Who are The Apiary Fellows?


Apiary Fellows are individuals with wide-ranging experiences and perspectives across the early childhood education sector. They join The Apiary to learn more about their own and other experiences, become leaders and take action to improve outcomes for children.

They could be part of the sector by working at an early learning centre, for a provider or for a peak body. They could contribute to the sector through research, workforce development or policy design. They could also experience the sector as a parent or carer of young children, an employer of parents and carers or through work that intersects with the sector, such as community service or health care.

They are people who:

  • are connected to and passionate about the early childhood education sector
  • are committed to creating a thriving future for children in Australia
  • are willing and ready to learn, think, debate, and act in collaboration with others
  • have aspirations to lead and influence change.
The Inaugural Apiary Fellows:

Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett

With a wealth of experience in professional learning, teacher education and research in the sector, Cathrine joined The Apiary for the opportunity it presented to connect with other leaders who share her commitment to “high quality educational experiences for young children”. She feels that the systems approach taken by Fellows is essential and necessary for bringing about change and has found her experiences with the group to date to be “enriching both personally and professionally”.

Danielle Cogley

As an active teacher in the early childhood field, Danielle joined The Apiary for the opportunity to challenge her thinking about the Sector, while also sharing her extensive knowledge and experiences. Danielle says that The Apiary has “lead me to broaden my thinking about our sector, meet the other amazing Fellows and built my confidence to continue to advocate for children, families and our Early Childhood Sector”.

Kim Bertino

Coming from over 30 years of diverse experience within the early childhood education sector, Kim wanted the opportunity to engage with other leaders in an environment that “enabled a balance of provocation to ensure rigorous debate and questioning across The Apiary cohort”. She has found that the benefit of The Apiary is to enable a collective group to think about systems change and to unpack the complex ecosystem of the sector.  

Elizabeth Death

Elizabeth joined The Apiary for the opportunity to impact systems change to improve how early childhood education and care supports children and families. Elizabeth’s vision for The Apiary’s work is to bring recognition to early learning “as the foundation of the education continuum”.

Nicki Garrett

With extensive experience in both the commercial (15 years in investment banking) and early childhood education sectors, Nicki brings a wealth of knowledge to The Apiary, as well as her passion for the professional development and broader community recognition of early childhood educators.   Nicki has thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with the Apiary Fellows who have challenged and broadened her thinking about the issues and opportunities in our sector.

Michele Peden

With over 25 years’ experience working and advocating in the early childhood education and care sector, Michele joined The Apiary for the opportunity to work in “a collective group of inspiring and innovative thinkers” in early childhood. In her time as an Apiary Fellow, she has been able to broaden her “knowledge and understanding of social change theory and associated practical implications” through “opportunities to discuss the complexities of our sector from a historical and futuristic perspective…”

Prue Warrilow

Having had a diverse set of experiences across a range of early years settings and positions, Prue joined The Apiary to further enhance her understanding of systems change, and to engage with ways to bring about change for children. Her vision for the future of the system is one where “all children have access to affordable high quality education and care”.

Sandra Cheeseman

Bringing 35 years of experience in the early childhood sector, Sandra joined The Apiary to connect with others who aligned to her interest in futures thinking and systems change. Her hope for the sector and The Apiary’s work is “grounded in what works best for children and families – working alongside families to encounter contemporary challenges and opportunities.”


2020 Apiary Fellows

We’re delighted to announce a new cohort of 2020 Apiary Fellows has been selected. As the second cohort to be appointed since the program’s inception, the 18 new additions join the inaugural group of 10 Fellows.

We asked each of our new Fellows to share their visions and hopes for what the early childhood education sector could look and feel like for teachers and educators, children and families in the next five to ten years, and this is what they had to say...

The 2020 Apiary Fellows

Amanda Walsh
“In five years’ time, my vision for the sector is for all Australian children to have easy access to early learning and care that their families can afford. Preschool programs are free for all four-year-olds, and this access is being extended to three-year-olds in line with a plan agreed by all governments. Enrolments in initial teacher early childhood education degrees are no longer on a downward trajectory, and the percentage of degree-qualified educators in the early learning settings workforce is continuing to rise. In 10 years, the national wage subsidy for educators is credited for building the workforce and improving retention, the transition into primary school is no longer daunting for children and families, and the first Aboriginal-owned larger provider network has expanded and is increasingly popular with all families.”

Andrea Christie-David

“The future success of our sector and Australia’s children is dependent on our commitment to collaborating and advocating for systemic and societal change. However, structural change alone, including policy reform, will not be enough to create a brighter future for our children. Addressing power imbalances, removing societal biases, and adopting innovative thinking has the potential for exciting results, which will hopefully achieve greater access to education for all children. To be a success, this new approach needs to be tackled from numerous angles, with input invited from a multitude of people, organisations and perspectives.”

Anna Whitty

“Australia’s early childhood sector has a unique capacity to dramatically improve outcomes for children, and there is no vision for this work that is too unrealistic, or too far-reaching. My vision for the early childhood sector in the next 5-10 years is for universal, accessible and high-quality early childhood education to be available to every young child in Australia from birth, at no cost to their families.”

Barbie Bates

“My vision for the future of early childhood education in Australia is for it to evolve into a strength-based, collaborative system, built to best-support children, their families and community. I believe we can build a system that not only gives every child the best possible start in life, but also sets them up to thrive once they enter the formal school setting, and beyond throughout life.”

Cara Nightingale

“In the coming years I would like to see an early childhood education system that is well-funded, operates within the best conditions, and is run by professionals who feel valued, respected and fairly-paid. For this to happen, we need to foster deeper community engagement to ensure a widespread understanding of the benefits of play-based learning. We also need to develop stronger relationships with other professionals, to enable the development of a multidisciplinary approach. Ultimately, we need to ensure the voices of children are heard, and that we keep striving towards universal access to preschool education for every child.”

Hannah Barber

“When considering the future of the sector, I believe we should be working hard to design a thriving early childhood education system that sits at the heart of every Australian community. I hope to contribute to the development of a system that provides stability and connection for children, their families and caregivers. In my view, this should be a system that supports children to thrive by building foundations that will enable positive learning, health and behavioural outcomes throughout life.”

Julie Madgwick

“Going forward, my vision is focused on a fundamental change to the status of early childhood education and care in Australia. I’d like to see us move further towards a government and society that acknowledges the value of the work we do and its many benefits. Ultimately, I would like to see an increased investment in research into how children learn, and for Australia to use this as the basis to become an international leader in early childhood and primary education best-practice.”

Julie Price

“In five years, I hope the sector and all the professionals who dedicate their lives to it will be recognised for their extremely important work, and the vital role they play in shaping the lives of young children and their families. I would like to see this recognition extend across the broader community, with fair acknowledgement of the role we play in the development of Australia’s future. The result would be a society that is willing to invest in the resources required to provide the high-quality education and care all young children need.”

Kelly Millar

“My vision is for an inclusive early childhood education sector that supports access to quality learning and genuine participation for all children, regardless of their background, location or family situation. For genuinely inclusive participation to occur, we need to recognise that often some children need more support than others, or support delivered in a different way. Furthermore, to ensure this can happen, our educators, teachers and service providers need access to the appropriate support and resources that will allow them to welcome any child, at any time.”

Kim Davis

“Fundamentally, the future success of the sector will be built upon strengthened government and community support. This support will be based on an understanding of the value, role and importance of education during a child’s first 1,000 days. Regulations and policy positions should be about more than simply meeting minimum standards. Instead they should be driven by what is best for our children. Evidenced-based pedagogical practice should be the standard, with contemporary professional development opportunities readily accessible. And based on all of the above, I hope to see our committed and passionate workforce appropriately recompensed for their skills and qualifications, and the impact they make.”

Kylie Williams

“My vision is for the creation of a unified and integrated early childhood education system. We want our work to be recognised and valued for its significance and the positive impact we have on the developmental outcomes and trajectories of children. We want to build a system that puts children at its centre, and that better harnesses the current mix of providers and investment to meet the needs of families. It’s a system that recognises the interests of the child as key, and prioritises their inherent agency, voices and value.”

Lennie Barblett

“The early childhood education sector needs a knowledgeable, skilled, well-remunerated, and healthy workforce. This will ensure we can create and deliver dynamic programs for children, families and their communities. These programs should be universally accessible from the prenatal stage and throughout childhood. My vision for the sector is one that invites and welcomes participation and comment from a variety of audiences, to further support the journey towards transformational change.”

Lisa Chiovo

“My vision is for an Australia where all children have access to high quality early education, regardless of their geographical address, family situation, or social status. All children should have access to active participation and involvement in early education opportunities and have the confidence to start school successfully. A particular priority is making sure this is the case for children with additional needs and for children experiencing vulnerable or at-risk circumstances. We should take this opportunity to come together with the common goal of advocating and influencing government policy. We should push for investment in new research and commit to sharing strategies that will continually build the capability of the sector. The ongoing improvement of child safety and protection measures within our learning environments should also remain a top priority.”

Margaret Rutherford

“For educators, I hope the profession garners the respect it so richly deserves. We must ensure our work is underpinned by systems that expect and enable the delivery of high-quality early learning experiences. We must refine our tools for effective engagement with families and carers, and a child-centred approach to ensuring appropriate levels of support are always accessible. For children, I hope we can provide ever-improving opportunities to help them grow and thrive in a supportive and inspirational environment. And for families, I hope the existing barriers to access are removed, and their involvement with early childhood education makes them feel supported, consulted and respected.”

Mel Hill

“Influencing sustainable change is the basis of my vision for the sector over the next five years. I want to see a deeper analysis of the challenges we face, and give the right people a seat at the table, who can work collectively in leading authentic improvement. At the core of my vision is that children’s voices are heard, listened to, and actively engaged with as we make crucial decisions around the evolution of our practice. For parents and families, my hope is that they only ever have to tell their story once. Beyond this, they should expect we will remain committed to working with them in an ongoing and holistic manner, connecting them to appropriate services, and establishing strong relationships that are centred around meeting the needs of their children.”

Nicole Pilsworth

“If I had to sum up my vision for the early childhood education sector with one word it would be ‘impact’. I believe the sector can continue to build and raise its profile, not only amongst potential new teachers and educators considering a career in the sector, but more generally within the community as a means of positively influencing the trajectory of our children’s learning and development outcomes. We must continue to strive to raise the quality of the programs and services we offer, particularly in areas where children and families experience the most vulnerability.”

 Lisa Walker

Most Australians are increasingly wanting to learn more about our true history and diverse culture and, like all learning, the best place to start is in the early years. They must work alongside us to better understand the true richness across our nation so we can move forward together on our cultural journey.


Apiary Alumni

In addition to our current Fellows, we also recognise Fellows who have stepped out of an active role within the collective as Apiary Alumni.

Apiary Alumni

John Cherry

Lucy Davidson

Georgie Dent

Emma Forbes

Alexandra Harper

Jen Jackson


Convening Communiqués