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Event description


With Armidale and the New England region having some of the NSW highest child and young person removal rates and equally low rates of restoration more needs to be done to understand the complex and interlocking issues of homelessness, violence against children and young people and cultural safe and trauma informed mental health supports.


Women’s Shelter Armidale is an organisation that is led by our community to provide expertise and specialised support in homelessness, domestic and family violence for all women, children and their families who are in crisis. Through empowering our community to embrace growth, we give them the means to define and shape their future.

Gathering in Armidale 28th to 30th of May 2024

To bring together leaders and practitioners from Government and Non-Government organisations across the New England to discuss, learn and share how we all get better at preventing and responding to children and young people who are at risk of violence, homelessness and poor mental health.

Key sessions across the three streams include:

  • What young people are calling for to protect themselves from violence and reduce their risk of homelessness
  • What are the key approaches to reduce violence against young people  - utilising the World Health Organisation’s approaches
  • Intersections of homelessness, juvenile justice, out of homecare and violence against young people
  • The role that culture plays in mental health supports for Aboriginal young people
  • How to better involve young people in your organisation to protect them from harm as well as improve your programming
  • How to utilize a right based approach to get better outcomes for young people

Key Speakers:

Gill Calvert: the inaugural NSW Children’s Commissioner from 1999-2009 and established it as one of Australia’s leading children’s policy and research centres, one which was built on being child centred and child inclusive. Prior to that she was responsible for coordinating government action for children and importantly refocusing government attention on the importance of the early years. She started her career as a family therapist with troubled children and their families and the importance of listening to children and families experience has underpinned her lifelong commitment to children and their wellbeing.

Trish Connelly:  CEO YFoundations, Trish has an extensive background in homelessness and domestic abuse policy, research service design, and service system reform in both the Australian and UK contexts. She has worked across a broad range of sectors, including the NSW State Government, UK Government, peak bodies, non-government/frontline service providers and charities. Trish was also a member of the Yfoundations Board in 2014–15 to provide expertise on impacts and best practice approaches for young people experiencing domestic and family violence.

Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward: Jasmina is a Social Worker who came to Australia in 1993 as a refugee from Bosnia-Herzegovina. She manages STARTTS’ Community Services Program which consists of over 100 staff including the teams: Community Development, Rural and Regional Community Development, Youth, School Liaison, Families in Cultural Transition (FICT), Mental Health Community Living Supports for Refugees (MH-CLSR) and Health in My Language; as well as staff covering STARTTS’ LGBTIQA+ Project, volunteer management, policy analysis and input, community development evaluation, community cultural development, grant and tender writing and community capacity building. Jasmina has significant Board experience and is currently the President of the Refugee Council of Australia and a member of the NSW Refugee Communities Advocacy Network as well as a member of the World Pride Sydney Advisory Committee

Andrew Johnson: Andrew brings 30 years experience at senior level at the national and international level. He was the UN Representative and Head of New York Office for Save the Children (USA); Director of Public Policy and Advocacy on Children in Crisis and Emergency (Washington DC) , Lead on Save the Children’s global strategic plan on violence against children and young people (Sweden), Head of Programs Effectiveness, Policy and Advocacy for Plan International (UK); Deputy Secretary General and Secretary General for ChildFund Alliance (USA). Here in Australia he held the position of CEO in the Australian Republican Movement, Australia Council of Social Service, as well as the inaugural NSW Advocate for Children and Young People. He was adjunct Professor at New York University developing and teaching courses on child rights, Human Rights, and on the history and development of NGOs. The course he developed and trained on children rights was accredited by in Australia by NSW NESA.

Penny Lamaro: Penny has over 20 years’ experience across government and community sector dealing with women, children and young people doing it tough.  She is currently the Chief Executive Officer for the Women’s Shelter Armidale Inc, providing best practice service to women and children and young people who experience domestic & family violence and/or homelessness in the New England region. Prior to this role in 2021, Penny worked in youth homelessness for nearly 10 years, during which time she managed the Youth Refuge, wrote and developed therapeutic programs. Penny was the Founder and Director of ‘WAGS The Dog Program’ which is a highly successful dog therapy business providing therapeutic interventions to participants, training for dog handlers and therapy dog breeding and certification services. Penny worked for DCJ  in youth conferencing for over 7 years. Penny is currently the Chair of Youth Action, the NSW peak group for young people and youth services. She has received awards for ‘Youth Worker of the Year’, NSW ‘Outstanding work with Regional Young People.

Catherine Lourey was appointed NSW Mental Health Commissioner in 2017-2024 and has more than 30 years’ experience in mental health at local, state and Commonwealth government levels. With a focus on improving systemic responses, strengthening collaboration and embedding the voice of lived experience, Catherine has led major strategic programs and projects across the area of mental health. She is deeply committed to improving the lives of people living with mental health issues and strengthening the communities that support them: she values engaging with the diversity of communities and bringing expertise and evidence to guide reform.

Andrew McCallum: Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the non-profit organization management industry. Skilled in Nonprofit Organizations, Social Enterprise, Corporate Social Responsibility, Youth Development, and Government. Strong business development professional graduated from Cambridge Institute of Education UK. Andrew led St Luke’s service provider, CEO of ACWA and President of ACOSS.

Sarah Stevenson: Sarah is an International Consultant in Participation and Safety, and an advocate for and with children. Sarah has been working in child rights participation and violence against children for over 25 years. She was the Head of Child Safeguarding and Protection at the Centre for Sport and Human Rights, UN representative for ChildFund Alliance, senior advisor for Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and global advisor for child protection in development for Plan International. She was Co-chair of the participation working group to UNGASS on children. Sarah has provided her consultancy services to FIFA, Safe Sport International, ChildFund Alliance, the MasterCard Foundation and Plan International to develop a toolkit, policies, positions and establishing processes for keeping young people safe. Sarah has drafted tools to support consultations with children in over 50 countries and ensured their views were heard by global leaders.

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