Keynote speakers

We are please to announce the following keynote speakers. Further keynotes still to be announced.

Mathew Portell
Director of Communities (PACES Connection), Principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, Founder of the Trauma Informed Educators Network, USA.

A Paradigm Shift: Trauma-Aware Education.
Current PACEs (Positive and Adverse Childhood Experiences) science is clear that education must undergo a paradigm shift. In his keynote address, Mathew Portell will look at the law of change as it pertains to the educational climate of our schools today. The session will dig into the complexities of shifting paradigms from behaviour-based ideas to understanding the impact of childhood trauma and how positive, relationally focused experiences can have a more significant effect than adversity. Participants will leave with a deeper understanding of shifting to trauma-informed school culture through the eyes of a school leader and practitioner.

Mathew Portell (B.Ed., M.Ed) has dedicated a decade and a half to education in his role as a teacher, instructional coach, teacher mentor, and school administrator before (in recognition of his systemic leadership) he joined “PACES Connection” as the Director of Communities in 2022.

Mathew spent seven years as principal of Fall-Hamilton Elementary, an internationally recognized innovative model school for trauma-informed practices in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Mathew’s leadership and the work of this school has been featured on national radio, the documentary “Enough”, PBS, and Edutopia, one of the world’s top education websites founded by the George Lucas Foundation, which has had over 7 million views.

Mathew is the founder of the “Trauma Informed Educators Network”, with an active Facebook group which has connected nearly 30,000 educators in over 100 countries. In 2019, he founded the popular, Trauma-Informed Educators Network” Podcast which has featured over 50 guests.

Mathew regularly presents at national and international conferences and launched the first annual “Trauma-Informed Educators Network Conference” in Nashville, now in its third year! One highlight of his speaking opportunities, was at the “National Education Foundation Association Teacher Gala” in Washington, D.C., an event designed to honour and inspire outstanding educators from each of the 50 U. S. States.

Mathew has discussed trauma-informed education with state and national legislators and has spoken to some of the nation’s most influential educators who serve on the National Commission of Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

Just this year, he was named the Nashville Public School’s Elementary Principal of the Year!

Dr Lori Desautels
Assistant Professor, Butler University, Indianapolis, USA

``Behaviour`` is more than meets the eye: Looking through the lens of the nervous system!
In her keynote address, Dr. Desautels will share the neuroscience of what lies beneath the behaviours of children and young people who carry with them (into our schools and communities), their trauma, adversity and pain. She will address the co-regulatory practices that can be built into school procedures, routines, and transitions throughout the day. Her presentation will address the four pillars of the “Applied Educational Neuroscience” framework, explaining how we can “rewire” our perceptions of discipline. ``Behaviour Management” is about the adults!

Prior to her academic career, Dr. Lori Desautels taught emotionally troubled students in the upper elementary grades, worked as a school counsellor in Indianapolis, was a private practice counsellor and was co- owner of the Indianapolis Counselling Centre. Lori was also a behavioural consultant for Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis on the adolescent psychiatric unit where she learned that emotional and mental illness can be so challenging for youth, but the brain can repair and heal, and resilience rests at the core of human nature and our well-being.

Lori was Assistant Professor at Marian University in Indianapolis for eight years before moving to Butler University in 2016 where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate programs in the College of Education in Educational Neuroscience and Trauma.

Lori’s courses are designed to meet the needs of educators, counsellors, and administrators who work beside children and adolescents who have experienced or continue to experience adversity and trauma. Her passion is engaging students through the application of neuroscience as it applies to attachment, regulation, and educator brain state, and teaching students and staff about their neuroanatomy.
Lori has conducted brain institutes and workshops throughout the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, and Dubai on Mind Brain Teaching and Learning. She has created webinars for educators, clinicians, and administrators illustrating how educators and students alike must understand their neuroanatomy to regulate behaviour and calm the brain. Lori founded the Educational Neuroscience Symposium, an annual conference that attracts the foremost experts in the fields of educational neuroscience, trauma and adversity.

You can find Lori’s work, presentation videos, and latest research and resources on her website Lori is widely published, including her four books, “How May I Serve You”, “Unwritten, The Story of a Living System,” “Eyes Are Never Quiet,” and “Connections over Compliance: Rewiring Our Perception of Discipline”.

Professor Helen Milroy
University of Western Australia, Telethon Kids Institute, Australia

Trauma and recovery in children and young people
Professor Milroy will briefly reflect on the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 2013-2017 including the role of schools more broadly in society. Her presentation will also consider the developmental impacts and clinical issues related to trauma in childhood and how these may manifest across different developmental ages and stages. She will conclude by considering ways of working to promote a more inclusive and trauma-informed and wellbeing approach to education.

Professor Helen Milroy is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia but was born and educated in Perth. She is Australia’s first Indigenous doctor and child psychiatrist.

Currently Helen is the Stan Perron Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Perth Children’s Hospital and University of Western Australia and Honorary Research Fellow at the Telethon Kids Institute. Helen is the Chair of the Gayaa Dhuwi Proud Spirit Australia organisation and a board member of Beyond Blue. Helen has been on state and national mental health and research advisory committees and boards with a particular focus on Indigenous mental health as well as the wellbeing of children.

From 2013-2017 Helen was a Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and from 2017-2021 was a Commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission. In 2020, Helen was the joint winner of the Australian Mental Health Prize and named the WA Australian of the Year for 2021.

Helen is also an artist and published author and illustrator of children’s books. She has been shortlisted for several children’s literature awards and received the 2021 Whitley Award for best early childhood reader for “Backyard Birds”.

Dr Emily Berger
Monash University, Victoria

Research informing Trauma-Aware Education in Australia and Beyond
Dr Berger will discuss the emerging research evidence addressing trauma-informed practice in schools. This will include research on the effectiveness of trauma-informed programs in schools and research investigating approaches for students from diverse backgrounds and with different learning needs. Dr Berger will discuss the types and quality of evidence, drawing on Australian and international literature, and provide recommendations for research and research collaborations in the future.

Dr Emily Berger is an Australian researcher who specialises in the areas of childhood trauma, trauma-informed practice, disasters and rural health, suicide and self-injury, child and youth mental illness, and teacher professional development. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Educational Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Education, Monash University, and an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with Monash’s School of Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Dr Berger is a Registered and Endorsed Educational and Developmental Psychologist and Board-Approved Supervisor with the Psychology Board of Australia. She has worked as a child, adolescent and family psychologist in schools and private clinic settings. For over 12 years as an academic and psychologist, Dr Berger has maintained collaborative partnerships across various educational settings, not-for-profit organisations, government departments and community groups.

Dr Tom Brunzell
Honorary Fellow - University of Melbourne, Director of Education, Berry Street, Australia

Trauma-aware staff wellbeing: A new approach for integrating trauma-aware practice & self-care
For the last 15 years, teacher and staff wellbeing has been a priority area of exploration within education, wellbeing and positive psychology literatures. However, increasing wellbeing for those who educate students impacted by adverse childhood experiences, chronic stress and trauma has yet to be comprehensively explored, despite repeated exposure of staff to associated negative effects such as secondary traumatic stress, vicarious traumatisation, compassion fatigue and burnout.

Given that many educators are also contending with service rationing—that is persistently working towards learning and wellbeing outcomes for their students despite not having enough time, funding or resources to adequately meet every students' unmet needs—what proactive steps can we take to increase wellbeing within our school communities?

Berry Street’s Dr Tom Brunzell will share a new staff wellbeing model emerging from his original research and will share ways that all schools can bolster everyday staff wellbeing.

Dr Tom Brunzell (MST, EdM, PhD) has experience as a teacher, school leader, researcher and education advisor. Currently he is the Director of Education at Berry Street and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education. Tom presents internationally on topics of transforming school culture, student engagement, trauma-aware practice, wellbeing and positive psychology, and effective school leadership. His research at the University of Melbourne investigates trauma-informed strengths-based classroom strategies; and both the negative impacts of secondary traumatic stress and the positive impacts of wellbeing on teachers and leaders working towards educational equity in their communities. His book: Creating Trauma-informed Strengths Based Classrooms, co-authored with Dr Jacolyn Norrish, is available through Hachette/Jessica Kingsley Publishers, UK, and booksellers world-wide.

Rebekah Thompson

The heart of us - Safeguarding society through community, culture and connection

Rebekah Thompson is a mother, partner, teacher, and someone who has drawn from her adverse childhood experiences to help not only her students, but ideally “everyone”!

Beck has made it her personal mission to permanently change the way trauma has tainted her life and the lives of others. Beck has been through the complex journey to get to know the girl within and to repair and renew her sense of worth and value, despite a mountain of obstacles that continuously stood in her way. For Beck, giving up simply wasn’t an option.

Beck has powerful messages for educators and how they have the capacity to “save” children who are impacted by trauma.

Beck’s most prized achievement is her sense of normalcy and peace, after a lot of work and this has not been easy! This is something she worked tirelessly on, behind the scenes, for the past 20 years. Beck is tenacious, determined and has an unwitting ability to cut through the rubbish and get to the heart of problems.

Beck has written about her own life journey and her passion for helping others in her memoir, “Chasing Normal: A true story of one woman’s determination to overcome childhood trauma”.

Kelly Humphries

The heart of us - Safeguarding society through community, culture and connection

Kelly Humphries is a survivor of child sexual abuse and speaks from lived experience. She is inspirational to many, in her capacity to turn adversity into strength.

Kelly holds a degree in Science Psychology from North Dakota State University. She has dedicated herself to fifteen years of frontline service as a law enforcement officer and six years as a school-based police officer working with children and youth. Her experience as a survivor coupled with her background in law enforcement means that she has a unique perspective and knows only too well what it takes to overcome trauma.

Kelly is passionate about breaking cycles of abuse and is a powerful voice for survivors across the world. Her mission is to empower leaders, inspire legacy and promote change.

Kelly is an author, public speaker, survivor, and trauma coach. She is intuitive, dynamic, compassionate, authentic and an absolute powerhouse when it comes to tough conversations and getting to the heart of the issue.

Kelly has written about her own life journey, providing unique insights into child sexual abuse in her book, “Unscathed Beauty: Her darkest fight was her brightest light”.

“My greatest fear is that I have left it too long to share this message to those who need to hear it; the time for me to speak up was yesterday. I feel a sense of urgency now to raise my voice and roar like a lion – fear has kept me hidden for too long”.

Dr Judith Howard
Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Judith comes from an extensive career with state schooling in Queensland. She has worked as a teacher, guidance officer and behaviour support specialist and has held both regional and state positions with the education department. Judith’s work has a keen focus on addressing the concerns faced by young learners living with the outcomes of complex trauma and the people working hard to educate them. She promotes a neuroscience-informed approach – to which she believes every educator in every school needs access. Judith oversees pre-service/post-graduate teacher education in trauma-aware education at QUT (including the popular, “Graduate Certificate in Trauma-Aware Education”) and has developed online courses that are reaching thousands nationally and internationally. She is the author of the popular book: “Distressed or Deliberately Defiant: Managing Challenging Student Behaviour due to Trauma and Disorganised Attachment and she continues to research, write, speak and train on this topic.