Thought Leader Forum Panelists

Day 1 Afternoon




Thought Leader Forum Childhood & Environment sponsored by:

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Thought Leader Forum Panelists

Dr. Jo Thomson | Developmental Paediatrician | Children's Health Queensland

Jo is a Developmental Paediatrician with the Child Development Program, Children’s Health Queensland and works with families to understand their children’s developmental and behavioural needs.  As a mum to 3 busy young children she has seen first hand the positive effects of play and nature on behaviour and development. 
Jo qualified as a doctor in the UK and completed her specialist paediatric developmental training in Brisbane. She has a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. She is also an advisory board member for Nature Play QLD.

Sam Robinson | National Neighbour Day Campaign Manager | Relationships Australia​

Sam spent much of her childhood playing in the local park over her back fence, riding her skateboard with the kids in her suburban Sydney neighbourhood, or up a tree dreaming of hiking, climbing and paddling in the wild.

As a group instructor and later School Director for Outward Bound (both in South Africa and Australia), she delivered guided discovery learning programs in the outdoors for young people and adults.  Then with Conservation Volunteers Australia facilitated partnerships and created programs that connected people with nature (and each other) through conservation volunteering opportunities.

As National Neighbour Day Campaign Manager she brings together like-minded people, resources, and organisations to help grow stronger, well connected communities. Neighbours are important because good relationships with others can transform communities. Sam has a strong belief in the importance of social connection on our health and wellbeing and the power we have to create welcoming, inclusive and safe neighbourhoods – for everyone. Sam lives on the mid north coast of NSW with her husband Chris, their dog Blokey and three chooks.  

Naomi Edwards | Co-founder | Intrepid Landcare​

Naomi Edwards’s infectious energy for change making and passion for meaningful community engagement lead her to co-found Intrepid Landcare in 2015 and since then she has been co-designing ways to inspire, connect and empower young people to do stuff that matters. 

She holds degrees in environmental science, communications (honours), international and community development (masters) and currently completing a Phd researching the how coastal management professionals negotiate their personal and professional conflicts in Australia. 

Dr. Rob Hales | Director | Griffith Centre for Sustainable Enterprise | Griffith University

Dr Rob Hales is the Director of the Griffith Centre for Sustainable Enterprise at Griffith University. Rob’s research has focussed on family outdoor recreation, recreation demand and the sociology of outdoor experience. He recently undertook the evaluation of Nature Play Qld, the results of which can be found on the Nature Play Qld website. His other research interests include social movements, sustainable tourism and climate change. He has also spent time teaching outdoor education in Victoria and Qld to university students so that they can introduce their students to the outdoors in ways that lead to positive experiences with nature.

Before becoming an academic Rob spent 10 years as an outdoor and environmental educator in schools and private outdoor companies. He has also owned and operated his own outdoor company focussing on skill development of outdoor activities. He is a father of a 14 year old son and has had 14 years of experience facilitating outdoor experience with a young person. This has provided as much if not more insights into how young people engage with nature compared to the research he has undertaken.

Dr. Cecile van der Burgh | Director | Kids In Nature Network

Cecile is a human geographer and the Director of the Kids In Nature Network, Melbourne Victoria, which she co-founded in 2010.  She is passionate about ensuring all kids have every opportunity to experience, love and look after nature. Cecile is a versatile campaigner for a nature rich future, specialising in collaborative leadership, community development and people-nature relationships. For over fifteen years, she has led a wide range of award-winning campaigns and collaborations celebrating and protecting nature across the country. Cecile’s research explores the practise of connectivity conservation in Australia; a collaborative, networked approach to large-scale nature conservation and restoration. She is a fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership and a recipient of the Mary Byles Award.

Kids In Nature Network (KINN) is a cross-sectoral network that empowers, connects and grows a movement of individuals and organisations to reconnect kids with nature. KINN provides a unique meeting place for collaboration and capacity building through facilitating the sharing of experiences, ideas and knowledge amongst members and allies. Nature Play Week, KINN’s annual signature event, presents 150 events for children and families staged by 80 organisations, and has over 15,000 participants annually. The initiative was a Finalist in the Premier’s Sustainability Awards Victoria 2016, awarded Event of the Year 2017 for VIC/TAS, and a 2017 National Finalist in the Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence.

Sarah Jantos | Wildlife Carer | Green Heroes

In her 13 years as a busy Wildlife Carer, Sarah began to understand firsthand the pressing need to educate and empower the upcoming generation. Children who understood that to co-exist with nature was both a privilege and a responsibility. She felt his was the future hope for the survival of our precious native flora and fauna. She began to share her deep passion for Australian wildlife with her own children at home, and the broader community through school visits and community workshops. In February 2016, Green Heroes was born. Sarah works from home on Green Heroes with a team of educated volunteers and continues to care for injured and orphaned native fauna at home in NNSW. The Green Heroes movement is experiencing rapid uptake throughout communities and educational facilities in Australia that have a focus on empowering children to become environmental advocates as a result of their experiences and learning. 

Prior to having children Sarah worked for many years as registered nurse for Medecins Sans Frontieres and other International Aid Organisations in Iraq, Kenya, China, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and closer to home in the Kimberley and Arhnem Land.

Andrew Resetti | Senior Nutritionist | Child & Youth Community Health Service

I grew up playing outside - riding my bike around, playing in the small piece of suburban bushland behind our house, exploring the beach and rocks along the foreshore, swimming in the river and exploring the hills. Mostly this was done with a couple of friends and minimal adult supervision. I also enjoyed reading and playing Lego so my whole life wasn’t necessarily spent outdoors. I think the difference between childhood now and then is that I had a choice (and limited screen distractions). I’ve studied exercise science, nutrition and health promotion. I’ve worked with a range of communities across Queensland. I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Nature Play advisory board. That’s what brings me here to this Childhood Summit today.

Geoff Woolcock | Senior Research Fellow | University of Southern Queensland

Geoff Woolcock is a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland’s Institute for Resilient Regions, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at Griffith University’s School of Human Services and Social Work and QUT’s Centre for Children’s Health Research. He is particularly interested in applying indicators of community strengths in socio-economically disadvantaged communities and the factors that contribute to building child- and youth-friendly communities. His work with large-scale public and private sector organisations concentrates on developing measures of communities' strengths, closely collaborating with local communities. Geoff is an experienced social researcher with considerable expertise in social and community service planning and evaluation, including social impact assessment and project evaluation, social capital and community capacity building. He has 25 years community-based research experience nationally and internationally, across the community service sectors, and has co-published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and community reports.  He has been a consultant to the community cultural development organisation Beyond Empathy, spoken at several writers festivals and written regular opinion pieces, including for Griffith Review.  As a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (MAICD), he is a board director of the Brisbane Housing Company, the Australian National Development Index (ANDI) and the Logan Child-Friendly Community Charitable Trust overseeing the high-profile collective impact initiative, Logan Together. He was the Australian member on the executive committee for the Asia-Pacific Child-Friendly Cities Network (2010-2013) and the inaugural Queensland convenor for the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY) from 2013-2014. Geoff is a partner investigator in the ARC Linkage project, the Kids in Community Study (KiCS), an offshoot of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) where qualitative assessments of critical factors determining the success of several "outlier" communities in low income neighbourhoods are being undertaken, and chairs the Executive Committee of another ARC Linkage, the CREATE project, testing the conditions for collective impact in child wellbeing in a range of Communities for Children sites throughout eastern Australia. He also co-established the web portal Child-Friendly Communities Australia to encourage local communities across Australia to undertake their own state of children’s reports. Geoff is a frequent public speaker and commentator about social and community development using a whole-of-community approach.

Felicity Hill | Community Development Manager | Providence South Ripley

Felicity grew up in on the outskirts of Ipswich, leaving school at the age of 12, she experienced firsthand the barriers and challenges that young people faced within this region. Felicity believes that the strength she gained from her free-range, outdoor childhood with the support of a close community, enabled her to overcome the extreme hardships she faced during these years. This has driven her to want to make a difference at a local level and has instilled a lifelong passion for building communities (however small). After years of working directly with some of the most marginalized and disadvantaged members within the community and youth sectors and feeling like it was often ‘too little, too late’, it became clear that the greatest way to make a significant difference is collaborative community support around the early years. Felicity helped establish the Child, Youth & Families Alliance, Ipswich & West Moreton and to drive a child friendly agenda within the region. 


Felicity is the Community Development Manager at Providence South Ripley.  This is a greenfield development within the Ripley Valley, that when completed will become home to over 20,000 people. Felicity works with the land development team in partnership with the local community and their stakeholders to help build child friendly culture, spaces, places and communities. Building a whole new township whilst helping create a collaborative early prevention culture, it is grassroots, hands on work and it is a great place to be.