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.
Naseema is an experienced growth director with a strong track record in business strategy, marketing, media, digital channels, branding, data and financial services.
With a wealth of hands-on management experience within the creative industries, Naseema is committed to driving strong and positive cultures within businesses, and has a passion for growing and developing people, a philosophy shared by The Front Project.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a creative thinker, and saw The Front Project as an opportunity to apply my experience and knowledge to help create real and meaningful change for Australia’s young people, and consequently the future of our nation.”
Naseema’s executive career included a role as Managing Director and Partner at global communications company M&C Saatchi. A past President of Chief Executive Women, today Naseema holds several listed and private company directorships, including being a Director at Australian Vintage Wines, Murray River Organics and Knight Frank Australia.
Simon Kent is a Public Policy Fellow in the Chancellery at the University of Melbourne. Prior to this Simon was a Deputy Secretary in the Victorian Department of Education and Training for six years with responsibility variously for policy, strategy, performance, evaluation, planning, and delivery, across all education, training and developmental life stages.
His six years in the education department followed eight years in the Social Policy Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC). Simon has extensive experience in policymaking across the education, human services, health and justice portfolios. He has developed good public policy in complex and contested interdepartmental and intergovernmental contexts, and uses multi-disciplinary analysis to develop policy.
Simon commenced his career in higher education advocacy and political advisory roles, then expanded to include schools policy while in the Federal Parliament before joining DPC, including work on reform of vocational education and early childhood development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and an Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) Executive Master of Public Administration from the University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (Victoria), a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD) and Chair 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 is recognised as a leading and highly-respected consultant in early childhood education, with a practical wisdom combined with deep theoretical and research-informed knowledge.
Her work with The Front Project follows extensive experience as an early childhood teacher, plus academic work focusing on teacher education programs in Australia, Sweden, Singapore and the USA. Anne is a Fellow of the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education.
“I am a self-professed ‘life-long learner’, and saw The Front Project as an opportunity to bring my extensive knowledge of the early childhood education sector to the table. I have long been committed to equity, quality and improved outcomes for children, families and communities. The Front Project therefore seemed like a great progression and opportunity to continue my life-long work in advocating for all Australian children to have access to high quality early learning options.”
During her career, Anne was a member of the Charles Sturt University team that developed Australia’s first national early learning framework in 2009. She has also been involved in numerous initiatives concerned with the implementation of the National Quality Standard and Early Years Learning Framework. This work has seen her collaborate with various stakeholders including representatives from all levels of government, the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, peak bodies, the Centre for Community Child Health, and the Brotherhood of St Laurence.
Anne is also a member of Kids First Australia, a University of Melbourne and Murdoch Institute initiative which aims to see all Australasian children thrive in resilient, strong and safe families and communities. The team’s work has included the Early Years Education Program, Australia’s first randomised controlled trial of the impact and benefit costs of high-quality education for our youngest children living with complex vulnerabilities and high levels of social disadvantage.
Anne was appointed a Life member of fka Children’s Services (fkaCS), which advocates for children’s cultural and linguistic rights,and of the Community Child Care Association Victoria, in recognition of her outstanding contributions during her time serving on the Boards of each of these organisations. In 2012 she received the Barbara Creaser Memorial award from Early Childhood Australia, for her valued contribution.
Stacey commissions, synthesises and translates research to support The Front Project’s campaigns to improve the learning and wellbeing of Australian children. She has nearly a decade of experience applying research to policy and practice to improve outcomes for children.
Stacey is an experienced and passionate advocate for children’s learning and wellbeing. She has worked in research and policy across child, youth and family sectors, with a particular interest in early childhood education. She established a large national project on family engagement in learning at the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), and led the Mitchell Institute’s influential research and policy advocacy in early childhood education.
She has authored significant reports on a range of topics, including early childhood policy, family engagement in learning, prevention and early intervention, data and evidence-informed policy, and systems design. Most recently, she published Two Years are Better Than One, an important policy paper on the need for an additional year of preschool for Australian children.
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.
Research & Policy Officer
As a Research and Policy Officer, Raehanna supports The Front Project team in monitoring, assessing and responding to an evolving early childhood education policy landscape.
She recently completed her MA in International Relations at the University of Melbourne with a focus on migration, gender and human rights in the Asia Pacific region. She is passionate about fostering social inclusion through structural reforms addressing equity and reducing inequality. She has also worked in analysis and project management across start-up organisations dedicated to leveraging technology to increase labour mobility and empowering casual workforces. She has held internships at the United Nations Office for Migration in Vienna, U.S House of Representatives and the Centre for Conflict and Social Cohesion of Chile.
Manager, System Change and Leadership
Previous to the Front Project Geoff consulted independently with the Not for Profit sector and as an associate with Collaboration for Impact, Australia’s leading organisation for learning how to respond to complexity and create impact through effective collaboration and systemic approaches.
Geoff brings experience as a leader and CEO in the Not for Profit and community sector along with previous experience in founding his own advertising and marketing agency as well as many years working in International Aid and Development.
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.
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.
Communications and Digital Media Coordinator
Coming from a background in advertising, Emma has experience planning, buying, and account management for a broad range of clients across multiple industries.
Having completed a Masters in Media Practice at the University of Sydney in 2016, Emma worked in various content creation roles including social media management, and as a breakfast radio producer, which allowed her to develop her skills in connecting to diverse audiences across both traditional and digital channels. Her role with The Front Project allows these skills to be further develop and practiced within a Systems Change framework in the early childhood education sector.
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.