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.

Penny Cook 
Penny Cook is a Project Officer at 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
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
Wendy Gorman is a 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 Livingstone 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.

Grace Sarra
Grace Sarra 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.

Joanne Goodwin
Joanne Goodwin is a descendant of the Wonnarua and Kamilaroi peoples in New South Wales. She is committed to progressing reconciliation and to exploring the practice of cultural competence in the early childhood sector. Joanne has an extensive background in early childhood and social inclusion, having worked in a variety of programs and communities nationally. Currently, she is rolling out Newpin (New Parent and Infant Network) sites across Queensland, under the Queensland Government’s Social Benefit Bonds Pilot Program.

Simon Fewing
Simon Fewings was born in Adelaide and is a proud Aboriginal Koori man. Simon has worked in the areas of Aboriginal education, training and employment for over the past 25 years. One of Simon’s first role was a as a teacher at an alternate year 11 and 12 sehng for Koori young people. During this time Simon led a team that won an award for ‘Best Koori Unit in a TAFE college’ in Victoria. Simon has also been a committed volunteer representing his community in a number of roles for over 10 years. Simon has previously worked for National; Community Partnerships Officer with KidsMatter Primary and MindMatters projects. Currently, Simon is a manager at Sunraysia Institute of TAFE in Mildura, Victoria.

Emma Beckett

Emma has spent all her life in rural NSW. Emma’s mother’s family are from Brisbane QLD. As an early childhood teacher by trade, Emma has worked in Aboriginal Early Education and Care since her graduation over 20 years ago, with the majority of this time as the Children’s Services Manager for Awabakal Aboriginal Co-operative in Newcastle.  Emma has been involved in the development and planning of the local Aboriginal Child and Family Centre since it was just an idea and now manages the Nikinpa service on behalf of Muloobinba Aboriginal corporation and the community.

Emma has been a part of the SNAICC council for a number of years and prior to this was a board member for the NSW peak AECSL (Aboriginal Early Childhood Support and Learning). Emma was one of the first two Aboriginal Australians to participate in a World Forum Project called Global Leaders for Early Childhood, an advocacy development program which aims to help participants build their advocacy and understanding of Early Childhood in a global perspective.


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).