We’re privileged to be joined by some amazing speakers, whose personal and professional experiences get to the very heart of what it means to belong.

More details on the program to come, but our stellar lineup of keynotes includes:

Lemn Sissay MBE – (UK) Poet, playwright, artist, producer and broadcaster. Lemn Sissay is the son of two highly accomplished Ethiopian parents, neither of whom he knew anything about as he was raised by a white foster family living on the outskirts of Manchester. He was 12 when he was sent to live in a group home. The first time he knew of his mother and her love for him was when he left care at 18 and was given a letter from her pleading for his return. His story is one of longing to belong, ‘known unknowns’ and shining a hopeful and unflinching light on the care system.

Prof Cathy Humphreys – (AUS) Cathy Humphreys is Professor of Social Work at University of Melbourne. She is co-chair of the Melbourne research Alliance to End Violence Against Women and Their Children (MAEVe) and one of the lead investigators on the Safer Families Centre for Research Excellence. Her current research projects include: evaluations of recovery and healing programs for women and children; evaluation of Caring Dads; and the STACY project (Safe & Together Addressing Complexity) which explores the interface between child protection, domestic violence, mental health and drug and alcohol services. Cathy worked as a practitioner for 16 years before becoming a social work academic.

Isaiah Dawe – (AUS) Isaiah Dawe is a young Butchulla and Gawara Salt Water Murri man. Isaiah grew up in our foster care system from two months old to 18 years. Throughout that time, he was never in contact with his family and changed placement 17 times. He has now used his negative experiences for a positive and founded the first Aboriginal mentoring organisation to support Aboriginal youth in OOHC through a not-for-profit organisation called ID. Know Yourself.

Nicole Lee – (AUS) Nicole Lee is a family violence survivor and passionate advocator. After suffering a decade of abuse at the hands of her former husband, Nicole now uses her lived-experience of family violence to speak out for those who don’t yet have a voice. Nicole, who also uses a wheelchair, focuses on family violence perpetrated against those who have a disability, or who depend on carers or family members for support. Nicole Lee has played a major role in shaping how Victoria responds, and works to prevent, family violence. The level and type of engagement is unseen in other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas.

Sonja Parker (AUS) – Sonja Parker is an independent social worker and child protection consultant from Perth, Western Australia. Sonja has worked in both government and non-government child protection roles, in investigation, children-in-care, as well as reunification and family preservation programmes. Through her work with families and her training and consultation with agencies and practitioners, Sonja has developed a number of tools, processes and resources to assist child protection professionals and family members in working together more effectively to build future safety for children.

Jackie Wruck – (AUS) Jackie Wruck is a proud Aboriginal Yindinji woman from Far North Queensland, Yarrabah region and Cultural Practice Advisor with Child Safety, Caboolture, QLD. Jackie’s own experience of domestic and family violence led her to becoming a certified Safe & Together trainer, and a lead facilitator of ‘Walking with Dads’, a program that works with, and walks with fathers who have perpetrated violence in their families. Working with families all of her life, Jackie is a vocal advocate for families and passionate about keeping children out of the child protection system and making sure families voices are heard.This excellent line-up of speakers is only half the story.

Breakout Sessions

We are excited to be able to showcase snippets of the films Ghosthunter and Backtrack Boys at this year’s conference. These films are part of the breakout sessions and in discussion with people in the films, will explore our conference theme of ‘belonging’ in a unique and thought-provoking way.

Ghosthunter brings to light the devastating impact and often ongoing complex issues associated with unresolved childhood trauma including mental health issues, homelessness, drug misuse and family violence. A Western Sydney security guard and part-time ghost hunter, Jason King has spent two decades searching for his absent father. As a survivor of trauma, he seeks to reconcile his fractured memories and piece together his past. When his search converges with a police investigation, a horrific family secret is exposed – forcing him to confront a brutal past in order to reclaim his future.

Backtrack Boys is an observational documentary. Filmed over two years, it follows boys in a youth program that Bernie Shakeshaft runs from a shed on the outskirts of Armidale. On the road with Bernie’s legendary dog jumping team, the boys find their voice, make great friendships and the dogs become national champions. This inspiring coming of age story reveals the challenges and triumphs these boys face as they try to find their place in the world, live with trauma and the dogs that help tame their wild ways.

Although not a requirement, we encourage you to watch the full length versions of these films prior to the conference, to help deepen your understanding during these workshops.

Ghosthunter and Backtrack Boys can be found on SBS On Demand

More details on our interactive breakout sessions to come – please check this tab for program updates in the lead up to the Conference.