The Reconciliation Advisory Group was appointed by the ECA Board of Directors to continue and support the philosophy and implementation of ECA’s Reconciliation Action Plan.


Catharine Hydon (co-chair)
Catherine is the director of Hydon Consulting Pty Ltd, an independent early childhood consultancy company supporting quality practice and innovation in early childhood service provision.   Recent projects include several professional learning sessions for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria, the provision of a leadership program to South Australia’s integrated children centre directors, a research project for Milleara Integrated Family and Childrens Centre and a learning project for the new integrated service for the a City of Port Phillip.

Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood field is an important part of her commitment to the sector. She is a long time member of the Victorian Branch of Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and served as a Director on the National Board of ECA for 6 years until October 2011. She was a co-founder of Real Rights for Refugee Children – an advocacy group for the promotion of refugee children’s place in early childhood services and in 2003 was awarded the Barbara Creaser Memorial award for outstanding contribution to early childhood education. Catharine contributed to the review of the ECA Code of Ethics in 2006 and again in 2012 as well as the facilitation of ongoing professional learning sessions to support educator’s engagement with the code.   In 2011/12 she led ECA’s work on the Reconciliation Action Plan (between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader community), culminating in the release of the plan in October 2012. Catharine has a Masters in Early Childhood Education specialising in early childhood policy and governance, the delivery of integrated services and the exploration of innovative programs to engage vulnerable children and their families.

Geraldine Atkinson (co-chair)
Geraldine Atkinson: is a Bangerang/Wiradjuri woman who has devoted her career to expanding the possibilities available to Koorie people through education. For over 30 years Geraldine has been a significant presence in the Koorie and wider Victorian community, beginning as a Teacher’s Aide in 1976 to her current role as President of the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) since 1999.

Geraldine has an important role to play in contributing her direct experience of what works in community combined with her extensive policy knowledge. Geraldine regards this ability to act as a link between policy and community as her principal function. As a community leader Geraldine has worked hard to ensure that real progress is made for Koorie people. Geraldine has made a significant impact in the area of Early Childhood, and has always regarded education as being the best instrument of progress.

As IECB representative for Victoria, Geraldine has worked with counterparts in IECBs from all States and Territories in providing advice to the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood. (SCSCEC – formerly known as the Ministerial Council on Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs or MCEECDYA). Geraldine is the Deputy Chair of the Secretariat National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC) and the Chair of Lulla’s Children and Family Centre in Shepparton. In all of her roles in early childhood Geraldine has continued to assert VAEAI’s position that child care and kindergarten for Koorie children should be culturally appropriate, welcoming of Koorie families, and accessible to boost participation of Koorie families in early childhood settings and support the transition of Koorie children into school.

Denise Proud
I was born on Wakka Wakka country, Cherbourg, Queensland and have been involved in early childhood from the 1960’s. At that time in Cherbourg there was no formal early childhood education in Cherbourg. The reason I decided to work in the early childhood area was because I felt that early childhood was similar in many ways to my Cherbourg community. My community was interactive and early childhood teaching is interactive. I felt primary schools were restrictive with too much order. I preferred the early childhood setting – like our culture – observing, watching, listening, interacting, sensing, feeling, being in the moment with the child or children. I wanted to make a difference and the way that I made a difference was starting the first kindergarten in Cherbourg. My own childhood was spent in a proud Aboriginal family with strong parents that valued education. My parents instilled a sense of belonging – they were outstanding role models and well respected by many. Aboriginal heritage, culture and family community values are just as important now as they were then, and will always be a part of my everyday life.

The one thing I remember my mother saying was “the laws are different for you my darling. But when you grow up, travel the world and don’t let anybody think you are a lesser person than anybody else. You are just as good – do you understand?”

“Valuing strong community leaders as role models has always been part of me. Role models such a mothers, aunties, sisters, family and community-members embeds a sense of identity and belonging, strength and respect – not only for self but for others.”

Denise worked as a volunteer in a range of organisations in the USA, and when she returned with her family to Australia she had the unique experience of working in the prison system as a cultural advisor for 18 years. My journey has allowed me to work across the spectrum of community including early childhood, youth education, various men’s and women’s groups as well as youth detention and male and female correctional centres.

I believe I have always had from my parents a sense of duty to my community, but at the same time I have always found the community gives back me in terms of my personal journey, knowledge, wisdom and spirituality.

Penny Cook 
Project Officer, Early Years Learners, Learning Improvement, South Australia Department of Education.

Penny Cook has worked in early childhood education for almost forty years. The journey began in a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia and has taken her to New South Wales, New York and back to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in north western South Australia. Roles include teacher, director, project officer, consultant and early years manager for sites with children from birth-8 years old. Penny is passionate about supporting educators in their fascination with young children’s views of their worlds. She counts herself as privileged to have worked and lived in the APY Lands, where she learnt more than she ever taught! This experience particularly influences her work in early childhood and life.

Adam Duncan
is a Biripi man, whose ancestors were traditional custodians of areas of the Manning River region of north-eastern New South Wales. He has worked as part of the team developing the Narragunnawali: Reconciliation in Schools and Early Learning program to support educators in their exploration of reconciliation in early childhood education and care settings. He is an early childhood educator, storyteller, educational consultant and artist, currently working as the preschool teacher and educational leader at Wiradjuri Preschool and Child Care, at the University of Canberra.

Wendy Gorman
Coordinator of Early Childhood Programs, Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA).
Wendy has gained experience and wisdom from working across a variety of school settings in her 30 years of as an early childhood teacher and leader. Wendy coordinates the Early Childhood consultant team for AISWA. Her current role involves supporting all Independent Schools across WA with children aged from 3 to 8 with pedagogy, compliance, curriculum, assessment and leadership.

Wendy’s passion is Nature Pedagogy and working with educators to increase their engagement in outdoor spaces and to deepen their knowledge of the potential for learning outside. Wendy has a strong belief that a high quality early education program is a right for all children and that this will support them to become healthy, engaged, active and informed citizens of the future.

Rhonda Livingstone
Rhonda is ACECQA’s National Education Leader. She also leads the teams responsible for promoting and recognising quality educational programs, practices and policies and supporting the sector and authorised officers to build a shared understanding of and commitment to implementing and administering the National Quality Framework (NQF); and continuous quality improvement.

Rhonda has a wealth of experience in the early education and care sector, having worked in preschools and long day care centres, and as an assessor of programs and services for both the Queensland Government and the Crèche and Kindergarten Association of Queensland. Rhonda’s extensive involvement in the National Quality Agenda reforms saw her contribute to the development of the National Quality Standard and its guide, assessment and rating tools and processes, and the training and testing program for authorised officers.

Rhonda also worked as a Senior Advisor, Excellent Rating with ACECQA and as a sessional education academic with the Queensland University of Technology.

Ciara Marshall
ECA Be You Team

Samantha (Sam) Page

Sam is the CEO of Early Childhood Australia. ECA was established in 1938 and works with Government, early childhood professionals, parents, other carers of young children, and various lobby groups to advocate to ensure quality, social justice and equity in all issues relating to the education and care of children from birth to eight years. ECA is a not-for-profit membership based organisation. It also has a successful retail and publishing arm, producing a number of very well regarded subscription based publications including the Australian Journal of Early Childhood.

Sam holds a Master’s Degree in (Community) Management from the University of Technology, Sydney and she is a Graduate of the Company Directors course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Her passion is for social equality and she has worked in the nongovernment sector for 20 years across roles encompassing service delivery, executive management, consulting, social policy analysis and advocacy. She has extensive experience in the development and implementation of social policy and sector development projects.

Currently, Sam’s focus is very much on the proposed reforms to child care assistance which has the potential to impact substantially on the way that early childhood education and care is delivered across Australia. There are both opportunities and risks in this reform agenda and it is important to maximise engagement by families, services and policy experts to inform the process. Every young child should have the opportunity to thrive and learn, and it is up to us to ensure this

Sara Richardson

Sara is the State and Regional Manager (SA, NT, WA) for ‘Be You’ the National Education Initiative at Early Childhood Australia. Sara is a passionate early childhood educator and leader with a strong interest in social justice, Indigenous pedagogies, ongoing learning, leadership and mental health. Committed to quality teaching and learning for children by engaging their educators in authentic and practical professional learning. Critical reflection and continuous improvement is best served by maintaining current knowledge, seeking multiple perspectives and being brave. I endeavor to live by this and support early childhood colleagues to do this same through professional learning, coaching, mentoring, support and advice.

Grace Sarra
Grace is a Senior Lecturer at QUT, Caboolture Campus. She is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage. Her mother is of Aboriginal (Birrigubba) and South Sea Islander descent and her father is of Torres Strait Islander heritage from the Central Islands (Mauar) in the Torres Strait.
Grace’s areas of interest are

  • Indigenous education
  • values education
  • social justice
  • pedagogy and practice
  • school change and leadership.

She has been teaching in schools and universities for over 18 years.

Gisella Wilson
Gisella is the Coordinator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Programs at KU Children’s Services.

Gisella is a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation, with 20 years of experience in working with staff, children, families and communities throughout NSW. Gisella’s commitment to ensuring Aboriginal children have access to high quality early childhood education has been demonstrated through her close work with Aboriginal communities and early childhood services.

Gisella believes one of the key components of reconciliation, is the education of all children about Aboriginal history and culture and that making connections and strengthening respectful relationships between Aboriginal people and the wider Australian community is essential.


The function of ECA’s Reconciliation Advisory Group is to:

  • Support the implementation of the Reconciliation Action Plan
  • Monitor and report on progress against ECA’s Reconciliation Action Plan
  • Provide advice to the ECA Board and leadership team on priorities and opportunities for effective action on reconciliation
  • Identify any risks or challenges to ECA’s work in this area
  • Inform the next evolution of the Reconciliation Action Plan (beyond 2014).