2024 Speakers and Contributors



Michelle Swan is a peer support mentor, educator, and advocate, whose work is primarily is supporting neurodivergent people to understand their unique needs and then to develop skills to meet them. She does this work in her role as founder and team leader of Katoomba Neurodiversity Hub, and through her roles as Director of Neurodiversity Umbrella, Director of Neurodiversity Connect, and business owner of Swan Advocacy and Consulting.

Experienced in peer support and mentoring, workshop presentation,  public speaking, community building and advocacy, having worked in education settings, and with degrees in teaching and psychology, a mother of 6 neurodivergent children, and neurodivergent herself, Michelle is uniquely experienced to share insight and support both to people in need of personal mentoring and those who seek professional development learning.

Michelle’s website, hellomichelleswan.com, contains articles and resources used internationally by neurodivergent individuals, their parents and carers, and by professionals in education, medical, allied health, and many other settings.

Conference presentation content summaries:

Neurodivergent perspective on meeting neurodivergent childrens needs-

Michelle is an neurodivergent parent of nearly 30 years to 6 neurodivergent children, and has 10 years of professional experience supporting neurodivergent people and their families in home, community and education settings. In this 50 minute presentation she shares her experience and knowledge to help you better understand how to identify and meet neurodivergent childrens sensory, executive function, communication and emotional regulation needs.

Supporting families to support neurodivergent children

Families with neurodivergent children have an intense combination of challenges to navigate, including managing the array of competing needs within the family. In this 60 minute workshop Michelle will share ideas and strategies, including how to set up the home environment, creating a safe and supportive family culture, and self care as a priority for parents.

Case Study: How we support children at Katoomba Neurodiversity Hub

Michelle founded Katoomba Neurodiversity Hub in July 2021, and has grown it to be a unique and innovative centre that currently hosts 8 neurodivergent run small businesses supporting a diverse community of neurodivergent people aged from 2 to 65 years in a variety of individual and group contexts. This 60 minute workshop will show you how the Hub works, and why the methods used are so effective in creating an environment that supports autonomy, growth, and connection to self and community.

Identifying and meeting needs in education settings-

This 2.5 hour workshop will help teachers and other professionals in education settings to: understand the experience of their neurodivergent students; identify changes they can make in classroom set up,  teaching practice, and school culture to better support neurodivergent students; and introduce a tool that will help them identify specific areas of unmet needs in students.



Dana Clarke is a proud Biripi Worrimi Aboriginal woman who has worked in Aboriginal health, domestic violence prevention, child protection, sexual assault, and mental health for over 30 years. She was the winner of the NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year Award at the 2016 NSW Women of the Year Awards.

Dana was appointed the Chief Executive Officer for Burrun Dalai Aboriginal Corporation in 2005. Burrun Dalai provides services to children and their families and carers to achieve the best possible life outcomes by raising Aboriginal children in a safe and nurturing environment which keeps them connected to their community and culture, while maintaining their family identity and family relationships. Dana has successfully grown Burrun Dalai to become the largest rural service provider of accredited Aboriginal out-of-home care and family support services in NSW. Dana is recognised within the industry and her community for her passionate advocacy for the needs of Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care.

The Womens Shelter Armidale – PENNY LAMARO and JILL WALKER

Penny Lamaro, CEO – “Strengthening support for children who are victims in their own right of family and domestic violence

  • Identifying children who require specialist supports
  • Barriers to children and families in crisis accessing mainstream services
  • the importance of integrating the work being done across the community in sectors including family violence, education, health and mental health, justice, business, child protection, and the broader family support services, given the majority of children exposed to family and domestic violence will not be in child protection systems.
  • The role of children in breaking intergenerational cycles of family and domestic violence as part of a broader attitudinal change, but also because of how their experiences impact into adulthood

Jill Walker – “Integrating a specialist program for child victims of family and domestic violence”

In this Workshop, Jill will talk about:

  • Environmental design principles
  • Essential (trauma informed) practices needed to promote engagement
  • Overview of WSA programs – and what worked and what didn’t!

DEREK McCORMACK – Raising Children Network


Derek McCormack is Director of the Raising Children Network. Derek leads a highly skilled and talented team in the knowledge translation and online delivery of evidence-informed resources supporting parents and carers around the healthy development of children.

He also leads Raising Children Network’s collaborations with the Australian and state governments, non-government organisations, businesses and community organisations and he regularly contributes to the media on issues of raising children in Australia.

Derek’s background is in science communication (M.Sc.), digital media and web development. He holds an appointment of Honorary Fellow at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and has more than 15 years’ experience working with the Parenting Research Centre in consultation, strategy development and managing the development of digital resources for a wide range of stakeholders.

As an advanced specialist in knowledge translation, co-design and digital content production, all of Derek’s work has been driven by a long-standing passion for communicating and applying research. His areas of expertise include biological science, child development, parent engagement, parenting support, father inclusive practice, child resilience, child mental health and communication approaches with parents across home, early years and school settings.

Derek will be presenting on ‘Parenting support available through the Raising Children Network and Raising Healthy Minds app’


I’m Sam, the New England Community Capacity Building Facilitator for Northcott, partnering with the NDIS in the Early Childhood Approach.

The NDIS provides supports for children with disability and developmental delay. When children access support early, they are set up for future success. I will be discussing what the NDIS can do to support children and families, how to access NDIS and how to refer to the NDIS, why it’s important for children to be provided with supports, and answering your questions around NDIS.