NCYHC2023 Speakers

To be announced
Register for NCYHC2023
Adongwot ‘AD’ Manyoul

Conference MC

Adongwot ‘AD’ Manyoul holds a Double Bachelors in Communications in Journalism and International Studies. She is a South Sudanese Youth Advocate, Community Development Professional, and Researcher.
She is dedicated to empowering people of CALD backgrounds to achieving and realising their ambitions as demonstrated by her extensive community development work with the South Sudanese community.
Adongwot also has a special interest in bolstering excellence through education. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2019 to explore ways in which African diasporas have successfully integrated in other Western Societies.  With a special focus of the education system, she aspires to influence other young people of colour to follow their dreams and reach their highest potential
Shorna Moore

Melbourne City Mission

Shorna Moore is a Social Justice Lawyer and is currently the head of Policy, Advocacy and Government Relations at Melbourne City Mission where she is responsible for leading the organisation’s systemic change work. She is the former Policy and Advocacy director of the peak body for community legal centres, sits on several not-for-profit boards and was inducted into the 2022 Victorian Honour Roll for Women.

Shorna has been a leader in the justice, youth and homelessness sectors for more than 15 years and is dedicated to driving positive social change for children and young people. Her work on the issues of couch surfing as a form of youth homelessness and children and young people experiencing family violence has resulted in lasting government and NGO reforms. Shorna also identified schools as an effective environment for young people to access justice and enforce their human rights, and this work has been replicated across Australia and globally.

nicole hucks

A/Children’s Commissioner of the Northern Territory

Nicole Hucks is the Children’s Commissioner of the Northern Territory. Nicole is a Larrakia/Wadjigan and Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal woman from the NT. Nicole has defined her career in child and family welfare, with experience in child protection, care and protection research and program and policy development in Victoria and the NT. 

Dr Jess Heerde

University of Melbourne

Dr. Jess Heerde is a National Health and Medical Research Council Emerging Leadership Fellow and Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Paediatrics, Melbourne Medical School, at the University of Melbourne.

A/Professor Heerde at the University of Melbourne has established and leads a program of research that highlights both drivers of homelessness and the health consequences of homelessness in young people. Her program of work focuses on the prevention of homelessness before its consequences for health, and the social and individual assets that underpin health across the later life-course, arise.


Stephen Nash

CEO Kids Under Cover

Stephen Nash became CEO of Kids Under Cover in December 2021 after being a founder and CEO of homelessness and community housing organisations for the past 25 years in Victoria.

Stephen has formed local, national and international alliances and partnerships to innovate and advocate and he has led campaigns to trial new solutions to homelessness.

Stephen has been invited to be a member of Ministerial Advisory Committees on homelessness and housing and elected by his peers to serve on national and state peak body boards.

prof. brian burdekin AO

Former Federal Human Rights Commissioner

Professor Brian Burdekin, AO (Order of Australia) has left a lasting legacy to two of Australia’s most disadvantaged groups – homeless children and people with mental illness.  During his term as Federal Human Rights Commissioner, he presented two landmark reports: a National Inquiry into Youth Homelessness in 1989 and Human Rights and Mental Illness in 1983.

Our Homeless Children, the 1989 report on youth homelessness, shocked the Australian public by revealing the number of young people who were homeless and the appalling lifestyle they lived.  The Burdekin Association has restructured to reflect many of the recommendations of the report and Brian Burdekin has offered his full support. 

Prof. Paul Flatau 

University of Western Australia

Professor Paul Flatau is the Director of the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia working with others to bring about positive social and economic change in Australia. 
Paul has over 150 publications covering a broad range of fields including in social policy, labour economic and the analysis of social and economic outcomes and the impact and cost-effectiveness of programs in education, youth justice, unemployment, homelessness, and housing. In recent years, Paul has made significant contribution to homelessness research in Australia. His most recent work covers topics such as intergenerational homelessness, homelessness and service integration, the costs of homelessness, mental health and homelessness outcomes, child and youth homelessness and refugees and homelessness.
 prof. Catherine Robinson

Associate Professor University of Tasmania

Catherine Robinson is an Australian academic, sociologist and social justice activist. She has a long-held commitment to qualitative research and advocacy in the areas of homelessness, complex trauma and social care.

Catherine is known for her work with Blackfella Films as Series Consultant and Co-Host of the SBS documentary Filthy Rich and Homeless and she is a Board Director of Homelessness Australia.

Catherine is currently Associate Professor in Housing and Communities, School of Social Sciences, UTAS where she is also UTAS Centre Director for the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. Her recent work focuses on understanding the experiences and support system needs of children and young people who experience high vulnerability, including unaccompanied homelessness and mental ill-health.

Pam Barker

CEO Brisbane Youth Service

Pam Barker is the CEO of Brisbane Youth Service (BYS) which works to support homeless and vulnerable young people, and their children, to secure and maintain housing, address physical and mental health issues, establish successful relationships and support networks, and access pathways to education and employment. Prior to commencing with BYS, Pam was the CEO of Yfoundations, the New South Wales peak body representing young people at risk and experiencing homelessness, and before that, the CEO of Open Doors Youth Service, Queensland’s LGBTIQA+ youth service supporting children and young people aged 12–24 years. She is passionate about investing in our next generation of leaders and advocating for meaningful solutions to support them to flourish.

Pam has advocated for change in policy reform at both state and federal government levels partnering with stakeholders to affect change across Queensland for LGBTIQA+ Youth. She also sits on the board of My Foundations Youth Housing, Homelessness Australia (HA), Vanguard End Street Sleeping Collaboration (ESSC), is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, holds a Bachelor of Psychology, and is currently undertaking postgraduate study in Clinical Psychology.

Trish Connolly

CEO Yfoundations

Trish Connolly is the CEO of Yfoundations. She has an extensive background in homelessness and domestic abuse policy, research service design, and service system reform in both the Australian and UK contexts. She has worked across a broad range of sectors, including the NSW State Government, UK Government, peak bodies, non-government/frontline service providers and charities. Trish was also a member of the Yfoundations Board in 2014–15 to provide expertise on impacts and best practice approaches for young people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Prior to joining Yfoundations, Trish worked in a service delivery capacity in the community housing sector. Trish is passionate about working in the youth homelessness sector, strongly committed to ending homelessness, and focused on developing a systemic approach to address the fundamental issues that contribute to youth homelessness.

Liz cameron-smith

CEO Foyer Foundation

Liz Cameron-Smith is the CEO of the Foyer Foundation, which seeks to grow the impact and reach of Youth Foyers to 50 Foyers by 2030. Youth Foyers provide a pathway to independence for young people aged 16-25 who experience or are at risk of homelessness, offering integrated housing, learning and work supports for up to two years.
Prior to joining the Foyer Foundation, Liz spent 14 years as a purpose-driven leader in the private sector. Liz led PwC’s corporate responsibility team on a journey to channel its impact towards homelessness and housing affordability, launching The Constellation Project as a bold, cross-sector effort to end homelessness in a generation. She founded The Impact Assembly, a PwC social enterprise that specialises in bringing together unlikely combinations of people, resources and insights to drive change on entrenched social and environmental challenges.


Keith Waters

CEO Youth Development Australia and the National Youth Commission

Keith Waters has worked in the youth homelessness sector for over 30 years. He has held Executive positions with Anglicare in NSW and the ACT as well as the Salvation Army in Melbourne, Victoria. He has experience across a wide range of areas including youth, drug and alcohol, housing and homelessness, crisis services, OoHC and child protection, family violence, prisons and courts, disability services, child care, aged care, primary health care and juvenile justice

In addition to being a leading NGO Executive, he has pioneered numerous innovative programs for disadvantaged young people over the past 30 years and has been an advocate, author and co-author of a number of landmark reports which have impacted youth policy. He is currently the Executive Officer of both YDA and the National Youth Commission.

Tyrah Chan-Hampton

Youth Ambassador 
The Foyer Foundation

Tyrah Chan-Hampton is a proud young woman from Wiradjuri country. She plays a key role as a youth ambassador with the Foyer Foundation, a NFP working in the youth homelessness space and is a passionate and caring young person with a lived experience in the out-of-home-care sector.

With a passionate focus on the over representation of First Nations young people in the care system, Tyrah volunteers her time to advocating for policy and service delivery reform and improvement. She is currently studying Social work and is an incredible advocate working towards improving the lives of other young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.



Paul McDonald

Anglicare Victoria CEO

Paul McDonald is the CEO of Anglicare Victoria, the state’s largest provider of foster care, family welfare and youth support services.

Paul has chaired a range of nationally significant committees on behalf of the Australian Government and is the former chair of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.

He is the former Executive Director of the Children, Youth and Family Division in the Department of Human Services for the Victorian Government, being responsible for Victoria’s Child Protection Program, Youth Justice Program and Family and Domestic Violence Programs.

He has led a range of organisations including the founding CEO of Youth Substance Abuse Service, CEO of Council to Homeless Persons, Executive Director of the St Kilda Crisis Centre, Program Director for Crossroads Salvation Army and Youth Worker for Katherine Town Council. 

He is the founding Chair of the national ‘Home Stretch’ campaign which extends the age of those in Out of Home Care from 18 to 21 years in every jurisdiction in Australia. 


aunty jill gallagher ao

CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Jill Gallagher AO is a Gunditjmara woman from Western Victoria who has worked within, led and advocated for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in Victoria for all her life.
Jill is a highly respected leader who has dedicated her life to advocating for self-determination outcomes on behalf of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Jill is the CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation where she has spent the past 27 years advancing Aboriginal health and wellbeing.

Jill was recognised for her outstanding contribution to community when she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2009, awarded the Order of Australia in 2013, and inducted into the Victorian Aboriginal Honour Roll in 2015.
Jill was also closely involved in leading the Victorian journey to treaty serving as Victoria’s Treaty Advancement Commissioner from 2017 to 2019.

Maggie Toko

Commissioner of Lived Experience at Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission

Maggie Toko identifies as having a lived experience and as being indigenous to Aotearoa and comes from Ngati Whatua and Ngapuhi tribes.  Maggie is currently a Commissioner Lived Experience at the soon to be established Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission.  Maggie has worked in homelessness, youth, sexual assault and young women’s services as well as mental health most recently having been the CEO of VMIAC – Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council and the Peak Consumer organisation in Victoria. 

Maggie is a staunch believer in Human Rights and has a commitment to raise the voice of  Mental Health Consumers and Carers in the mental health system.  Maggie believes that the voice of first nations and multi cultural communities should be championed as much as possible and has recently been involved in a project that addresses shared information in a variety of community languages.  Working in codesign the Mental Health Complaints Commission worked with Polaron to hear the voice of communities in what they want to know about the complaints processes in languages that are accessible and clear.

Carla Raynes

CEO Bridge It 

Carla Raynes is the CEO of Bridge It. 

Carla’s has worked in the homelessness field for nearly 2 decades in the UK and in Australia. In 2021 Carla founded Bridge It, a new charity which has launched in Melbourne. Bridge It runs a residential program called the Cocoon which supports young people who are exiting from Out-of-Home Care.

Carla is a trailblazer in trialling creative approaches to homelessness to make the solution lasting. Her experience spans crisis accommodation, drug and alcohol teams, tertiary hospitals and youth residential units. She hopes to play a role in ending youth homelessness in Australia.


nada Nasser

Mission Australia State Director NSW, ACT and Victoria

Nada Nasser is Mission Australia’s State Director for NSW, ACT and Victoria leading services in areas of homelessness; child, youth and family; employment; mental health; alcohol and drug
rehabilitation and other community services.

Nada’s work in human services spans more than three
decades in the Government and not for profit sectors including in youth policy and programs.

Starting her career as a youth worker, Nada has delivered frontline services and led programs and partnerships, policy, strategy and system reform. Nada is passionate about social justice and about ending homelessness and building on community strength. She has a deep commitment to
partnering to improve outcomes for young people, families and communities.


josh burns

Federal Member for Macnamara 
Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

Josh Burns is the Federal Member for Macnamara in inner south-eastern and bayside suburbs of Melbourne. He is Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Aid Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. His commitment to ensuring Australia pursues a proactive and inclusive foreign policy, acting as a leader and partner in our region and beyond, and to the development and promotion of human rights. He recognises the importance of Australia being a nation in good standing internationally.

A strong advocate for progressive change – addressing housing affordability, tackling the homelessness crisis and ensuring Australia takes meaningful action on climate change – and is deeply committed to reconciliation with our First Australians in line with the Uluru Statement from the Heart. He is acutely aware of the need for local action to reflect the best of Australia’s aspirations as a country.

His values are grounded in the experience of his family. As the grandson of migrants who left Europe and settled in Melbourne in search of a safe place to raise their families, he knows the importance of upholding a multicultural and multifaith Australia – and the profound role education can play in changing lives.

Before representing his community in the Australian Parliament, he previously worked as a teacher’s aide and a factory hand, and served as an adviser in state and federal governments, including to the Premier of Victoria.


 senator jana stewart 

Senator for Victoria
Qualified Family Therapist 
Former employee for the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and
the Child Protection System. 


Senator Jana Stewart is a proud Mutthi Mutthi and Wamba Wamba woman from North-West 
Victoria, and a mother to Jude and Ari.

Jana is the youngest First Nations woman to be elected in Federal Parliament, and the first Aboriginal Labor Senator for Victoria.

Jana’s personal and professional life has been shaped by ironclad values. An unwavering commitment to children and families, a firm belief in the power and importance of community, and a deeply held feeling of responsibility to do everything she can to advocate for others.

Jana comes from a long line of strong Aboriginal women, stretching back over sixty thousand years. She is the first in her family to attend university, where she received two degrees to become a family therapist.

From her work at Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and the Child Protection System, all the way to the steps of parliament – Jana has never been afraid to stand up for others.



Member for Kooying
Former Director of the Neurology Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne


Dr. Monique Ryan was elected to the federal seat of Kooyong in May 2022. Formerly Director of the Neurology Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and a Professor of
Medicine at both Melbourne and Monash Universities, she is the first woman and the first Independent to hold the seat of Kooyong.

She and her husband have raised three children in the
electorate, and want their children to have the same opportunities that they have had; confidence in their futures, secure employment and the ability to afford a home.

Dr Ryan is committed to action on climate change, integrity and transparency in government, evidence-
based healthcare, and gender equity.

Independent Senator for the ACT  

Former Wallabies Rugby Captain and Brumbies Vice Captain  

Senator David Pocock is an Independent Senator for the ACT at the Parliament of Australia. Having migrated from Zimbabwe with his family as a teenager, David went on to captain the Wallabies and Vice-Captain the Brumbies as part of a stellar rugby career in which he has been awarded for leadership on and off the field. 

With a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, David also has a track record as a powerful advocate on issues ranging from climate to marriage equality. 

He has been involved in multiple small businesses and has co-founded numerous not-for-profit community initiatives in Australia and overseas, including with his wife Emma.

In 2021, David attended the COP26 climate summit and led The Cool Down campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on the Australian Government to lift its ambition on climate change. Upon returning home, he announced his run as the community-endorsed Independent Senate candidate for the ACT. After campaigning on a platform of integrity, doing politics differently and making Canberra count, David was successfully elected at the 21 May 2022 Federal Election.

CEO Hope Street Youth and Family Services

Donna Bennett commenced her working life in youth homelessness while completing her Bachelor (Honours) of Social Work, working in a young women’s refuge and a residential centre for young people in care, in regional Victoria.  This was the beginning of her passion and drive for a fairer system and service delivery response to young people and their children impacted by not having a safe home to thrive.
Over her 35 years in the sector, Donna has extensive experience as a practitioner and leader. Donna is respected for her leadership and genuine collaboration, engaging local communities to be pro-active participants of the solutions to the causes and impact of young people and young families, who are deeply disadvantaged and without a safe home.
In addition to collaboratively creating new program models in youth homelessness and women-specific services with local communities, Donna has been leading and supporting the professional teams at Hope Street, in providing its highly regarded specialist responses to youth homelessness for the past 20 years.

 Zoë Robinson

 Zoë Robinson Advocate for Children and Young People


Zoë Robinson was appointed as the Advocate for Children and Young People in January 2021, she holds a law degree and a Masters of Human Rights. She previously worked as a solicitor for firms in NSW, for Deloitte in internal strategy and was the CEO of the NSW Peak Body for Youth Homelessness.

Prior to commencing her appointment as the Acting Advocate, Zoë worked at the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Her role was focussed on breaking disadvantage. Zoë has volunteered for a number of months for at an organisation that represented death row inmates based in Houston, Texas. 

With experience in the professional services industry and the NFP sector means that Zoë brings a balance of passion coupled with a “can do” attitude to her role as Advocate. Zoë firmly believes that children and young people should be given every opportunity to succeed and set themselves up for success, and that they should have the opportunity to choose what that means to them.

Zoë believes that all children and young people should be heard, listened to and be central to the work that we do both in government, business and community. Zoë is enthusiastic, energetic, and pragmatic and thoroughly enjoys collaborating with people to achieve a purpose and an outcome.




 Managing Director Community Housing LTD


Steve Bevington has been involved in the development and management of affordable housing for over 40 years including development of cooperative housing in London, Chairmanship of London Borough of Camden Council Housing Authority, Housing Cooperative Programs in Victoria in the 1980’s to his present role as the Managing Director of Community Housing Ltd (CHL) Group of Companies. 
Steve has led CHL from a one worker organisation in one location to operations in three of the four regions of the world which harbour extreme poverty. CHL has over 11,000 properties under management in Australia across six states managed by 350 staff through its extensive network of 24 offices. Besides Australia, CHL has international presence in seven countries including Timor Leste, Rwanda, Chile, Indonesia, Peru and India. 
He is one of Australia’s leading experts on housing affordability and is on the board of Community Housing Industry Association, Australia’s peak body for community housing and is a key contributor to policy advocacy for affordable housing matters in the country. Steve is a registered builder and an alumnus of the Melbourne Business School.



Elvis Martin

Youth, Diversity and Inclusion Advocate

Elvis Martin is a social justice advocate who has managed to overcome very difficult circumstances and inspire many with his advocacy for social justice. The recipient of awards such as National young Community Achiever of the year.

Elvis has worked, volunteered and spoken publicly in many roles, addressing mental health, homelessness, family violence and LGBTIQA+ community issues.

Currently Elvis as Principal Ambassador of Youth Development Australia, government LGBTIQ taskforce member and on the Board of VMIAC. He uses his platform, including a large social media following, to promote inclusion, diversity and equality for all.


 Mentor in Youth Justice at Confit
Lived Experience Advocate for Children and Young People inciting systemic change in NSW 


Kyzar Jing is a young man from Sydney who is committed to using his lived experiences to find solutions to systemic issues affecting vulnerable young people across NSW.
Throughout his childhood Kyzar experienced domestic violence, homelessness, housing insecurity and as a teenager he spent some time in youth justice.
It was during this time that Kyzar reflected on his pathway to crime and made a choice to work to ensure that other young people do not have the same experience. While in youth justice Kyzar worked to improve himself by taking part in educational and fitness programs. 
Today he works with the Advocate for Children and Young People on inciting systemic change in NSW and with Confit where he mentors young men in youth justice by delivering bespoke programs to develop health habits and mindsets through fitness.
Kyzar’s dream is to see a NSW where all young people are supported, cared for and have opportunities to thrive and live their best life.



Michelle Ackerman

Director of Youth Support Services at
Youth off the Streets 

Michelle Ackerman is Acting Director of Youth Support Services at Youth Off The Streets. She has over two decades of experience in community services, working across the government sector and not-for-profit organisations. Her areas of expertise include frontline youth homelessness responses; community housing; service delivery for LGBTQIA+ young people; community development; quality assurance and compliance; and executive
leadership, among others.

Michelle joined Youth Off The Streets in 2021 as Manager of Engagement and Support, focussing on youth justice and youth engagement programs. She then moved into the Interim Operations Manager role and became Acting Director of Youth Support Services in October 2022.

rebecca maward

Research Specialist in Youth Homelessness
University of Sydney, Research Centre for Children and Families NSW/ACT


Rebecca Mawad is a social work research student undertaking a Master of Philosophy (Arts and Social Sciences) at the University of Sydney. Her research examines youth homelessness in NSW and features a critical case study of the Youth Foyer Model.

Rebecca is a Research Assistant at the Research Centre for Children and Families where she has worked on various evidence reviews for the NSW and ACT governments.

Rebecca’s academic practice is grounded by her practical experience in the housing and homelessness sector in the delivery of tenancy support and psychosocial support services.  


Helen waters silvia

CEO Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC) 
Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors


Helen is the CEO of Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre (WAGEC). Her career in social services spans 25 years, specialising in homelessness and housing, holding a variety of senior management and executive roles.

Helen’s work focuses on improving systemic responses and service delivery to marginalised people, particularly women and children impacted by domestic and family violence and the prevention of gender-based violence. Appointed to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council (interim) in 2023, Helen has previously served on the board of Domestic Violence NSW (2016-2022), Chair of DVNSW (2017-2020), and she has served on the boards of Homelessness NSW and FAMS. 

Helen has background in social work, Diploma of Management, ProSci Certified Change Practitioner, and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


LEE carnie 

Human Rights Lawyer and Social Justice advocate currently working as the Executive Director of Advocacy & Campaigns at the Foundation for Young Australians.


Lee Carnie is a human rights lawyer and social justice advocate currently working as the Executive Director of Advocacy & Campaigns at the Foundation for Young Australians. Passionate about backing young people to fight injustice and create change – from newsrooms to protests and parliaments across the country. 

Lee has worked on strategic litigation, campaigns and advocacy across a range of issues, including Robodebt, marriage equality, urgent COVID-19 measures to prevent poverty and homelessness, advocacy to the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, stronger human rights and anti-discrimination protections, hate speech laws, birth certificate reform, and access to gender-affirming treatment for trans young people. Lee has previously worked as the Strategic Advocacy & Policy Manager at Victoria Legal Aid, Legal Director at Equality Australia, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, and Youth Homelessness & Drug Outreach Lawyer at Youthlaw.



justin barker 

CEO of the Youth Coalition of the ACT



Justin Barker is the CEO of the Youth Coalition of the ACT. Justin is an anthropologist and youth studies academic with an extensive background in conducting research with marginalised population groups and community service providers in the areas of youth work, domestic and family violence, youth and family homelessness, child protection, alcohol and other drugs and service use by vulnerable population groups.

Justin is nationally and internationally recognised for his research with homeless young people. Justin has extensive experience in program evaluation and working with community services to build their capacity for ongoing service improvement. Prior to his career as a researcher Justin was a youth worker who worked with homeless young people. This experience led onto his PhD that examined the lives of homeless young people in Canberra, providing ethnographic insights into the conditions of youth homelessness.

cindy young

Senior Manager of Services at Conflict Resolution Service, ACT



Cindy Young is the Senior Manager of Services at Conflict Resolution Service, a Canberra based non-for-profit that specialises in early intervention support for young people at risk of homelessness.

As an advocate within the sector, Cindy is committed to sharing her learnings, practices and knowledge regarding how best to respond to and support our most vulnerable children and youth.


Cindy began her career as a youth worker, and over the years has drawn on her commitment and passion for improving the lives of young people to create innovative service responses. Cindy now oversees the delivery of the Safe and Connected Youth program, a first of its kind program within the ACT that provides intensive therapeutic outreach support and accommodation for children and young people aged 8 – 16. Cindy’s experience within this program from front line worker to senior manager provides Cindy with the firsthand knowledge and expertise of how to create, implement, deliver and embed an early intervention response to youth homelessness.


Justene gordon

CEO Burdekin Association



Justene Gordon has spent her career working with or for vulnerable children and young people. Justene started her career as a Case Manager, shifting her focus on prevention through working with families, before moving into training others in the social services sector. Justene became a member of the The Burdekin Association Board in 2008 and was appointed President in 2013. In 2016 she resigned from the Board to take up the role as CEO.

Justene has worked tirelessly to ensure Burdekin’s continued existence and growth.   Justene was honoured with the 2016 Warringah Council Citizen of the Year award and was the recipient of the Pittwater Community Service Award 2018. She most recently gained GAICD status.


richie goonan

Executive Manager Community Health
Youth Projects



Richie Goonan has 30 years’ experience in the housing and homeless sector working across program and policy areas including youth homelessness, drug and alcohol, primary health, family violence and mental health.   

Richie has a passion for social justice and challenging the status quo to develop responses that enable life changing opportunities for people to achieve their potential.

Richie began his career as a youth worker in residential care, youth justice and youth homelessness and has gone on to lead a wide range of crisis and developmental programs for in the youth, adult and family homelessness and health system. 


 Dawyte Hart-O’Neill

 Founder Freedom Fight Project NT
National Youth Steering Committee Member


Dawyte Hart-O’Neill is a respected young leader in their community with years of experience working in mental health, out-of-home care, intensive youth support, and peer education. A strong advocate for vulnerable children and young people, Dawyte has been recognised for their efforts both locally and nationally.

In 2022, Dawyte was 1 of 15 young people Ministerially appointed to the National Youth Steering Committee reporting to the Federal Minister for Youth, Hon. Dr. Anne Aly. 

Dawyte established the Freedom Fight Project NT, an independent child and youth advocacy body that aims to ensure the voices of vulnerable young Territorian’s are heard and included in system-level decision making.

As an aspiring social worker, Dawyte aims to bring his lived experience into his practice to create an improved model of care for young people that is more inclusive and holistic. He is passionate about mental health and wellbeing outcomes for young people, and advocates for this cause every day.


A/Prof. david mackenzie
Upstream Australia
University of South Australia


David Mackenzie is an academic with a strong record of R&D on youth issues and policy, who is widely recognised for his work on youth homelessness. 

In 2007-2008, he was one of the four Commissioners responsible for the influential National Youth Commission Inquiry into Youth Homelessness [NYC]; David has done pioneering research on early intervention and is the developer of the innovative ‘Community of Services and Schools’ model of early intervention or COSS Model.

In 2022, David launched Upstream Australia as a new form of ‘bridging organisation’ to provide advocacy around early intervention and place-based collective impact and systemic backbone support for the development of the COSS Model across Australia and internationally.


Ash Cook
Youth Ambassador 

The Foyer Foundation


Ash Cook is a leading Youth Ambassador for the Foyer Foundation. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Work while he works part time as a case worker at Foyer Port Adelaide. He is a big advocate for lived experience, youth homelessness and LGBTQIA+ rights. 


Head of Youth Homelessness Services
Melbourne City Mission (MCM)


Leanne Nicholson is a passionate Youth Worker that has been in the sector over 25 years working across Australia and internationally in youth mental health, AOD, youth justice and homelessness. Leanne is a strong advocate for all young people having access to the care, support and resources they need.


Through innovation and strong collaborative relationships Leanne creates and drives change to ensure young people don’t fall through the gaps. Leanne’s current role as Head of Youth Homelessness Services at MCM is driving the ongoing creation of diverse and flexible support and accommodation responses for young people experiencing homelessness.


ounding Executive Director of Lighthouse Institute
Honorary Fellow University of Melbourne
Lecturer at School of Psychology and Social Science at Victoria University

Rudy Gonzalez was the founding Executive Director of Lighthouse Institute, an attachment and trauma informed knowledge centre that provided clinical supervision, training and consultancy to practitioners and organisations working with survivors of trauma, as well as conducting research on trauma informed systems. He is a Board approved supervisor and member of the APS. Rudy has previously worked as the Director of Care Services at Lighthouse Foundation, as well as roles in child youth and family services and therapeutic communities in forensic settings, as well as holding the role of Principal Practice Leader in the Department of Health and Human Services, Secure Services.
Rudy has lectured at the School of Psychology and Social Sciences at Victoria University, and is an Honorary Fellow of University of Melbourne. Rudy co-authored the book Therapeutic Residential for Children and Young People: An Attachment and Trauma Informed Model for Practice. Rudy’s work as a leader was recognised in 2013 receiving the SACS and Leadership Victoria Award for Excellence for Executives working in Not For Profit organisations. Rudy was also on the Board for the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, the peak body for Child, Youth and Family Services in Victoria.


Head of Research and Social Policy at Uniting ACT/NSW 
A /Prof. Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney

 A /Prof. Translational Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University


Dr. Tom McClean is Head of Research and Social Policy at Uniting NSW/ACT. His team undertakes primary social research, evaluations of Uniting’s services, and social policy analysis. It supports Uniting to disrupt entrenched disadvantage through practice excellence, innovation and advocacy.

Tom has been part of Uniting’s leadership team on Foyer Central in Sydney, which is funded by a social impact bond. Before joining Uniting, Tom worked in social policy for the NSW Government, in roles that included policy, evaluation, and investigations.

Dr. McClean holds a PhD in political sociology from the London School of Economics, and is an adjunct associate professor at Western Sydney University and at UTS. His personal research interests include how institutions shape social and political outcomes, and the role of secrecy in politics.


Indigo Junction CEO
2017 Churchill Fellowship Recipient

Board Director of Karlup Aboriginal Corporation and the Youth Affairs Council WA.


Sharon Gough is the Indigo Junction CEO and has an enthusiasm for positive change, advocacy and improving the way things work. Her career has focused heavily on system reform, service design, strategic partnerships and advocacy in response to the needs of people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage.

Sharon is a 2017 Churchill Fellow, a Board Director of Karlup Aboriginal Corporation and the Youth Affairs Council WA. In recognition of her work in the Youth Sector Sharon was awarded the YACWA significant Contribution to Youth Work Award in 2018.

As a result of her expertise, Sharon has been instrumental in the development of the WA Youth Homelessness Action Plan and has recently been appointed to the WA Government’s Ministerial
Housing First Advisory Committee.

The Committee will provide regular advice to the Government
on the implementation of the WA 10 Year Homelessness Strategy, identify areas for system reform, and improvements to the existing homelessness service sector.

CEO at Colony 47
A Tasmanian based Social Enterprise
supporting young people.

Non-Executive Director of Metro Tasmania
Tasmanian Youth Employment Alliance
The National Youth Employment Body


Dianne Underwood has recently been appointed as CEO at Colony 47, an independent, proudly Tasmanian social enterprise supporting young people. Dianne is an experienced Executive and energetic leader with 30 years’ experience across diverse sectors specialising in strategic planning, business transformation, human resources and leading people.

Previously Dianne has been on the Executive teams of RACT, Federal Group and TasWater. In performing these roles, Dianne has been instrumental in creating many programs that have
made positive and practical changes to the organisations and the lives of many Tasmanians.

Dianne has played a leadership, governance and stakeholder engagement role on various committees and Boards. She is currently a Non-Executive Director of Metro Tasmania, sitting on the Tasmanian Youth Employment Alliance, The National Youth Employment Body and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is committed to supporting and investing in young Tasmanians.

The Salvation Army
Youth Services Oasis ACT


Andrew Rich has worked within the community services sector for most of his life; his passion for people sparked by his experiences volunteering with a local community service when he was 11.

Andrew has extensive senior leadership experience across a range of portfolio areas including housing and homelessness, early childhood education, disability, mental health and AOD.

For the past 7 years, Andrew has led The Salvation Army’s Oasis Youth Services in the ACT; 24 crisis beds across four locations, three transitional properties in the ACT, and more recently a driver training program that assists vulnerable and disadvantaged young people to obtain their provisional driver licence.

The Salvation Army
Victorian Youth Services State Manager


Rob Ellis is The Salvation Army’s Victorian Youth Services State Manager. He has been in the community services sector for over 25 years and has extensive experience across a range of areas
including youth justice, homelessness, alcohol and other drugs, child protection and education, employment and training.  

Rob has lead the development and delivery of a range of innovative housing solutions for young people across Victoria and is a strong advocate for creative and sustainable housing options.

Rob has led the implementation of Psychologically Informed
Environments across Salvation Army Youth Services to increase staff capabilities, drive quality practice and enhance sustainable outcomes for young people.

Lived Experience Advocate for Homelessness
and Mental Health
Foyer Foundation Ambassador


David Saint has a lived experience of both mental illness and homelessness. David’s passion to help end youth homelessness is equal only to his passion for the footy. Cracking jokes at every opportunity to brighten up

“I know what I’ve been through in my life so I know for certain that if I can help someone not go through it, I’ll be right by their side. Ending youth homelessness won’t be done in a day but if we can work together with community and government I believe that we can create a brighter future for the next generations of young people.”

CEO at My Foundations Youth Housing Ltd

Rebecca Mullins has over 25 years of experience in community services across the community housing, homelessness and advocacy sectors, most of which has been focused on ensuring access and opportunity for young people.

She is the founding CEO of My Foundations Youth Housing, a registered community housing provider focused exclusively on the housing needs of young people. In just 5 years, MFYH has grown to manage over 260 properties, with a further 150 contracted to be delivered by the end of 2021. Rebecca is determined to deliver on MFYH’s vision that “young people everywhere should have a safe, supportive and affordable home” with a strong focus on ensuring a range of housing options and tenures are available for young people to support their transition to independence.

Lived Experience Mentor and Advocate
Foyer Foundation Ambassador


Brea Dorsett (she/her) is an intersectional feminist, lived experience mentor and advocate and Foyer Foundation ambassador. Brea was born and raised on the lands of the Yorta Yorta people and is now living and working on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation.

After couch surfing in her year 12 VCE studies Brea found her passion for social justice and became a fierce human rights advocate. Ensuring that she is a voice, for the voiceless.

This includes those experiencing homelessness, but not limited too as she wants to see equity and equality among all minorities.

Brea is a former Youth Parliamentarian, works in Social Impact within the Youth Homelessness sector for an organisation known as HoMie, and has her own business where she runs workshops and keynote speaks on her lived experience.

One of the largest Community Housing Providers in Queensland


Rebecca Oelkers is the Chief Executive Officer of BHC, one of the largest Community Housing Providers in Queensland, with over 1,800 homes developed and under management. Rebecca brings to the role a strong vision for strategic growth and a deep
understanding of the company, having held Executive roles within BHC over the past 15 years.

Her experience in the affordable housing sector spans over 19 years, across a variety of affordable housing projects, with Rebecca most recently leading BHC’s involvement in the
Queensland Government’s Housing Investment Fund, securing partnerships with the private sector with the intent of growing the supply of social and affordable housing by up to 1,200
homes in South East Queensland.

Rebecca is a passionate advocate for affordable housing issues and is committed to growing the supply of safe, secure affordable housing, and delivering

CEO Berry Street


Michael Perusco is the CEO of Berry Street, the 28th CEO since Berry Street’s establishment in 1877. Michael has had extensive experience working in senior leadership roles and has been CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW and Sacred Heart Mission in Victoria.  He has worked at the Department of Prime Minister Cabinet leading the social inclusion agenda, not for profit reform agenda and other social policy areas. 

Michael is a member of the Victorian Government’s Roadmap for Reform Ministerial Advisory Group and the Aboriginal Children’s Forum and is on the Board of the Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare.

Regional Operations Manager, Katherine


Tracey John has a grounding in Nursing, Midwifery and Public Health and has decades of experience working in international development settings managing country programs for INGOs and establishing community development initiatives throughout the Pacific, South East Asia, the Balkans and Africa.  Returning to Australia less than 10 years ago, Tracey has applied her expertise to continue to work in the not for profit sector, committed to social justice, human rights and a strong belief in fostering self-determination in those most vulnerable in our community.

Tracey is currently the Regional Operations Manager for the Katherine Region in the Northern Territory, working for AnglicareNT.  Overseeing a portfolio of Aged Care, Disability, Early Childhood, Financial Counselling and Housing and Homelessness. 



Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in Victoria


Meena Singh is the Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in Victoria. She is a Yorta Yorta and Indian woman, born and living on the land of the Kulin Nations. Meena started her legal career with Victoria Legal Aid, where she practised in human rights and criminal law, and was also their inaugural Associate Director, Aboriginal Services. She has led legal services and programs at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, as well as consulting in training
and organisational development across many organisations. She has a passion for centering the voices of people with lived experience and service design that promotes inclusion, connection and ultimately achieve social justice and equitable outcomes.



Community Services Student + Aspiring Youth Worker
Resident at the Shepparton Education First Youth Foyer


Tayla Lines is a current resident of the Shepparton Education First Youth Foyer and her aspiration is to work in the youth work field and is currently studying Community Services at GoTafe.  

Tayla is a strong advocate for other young people who have experienced homelessness and has been invited a couple of times to local GoTafe events to speak individually and on a panel where she has presented with confidence and passion.  Tayla is actively engaged in part time work in retail and hospitality which she also enjoys.