The Victorian Children's Council gives advice to government on all matters relating to children aged 0-18 years in Victoria.
The council's mandate is to be forward looking, acting as an active advisor to government on how to meet key challenges facing Victorian families and to improve child outcomes.
The council is particularly concerned with the problems faced by children who are vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes.
The council actively engages with the Victorian government in planning to help families give their children the best start in life and to support young people in the transition to adulthood.
The council's role
The council assists Victorian departments to build a stronger evidence base and understanding of how to improve child outcomes and opportunities.
The council considers a range of issues aimed at improving outcomes for children, such as:
- promoting attention to vulnerability and disadvantage within a strengths-based, wellbeing approach
- fostering opportunities to work across the minister's portfolio
- place-based responses to child and family disadvantage and vulnerability
- early childhood education and care reforms, including the Commonwealth Government's contribution
- educational supports for students with additional learning needs
- improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and families
- improving outcomes for children involved in child protection, through their engagement with the universal service system in line with the Government's
Roadmap for Reform: Families and Safe Children project.
The Victorian Children’s Council was established by the Victorian government under the
Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.
The council meets every two months or as required.
Council members are recognised experts in children’s policies and services. They have been selected as individuals and not as representatives of their organisations or interest groups.
Chair: Professor Frank Oberklaid OAM
Professor Oberklaid was appointed Chair from 1 October 2011 having been Deputy Chair since 2005.
He is a consultant pediatrician and Foundation Director at the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children's Hospital. Professor Oberklaid is also a Co-Research Group Leader at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, and a Professor at the University of Melbourne.
Professor Oberklaid was a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee which led to establishment of the Council. Professor Oberklaid has led a considerable amount of important research and published extensively, and has received a number of prestigious awards for his work, including the Health Lifetime Achievement Award from the Victorian Department of Health in 2012, and the Nils Rosén von Rosenstein Medal in 2013 for outstanding contributions to the progress of paediatrics and promoting the health of children.
Professor Oberklaid's appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Deputy Chair: Ms Sandie de Wolf AM
Ms de Wolf has over 40 years’ experience leading organisations working with children, young people, women and adults harmed by violence and abuse. Ms de Wolf has held leadership roles at state and national level and contributed to many ministerial, departmental and sector committees and working groups. For 26 years she was the Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street. Ms de Wolf continues her determination to improve policies, practice and services through a number of different roles on panels, boards, committees and taking on interim Chief Executive Officer roles.
Ms de Wolf’s appointment concludes on 30 August 2021.
Member: Ms Muriel Bamblett AM
Ms Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta woman, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. From 1998-2008 she was the Chairperson of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, the peak agency representing Indigenous Child and Family Services nationally. Ms Bamblett was the Chair of the former Ministerial Advisory Committee on Child and Family Support. In 2009, LaTrobe University appointed Ms Bamblett as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy within the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Ms Bamblett’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Mr Robert Boucher
Mr Boucher is the current Principal of Swifts Creek P-12 School, a school of 120 students located in East Gippsland. Working in education for nearly 30 years in both Victoria and New South Wales has provided an opportunity to understand the complexity of the challenges that many children face and the need for strong systems to enable all children to be the best they can be.
He has been involved in extensive investigations into the needs of young people in rural and remote communities which has led to outcomes including establishing an Early Years Learning Centre, supported by a model of ongoing professional learning for the staff and the community. Mr Boucher is currently Chair of the Far East, Lakes, High Country Geographic Network of schools.
Mr Boucher’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Mr Warren Cann
Mr Cann is a clinically trained psychologist and Chief Executive Officer of the Parenting Research Centre. He has over 30 years’ experience helping governments, organisations and practitioners to more effectively support families in their parenting, with a focus on families who are experiencing adversity or raising children with high and complex needs.
Mr Cann is a founding Director of the Raising Children Network and an honorary professor at the School of Psychology, Faculty of Health at Deakin University.
Mr Cann’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Dr Susana Gavidia-Payne
Dr Gavidia-Payne is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Educational and Developmental Psychology at RMIT University. Her recent research has focused on factors that promote or hinder children’s and family resilience outcomes, particularly in disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.
A former President of the Victorian chapter of Early Childhood Intervention Australia, Dr Gavidia-Payne has considerable expertise in developing, delivering, and evaluating early childhood intervention programs that strengthen young children’s socio- emotional and behavioural development and family functioning.
Dr Gavidia-Payne’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Dr Lisa J. Griffiths
Dr Lisa J. Griffiths is Chief Executive Officer at OzChild, Victoria’s oldest child welfare organisation. Dr Griffiths has worked in senior executive leadership roles for over 30 years. She has worked with large, diverse, complex NGOs, the public sector and community-based organisations delivering evidence-based services to the community with a focus on children and families, people with disabilities, at-risk youth and the culturally diverse.
Dr Griffiths contributes her skills throughout Australia holding Non-Executive Director positions with the Centre for Excellence in Child & Family Welfare (VIC), the Association of Child Welfare Agencies (NSW), and multiple Ministerial Advisory Groups focused on Children. Dr Griffiths started her career as a special education teacher.
Dr Griffiths’s appointment concludes on 30 August 2023.
Member: Ms Raylene Harradine
Ms Harradine is a Wotjabulluk, Latje Latje woman, and is the Chief Executive Officer of Bendigo & District Aboriginal Cooperative. Ms Harradine was instrumental in leading the establishment of the first rural Victorian Authorisation of Children in Out of Home Care under Section 18 of the Child, Youth and Family Act 2005 as Principal Officer. She has worked in management positions within Aboriginal communities for over 20 years as well as with the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation and in the health and education sectors.
Ms Harradine was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2006 for her outstanding work with Aboriginal Communities. She has published "Aboriginal Art and Culture" 2009, an abstract on "Reconciling Indigenous Pedagogy and SOSE" in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in January 2000.
Ms Harradine's appointment concludes on 30 August 2023.
Member: Mr David Huggins
Mr Huggins is the former Assistant Director Student Services at the Catholic Education Office (CEO). He has experience as an employee of both the Victorian and Commonwealth departments of education. Mr Huggins' most recent role at the CEO has required working at Executive level at the interface of health and education. He has worked as a teacher, psychologist, social worker and vocational guidance counsellor. Mr Huggins has current and recent appointments as a Board Director of not-for-profit welfare/community agencies, hospital boards, philanthropic boards and sporting/employment organisations. He is an APHRA registered psychologist.
Mr Huggin’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Ms Tina Hosseini
Ms Hosseini is a Research Fellow at Swinburne University, focusing on the evaluation of school-based training programs in the area of Countering Violent Extremism. She was previously a Research Fellow at Deakin University which involved adolescent prevention-based projects focusing on reducing problem behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, mental health issues, antisocial behaviour, family conflict, school disengagement and depressive symptomology.
Ms Hosseini is a Commissioner with the Victorian Multicultural Commission (previous Youth Commissioner), a member of the Iranian Women’s Association and a Board member of the City Local Learning and Employment Network and the Victorian Red Cross.
Ms Hosseini‘s appointment concludes on 30 August 2023.
Member: Dr Anne Kennedy
Dr Kennedy has extensive experience in the field of early childhood education and care as an academic, consultant and advocate and is a Fellow of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne. She is a life member and former chairperson of Community Child Care Association Victoria and a life member and former board member of FKA Children’s Services. Dr Kennedy was appointed a Director of The Front Project Board in 2019 and a Trustee of the Creswick Foundation in 2020.
Dr Kennedy was a member of the Charles Sturt University research group that developed the first Early Learning Framework for Australia in 2009. She has been influential in shaping and supporting the quality reform agenda in the early childhood sector with a particular commitment to improving outcomes for young children living with significant social disadvantage.
Dr Kennedy’s appointment concludes on 30 August 2023.
Member: Ms Kerry Stubbings
Ms Stubbings has extensive experience and expertise in community service provision, public policy, strategic planning, leading transformational change, stakeholder engagement, quality service systems and good governance. With over 30 years of experience in senior roles in Local Government, State Government and the not-for-profit sector, in planning and provision of diverse services including early childhood, youth and family services, health, social planning, recreation, arts, housing and community development.
Ms Stubbings has been responsible for leading several community-based programs to support children and young people to develop and flourish, especially those most vulnerable. Ms Stubbings has been a member of the Victorian Children’s Council since 2010 and was included in the Victorian Top 50 Public Sector Women for 2018.
Ms Stubbing’s appointment concludes on 30 August 2023.
Member: Ms Deb Tsorbaris
Ms Tsorbaris is Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, Victoria’s peak body for child and family services. She has worked in health and community services for 32 years, holding executive positions in organisations working across youth services; disability, drug and alcohol support services; and employment programs.
Ms Tsorbaris held previous roles as Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Council to Homeless Persons from 2003 to 2009; and the Director of Human Services Design at the Department of Human Services, responsible for leading the design and development of integrated human services to improve outcomes for clients. She has a Master of Social Policy and Management and a Diploma of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation from RMIT University.
Ms Tsorbaris’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Member: Professor Jim Watterston
Professor Watterston is the Dean of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne. He bring more than 35 years’ of experience across a diverse range of education roles. This includes 10 years’ as a teacher before becoming a principal of primary and secondary schools, Regional Director in Western Australia and Victoria, Deputy Secretary of the Victorian Department of Education, and Director General of both the ACT and Queensland Departments of Education and Training. He was awarded a Doctorate in Education at the University of Western Australia in 2004.
Professor Watterston has previously served for six years as the National President for the Australian Council for Education Leaders. His contribution to education has been acknowledged both nationally and internationally with awards from several professional bodies and educational institutions including the Order of the Palmes Académiques (Chevalier) by the French Government in 2014 for a distinguished contribution to education.
Professor Watterston’s appointment concludes on 30 June 2022.
Recent Past Members
Member: Mr Robert Spence
Mr Spence is the Chief Executive Officer of the Municipal Association of Victoria - the peak body for local councils in Victoria. Mr Spence was formerly the CEO of the City of Brimbank and the City of Footscray. Prior to that, he held various positions in the Victorian public service over a period of thirty years.
Member: Ms Heather Barnes OAM
Ms Barnes began her career as a preschool teacher and later became a teacher and lecturer in child care studies. She currently has her own training consultancy and provides workshops for long day care, family day care and out of school hours care professionals through Lady Gowrie Child Centre (Melbourne) and for the Professional Support Coordinators in Victoria and Queensland.
Recently, Ms Barnes was contracted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to facilitate the National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care assessor training of authorised officers.
Member: Ms Carmel Guerra OAM
Ms Guerra is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Multicultural Youth, a community-based organisation that advocates for the needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. She has over 20 years of experience in the community sector, and received the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to young people, migrant and refugee communities.
Ms Guerra has also been a member of the Refugee Resettlement and Advisory Council since its inception, and recently received a Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence from the Victorian Government and the Multicultural Commission.
Member: Professor Kerry Arabena
Professor Arabena is Chair for Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne and Director, Onemda: VicHealth Koori Health Group. A descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, Professor Arabena was formerly the Professor and Director of Indigenous Health Research in the School for Indigenous Health, Monash University. She is a former social worker and founding Co-Chair of the new national Indigenous peak body, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Professor Arabena's research interests include: public health, administration, community development and research in indigenous policy and sexual health.
Member: Doctor Maria Apostolopoulos
Dr Apostolopoulos is a member of the Disability Advisory Council of Victoria. Maria is a consultant pharmacist and is the proprietor of a community pharmacy. Dr Apostolopoulos has a PhD (Psychiatry) and is employed as a specialist lecturer at Deakin University. She was previously the Vice-President of the Kalparrin Early Childhood Intervention Centre.
Member: Professor Marie Connolly
Professor Connolly is Chair and Head of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. Former Chief Social Worker in NZ Government; former Associate Professor and Head of Department at University of Canterbury and founding Director of the Awatea Violence Research Centre. Her child welfare practice, academic and consulting careers span 30+ years in Australia and overseas.
Professor Connolly's research interests include:
- the research-practice-interface in child protection
- statutory care
- family group conferencing and family engagement strategies in child welfare
- reforming child protection systems
- rights-based practice in child and family welfare.
Member: Doctor Donald Edgar OAM
Dr Edgar is a self-employed consultant on social research and policy, early childhood and work, family and community. He has been a teacher, an academic and past Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Dr Edgar was a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee.
Member: Ms Susan Harper OAM
Ms Harper has extensive experience in early childhood development, and expert knowledge of the sector at a national and international level. Ms Harper is the National President of the Organisation Mondiale pour l'Education Prescolaire - OMEP Australia. Ms Harper was a member and co-author of the Kirby Review of Preschool Services in Victoria and a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee.
Member: Mr Steve Rogers
Mr Rogers is the principal of Mooroopna Primary School. Mr Rogers has been a principal and head teacher for 22 years in a number of Victorian schools in rural and regional Victoria. Employed in education for 30 years, he has a strong interest in early childhood issues and community development.
The Victorian Children's Council can be contacted by email: