As Founding CEO of The Front Project, Jane is passionate about children’s education, health and development. She combines her expertise in systems change with a deep knowledge of how nurturing our children during their earliest years has beneficial social and economic outcomes for all Australians. Jane’s commitment to seeing all children fulfill their potential drives business and community leaders to help execute this vision.
“I was inspired to establish The Front Project due to my passionate belief that all children should be given equal opportunities to reach their full potential, from the earliest stages of life. In doing so, not only are we improving the career, health and wellbeing outcomes of our nation’s young people, but we are also helping to create a competitive future for Australia, with safe and prosperous communities.”
In creating The Front Project, Jane was able to tap into her senior extensive experience across the for-benefit, corporate and academic sectors. She has held various senior roles, including CEO at both Adopt Change and Fitted for Work, and was also Victorian Strategy and Operations Manager for Mission Australia. Aside from heading up The Front Project, Jane also serves on the CEDA Vic/Tas Advisory Group and previously was a Non-Executive Director of Unison Community Housing.
Fittingly, Jane has been recognised for her important work with a number of prestigious awards, including:
· the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur Award, granting her ongoing participation at World Economic Forum events
· a Victorian Telstra Business Women’s Award
· the Melbourne Business 3000 Award for Community Innovation.
Lisa is an experienced Non-Executive Director, and sits on the Boards of various commercial and for-purpose organisations, spanning a wide range of sectors. She was previously Chair of Australia’s oldest charity, The Benevolent Society.
“When I first heard about The Front Project and its mission to improve quality and access in Australia’s early childhood education system, I felt it was the perfect fit for me. I have relished the opportunity to bring my corporate and not-for-profit expertise to the early childhood education sector, and am proud to have become a business champion for change in this space.”
Lisa has a diverse background, with a Bachelor of Law from the University of Tasmania leading to a successful 30-year career in the legal profession. During this time, she specialised in the area of commercial property, and became a Partner at firms Maddocks and Blake Dawson (now Ashurst).
In 2004, Lisa completed the Advanced Management Program at INSEAD ( ‘the Business School for the World’) in France. In 2006, she undertook the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, before being made a Fellow of the Institute. She is also a member of Chief Executive Woman, an organisation comprising women leaders committed to enabling other women leaders.
In 2020, Lisa became a member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to the community through charitable and cultural organisations.
Wendy is an experienced manager and company director who began her career as a secondary school teacher. Since moving into public life she has been working for change across the public, private and community sectors, in education, family planning, human rights, public health, overseas aid and development, conservation, heritage, and media.
Wendy held many significant leadership roles including eight years as Deputy Chair of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ten years as Chancellor of the University of Canberra, and 12 years as Plan Australia’s Chair, with three years as Global Deputy Chair for Plan International. In 2016 she completed eight years as chair of headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation and in 2017 she completed 9 years as Chair of Circus Oz, Australia’s leading circus.
Currently Wendy is Deputy-Chair of Goodstart Early Learning and a non-executive Director of IMF Bentham, the world’s most experienced and successful publicly listed litigation funder. She is a Patron of the Sydney Women’s Fund, Ambassador for 1 Million Women and Advisor to Grace Papers.
She enjoys writing and is the author several books including her memoir Don’t Fence Me In published by Random House in 2000.
Nicola is a highly experienced C-suite leader holding executive director and non-executive director positions spanning education, corporate, government authorities and member organisations.
The defining thread through Nicola’s career has been her significant body of work designed to shape positive outcomes for all Australians. This has often focused on those who are vulnerable or marginalised, including people who are socially isolated or are experiencing financial hardship, mental illness, trauma or violence.
“Much of my consulting work has been focused on examining ways to address issues in adulthood. What really struck me about The Front Project was that it seeks to give all Australian children the best possible start in life. The early learning springboard is so critical in delivering the best outcomes into adulthood. I felt my consulting background could provide a unique perspective to support the important work of The Front Project particularly when it comes to the area of Systems Change.”
Nicola started her career as an academic researcher designing measurement tools to differentiate anxiety, depression and stress; and to effectively measure adult literacy and numeracy competencies in the workplace. During a professional consulting career spanning over 25 years, including as CEO of one of Australia’s leading market and social research consultancies, Hall & Partners Open Mind, she worked on a broad range of social policy and behaviour change initiatives to enhance social outcomes.
Her previous board experience includes: Haileybury College, Australia’s largest private school; Clemenger Group Limited, a world-renowned marketing services holding company where she was the first woman on the board and chair of the Association of Market & Social Research Organisations. Her contribution has been recognised by her peers through being awarded the Australian Marketing Institute’s Certified Practicing Marketer of the Year.
Nicola is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Non-Executive Director of South Gippsland Water, the authority responsible for delivering critical water services to households and businesses across the region.
Simon Kent has extensive experience in leadership, strategy and social reform with expertise across a range of policy areas including health, human services, justice and the entire education continuum.
“When the opportunity to contribute to the fantastic work of The Front Project came up I thought it was a perfect match. Systems change and the early years are both passions of mine, so I am proud to use my experience to contribute to bringing them together at TFP to help advocate for children and the value of early childhood education.”
Simon has been the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) Deputy CEO Thought Leadership since July 2020. He was a Deputy Secretary in the Victorian Department of Education and Training for six years (2013-2019) with responsibility variously for policy, strategy, performance, evaluation, planning, and delivery, across all education, training and developmental life stages. He led development of the Victorian early childhood reform plan, Ready for Kinder, Ready for School, Ready for Life, and policy for the introduction of universal three year old kindergarten.
His six years in the education department followed eight years in the Social Policy Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (2005-2013) where he worked on major Victorian and COAG reforms, including National Partnerships for the National Quality System and universal four year old kindergarten. Simon has also been a Public Policy Fellow in the Chancellery at the University of Melbourne.
Simon commenced his career in higher education advocacy and advisory roles, then expanded to include schools' policy while a shadow ministerial adviser in the Federal Parliament before joining DPC. He also held the statutory role of Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor to the Victorian Parliament in 2019.
Simon is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria), and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is also a member of the Victorian Executive of the Australian Council for Educational Leadership and a founding member of the ANZSOG Alumni Advisory Council.
Verity has more than twenty years of experience working at the highest levels of government, and the university and not-for-profit sectors in Australia. Previously Minister for Education and Training in NSW, Verity was heavily focussed on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage amongst low socio-economic groups, including rural and remote Indigenous communities.
Verity is currently Executive Director, Social Justice at the University of Technology Sydney’s Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion. In this role, she is responsible for spearheading the university’s Social Impact Framework, a first of its kind in the Australian university sector.
“When learning about The Front Project for the first time, my background in education seemed to place me in a strong position to support the organisation’s great work. I am very much aligned with The Front Project’s vision of improving education quality and access for all children in their earliest years, and have a particular passion for the potential of early education in helping to address and overcome disadvantage.”
Between 2011 and 2014, Verity was Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation, and was responsible for leading the Foundation's transformation from fledgling organisation to major provider of scholarships and support in public education.
Prior to her parliamentary career, Verity worked as a lawyer, and enjoyed a spell as Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney. She is also a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD).
Anne Kennedy is a highly respected and experienced consultant in early childhood education. Her consultancy work follows extensive experience as an early childhood teacher and academic working in teacher education programs in Australia, Sweden, Singapore and the USA.
She is an Honorary Fellow of the University of Melbourne, Graduate School of Education. Anne is committed to community service through her contribution as a Board member of the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO), as a member of the Victorian Children’s Council, and as a Trustee of the Creswick Foundation. She has been recently appointed to the Ministerial Preschool Measure Expert Advisory Group, established by the Minister for Education and Youth, Alan Tudge.
Anne was a member of the Charles Sturt University writing team that developed the first national early learning framework for Australia in 2009. She has worked as a consultant and advisor for all levels of government and with a wide range of early childhood sector stakeholders including the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Peak bodies, The Centre for Community Child Health, and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. In 2012 she received the Barbara Creaser Memorial award from Early Childhood Australia for her valued contribution to the field of early childhood.
As active researcher, Anne is the early childhood curriculum advisor for the Early Years Education Research Project, which has achieved remarkable outcomes for young children living with significant social disadvantages and family stress through a high quality intensive early education and care program. The research project is progressing to the replication phase. Anne’s involvement in this research project has confirmed her belief in the importance of robust evidence to support policy and practice reforms that can improve children’s outcomes and life trajectories.
Policy and Government Relations Manager
As the Policy and Government Relations Manager, Varuni ensures that policy development led by The Front Project is independent, of high-quality and has impact with Government.
Prior to this, Varuni worked within the Victorian Government, at the Department of Education and Training and the Department of Treasury and Finance. During this time, she was involved in the policy development, budget costings and implementation of early childhood reforms across the state, including funded Three-Year-Old Kindergarten for all Victorian children.
Varuni is committed to building a good society through system-wide change – one that is just, equitable and empowers all individuals to live a life of meaning. She values working collaboratively with others to identify pragmatic ways to make this a reality.
Manager Research and Evaluation
Sarah brings a depth of research and public policy experience to the Front Project, having worked across policy, research and advocacy in both the government and not-for profit sectors.
At education policy think tank, the Mitchell Institute, she has written and published on a range of education policy issues, including system design, funding, quality and equity.
Prior to that, she held roles in the Victorian, New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments spanning education, economic and skills policy.
Sarah has a longstanding commitment to bringing timely, high-quality evidence to the policy debate – always with a view to creating consensus and informing lasting policy change. She also has a passion for the early years, recognising the lifelong and intergenerational impact of early years policies and practices.
Policy and Project Officer
As Policy and Project Officer, Christine supports the policy, research, and government relations work of The Front Project.
Since 2017 Christine has held various policy and project roles in the not-for-profit sector in Australia.
Before joining The Front Project, Christine held roles at Berry Street Victoria, Girls from Oz, and in a small Government Consulting firm based in Melbourne. Christine is motivated to use her skills and knowledge developed from her experience and at University to contribute towards creating a fairer and just world for future generations.
Manager, the Apiary Fellowship
Rachael has more than 10 years’ experience in the child and youth sector, working with leadership teams, implementing project and quality processes, managing collaborative initiatives with stakeholders and colleagues.
Having cut her teeth several years earlier in the complex area of acquired brain injury and working alongside some of the leading Victorian disability advocates, she has ever since been captivated by systems change and its ability to bring about lasting significant impact. Throughout Rachael's career she has been privileged to learn about social change from the people that are leading the way, working with them to ensure an environment and conditions that support them to achieve their objectives. She has had the unique opportunity to work with community leaders in a variety of settings in Australia and overseas, from local grassroots international development and youth services to state and national organisations bridging research, policy and practice initiatives.
Future Tracks Program Director
Sally combines a background in educational psychology and teaching practice with expertise in the often-complex workings of the Higher Education space.
This background, coupled with her Project Management training and expertise makes her a perfect fit for her role at Future Tracks, where she is focused on connecting the early childhood sector with university settings and experiences. She work collaboratively with course providers, students, mentors and employers to make sure that the student study experience is as engaging, practical and successful as possible.
Before joining Future Tracks, Sally spent 10 years in the tertiary sector, leading academic teams, sitting on Academic Board, developing study pathways and working with industry to increase the quality of university and TAFE experiences for all students. Sally was the first Head of Department for the Applied Degree programs at Federation University and then established the Commercial Training and Assessment Service at the College of Business, Victoria University. She was previously an English Literature and Psychology secondary school teacher, having taught in schools in Metropolitan and regional Australia and overseas. Sally's passion for educational psychology has led her to her BA in Psychology and Literature, Bachelor of Teaching and a Master of Teaching in Educational Psychology at Deakin University.
Future Tracks Program Manager
Raffi joins Future Tracks after over 4 years as a Program Coordinator at youth mentoring organisation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia (BBBSA). At BBBSA, Raffi supported the delivery of 1:1 face to face, wellbeing, online and career based mentoring programs for young people, as well as mentor training and program development.
Raffi began her career in Early Childhood and worked as an EC educator for 8 years at Gowrie Victoria. In 2013, Raffi undertook a Bachelor of Health Sciences at Deakin University, majoring in Health Promotion.
Raffi believes that all children and young people should have equitable access to high quality learning experiences, starting with early childhood education, for the best chance to achieve positive outcomes throughout their lives.
Future Tracks Business Development Manager
As Business Development Manager for the Future Tracks program, Youna is committed to breaking cycles of structural and systemic barriers and striving for social equality through a strong focus on preventative measures.
She is dedicated to building the evidence base and contributing to improving the quality and accessibility of ECEC in Australia, to ensure children are ready to thrive from an early age and throughout the rest of their lives.
Youna brings over 20 years of experience in diverse business and welfare sectors to the organisation, including achievements in business development, strategic planning, and collaborative partnerships.
Prior to joining The Front Project, Youna worked for a specialist family violence service provider leading evidence-based innovative projects, including state-wide Respectful Relationship Training for early childhood educators and a national family violence training for salon professionals. As a qualified social worker, she has worked in child protection, disability, early years, and family services in Australia. Her overseas experience includes roles with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Saatchi & Saatchi, the European Commission, and consulting firms.
Youna recently completed an MBA specialising in Women in Leadership.
Future Tracks Online Community Manager, Workforce Initiatives
Jane is creating positive change in early childhood education by supporting practitioners to create an online community of practice where peers can inspire, learn and grow together.
Before joining Future Tracks, Jane worked as a digital consultant helping organisations in the government, media, and entertainment industries to keep up with the pace of change by monitoring online community sentiment and using these insights to provide strategic advice to support business objectives including new content curation and creation, product development, communications positioning, identifying operational improvements and market opportunities.
Jane sees systems change in early years education as a way of investing in an equitable, just, prosperous Australian society where everyone can reach their full potential.
Future Tracks Program Manager,
Upskill Personal Program
Thuy has over 10 years experience in philanthropy and community development, working in private, public and education sectors in Australia and the U.S.
Her role as Program Manager of the Upskill Personal Program draws on experience developing and implementing national and multi-national community development programs focused on Corporate Social Responsibility, social entrepreneurship, social welfare, and positive student graduate outcomes.
Prior to joining Future Tracks, Thuy held roles at Deakin University, The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CECFW), Electronic Arts (EA Games), Google, Mercy Corps, and Visa Inc.
With a Bachelor of Marketing and a Master of Social Work, she uses agile program management methodology with a person-user centred approach for effective programs delivery that aim at fostering positive community impact.
Strategic Communications Manager
Julia’s expertise is in communicating to influence policy and drive social and cultural change.
Julia's experience spans a range of policy areas with a strong emphasis on education and its connection with social outcomes and economic performance. Her background includes working in government and community sectors in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, as well as overseas in Japan. She has led communications and engagement in government agencies including the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), the COAG Reform Council and Infrastructure Australia, as well as non-government organisations such as policy think tank Mitchell Institute and Victoria University.
Publishing & Creative Advocacy
Richard has over 10 years’ experience in communications and publishing, primarily within the not-for-profit and public service sectors in both Australia and New Zealand.
His role in Publishing & Creative Advocacy draws on his experience working in creative communications, covering areas including education, social justice, consumer rights, and government regulation and financial policy.
Prior to joining the Front Project, Richard has held roles at the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), University of Melbourne, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Consumer NZ, Steele Roberts Aotearoa and the New Zealand Treasury. In returning to the not-for-profit sector, Richard is motivated to leverage the skills and knowledge he has developed in these diverse environments to contribute towards positive social change.
Lizzie’s expertise is in operational management, program advisory and policy development.
She brings a range of experience in different reform areas to The Front Project, including innovative finance, global health and education.
Prior to joining The Front Project, Lizzie worked for New Zealand’s Ministry of Education on a 5-year change program that is committed to improving access to the national senior education qualification, and with a particular focus to support Māori learners. She previously worked for the UK’s Department of International Development in a global health initiative that strives to make vital medical technologies more accessible in Africa and South Asia via an innovative financial model.
Lizzie’s academic background focusses on the various ways in which the private sector can be engaged to make social, cultural and economic change for the better. For that reason, she is committed to a holistic approach to educational systems change that engages all stakeholders, from those who use and work in the sector, to businesses, philanthropies and all levels of government.
Lalaine is an experienced high-level administrator working under the CEOs of The Front Project and Future Tracks.
She brings over 10 years’ experience across various sectors, specialising in efficient management workflows, stakeholder engagement, scheduling and operations.
Lalaine is passionate about early childhood education and believes very strongly in the importance of children’s health and wellbeing.
Commencing her career in the private sector, Lalaine moved to government and prior to joining The Front Project, Lalaine has worked within all levels of government: statutory bodies including anti-corruption agencies, various government departments and politics.