Victorian Children's Council

​​The Victorian Children's Council gives advice to government on all matters relating to children aged 0-18 years in Victoria.

The council's mandate is to be forward looking, acting as an active advisor to government on how to meet key challenges facing Victorian families and to improve child outcomes.

The council is particularly concerned with the problems faced by children who are vulnerable and at risk of poor outcomes.

The council actively engages with the Victorian government in planning to help families give their children the best start in life and to support young people in the transition to adulthood.

The council's role

The council assists Victorian departments to build a stronger evidence base and understanding of how to improve child outcomes and opportunities.

The council considers a range of issues aimed at improving outcomes for children, such as:

  • promoting attention to vulnerability and disadvantage within a strengths-based, wellbeing approach
  • fostering opportunities to work across the minister's portfolio
  • place-based responses to child and family disadvantage and vulnerability
  • early childhood education and care reforms, including the Commonwealth Government's contribution
  • educational supports for students with additional learning needs
  • improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and families
  • improving outcomes for children involved in child protection, through their engagement with the universal service system in line with the Government's Roadmap for Reform: Families and Safe Children project.

The Victorian Children’s Council was established by the Victorian government under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

The council meets every two months or as required.


Council members are recognised experts in children’s policies and services. They have been selected as individuals and not as representatives of their organisations or interest groups.​

Chair: Pro​​fessor Frank Oberklaid OAM

Professor Oberklaid was appointed Chair from 1 October 2011, having been deputy chair since 2005. He was a consultant paediatrician at the University of Melbourne, and the Royal Melbourne and Royal Children's Hospitals. Professor Oberklaid is also Director of the Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, from where he has led a considerable amount of important research and published extensively.

Professor Oberklaid was a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee which led to establishment of the council. Professor Oberklaid has received a number of prestigious awards for his work, including the Health Lifetime Achievement Award from the Victorian Department of Health in 2012, and the Nils Rosén von Rosenstein Medal for outstanding contributions to the progress of paediatrics and promoting the health of children in 2013.

Deputy Chair: Ms Sandie de W​​olf AM

Sandie is the former Chief Executive Officer of Berry Street Victoria for over 20 years. A member of the former Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vulnerable Children and Families, she brings over 35 years of experience in the child and family sector and leadership roles at State and National level. Ms de Wolf is also on the Steering Group of Families Australia.

Member: Ms Muri​​el Bamblett AM

Ms Bamblett is a Yorta Yorta woman, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency. From 1998-2008 she was the Chairperson of the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care, the peak agency representing Indigenous Child and Family Services nationally.

Ms Bamblett was the Chair of the former Ministerial Advisory Committee on Child and Family Support. In 2009, LaTrobe University appointed Ms Bamblett as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Social Work and Social Policy within the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Member: Ms Heather Ba​​​rnes OAM

Ms Barnes began her career as a preschool teacher and later became a teacher and lecturer in child care studies. She currently has her own training consultancy and provides workshops for long day care, family day care and out of school hours care professionals through Lady Gowrie Child Centre (Melbourne) and for the Professional Support Coordinators in Victoria and Queensland. 

Recently, Ms Barnes was contracted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to facilitate the National Quality Framework (NQF) for Early Childhood Education and Care assessor training of authorised officers.

Member: Docto​​r Susana Gavidia-Payne

Dr Gavidia-Payne is an Associate Professor at RMIT University. Her recent research has focused on factors that promote or hinder children’s and family resilience outcomes, particularly in disadvantaged and vulnerable populations.

A former President of the Victorian chapter of Early Childhood Intervention Australia, Dr Gavidia-Payne has considerable expertise in developing, delivering, and evaluating early intervention programs that strengthen children’s socio-emotional and behavioural development and family functioning.

Member: Ms C​​armel Guerra OAM 

Ms Guerra is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Multicultural Youth, a community-based organisation that advocates for the needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. She has over 20 years of experience in the community sector, and received the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to young people, migrant and refugee communities.

Ms Guerra has also been a member of the Refugee Resettlement and Advisory Council since its inception, and recently received a Victorian Multicultural Award for Excellence from the Victorian Government and the Multicultural Commission.

Member: Mr Da​​vid Huggins

Mr Huggins is the former Assistant Director Student Services at the Catholic Education Office. He has experience as an employee of both the Victorian and Commonwealth departments of education. Mr Huggins' most recent role at the CEO has required working at the community sector interface in the areas of health and education, he has also worked as a teacher, psychologist, and vocational guidance counsellor.

Member: Mr Ro​bert Spence

Mr Spence is the Chief Executive Officer of the Municipal Association of Victoria - the peak body for local councils in Victoria. Mr Spence was formerly the CEO of the City of Brimbank and the City of Footscray. Prior to that, he held various positions in the Victorian public service over a period of thirty years.

Member: Ms Kerry S​​tubbings

Ms Stubbings is the Director of Community Services, City of Knox. She has extensive experience working at a senior level in local government, state government and the community sector. Ms Stubbings' key interests include facilitating the provision of quality services and programs for individuals, families and communities.

Recent Past Members

Member: Professor Ker​​ry Arabena

Professor Arabena is Chair for Indigenous Health at the University of Melbourne and Director, Onemda: VicHealth Koori Health Group. A descendant of the Meriam people of the Torres Strait, Professor Arabena was formerly the Professor and Director of Indigenous Health Research in the School for Indigenous Health, Monash University. She is a former social worker and founding Co-Chair of the new national Indigenous peak body, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Professor Arabena's research interests include: public health, administration, community development and research in indigenous policy and sexual health.

Member: Doctor ​​Maria Apostolopoulos

Dr Apostolopoulos is a member of the Disability Advisory Council of Victoria. Maria is a consultant pharmacist and is the proprietor of a community pharmacy. Dr Apostolopoulos has a PhD (Psychiatry) and is employed as a specialist lecturer at Deakin University. She was previously the Vice-President of the Kalparrin Early Childhood Intervention Centre.

Member: Profes​​sor Marie Connolly

Professor Connolly is Chair and Head of Social Work at the University of Melbourne. Former Chief Social Worker in NZ Government; former Associate Professor and Head of Department at University of Canterbury and founding Director of the Awatea Violence Research Centre. Her child welfare practice, academic and consulting careers span 30+ years in Australia and overseas. 

Professor Connolly's research interests include:

  • the re​search-practice-interface in child protection
  • statutory care
  • family group conferencing and family engagement strategies in child welfare
  • reforming child protection systems
  • rights-based practice in child and family welfare.

Member: Doctor Donald Edga​​r OAM

Dr Edgar is a self-employed consultant on social research and policy, early childhood and work, family and community. He has been a teacher, an academic and past Director of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Dr Edgar was a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee.

Member: Ms Susan Harper OA​​M

Ms Harper has extensive experience in early childhood development, and expert knowledge of the sector at a national and international level. Ms Harper is the National President of the Organisation Mondiale pour l'Education Prescolaire - OMEP Australia. Ms Harper was a member and co-author of the Kirby Review of Preschool Services in Victoria and a member of the Premier's Children's Advisory Committee.

Member: Mr Ste​​ve Rogers

Mr Rogers is the principal of Mooroopna Primary School. Mr Rogers has been a principal and head teacher for 22 years in a number of Victorian schools in rural and regional Victoria. Employed in education for 30 years, he has a strong interest in early childhood issues and community development.


The Victorian Children's Council can be contacted by email: