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.
Manager, Evidence and Evaluation
Trina Hinkley has more than 17 years’ experience in research, evaluation and knowledge translation, focused on the early childhood period.
During this time she has contributed to multiple national guidelines for children and young people and led Victoria’s project to develop anti-stigma language guidelines about alcohol and other drugs. She has led and contributed to local, national and international programs of work and has received several Australian and international awards for her work. She has authored more than 80 scientific publications and multiple reports for various audiences. Her programs have resulted in improvements of up to 30 per cent in desired outcomes.
Trina is passionate about making a difference to children’s lives to ensure that all children have the best start to life possible.
Trina has a Bachelor of Social Science, a Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours), and a PhD in Behavioural Epidemiology (recognised as being in the top five per cent of theses in the field internationally).
Manager, Policy and Government Relations
Sarah Ireland has over 13 years of experience in humanitarian outreach, international aid and the development sector.
During this time she led emergency response teams across Asia, the Middle East and East Africa, as well as specialising in advocacy and policy in a range of areas including education, child rights, refugee rights and humanitarian outreach.
She has most recently been the CEO at SisterWorks, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit social enterprise supporting women from migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. Before this, she was CEO ofOne Girl, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit focusing on ensuring girls and young women have access to education and work opportunities.
Sarah is purpose-driven and passionate about ensuring everyone has opportunities to realise their full potential and is committed to seeking systems-wide change to support a future that is equitable and fair for future generations.
Sarah has a Bachelor of Journalism, a Masters of International Studies (Peace and Conflict Resolutions) and is currently finishing another Masters in International and Public Law. Sarah was also a 2018 Pro Bono Australia Impact 25 winner.
Mel is a passionate and driven professional with more than 30 years of experience in frontline and senior leadership roles within the early childhood, disability and community services sectors.
Mel attained a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood) and embarked on her first role as an Early Childhood teacher on the floor in a long day care centre working with toddlers. This experience ignited her purpose to ensure that the first 5 years of every child’s life allows for them to be set up for success and reach their full potential.
Formerly the General manager for Playgroup NSW, Mel led the organisation through a complete transformation of their early childhood strategy and vision for young children, their families and communities. Her vision continues to ensure that children’s voices are heard, listened to and actively engaged in the ongoing evolution of decisions affecting them. Mel is a collaborative leader, committed to creating a positive culture of innovation, developing inclusive and respectful partnerships and has a strong sense of purpose to influence sustainable change.
Mel believes that the early learning system must remain relevant and responsive to complex policies and systems and continue the ever evolving cycle of shifting the views and thinking of all stakeholders to elicit real change and continue to innovate and strengthen our practices.
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.
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 the Front Project, 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 the Front Project, 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.
Acting Strategic Communications Manager
Ashlea is an experienced communications professional with a specialisation in e-marketing and CRM programs. As the Acting Strategic Communications Manager, Ashlea helps to develop the Front Project’s marketing goals and drive transformative change to the early childhood education and care sector.
With over seven years’ experience across various industries in the private sector, Ashlea is passionate about increasing awareness and participation in the Front Project’s work, with a particular focus on the Upskill Program and Online Community.
Ashlea holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Media Communications and a Post Graduate Certificate in Public Relations and is excited about working with organisations that make sustainable, systemic changes to society. Ashlea’s role at the Front Project allows her to combine her passion for communication marketing with the opportunity to influence long-term policy and social change for children and educators in Australia.
Online Community Manager
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 the Front Project, 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.
As the Program Manager for the Upskill Provider Tier, Charli support students realise their potential to become ECT's and drive systemic change to the ECEC workforce.
Previously the Front Projects Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, Charli brings a background in communications, policy and project management from her previous role as an Electorate Officer for the Prime Minister of Australia. She also has experience with fundraising and philanthropy via the IMB Cook Community Classic and has held a variety of volunteer roles within the not-for-profit sector, including for Amnesty International, the UN Association of NSW and WiAD.
With a degree in International Studies, Charli understands just how important early education is in setting up children for a prosperous future in an increasingly global environment. She is committed to using her own education to fight for equal opportunities for all and strives to create powerful social impact for those in need.
Digital Communications Officer
As the Digital Communications Officer, Raj will deliver a broad range of communications activities aimed at building awareness of and engagement with the Front Project’s work. It involves collaborating with all TFP teams and some external stakeholders and service providers.
Raj has over 5 years of experience in digital communications, content creation, and social media management in a wide number of industries. Raj recently completed his Masters in Communications and Media studies from Monash University as well.
Raj has a deep passion for the education industry and is keen on making a change at the grassroots level by ensuring that children across Australia have access to the best early education.
Communications and Advocacy Coordinator
As the Communications and Advocacy Coordinator, Bronte supports the delivery of the Front Project's communications strategy, stakeholder engagement activities, media presence and campaigns.
With a Bachelor of Communications, Brontë has helped small start-ups and large organisations develop and communicate their vision through strategic planning, community engagement, project coordination, policy development and digital media production.
Brontë recently joined us from a not-for-profit organisation where she delivered systems to support and embed inclusive practice across programs and services to improve outcomes for our most vulnerable members of society.
She believes that identifying, understanding, and breaking down barriers to participation and belonging is integral to ensuring that all students can access educational content and participate fully in their learning.