2018 AASE National Conference
SUNDAY 8th - tuesday 10th july, 2018 | cairns Convention Centre, CAIRNS, Queensland

2018 Keynote Speakers

Helen Cahill

Professor Helen Cahill

Professor Helen Cahill is Director of the Youth Research Centre at the Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia.

She is a leading innovator of Australian school-based wellbeing interventions addressing mental health, social and emotional learning, resilience, respectful relationships and drug education. She has developed a number of violence-reduction, gender rights, sexuality and HIV education programs for women and marginalised young people in developing countries within the Asia-Pacific region. She specialises in the use of collaborative learning strategies as a transformative pedagogy within wellbeing education. 

She has authored over 100 publications, including 60 peer reviewed research articles and over 40 wellbeing prevention education programs for schools and communities. She is the lead author of the Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program provided by the Department of Education, Victoria. This is an open access, evidence-based social and emotional learning and respectful relationships education program developed to meet the needs of primary and secondary schools. She is currently leading an ARC Linkage research project investigating the impact and implementation of this program in 40 schools.

She leads a program of work eliciting student voice and positioning school students as advisors in the education of doctors and teachers. She is also lead author of a number of child and youth wellbeing and participation programs developed in partnership with UNESCO and UNICEF for use within developing countries within the region, including the open access Connect with Respect program addressing the prevention of gender-based violence in secondary schools.

Keynote Presentation
Teacher as Architect: Providing a Pedagogy for Social Interaction

Schools are a key setting through which to build the personal and social capabilities. Research demonstrates that social and emotional learning programs can lead to improved academic outcomes and reduced rates of bullying, disengagement, depression and anxiety. Well-designed programs can be particularly effective in promoting positive academic outcomes for students with disabilities, along with reducing rates of bullying for these students. Collaborative learning strategies are integral to the effectiveness of these programs, however, research demonstrates that they are not the norm for many teachers. This presentation focuses on curriculum as practice, with an emphasis on the pedagogical structures that a teacher is called upon to use in order to foster the social development of their students. Practice examples are derived from experiences in supporting Victorian schools in their implementation of the Resilience Rights and Respectful Relationships program, an open access comprehensive social and emotional learning program designed by the presenter for students from Foundation to Year 12.

Professor Stephen N. Elliott, PhD

Steve is the Mickelson Foundation Professor in the Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. Steve has authored more than 300 publications (journal articles, books, and book chapters), along with five widely used behavior-rating scales. His research focuses on (a) the assessment of children's social emotional skills and academic engagement, (b) the design and use of testing accommodations and alternate assessment for evaluating the academic performance of students with disabilities for educational accountability, and (c) the measurement of students’ opportunities to learn the intended curriculum. He is the co-author of the Social Skills Improvement System (SSiS) and the SSIS Social Emotional Learning Assessments and Classwide Intervention Program (SSIS SEL Edition). Along with Vanderbilt colleagues, he also designed and validated two online assessments: the Vanderbilt Assessment of Leadership in Education (VAL-ED) to evaluate the performance of principals and their influence on students’ achievement and My instructional Learning Opportunity Guidance System (MyiLOGS), a teacher self-report tool for measuring instructional time, quality, and delivery of content standards.

Currently, he co-directs the National Center on Assessment and Accountability for Special Education, a U.S. Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences funded research center concerning achievement growth models for students with disabilities and moderating variables of student achievement. He also is the Principal Investigator on a USDE project that integrates software tools that help teachers document student’s opportunity to learn and achievement outcomes.

In summary, Steve likes to measure things that matter in the lives of children so strengths and weaknesses can be identified and actions taken to improve learning and the educational experiences of teachers and students.

Keynote Presentation
Practices that Improve Social Emotional Learning Skills, Opportunities, and Outcomes for Students with Additional Needs

Social emotional learning (SEL) skills are an essential outcome of schooling. Without good SEL skills, children are less successful students, less involved with and accepted by peers, and more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors. As a result, many educators are making efforts to identify and teach children SEL skills. This presentation will focus on (a) Australian policy-driven and research based efforts to identify key SEL skills needed to advance successful learning and social development, (b) effective intervention tactics known to improve the SEL skills of a wide range of children, and (c) implementation strategies and system level supports needed to sustain effective SEL instructional practices. Key points will be illustrated by examples of screening assessments and intervention lessons that align with ACARA’s Personal & Social Capabilities (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social management), digital intervention innovations, and program outcomes from school-based SEL projects with Australian educators and their students. 

Rachel J. Kroes

Rachel Kroes is the Executive Officer of the Down Syndrome Association of NT (DSANT), the only not-for-profit organisation in the Northern Territory delivering specialist support and information to families and people living with Down syndrome and their schools and service providers. In her career she has worked in health, broadcasting, law and accounting before veering sharply into the disability sector after becoming deaf in 1990, a result of an unfortunate head injury accident. Married with two children, Rachel says that in her wider family, deafness, physical and intellectual challenges are the norm and not the exception, honing her passion for believing in the capacity and capability of all people.

Rachel’s contribution to the community of people living with disabilities spans more than 30 years; as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, an advocate, a contributor to policy formation and an innovator in service provision.  Rachel is the past President of the Deafness Association of the Northern Territory where she won the Jenner Bicentennial Award for her work in raising Rubella awareness for women from migrant backgrounds.  In her current role she presents workshops at Charles Darwin University and Flinders Medical School and travels across the Northern Territory delivering school and peer support program to educators and families.  Her drive encompasses the core belief that community awareness, trust and integrity will bring about better outcomes for all. Rachel’s energy, creativity and passion to improve the lives of people with disabilities, was formally recognised in being awarded the Northern Territory Employee of the Year Award Disability Services Awards in 2013 and, in 2016, Rachel was a Northern Territory Finalist in the NT Telstra  Business Women Awards ‘ For  Purpose and Social Enterprise’.

One of Rachel’s greatest achievements at DSANT was starting Project21, a post-school learning centre for young people with intellectual disabilities. In 2015, Project21 was recognised in the NT Human Rights Awards for taking action to ensure the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights of young people in the Northern Territory.

Keynote Presentation
A Safe Pair of Hands

"...it's a journey, a journey towards acceptance".

The above quote is an opening line of a play written about the acceptance of a child with Down syndrome by her mother. This is the first relationship in a long line of relationships with those she will meet.  For some of these people, she may wish to offer a reflective apology, they wore the scars of the teeth of her frustration.  For a few connections there is still the pain of their names engraved in the 'too hard' basket of sadness.  And for others?  Well, they are the life changing ones, whose simple wisdoms and actions supported the family and student through the days and years toward transition into life after school.  How can you, someone tasked with the responsibility of at least a small part of this experience, know that you have contributed as a safe pair of hands?   Rachel explores the myriad of relationships necessary for families and educators to survive to the Graduation Ball.   Practical strategies underpin her narrative as she asks you to examine the relationships you have with people with disabilities.  Perhaps the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself as you travel your own journey towards acceptance.

Associate Professor Patricia A. Jennings, M.Ed., PhD

Dr. Jennings is an Associate Professor of Education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. She is an internationally recognized leader in the fields of social and emotional learning and mindfulness in education with a specific emphasis on teacher stress and how it impacts the social and emotional context of the classroom. Dr. Jennings led the team that developed CARE for Teachers, a mindfulness-based professional development program shown to significantly improve teacher well-being, emotional supportiveness and sensitivity and classroom productivity in the largest randomized controlled trial of a mindfulness-based intervention designed specifically to address teacher occupational stress.

Dr. Jennings is leading the development of the Compassionate Schools Project curriculum, an integrated health education program designed to align with state and national health and physical education standards. She is Co-Principal Investigator on a large randomized controlled trial being conducted in Louisville, KY to evaluate the curriculum’s efficacy. Dr. Jennings is a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development among Children and Youth. Earlier in her career, Dr. Jennings spent over 22 years as a teacher, school director and teacher educator. She is the author of Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom part of the Norton Series on the Social Neuroscience of Education.

Keynote Presentation
The Gap Between Stimulus and Response: Cultivating Resilience with Mindfulness and Compassion

Resilience is the capacity to successfully adapt to challenging situations without long-term negative effects, and today our students and teachers need resilience more than ever. Building resilience involves cultivating and harnessing resources to sustain wellbeing and to recover quickly when facing difficulty. In today’s rapidly changing world learning to adapt quickly has become a critical skill. Research shows that mindful awareness and compassion practices promote the cognitive and emotional strengths we need to build and maintain resilience. Dr. Jennings will introduce this research and present simple, easy to use mindfulness, compassion and emotion skills proven to enhance resilience and promote wellbeing.



Conference Secretariat


For all conference enquiries, please contact GEMS Event Management Australia on
+61 2 9744 5252.