Meet our conference presenters

Opening Address: Queensland Shadow Minister Trevor Watts

Trevor Watts brings a common sense approach and the experience of a small business owner to his role representing the people of Toowoomba North. Like countless other residents across Toowoomba, Trevor’s life before politics was focused on running his successful local business whilst juggling the demands of an active family and community life on the Darling Downs.

Trevor often met with politicians, including the then Senator, now Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to discuss issues impacting business owners and families in Toowoomba.

During one of these meetings a critical moment in Trevor’s life occurred when he was again lobbying Senator Joyce on another policy issue. Barnaby turned to Trevor and said ‘Well, what are you going to do about it? I think it’s time for you to put up or shut up.’

Trevor saw huge opportunities for Toowoomba, Highfields and the Darling Downs. He understood the important need for strong regional voices in parliament who fight for a fair go for the people outside the state’s capital. Trevor decided to throw his hat in the ring. After an initial attempt in 2009, Trevor was elected as the Representative for Toowoomba North in March 2012 and was re-elected in January 2015.

Trevor has fought for and delivered many project in his short time in Parliament, including the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing and The Highfields State Secondary College.

Keynote Speaker: Councillor Teeny Brumby, Bernie Tasmania 

Teeny is an effervescent and outgoing Wife and Mum of four children who LOVES op-shopping, coffee and public speaking! Twice elected in Tasmanian local government, she has served 7 years thus far. Currently studying her Master's in Business, Vice-Chair of a Campsite on the Northwest Coast of Tasmania and working part-time as a sales consultant selling caravans, she still manages a busy home with 4 children including teenagers. Teeny has been on the public speaking circuit for many years focusing on topics of working in an orphanage in Romania, how to save money in the home, the importance of intimacy and inspiring individuals to reach for the stars! Following a diagnosis of dyslexia for 3 of her children, Teeny discovered she shares their learning preference. A high school dropout, she gained employment as a dental nurse and worked in an orphanage in Romania at 19 years of age. Following this, she had 4 babies, before being called into Local Government, continuing the story of challenging the "lies we tell ourselves". Battling the inner lie 'I am dumb' due to the wiring of her dyslexic brain, she shares how when we align our mind to what is true ... anything is possible!

Theme 1: Dyslexia the strengths that get you through

Reflections on a lived experience of Dyslexia by Dr Christopher Edwards, Sculptor

Christopher Edwards was born in Tasmania and is married with two adult children. He studied medicine at the University of Tasmania, graduating in 1975. He then went on to train as a Plastic and Reconstruction surgeon in Hobart, Sydney, and Scotland. He practiced in Hobart for 29 years until his retirement in June 2015 to become a full-time sculptor. He is a Past President of the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Christopher is dyslexic and a self-taught sculptor. He has always had an interest in design aesthetics and has taken on woodwork, metalwork, painting and sculpture. Medical and Plastic Surgery has provided extensive knowledge of human anatomy, proportion, and aesthetics.

Campaigning and Advocating for Education Reform: a dyslexic's perspective by Emeritus Professor Michael Rowan, University of Adelaide



I grew up and was educated in state schools in Port Lincoln in South Australia, moving to Adelaide to go to university. I graduated from Flinders University with a BA (hons) in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematic and a Dip Ed, then completed a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Adelaide.

While I was a student I taught high school Mathematics for a year, and tutored in Philosophy, before gaining a lectureship at the Murray Park College of Advanced Education, which later became part of the University of South Australia. I held various leadership positions at UniSA overseeing a series of amalgamations and restructures, including Pro Vice Chancellor of the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences. After retiring from that position to go sailing I settled in Tasmania where I became active in arguing for the reform of senior secondary education and improved literacy, as well as continuing my long interest in changing the economy to allow nature to continue to support human flourishing. To those ends I write regularly for the local press as well as my web sites Education Ambassadors and Persuade Me.

Theme 2: Dyslexia from an Academic perspective

Value of Peer Support Group by Dr Judith Hudson

Judith has worked in the field of special education for more than 30 years as an advocate for young people with congenital developmental disorders, e.g., dyslexia, ASD, Dyspraxia, ADHD; and, a teacher trainer at pre-and post-graduate level. Her concern is primarily accommodation of manifest difficulties, making schools more inclusive, and identifying reasonable adjustments to circumvent learning/teaching difficulties. A teacher, chartered psychologist, researcher, and writer in Australia and the UK, currently an Honorary Adjunct, (University of Tasmania), a non-executive director of Dear Dyslexic Foundation and Dyslexia ambassador to Square Pegs Dyslexia Support Group Inc., Tasmania. Judith has a dyslexic husband and grandson and works and shares her time between Australia and Wales UK.

Peer support for students with Learning Disability in Unversity of Tasmania, a student's perspective

Amelia Dowe, Student Learning Advisor University of Tasmania 

Jennifer Brown, a doctoral PhD candidate also at the University of Tasmania

Amelia Dowe, Student Learning Advisor University of Tasmania Amelia will be talking about some of the support strategies that she uses, the primary problems and the ones she can help to circumvent. Jennifer Brown and Amelia will present views of each of their perspectives.

Jen Brown is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Law, from Hobart Tasmania. Jen has a co-occuring Developmental Language Disorder and Dyslexia, yet successfully received a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Tasmania in 2003 and worked as an RN until completing a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University in 2008. She then worked as a Clinical Nurse Consultant in communicable disease prevention while completing a Juris Doctor of law with RMIT, graduating in 2018. Jen worked for the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation in industrial relations until commencing her candidature with UTAS Faculty of Law where she is researching public health law and adaptation to climate change. As a student with a specific learning disorder, Jen credits her success to her strong self-drive to learn and her capacity for big picture thinking. Jen is passionate about ensuring other students with a specific learning disorder can also be successful at university and would like to reshape any perception that you cannot succeed academically with a learning disorder.

 

Theme 3: Advocacy: the agent for change

Being  dyslexia Ambassador by Professor   Rufus Black, University of Tasmania

Professor Rufus Black is the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Tasmania. Previously, he was Master of Melbourne University’s Ormond College and an Enterprise Professor in the Department of Management and Marketing and a Principal Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. He has worked extensively for the government at the Federal and State levels.

His educational and social sector experience includes being the President of Museums Victoria, the Deputy Chancellor of Victoria University, the founding Chair of the Board of Teach for Australia, a Director of the New York based Teach for All and a Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. Rufus holds degrees in law, politics, economics, ethics and theology from the University of Melbourne and Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.

Rufus was identified as having dyslexia while studying at Oxford University, UK. He is patron of the Square Pegs Tasmania Dyslexia Support Group and principled advocate for dyslexia awareness.

Amelia Jones CEO Square PEGS Tasmania

Amelia Jones is one of the founding parents that began Square Pegs Tasmania Dyslexia Support Group back in 2013. In Tasmania at that time, there was no recognition of dyslexia, no help or guidance on offer. Since then, Amelia has guided and developed this productive group to successfully achieve greater awareness of dyslexia in Tasmania. Amelia has two children with dyslexia and it is her personal experience of the challenges for families navigating a system that isn’t designed for them that continues to inspire her to fight for systemic change to improve equity of access to education and opportunity for children with dyslexia. Square Pegs is working hard to: 

  • advocate for changes within the education system to ensure early identification and intervention for children with dyslexia; 
  • implement programmes to empower disadvantaged children with dyslexia and other learning differences; and 
  • raise awareness of dyslexia in the broader community and challenge perceptions by highlighting dyslexic strengths; like creativity, problem-solving, empathy and seeing in three dimensions.   

Theme 4: Disability in Australia Laws and Policies 

Disability Discrimination and the Law with Ben Fogarty Barrister, Denman Chambers

 

Ben Fogarty is a barrister at Denman Chambers, with expertise in discrimination law (specialising in disability discrimination), administrative law, criminal law, guardianship and mental health law, employment and industrial relations laws.  He has been a barrister for 10 years and, prior to that, was a solicitor for 12 years. 

Prior to being called to the bar, Ben was the senior solicitor at the Homeless Persons’ Legal Service.  He has also been the Acting Director of Pro Bono at Gilbert+Tobin Lawyers, the principal solicitor at the Intellectual Disability Rights Service, outreach solicitor at the Darwin Community Legal Service and the principal solicitor of the NSW Disability Discrimination Legal Centre.  He has also worked at Redfern Legal Centre and the Inner-City Legal Centre.  Ben's work in the community legal sector covered a very broad range of laws.  Ben also taught criminal law for 9 years at the University of New South Wales, his last year being 2012.

Ben has advised and appeared both for applicants and respondents in New South Wales, Queensland and Commonwealth disability discrimination matters.

Conversation Hour -Policy and disability in the workplace with PhD Candidate James Justice Bond 

 

 

Theatre Director and a Disability Advocate Dan Graham

 

James Justice Bond has been an active advocate campaigning for change for people with dyslexia in Australia for the past four decades. He was a member of the working party Helping people with dyslexia; a national agenda (2010). He was also instrumental in getting key pieces of disability legislation to have dyslexia recognised as a disability under the 1992 Disability Discrimination Bill. Through his academic endeavours, James holds both Bachelor and Master degrees from Macquarie University, and became an Honorary Member of the Golden Key International Society awarded in 2013 for being in the top 15% in academic achievement. He has recently completed a PhD thesis at Flinders’ University, South Australia and his doctoral research looked at the way Scotland, UK deals with dyslexia and compared it with how dyslexia is dealt with in New South Wales, Australia. His journey through disability discrimination, legislative and policy campaigning and his future objectives will be a part of his presentation at our conference. 

Dan Graham is a Theatre Director and a Disability Advocate with a particular interest in access support for neuro-diverse performing artists. His directing and access work have seen him travel all over Australia and the world to research and explore access and inclusion.

Dan has engaged with companies across Australia such as Bell Shakespeare, Sydney Festival, Sydney Fringe, Antipode Theatre Company, and the Ensemble Theatre. His recent collaborations in the US include the Atlantic Theatre Company and Pasadena Playhouse and in the UK the Globe Theatre.

Dan is a fellow of the Australia Council’s Future Leaders Program, an Ian Potter Foundation scholarship, and Create NSW fellowship recipient. He has a stellar director resume and uses his success to advocate for other artists who identify as neurodiverse.

Dan is a board director of Arts Access Australia and a regular peer assessor for the Australia Council for the Arts. He is the co-chair of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s (MEAA) artists with Disability Board and on the LGBTQIA+ disability advisory group for ACON. He is a board member of the Hickson Road Group Accessible Arts, and a member of Accessible Arts NSW Artists Advisory Group. He previously was a board member for Arts Access Australia and a committee member for the Hobart Fringe Festival.

This year Dan has Directed a Monologue with Anita Hollander based in New York for The REVERB Disability Theatre Festival run by The Roundabout Theatre Company, New York. He also Directed this year for The MIdsumma Festival at LA MAMA in Melbourne SAM I AM starting Sam Martin which Dan with Sam Co-Create.

Sally Close left her corporate career armed with 20+ years leadership experience to apply her business improvement prowess to her own consultancy - helping clients with organisational development and cultural change.

 

Sally is a parent of a dyslexic child and has a deep understanding of the challenges and benefits learning differences can create within the workplace. Sally imparts knowledge of learning differences and thinking preferences in safe learning environments. Facilitating growth mindset and diversity of thought to enable creative solutions to complex problems. Learning transfer is supported through practical application of new skills via implementation of business improvement projects.

 

Sally works with companies who believe “our people are our biggest asset” and value investing in their people to bring strategic business plans to life.

You don't look dyslexic, the lived experiences of adults with dyslexia in Australian workplaces by Doctorate Candidate with La Trobe University Shae Wissell

Shae Wissell is the CEO, Founder and Executive Director of the Dear Dyslexic Foundation.

Shae trained as a speech pathologist and then completed a masters degree in Public Health and one in Health Administration. Shar has worked within the not-for-profit, health and Aboriginal sectors for 16 years. Shae’s passion for working in public health and empowering people with dyslexia led her to establish the Dear Dyslexic Foundation.

As a dyslexic herself, Shae has experienced and seen first hand, the challenges those with dyslexia can face and the impact dyslexia has on education, employment and quality of life.

Shae is an Amazon #1 best selling author of The Hobo, A Year in the Life of a Dyslexic Social Entrepreneur, a Doctoral Candidate with La Trobe University researching the impact of dyslexia in the workplace,  a Podcaster and Key Note Speaker.  

In 2020 Shae was shortlisted for the Aspire Awards. In 2019 Shae won three awards People’s Choice Award for Leadership, the Women’s Business School Accelerate Award and second for the Making a Difference Award (Non-Profit) as well as being shortlisted for Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

Round Table - Neurodiversity in the workplace with Autumn O'Conner, Tammy McGowan and Dr Rebecca Flower facilitated by Shae Wissell 

Autumn O'Connor, Executive Editor of Teaching and Education at Be Your Best Academy 


Tammy McGowan, Square Hole Training and Consulting

Dr Rebecca Flower, Lecturer La Trobe University

Autumn O'Connor is the Executive Editor of Teaching and Education at Be Your Best Academy, the world's first 100% neurodivergent e-school for developing neurodivergent adults in professional skills and personal growth. As well as her formal workplace, she is a new mother to a wonderful little man; learning how to give him a strong secure attachment, so he may grow up feeling safe, loved and free to be himself. Autumn is a twice-exceptional adult (autism, gifted IQ, dyslexia and dyscalculia), and believes her neurominority lived experiences gives her a unique perspective on life.

Tammy McGowan (she/her) is a late-diagnosed autistic and adhd’er who is also dyslectic, dyscalculic, has an auditory processing disorder and chronic health conditions. Tammy has worked across the alternative care, community services, education and disability sectors in a variety of roles over the last fifteen years. Tammy is currently working as a training facilitator and disability consultant in her own small business Square Hole Training and Consulting.  

Dr Rebecca Flower (she/her) is a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology and Counselling at La Trobe University. Rebecca’s research centres around equity of access to employment and mental health services for autistic adults. As a first in family graduate with ADHD, Rebecca has a passion for learning about how her research and teaching can be accessible.