Strong Central West 2020 Speakers and Presenters

Dr Jane Burns


Professor Jane Burns
Mental Health and Wellbeing Innovator

Professor Jane Burns has extensive experience advising government, industry, university and the social enterprise sectors.  She is Chair of Open Arms, Veterans Families Counselling Service, Chair of STREAT and Chair of the Centre for Mental Health at Swinburne University. In 2000, Professor Burns joined beyondblue: the national depression initiative to lead and manage the youth and public health agenda in its initial start-up. Professor Burns was the founder and CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre and Professor of Innovation and Industry at the University of Sydney. She is the Founder and Non-Executive Director of InnoWell and a Non-Executive Director with the Australian Positive Psychology Learning Institute and Mind Medicines Australia. She was a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy at the University of California, San Francisco, a VicHealth Fellow in Health Promotion at Orygen, The National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health and an NHMRC Fellow in Suicide Prevention at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. She holds a PhD in Medicine from the University of Adelaide. In recognition for her achievements in entrepreneurship she won the category of Social Enterprise for 2015’s Australian Financial Review and Westpac Group 100 Women of Influence, and was a Victorian Finalist in the 2017 Telstra Business Women’s Awards.  Professor Burns is currently the Mental Health and Wellbeing Innovator at Bupa and Professor of Innovation and Chair of the Centre for Mental Health at Swinburne University.

Dr Lee Styger


Lee Styger, PhD
Executive EMBA Director at Sydney Business School

Dr Lee Styger is a creative innovative and thought leader, experienced in fixing and growing organisations.  Focused on industry engagement and commercialisation, Lee is a rare example of an individual who has developed both an academic and commercial career and is capable of bridging the gap between the two.  Currently, Lee is the Academic Director for Post Graduate Student Recruitment and the Executive MBA Director at the University of Wollongong’s Sydney Business School.  As “chief visionary" behind the University of Wollongong’s Sydney Business Schools Executive MBA, the program is now ranked by CEO Magazine as number 1 in Australia.  Outside his role in academia, Lee has over 25 years of experience in organisational strategy, business innovation, complex systems and intellectual property generation.


Professor Toni Noble


Professor Toni Noble
Speaker, Author and Psychologist

Professor Toni Noble is an educator and educational psychologist with expertise in student wellbeing, positive school communities and positive psychology/positive education. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education (IPPE) at Australian Catholic University (ACU) and is a co-author, with Helen McGrath, of many practical best-selling teacher resource books including the award-winning BOUNCE BACK! Program and HITS and HOTS: Teaching +Thinking+ Social Skills on student engagement. Her involvement in major government projects includes the Australian Government’s 2011 Revision of the National Safe Schools Framework, advising and developing resources for the Safe Schools Hub, now the Student Wellbeing Hub, and the Australian Government’s 2008 Scoping Study on Student Wellbeing. She has an Australian Government Carrick citation for her outstanding contributions to University teaching and has been a long-term member of the Advisory Board on the National Centre Against Bullying. Toni is a Committee Member of the NSW Chapter of PESA (Positive Education Schools Association).


Dr Barry Partridge


Dr Barry Partridge
Research Director and Adjunct Professor

Dr Barry Partridge is Research Director at Decision Processing Pty Ltd, a business established in 2010 to commercialise research into Australian Managers’ decision making which now operates with clients internationally. He is a Director of The Training Company Pty Ltd and Workplace Images and holds the post of Adjunct Professor at Torrens University Australia where he acts as postgraduate lecturer in economics, decision sciences and innovation on the TUA, Sydney MBA program. He is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong where his research and supervision of Honours, master’s and PhD students in the School of Psychology have led to the development of unique approaches to understanding and working with automaticity in managers’ decision making.  His long-term interest is in helping managers deal with large-scale, complex data in building critical thinking into their judgments and flexibility in decision making when working with teams and virtual workplaces.  Barry also specialises in Positive Ageing and intergenerational management in the workplace.


Desley Pfeffer
Principal in Residence, NSW Department of Education

Desley Pfeffer is in her 8th year as Principal at Mount View High School, but currently on secondment as a Principal in Residence with the NSW Department of Education’s Employee Performance and Conduct Directorate. Desley’s career has included appointments as a teacher of Japanese language and consultancy positions in middle year’s literacy and numeracy, foreign languages, and curriculum, training and development.

Her passion is in student and staff wellbeing, especially so in Positive Education. In 2020 she is Deputy Chair of the NSW chapter of PESA (Positive Education Schools Association) and, under her leadership, Mount View HS was awarded the “Best Student Wellbeing Program” at the Australian Education Awards in 2019. The school also was the recipient of the Outstanding Partnership Award at the 2019 NSW Youth Works Awards for an anti-bullying review project with youth workers. She has worked extensively with the Cessnock Healthy Lifestyle Network and Cessnock City Council to raise awareness of positive wellbeing within the community.  In January Desley extended her leadership skills at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Principals’ Centre in Australia: Leadership for School Excellence.”

Paula Robinson PhD


Dr Paula Robinson
CEO, Consulting Psychologist, Author and Speaker

Following a career as a senior executive, Dr Paula Robinson is now a registered, consulting Psychologist, author, speaker and Managing Director of the Positive Psychology Institute.  Paula specialises in the science, application and integration of traditional Psychology and Positive Psychology.  Paula has completed her Bachelor of Science with first class honours and her PhD in Positive Psychology with a mental fitness focus, as well as numerous research studies, book chapters, invited presentations, workshops and strategic positive change programmes for government, private organisations, schools and the wider community.  Paula has been invited to present at conferences in Australia, New Zealand, France, UK, Qatar, Singapore, China, Canada and USA on her work with schools and organisations. Paula has worked with over 300 schools, training and implementing both large and smaller scale Positive Education initiatives for leaders, teachers, students and parents. Paula is currently the Australian representative for the International Positive Education Network and has performed numerous expert advisory panel and media roles. Paula is currently a fellow and lecturer for the University of Wollongong, Sydney Business School, Laureate Universities and guest lecturer at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education. Paula has just published her first book in applied Positive Psychology in education, titled Practising Positive Education: A Guide to Improve Wellbeing Literacy in Schools which has received exceptional reviews and the first edition has sold out.  The 2nd edition is now available.  You can read Paula's full bio here.


Nicky Sloss
AISNSW Education Consultant

A teacher and wellbeing leader for over 25 years, Nicky is the Wellbeing Consultant at the Association of Independent Schools in NSW, Australia.  In this role Nicky shares wellbeing and pedagogical approaches in member schools in NSW, ACT and internally with the aim of assisting educators to provide a safe and supportive school climate for their teachers and students. Nicky’s work allows her to provide leadership and support to schools, principals, executive teams, leaders of wellbeing, school counsellors and classroom teachers. She provides bespoke, ongoing professional development in schools, online as well as via face to face courses and conferences - encouraging quality teaching and learning initiatives as well as a whole-school approach when supporting student outcomes.

Her role includes extensive cross-sectoral work and collaboration on various projects to support students in all education sectors and particularly to advocate for NSW/ACT independent schools - working alongside representatives from Catholic Schools NSW and NSW Department of Education.  Her current work incorporates whole-school wellbeing approaches along with experience in child protection training, curriculum advice and support - working with a range of educators from classroom practitioners to school executives.


Nichole Walker


Nichole Walker
General Manager

Throughout the years of working with many talented individuals in the financial sector, Nichole began to notice some of the challenges faced by business leaders and their employees including long hours, high levels of stress, employee burnout and the stigma of mental illness.  In 2014, she relocated to Australia to focus on how we can create better workplaces, healthier schools and flourishing communities.  She now works with her colleagues at APPLI to promote wellbeing and Mental Fitness across the lifespan.  Also a passionate advocate for Positive Education, Nichole currently sits on the Strategic Committee for Positive Education at Knox Grammar School advising on their world-renowned Positive Education program, Knox Total Fitness.  She has also recently co-authored a chapter titled ‘Habits of Mental Fitness for Staff and Student Wellbeing’ in the book Practising Positive Education: A Guide to Improve Wellbeing Literacy in Schools (2nd Ed.).

John Weeks


John Weeks
Head of College, Scots All Saints College

John's education career has spanned 40 years in both government and non–government schools. These schools have been in regional, country and city locations.  Throughout his teaching career, John has held different positions of responsibility including Year group Advisor, Sports Master, head Teacher, leading teacher and Principal of 3 independent schools.  Professionally, John has also been a contributing member of many professional associations including NSW History Teachers Association, Member of the Australian College of Education, Member of Australian College of Educational Administrators, Chair of Heads of Independent Schools (NSW), Co-Founder of the Hunter Region for Independent Schools (HRIS), Co-founder of New Anglican Schools Association (NASA), Member of the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AIS), Member of the Association of Heads of Independent Schools (AHISA) and Chair of the Committee of Associated Schools of NSW (CAS). John was Headmaster at the prestigious Knox Grammar School from 2005 – 2018 with a primary part of his role being to rebuild the school’s aging infrastructure, raise academic standards and expand opportunities for students.  As Headmaster John initiated and developed a number of key initiatives which have educational significance, these include co-founder and leader of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA) a national body promoting the research and application of positive psychology for student wellbeing, the Knox Indigenous Education Program in conjunction with Australian Indigenous Education Foundation (AIEF) and the Knox Total Fitness initiative designed to improve the overall wellbeing of staff and students.  John is currently the Head of College at Scots All Saints College in Bathurst - a modern and progressive co-educational day and boarding college that focuses on combining the skills of achievement with the skills of wellbeing.


Dr Steve Zolezzi


Dr Steve Zolezzi
Registered Psychologist and Wellbeing Expert

Dr Steve Zolezzi is a Registered Psychologist with over 25 years of experience in Education and Psychology and is a leading expert on school wellbeing and Positive Psychology practice. Steve provides educational strategic planning approaches aligned to key organisational objectives and he has worked with many schools in helping develop whole school wellbeing approaches. He consults widely both nationally and internationally in helping schools move to integrated academic and wellbeing excellence.  Steve's particular areas of expertise are Appreciative Inquiry summits, Solution-Focussed Coaching, and Strengths-Based Leadership. Steve has been a School Psychologist since 1994, having worked with the prestigious Knox Grammar School as Head of Positive Education where he received the Headmaster’s Award for Leadership in 2013.  Knox Grammar School is considered among the top three Positive Education schools in the world. Steve has also worked with the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay, St Aloysius College, and currently as the Head of Wellbeing in the Diocese of Maitland/ Newcastle, which comprises sixty schools.  Steve is also a founding member of The Australasian Biofeedback Society and International School Psychologists Society.  He is a Qualified Teacher, certified Sports Psychologist and Physical Education Instructor.