Who is on SPELD Victoria's PSD review super team?

Blog Post by Clare Carmody

Last week, the Department of Education launched a comprehensive review of the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD).  One of the areas of investigation is provision for students with specific learning difficulties.  

Representing SPELD's members I have joined the Expert Panel and will be asking members for support with this.  There will also be room for public consultation and if you like this post below, I'll be sure to let you know when that opportunity is announced.  

SPELD Victoria has been invited to put forward a small team to consult on the review.  Today, I want to introduce you to that super team for the review consultation. 

This team, shows the diversity of skills and strengths that are with our organisations.  We have parents, adults with dyslexia, teachers, principals, psychologists and people with outside expertise in funding program and governance.  It’s a real mixed bag that is already providing great conversation as we prepare for our consultation with Dr Graeme Innes on August 5.

Meet our PSD review team members... 

Peter Hutton

Peter Hutton hated his own school experience, where he felt that education was being done “to him”. As Principal of Templestowe College he developed an educational model that allows students to individualize their education and share control in the running of the school.  Peter is a school principal with a radical solution, no school bell, no school levels, staff selection and curriculum is even decided by students. Result? No bullying, collaboration, innovation in school dynamics.

Watch Peter’s Ted Talk here

“They call Peter the Rebel Principal and I can’t wait to join his learning revolution.  I am blown away by the passion and lateral solutions thinking he has demonstrated by his contributions to the conversations so far.” 

Linda Lucas

Linda Lucas has over 20 years’ experience in the arts and government and has developed an authoritative and strategic knowledge of these areas.  More recently she was a key team member delivering the largest reform to regular funding to arts organisations by the state government.   Beyond her commitment to enhancing cultural life, Linda is dedicated to a future where children with dyslexia are respected and their learning is effectively supported by informed teaching and the best tools.  As a mother of a wonderful teenage boy with dyslexia, who has endured many ‘interventions’ and ‘programs’ (at her behest) and supported him through the impacts of ill informed teaching, she is strong parents’ advocate.  

 “Linda was my funding manager in my previous job and deeply understands these programs on both sides.  As a systems thinker she can reconcile both the complicated nature of working within bureaucratic machines with the agile and undeniable power of engaged families.”

Suzanne Dixon

MEd, BA, BEd, TPTC ,Grad Dip Spec Ed.

A message from Sue:

“I’m honoured to be with this 21st Century SPELD as an advocate, a practitioner, a policy maker and a leader with 50 plus years of accumulated knowledge and experience in provision for students with additional and different educational learning requirements.

My experience has included: State-wide system Special Education consultancy; P-12 School Principal; CEO of Early Intervention, Vocational and Adult Disability services; Representation on State and National Government Committees and Working Parties for policy and funding; Teaching and sessional lecturing at Tertiary level in Special Education; Chair of a Principals’ Professional body; and, Special Education Senior Consultant in an International organisation.

Thank you SPELD for this exciting opportunity.”

“The long list of Sue’s senior roles in education demonstrates why so many organisations have trusted her to lead them strategically through times of challenge and growth.  Having worked with Sue on our Student Learning Centre Service I have witnessed first hand her uncanny ability to bring together values, policy and practice in a way that always puts kids first.” 

Frances Coffey

Frances is an Educational & Developmental Psychologist. Her work life has been predominantly with DET schools in their School Support Service, with several years as a private school counsellor,  some private consulting, also a couple of years at Bristol University in a research position. 

As a psychologist working in schools, Frances is acutely aware of the complex issues around supporting students on the autism spectrum and students with learning disabilities. She has also been involved with the PSD system from all sorts of angles - supporting parents, schools, other professionals with navigating the system, assessing and writing applications, and also at regional level as a "reader" - reading applications within the evaluation process.

And of course, for several years Frances have been a consultant psychologist with SPELD.

“One of the things that constantly awes me about our Psychologist team is their ability to see the whole child and really integrate who they are as an individual with what they need to thrive in the system.   To me, Frances is this knowledge personified.  Her insistence on genuine fairness for young people marginalised by structural social injustice will bring an important and often undervalued perspective to our conversation.”


Karen Starkiss

Karen Starkiss is an educator with over 30 years’ experience. Over the past eight years Karen has been one of working independently as a LD trainer and assessor helping transform the lives of thousands of Australian students and teachers. Karen’s training is always in high demand across Victoria and the nation.  Her recent success in rolling out statewide teacher training in the ACT and NT means will be valuable in helping SPELD achieve its vision of every Victorian child having the opportunity to achieve their learning potential. 

In addition her outstanding professional expertise Karen has personal experience as two of her three children are dyslexic.  Karen’s bio shows her commitment to working where the needs are for the children most struggling in our schools. 

“Karen is constantly showing me, and schools around the country how supporting kids with SLD’s is the key to supporting all kids reach their potential. She has the track record to prove this works. 

''During my teaching career I have taught in a number of schools from large inner city to small village schools, from social priority to affluent areas. I have taught primary and secondary students and teenage 'school refusers.'  I worked for one county as a School Improvement Consultant going into failing schools and working with the staff to improve standards in teaching and learning. My last position in the UK was as a head teacher of a primary school, which was categorised as “Causing Concern,” with a deficit budget. I worked with the teachers, parents and students to double the number on roll within 18 months and take it to the top of the Devon League Tables for 2 consecutive years in 2005 and 2006 and 10th position out of over 17,000 primary schools in England for standards despite the fact that we had the most children with severe learning difficulties in the county.’

Karen will ensure that what we suggest about funding for kids with SLD’s is the best use of resources for all.”

Jason Henham

Jason is Managing Director of Slate Consulting, an Australian-based consulting firm committed to helping professional services, non-profit, and government organizations dramatically improve their performance, while creating a great experience for their employees.

Passionate about health and education, Jason has served on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Contemporary Mental Health, Washington D.C.’s largest drug abuse support agency. He is currently President of SPELD Victoria, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the lives of those affected by specific learning difficulties and has recently been Treasurer for Ozchild, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of disadvantaged children.

Meet Jason here

“In my opinion there is not one person in the world better at helping organisations and governments understand what they need to do to help their people to reach their potential. He, like everyone on this team will provide enormous value to the conversation.” 

So, like the look of our super team?  Want to join? 

If you want to get involved and have your say about funding for students with disabilities in our schools email me at ceo@speldvic.org.au I will message you about it in a few weeks.  

Notable Australian’s Struggle with Learning Difficulties Stigma

Speld Victoria Media Release: 31/05/2015


An article in the Sydney Morning Herald today notes that David Day's new biography, due to be released next week contains claims Paul Keating lives secretly with a Learning Difficulty.  The article also notes that Mr Keating has did not cooperate in any way with the biography. This follows six days after dyslexic author Jackie French was awarded Senior Australian of the Year. 


Regardless of whether or not this claim is true, it highlights a dichotomy faced by Australian adults with dyslexia. 


Dyslexia, and other Specific Learning Difficulties affects 10% of Australian’s on a continuum from mild to severe. 


Speld Victoria Chief Executive Officer Clare Carmody says that sadly most people with dyslexia don’t actually know they have it and often those that do feel the need to keep it a secret their whole lives. 


“By definition dyslexia is intellect independent so the damaging, common community misconceptions that dyslexia is an intelligence or motivation issue are completely false”. Ms Carmody says.


Speld’s Patron and notable Dyslexic, Keith Houghton, Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University says that it is regrettable that some of the most successful dyslexics never feel confident enough to come out’ because they are concerned about the stigma.


“The world is designed for people that are competent with words and dyslexia is a barrier to entry. I am continually amazed to meet people that have succeeded in the world of words that have been blessed with the gift of dyslexia”. Professor Houghton adds.


As Patron of Speld Vic he is a driving force behind an adult support group - a place for adults to share their story, their strengths, their hope.


“If you are dyslexic you are not alone.  You may not want to come out but you are not alone.”


Speld Victoria’s Adult Peer Support Group which runs on the first Wednesday of every month.  Professor Houghton will be sharing his personal story at first meeting of 2015 on Wednesday March 4th at 6:30pm at Speld Victoria, 60 High Street Preston.


Speld's free and confidential advice line is 1800 051 533 or infoline@speldvic.org.au


Media Contact


Clare Carmody ceo@speldvic.org.au 0450 718 054 


Congraulations Jackie French 

Media Release 26 January 2015 

SPELD VIC and Auspeld would like to congratulate Jackie on her award and recognise her hard work towards assisting those with learning difficulties. 

"failure is not an option" 

Watch her powerful acceptance speech below- what an inspiration to us all! well done Jackie! 

SPELD Fundraiser Family Day - 23rd August 2014

WHAT: This event is a fundraiser for a very special organisation called SPELD. This not-for-profit organisation provides much needed support to schools and families who have children with SPEcific Learning Difficulties. They stand for their belief that 'Every child has a right to learn'. The family day will be at Scienceworks, a multisensory and fun learning environment for children and grown ups.


2 Booker Street
Spotswood, VIC 3015

CONTACT DETAILS:: Arathi Arakala arakala.arathi@gmail.com 0423245517

For further information and bookings click the facebook link:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1606419406250457/

The invitation for the launch of the MELBOURNE EXPLORERS CLUB!!!


Message from the SPELD Victoria board November 2014 

The SPELD Victoria board is excited to announce that we have appointed Clare Carmody as the organisation’s Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective December 1, 2014. Board President Jason Henham’s role as interim-CEO will end at that time. The Acting period is expected to be for 6 months.

Clare joined us in June of this year as our Operations Manager, a role that required transformation in how we communicate and engage with all of our stakeholders, along with a focus on how to deliver our services to more of those that need it. Following the departure of our CEO in August, Clare was asked to carry some of the responsibilities associated with that role, including the development of our shared vision and strategy, which is to be published next week. The support Clare has gathered for our strategy, her ability to garner support from experts within and without SPELD and her commitment to serving children and families were some of the things that convinced us appointing her as Acting CEO was a smart choice for where SPELD is today.

We’re excited that Clare has chosen to commit this part of her career to SPELD Victoria. The board and I will provide whatever support required in helping her succeed in this role, for the benefit of the children and families we serve.

Please welcome Clare as our Acting CEO!

Jason Henham, President, SPELD Victoria 

24 November 2014 


Appointing a CEO is no small matter, so I’m sure you will have questions. In that regard:

-         Read the attached Questions & Answers document that may provide answers to some of your questions. 

-         You can reach our President, Jason Henham on his mobile at 0424 327 790 or by email at president@speldvic.org.au.

-         You can leave feedback anonymously on our website, through our feedback/complaints handling system, here.

-        You can read Clare's Bio here

Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as the invisible disability. It is estimated to affect 10 to 15 per cent of the population. It is a lifelong, inherited condition that has a neurological cause.

Those who have it will struggle to learn to read, even if taught using methods that work well with other children.Even intervention programs that have proven effective with other slow learners, such as Reading Recovery, tend not to help dyslexic children.
Dyslexics do not simply write letters backwards, as some people assume, they generally have significant difficulty reading, spelling and writing.
It is not an intellectual disability - many people with dyslexia are gifted.
It does not discriminate on race, gender or socioeconomic status. It affects the children of academics, writers, comedians and a federal government minister.
And while dyslexia can not be cured, it can be treated.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/dyslexia-the-invisible-disability-20140703-zsuxb.html#ixzz37112p6yk


For Immediate Release: Tuesday 26th August 2014

On Friday evening (August 22nd 2014) A Current Affair aired a story outlining a potential “cure for visual dyslexia”. While the treatment—which is focused on improving visual fixation—appears to have helped many people, it is important for our members to know that the condition being treated is not dyslexia; it is a visual impairment condition, albeit one that may co-occur with dyslexia.

If I was the parent of a child with this visual impairment condition and it was successfully treated using the method in the story, I doubt I would mind what the condition was called! However, by indicating that this treatment is a potential cure for dyslexia, the story may give false hope to many thousands of people whose dyslexic symptoms are not caused by this visual impairment condition.

SPELD Victoria supports evidence-based treatments and education approaches that help those with dyslexia reach their learning potential. We have today published an info sheet on our website with links to quality, evidence based information on dyslexia and specific learning disorders: http://www.speldvic.org.au/information/latest-news

We encourage anyone who believes that they, or their children, may have dyslexia or another specific learning disorder, to have an assessment performed by a qualified psychologist. An appropriately qualified psychologist should provide practical suggestions, for use in both home and school environments that have the potential to improve literacy skills.

Jason Henham

Interim CEO SPELD Victoria

SPELD Victoria provides a free and confidential infoline service. Find out more:

Phone: 1800 051 533 Email: infoline@speldvic.org.au www.speldvic.org.au

Click the link for our SPELD Victoria Fact Sheet  SPELD_Victoria_Fact_Sheet_coloured_lenses.pdf 



Here is the link for the recent Federal roundtable consultation on dyslexia with Federal Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne.

SPELD Victoria will be interested to see the outcomes from this!

Follow link for more information!



Michele Semmens

Chief Executive Officer
SPELD Victoria
60 High Street, Preston 3072
9480 4422



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