Dr Andrea Khong is a scientist, veterinarian and self-proclaimed professional introvert. She owns the Maldon Vet Clinic where she has created a calm and quiet environment for both owners and their pets.
With more than a decade in public health, disability inclusion and health promotion, Azzy brings a community development approach to her role as Director of the Castlemaine Fringe Festival.
PhD Candidate at University of Melbourne
Belinda Young is a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne and President of Mums of the Hills, a community group she founded in 2015. Belinda’s research focuses on whether online groups can promote place-based action in the prevention of human caused bushfire ignitions. Mums of the Hills is predominantly an online group of 6000 members in the Yarra Ranges, an area in Melbourne’s east known for its beauty and vulnerability to disasters. The group is unique in that it has successfully created a strong online/ place-based community connection, built the social capital of the community and provided clear communication and support following disasters. Belinda was recognised for this work by recently being awarded the 2023 Victoria, Australian of the Year Local Hero award.
Brianna McKnight is a 28-year-old therapeutic youth worker with a wealth of experience in Child Protection and out-of-home residential care across Victoria. She is nearing completion of her master's degree in counselling, working as a crisis supporter for Lifeline and providing free counselling through The Friendship Centre. With a decade of involvement with Carers Australia, including serving on scholarship selection boards for young carers, Brianna has made significant contributions to raising awareness for carers and young carers. Her story has been shared through schools nationwide, highlighting the challenges faced by young carers and inspiring others to take action.
Chief Innovation Officer
Emma is Chief Innovation Officer with Life Without Barriers, where she
provides empowering, inspiring and collaborative leadership that drives the development and implementation of strategic change and engagement initiatives in relation to disability advocacy and community services delivery across Life Without Barriers and beyond. Prior to commencing this role, Emma completed five years as CEO of Blind Citizens Australia, revitalising the national representative organisation of Australians who are blind or vision impaired. Emma also chairs the Attitude Foundation, which is shaping a new understanding of disability through the promotion and development of media content that provides
realistic portrayals of people with disability. She also serves on Tasmania’s Ministerial Arts and Cultural Advisory Council.
Sexual Activist and Pleasure Mentor
Isabella Frappier is a sexual activist and pleasure mentor, focused on body literacy and sexual sovereignty. Isabella works with clients in one-on-one video sessions and in group workshops such as Eros Community, to help them embrace their sexuality, incorporating aspects of feminist BDSM, sex magic, and even astrology into her work. She has been featured on NETFLIX, Goop, Sex With Emily, VICE, and more.
Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne
The Honourable Jaala Pulford is a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Chair of MTP Connect, Australia’s life sciences innovation centre. She is a director at Cyban and the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Jaala provides strategic advisory services to exciting and innovative organisations, large and small. An experienced leader with deep experience in Cabinet government, public administration and governance, Jaala is passionate about making sure people and businesses can thrive in an economy undergoing fast-moving, often destabilising, but exciting and transformational change. Jaala was elected to the Victorian Parliament in 2006 as Member for Western Victoria. She was re-elected in 2010, 2014 and 2018, and left politics at the 2022 Victorian state election to seek out new challenges. Jaala lives in Ballarat with her husband Jeff, son Hamish, two adopted greyhounds, and the everlasting memory of her daughter Sinéad. She loves scuba diving, running and travel.
Broadcaster, Writer, Speaker
Jacinta Parsons is a broadcaster, writer and public speaker who currently hosts programs on ABC Local Radio Melbourne. She released her debut memoir, ‘Unseen – the secret life of Chronic Illness’ in 2020 and just last month released her second book ‘A Question of Age: Women, ageing and the forever self’ She began her radio-life at community radio station 3RRR over a decade ago and is a board member for Melbourne disability theatre company, Rollercoaster. She has been involved in the music and arts community for her entire career. Jacinta has lived with Crohn’s Disease for over 20 years and is an ambassador for the Crohn’s and Colitis Association and speaks and writes about the impact of living with chronic illness.
Born and raised on a farm outside of Wedderburn, Victoria, Australia, she was born with curiosity and adventure in her blood. Jude is the Program Director for the 25 year old Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program. Each year the program delivers 25 empowered leaders back to the 10 shires it represents in Central Victoria. In addition to her role delivering the program, she is a certified hypnotherapist, and she and her partner grow and produce chillies on their small farm in Fernihurst.
CEO, Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation
Kathryn Coff is a proud Yorta Yorta woman living on Djaara Country. She is part of the local Aboriginal community in Castlemaine and currently the CEO of Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation in the Mount Alexander Shire. She chairs various meetings in community and sits on the Shire's Indigenous Round Table.
Executive Director Research and Innovation
Educational leadership has always been at the heart and centre of Lauren's professional career. Lauren's recent roles have included Head of Education at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne, where she championed the cause for world-class pedagogy and continuous learning for those students who could not attend school in a traditional setting. Lauren is now Executive Director Research and Innovation at Melbourne Girls Grammar School. She is developing best practice in learning technology, digital literacy, and building an evidence base for future-focused evidence-informed teaching and learning.
Lauren is a multi-award winning artist, including the winner of the national Bluethumb art prize in 2022. Lauren's work explores motherhood, femininity and their roles through time; through narrative and symbol-rich imagery. Her detailed and vibrant artworks are born from her abundant inner world, fueled by history, literature, folklore, nature and spirituality.
Member of Parliament
Maree Edwards is a mother of four, a stepmother to two grownup children, a grandmother of eleven, has been a carer for her late husband – and is a proud girl from Maryborough. In her spare time she’s out walking her two dogs, Jesse and Beto, plays the piano, and spends time with her ever-expanding family. Maree has been the MP for Bendigo West in the Victorian Parliament since 2010 – and in 2022 was elected the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
Dr Megan Rogers has a PhD in creative writing and has published academic papers on gender equality. She has worked in senior positions in the arts and government, and works at understanding how women can balance earning a living with creative pursuits. This year she had her now bestselling debut novel published with Harper Collins Australia by figuring out how to balance running a household, working a job with writing a novel. She believes that empowering women to have the time and space to chase their dreams is an important part of gender equality.
Director of the Office for Women in Victoria
Michele Clark is the current Director of the Office for Women in Victoria. She is responsible for driving gender equality policies and programs across the Victorian Government and implementing major reforms, including the new Victorian Gender Equality Strategy and Gender Responsive Budgeting. Michele has a wealth of experience in gender equality, policy development and implementation, and public administration. This includes leading work in a range of public policy areas, including social and economic policy, national security and emergency management.
Sarah has cared for children in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit for over 15 years with a particular interest in congenital cardiac conditions, trauma and retrieval medicine. She is also heavily involved in community resuscitation, sitting on the board of the Australian Resuscitation Council and is co-director of PAEDS education, providing resuscitation and disability carer training all over Australia. She proudly represented children with disability as a finalist for the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award 2023. As a mum of four children, Sarah has a passion to reach the unreachable and ensure that education is provided in a meaningful, empowering way without the fear mongering.
Summer Howarth and student Evie Garvey
Summer spends her days championing teachers and has worked across every education system and sector in Australia! Her passion, experience and unique perspective has established her as one of the most sought after learning experience designers and facilitators in Australia.
Evie, currently 8 years old, is a student at the local primary school in the small coastal town she lives in, where the river mouth meets the ocean. She loves surfing, gymnastics, swimming, basketball, soccer, her friends and family and believes all students should be treated how everyone wants to be treated and should be a part of designing how and what they learn. Evie thinks that learning should be about a fun journey towards a great outcome and even if it’s not a great outcome, she believes we can still learn from it.