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 I will message you about it in a few weeks.  


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