Program and speakers

We need to talk: How to have real conversations with kids

Event schedule

The following schedule may change in the lead up to the event. Make sure you check this page before the event to confirm times and speakers list. 

9:00 to 9:05 AM  

Welcome to Country 

Millie Ingram 

9:05 to 9:20 AM

Welcome and opening address

Kate Alexander, Senior Practitioner, Office of the Senior Practitioner, FACS

9:20 to 10:30 AM         

Having difficult conversations with children - Part 1

Mary Jo McVeigh, Cara House 

10:30 to 10:45 AM

 Morning tea

10:45 AM to 11:45 AM    

11:45 AM to 1:00 PM

Having difficult conversations with children - Part 2

Mary Jo McVeigh, Cara House 

Involving children: what the research and our experience tells us 

Morag McArthur and Rhys Thorpe, Australian Catholic University 

1:00 to 1:45 PM


1:45 to 3:00 PM 

Talking with children across different stages of development 

Dr Laura Nilon and Belinda Edwards, psychologists, FACS

3:00 to 3:20 PM

Afternoon tea 

3:20 to 4:30 PM

'KIDS SAY' Cards: Talking and listening to kids

Aunty Sue Blacklock AM, Gillian Bonser and Paula Hayden, Winangay Resources

4:30 to 4:45 PM

Reflections and close 

Elaine Thomson, Director, Practice Quality and Clinical Issues

Keynote speakers biographies

Involving children: what the research and our experience tells us

Morag McArthur

Morag McArthur is the foundation director of Institute of Child Protection Studies (ICPS). As a social work academic with more than 25 years of teaching and research experience, Morag has worked with Commonwealth, State and Territory Government departments, non-government and community organisations on a wide range of research and evaluation projects. Morag’s expertise focuses on issues surrounding, child protection, family welfare, research with vulnerable children and young people, homelessness, family relationships, drug and alcohol and evaluations of social programs.

Rhys Thorpe

Rhys Thorpe is a social worker and counsellor who has been working with children, young people and families for more than ten years. He has experience working in supervised contact and foster care sectors, and more recently undertook a PhD through the Institute of Child Protection Studies. Rhys is part of an ARC Linkage Grant study investigating models of contact between children in out of home care and their birth parents.

Having difficult conversations with children

Mary Jo McVeigh

Mary Jo is a trained trauma therapist and accredited mental health social worker. She has completed an Honours degree in Social Science and a Master’s degree in Social Work. Mary Jo is acknowledged in her field as an expert in child protection, trauma therapy, in clinical supervision, management consultancy and leadership coaching and professional self-care. She has presented at national and international conferences and published in professional journals and has published two books and three innovative resources for working therapeutically with children and young people. Mary Jo is currently the founder and director of Cara House, a centre for resiliency and recovery, located in Sydney.

Talking with children across different stages of development

Dr Laura Nilon

Dr Laura Nilon is a clinical psychologist with extensive work experience in the child protection and mental health fields. She is a strong supporter of evidence-based practice, and has a keen interest in the impact of trauma on individuals, families and communities. Much of her clinical work is influenced by attachment and trauma theories. Dr Nilon is currently a Clinical Psychologist with FACS, Western NSW.

Belinda Edwards

Belinda Edwards is a clinical psychologist with two Masters degrees in Psychology. She has been working with vulnerable children, young people and families for over 17 years. Belinda’s love of working with adolescents led to her spending 11 years as in the psychologist role with Intensive Support Services in the Hunter and Central Coast regions. Belinda has been in leadership roles for the past 6 years, both within and outside of psychological services. She is currently the Director of Psychological and Specialist Services at FACS.

KIDS SAY cards: Talking and listening to kids

Aunty Sue Blacklock AM

Aunty Sue Blacklock AM is a respected Elder of the Nucoorilma people from Tingha, part of the Gamilaraay nation. She lives on her traditional homeland in Tingha, NSW. She has been a member of the Tingha Elders Council for over 10 years. She is mother of 8 and grandmother and great grandmother to over 65 children. She has also raised a multitude of foster and other children. Sue has worked tirelessly in community work, education and health programs, running woman’s camps, domestic violence workshops, personal support programs, alcohol and other drug programs, police cell watch programs and a breadth of cultural programs. She feels Aboriginal children and young people are key to the future of Aboriginal people. However she is deeply concerned about the number of Aboriginal young people who are in care and was central in encouraging the development of the Winangay Resources project.

Gillian Bonser

Gillian Bonser has been involved in the fields of community services, education, training and research for over 35 years. She is a specialist in process facilitation, having worked for the last 15 years as a consultant to government departments, community agencies, and private enterprise organisations.

Paula Hayden

Paula Hayden is a social worker with considerable experience with working in child protection and OOHC in the United Kingdom and training and development within Australia. Paula has a long standing commitment to working with Aboriginal peoples in the NGO and government sectors via Health and Community Services. Paula’s interests have been evident in aspects of developing Kinship care assessment tools; Competency based assessment tool (Step By Step) and the development of a training package for foster carers (Shared Stories Shared Lives) which are used nationwide.