context of clients from Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. He has experience in working with abused and at-risk adolescents, psycho-geriatric patients, and children and adults with severe intellectual disabilities, the latter both in Australia and Canada.

Lisa Nguyen

My name is Lisa Nguyen and I joined the Youthlaw team in August 2017 as the outreach lawyer. Prior to joining Youthlaw, I was working as a generalist and NSW outreach lawyer at the Murray Mallee Community Legal Service, I then worked at the Brimbank Melton Community Legal Centre and then at Victoria Legal Aid. The Youthlaw Outreach Program currently operates out of 9 youth services in Victoria in Wodonga, Shepparton, Seymour, Bendigo, Glenroy, Dandenong, Frankston, Mornington Peninsula & Warrnambool. This includes 6 Headspace centres, 1 local council youth centre and 2 youth drop in services. It involves monthly on-site appointments at each location as well as Skype and telephone assistance. I also provide Community Legal Education to young people in schools and alternative learning environments.

Lisa Nguyen

Sandeep Varma

Sandeep Varma is the Managing Lawyer of the Legal Pod Program at Youthlaw, a program providing long-term legal assistance to young people who are leaving child protection and transitioning to adulthood. A former corporate employment lawyer, speechwriter and marketing communications manager, Sandeep won the Department of Justice Secretary’s award for his crisis communications work during the Black Saturday bushfires. He has spent his life mentoring and helping young people, and loves encouraging creativity and adventure. Sandeep was born in Pasadena, California and grew up on a steady diet of burritos, hip-hop, Hindu mythology and superhero comics. Sandeep speaks Hindi and Spanish, loves cooking and has won the Australian Chilli Cook Off Championship three years in a row.

Xris Reardon

Xris Reardon is the co-founder of Third Way Theatre (Australia). TWT uses creative methodologies with, and alongside communities who are structurally marginalized. Their work, particularly with Theatre of the Oppressed (as a practitioner and trainer), has taken them overseas to Thailand, Chile, Ukraine, Sweden, France, Cataluña, Palestine, Ireland, Canada, working around to address the impacts of the prison industrial complex, the militarization off peoples lives, gender rights, women’s right, sex workers rights, the impacts of cultures of blame and punishment of people living in poverty.

Xris is also a member of the takinupspace artists collective. They work with LGBTI youth in schools as the Safe Schools project officer in Tasmania in Australia. Their work in this area, and in theatre, continues evolving as it has to include and arts based focus on trans and gender diverse narratives. Currently, they are working on collaboration with gendered intelligence (UK) and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (London).

Dr Adrian Farrugia

Dr Adrian Farrugia is a research associate at the National Drug Research Institute (NDRI), Faculty of Health Sciences, Curtin University. Adrian’s research focuses on take-home naloxone, understandings of youth drug consumption and approaches to drug education. He has published on young men’s drug consumption and friendship, young men’s understandings of health promotion information, gender and drug education and neuroscientific accounts of youth and ‘addiction’.

Kochava Lilit

Kochava Lilit is a queer and disability rights activist and the head of Ygender, a peer support and advocacy organisation for trans/gender diverse young people.

Ada Conroy

Ada Conroy has worked in women’s services for over 19 years, specialising in family violence for most of that time. Ada is the Workforce Development Officer in the Northern Integrated Family Violence Services coordination team at Women’s Health In the North. Separate to her role at WHIN, she is a men’s behaviour change practitioner and, in private practice, provides clinical supervision and mentoring for family violence workers.

Larissa Hudson

Larissa began her career at the Royal Children’s Hospital but soon moved into a rural community setting, working as an Adolescent Health Nurse. Her interest in Sexual and Reproductive Health grew during this role. She has worked in various areas of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare both in the United Kingdom and Australia and has a special interest in Adolescent Health and working with marginalised communities.  Larissa currently works for Family Planning Victoria as a Nurse Educator and delivers direct clinical services. She believes our right to good sexual health is integral to who we are and our wellbeing. Her passion lies in helping people in our community to maintain this. She finds it an honour to support clients around various sexual and reproductive health concerns and to be there for people at a time when they need non-judgemental and genuine support from a health care worker.

Tiana Koehrer

I am a proud Yorta Yorta and Wurundjeri woman born and raised in Melbourne.

I have a background in public relations studying at RMIT and a passion for youth wellbeing, having interned for Red Dust and VALS (Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service).

I have been at VACCHO (Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) for 6 months working in the Social Emotional Wellbeing unit to support our workers throughout the state. 

Elise Saunders

Ms Elise Saunders is currently a Practice Leader for Therapeutic Life Story Work in the Inner Eastern Melbourne Region with the Department of Health and Human Services. Ms Saunders has spent over 12 years working with vulnerable and at risk children, young people and their families involved in the child protection and youth justice system in both New South Wales and Victoria. Ms Saunders completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology in 2008 and has since completed diploma and graduate training in therapeutic and trauma related fields. Ms Saunders, is one of the most experienced Therapeutic Life Story Work practitioners across Australia and New Zealand.

In her current role, Ms Saunders is responsible for the development, implementation and review of Therapeutic Life Story Work practice within the Victorian context. Ms Saunders leads and oversees numerous Therapeutic Life Story Work Practitioners, as well as being a practicing Therapeutic Life Story Work Practitioner. Ms Saunders also provides mentoring for new practitioners along with supervision for other qualified practitioners. Ms Saunders is involved in the current evidence based research of Therapeutic Life Story Work in conjunction with Deakin University. Ms Saunders is passionate about child trauma recovery and works from the ethos of therapeutic care being a community approach and that every child deserves a chance to be safe, to make meaning of their past and to be able to achieve their full potential.


Hunter Morgan

Health Promotion Officer/Peer Educator – Harm Reduction Victoria

Hunter is a health promotion worker at Harm Reduction Victoria, our local drug user organisation. Hunter’s role involves peer-to-peer as well as workforce education on blood borne viruses, harm reduction, working with people who use and inject drugs, and stigma & discrimination towards the drug using community. She is also a member of the trans & gender diverse steering committee at Thorne Harbour Health (formerly VAC).