Every year, we host the OPEN symposium to bring together practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to share and discuss the innovative practices, programs, and knowledge that are positively impacting the lives of children, young people, and families. This year our OPEN theme was ‘Building resilient families and thriving communities’. Our speakers covered a range of topics, sharing their innovative, evidence-informed work including in out-of-home care, early intervention, family violence, building the evidence base for First Nations Families. This year’s Symposium broke all of our previous records. We received a record number of expressions of interest, had a record number of ticket registrations, and had extraordinarily strong and consistent attendance across all sessions. This is testament to the sector’s commitment and dedication to improving outcomes for children, young people and families. We had an incredible breadth of speakers over the two days – but they all have one thing in common. They are showing us how we can use the best available evidence to support Victorian families to be connected, strong, and resilient.

Keynote speaker Dr Henry Pharo

“Designing an Evidence-Based Early Intervention System in South Australia”

Dr. Henry Pharo, Director of the Early Intervention Research Directorate (EIRD) within the Department of Human Services, South Australia. As a dedicated clinical psychologist, he champions evidence-based practice and plays a crucial role in shaping public policy.

Watch the recording here

Download the slides here

Keynote speaker: Associate Professor Tim Moore

“Safety-driven, family-aware practice in OOHC and other settings”

Associate Professor Tim Moore, Deputy Director at the Institute of Child Protection Studies (ACU). For over two decades, Tim has been a dedicated advocate for the well-being of children and young people within “”the system”” and the support services available to them.

Watch the recording here

Day one sessions

Morning session:

Children’s Voices for Change – Learning from children and young people as experts by experience to improve family violence services | Dr Georgina Dimopoulos (Southern Cross University)
Keywords: family violence, lived experience, service improvements

VACCA’s Cultural Intensive Supported Playgroups model – Findings from an evaluation across three VACCA sites | Kerry Brogan, Amie Porter and Tori Brooks (VACCA)
Keywords: evaluation, impact, children and families, culturally responsive

Lunch Session:

Support and Supervision: A Layered Approach to Improving Foster Carer Retention with a Foster Care Team | Maja Koprivoca (Anglicare) & Kathryn Eberly, Lainie Terbogt, Dr Clare Bellhouse (Restoring Families)
Keywords: innovations, foster carers, placement stability

Grief & Loss: The impacts of placement transitions on foster carers and their children | Summah Hemming (Mackillop) & Margaret Kertesz (The University of Melbourne)
Keywords: foster carers, measuring impact, placement transitions

Healing Connections: Strengthening Trauma-Informed Caregivers and Communities | Beata Starkowski (Lighthouse Foundation) & A/Prof Gabrielle Brand (Monash University)
Keywords: co-design, evidence-based theories, trauma-informed care, foster carers

Special Session: 

Thinking with Artificial Intelligence: Experiences from Healthcare |Dr. Brian Chapman, Associate Professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne
Keywords: artificial intelligence, healthcare, innovations

Afternoon session: 

Results from the Aboriginal Child Protection Diversion Trials Evaluation Report: VACCA’s Aboriginal-led Case Conferencing model | Jack Stanton and Alys Sebire (VACCA) & Dr Sarah Wise (The University of Melbourne)
Keywords: culturally safe, diversion, self-determining co-design

“Uplifting resources to create a trauma informed model in youth residential care”: Better care experience & outcomes and improved staff satisfaction | Tymur Hussein and Adela Holmes (Uniting VicTas) and Doug Faircloth (Faircloth, McNair and Associates)
Keywords: residential care, trauma-informed, comprehensive measurement, improved outcomes

“If you belong, you grow”: Allambi Care’s service model for therapeutic residential care | Sarah Grabda (Allambi Care) & Dr Tatiana Corrales (Monash University)
Keywords: residential care, therapeutic models, principles in action

Day Two sessions

Morning session:

The case for ACCO-led systemic reform | Dana Pyne & John Cheshire (Victorian Aboriginal Children and Young People’s Alliance)
Keywords: advocacy, systemic reform, child and family services

Can we help children who have already experienced serious neglect? | Annette Jackson (Berry Street)
Keywords: mixed-methods, development and cultural child neglect, possible solutions

Lunch session:

Results are in!  Changing motivations for sustained impact | Heidi Tucker and Avi Macmull (Anchor Community Care)
Keywords: transition out of care, lived expertise, empowering model

By Five Paediatric Initiative and RCH join forces to deliver ‘Great care, everywhere’ for rural and remote families | Cara Miller (By Five)
Keywords: enhance services, child health outcomes, healthcare accesibility

Future proofing safety: Lessons from COVID-19 to inform crisis readiness and improve FV services | Beth McCann (Drummond Street Services), Dr Rachel Carson (AIFS) & Riley Ellard (RMIT)
Keywords: family violence, service adaptation, crisis readiness framework

Special sponsor session:

“Get Going Get Better with Outcomes Measurement”Where is the sector on the outcomes journey and how can technology successfully support organisations to get going and get better with outcomes measurement | Greg Simmons (CSnet)

Afternoon session:

Centring the voices and lived experience of young parent participants: The development of Brave’s Model of Participation and establishment of a youth advisory | Dr Kesley Deane and Cath Cooper (Brave Foundation)
Keywords: lived experience, young parents, empowering initiative

Hackham’s Young Parent Group- where innovation meets early intervention | Dr Alisa Willis, Hayley McLay and Jessica Naylor (Junction Australia)
Keywords: young parents, early intervention, care and protection lived experience

Development of the Victorian Early Parenting Centres Outcomes Framework | Helen Cunningham (QEC) & Mandy O’Connor (Monash University)
Keywords: child and family services, delivery improvement, evaluation and outcomes

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