AIS Governance Symposium 2021





The AIS Governance Symposium 2021 renews attention to the complex wellbeing needs of students, staff and parents within our schools. Increasingly, independent schools are the locus of community and this shift is placing new demands on Boards and Heads in terms of how they support and manage these complexities. Following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, these demands have become more acute and unexpected.

Professor Ian Hickie AM from the Brain and Mind Centre at The University of Sydney, will provide the first key note on the critical topic of adolescent brain development and wellbeing, emphasising that most human brain development is postnatal, underlining the crucial impact of the school environment on development and wellbeing.

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM, former Commissioner on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will canvass the impact of that inquiry four years on.

Professor Donna Cross, from the Telethon Kids Institute and the University of Western Australia, an international expert on wellbeing, will discuss a range of successful initiatives schools have adopted to promote the wellbeing of the Principal.

A panel session will then draw together the key wellbeing issues facing our schools and suggest directions in how these new dimensions of wellbeing can be identified and appropriately managed in times when old certainties can no longer be relied on.

Please see the detailed COVID-19 safety principles and protocols put in place by the International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour.

Chairman's Welcome


Excellent schools are founded on robust standards of governance. The AIS Governance Symposium is the leading Australian forum for the promotion of high-quality governance in independent schools. The 2021 Symposium turns its attention to the important and increasingly complex issues surrounding student wellbeing, and the wellbeing of those charged with leading our schools. Following the move to the International Convention Centre in Darling Harbour in 2019, the 2021 Symposium will be held in the ICC’s Pyrmont Theatre. The 2021 Symposium promises to be an outstanding event, and I commend it to you.

John Ralston OAM
Chairman, AISNSW

Symposium Commencement


Dr Geoff Newcombe AM, Chief Executive, will introduce delegates to the key themes of the Symposium and set them in the context of current and emerging issues for the independent school sector.

Dr. Geoff Newcombe AM
Chief Executive, AISNSW

Keynote Presenters


Professor Ian Hickie AM

Professor Ian Hickie is Co-Director, Health and Policy at The University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. He is an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow (2013-2017 and 2018-22), having previously been one of the inaugural NHMRC Australian Fellows (2008-12). He was an inaugural Commissioner on Australia’s National Mental Health Commission (2012-18) overseeing enhanced accountability for mental health reform and suicide prevention. 

He is an internationally renowned researcher in clinical psychiatry, with particular reference to medical aspects of common mood disorders, depression and bipolar disorder. He is now focused on the development of real-time personalized and measurement-based care systems for use in partnership with young people and their families. These systems promote early intervention, use of new and emerging technologies and suicide prevention. 

In his role with the National Mental Health Commission, and his independent research, health system and advocacy roles, Professor Hickie has been at the forefront of the move to have mental health and suicide prevention integrated with other aspects of health care (notably chronic disease and ambulatory care management).

Professor Donna Cross

Donna Cross is a Professor with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Western Australia and the Head of the Health Promotion and Education Research team and Director of the Early Childhood Development and Learning Collaboration at the Telethon Kids Institute.

Since 1999 Donna has been awarded over $60m in research funding to conduct research to improve child and adolescent, and their parents’ and school executives’ health and wellbeing. Over the past 25 years she has led 70+ applied school and community-based research projects investigating ways to enhance wellbeing and social and emotional development and reduce anti-social behaviour in schools and families.

In 2012, Donna was awarded the WA ‘Australian of the Year’ for her services to children’s health and wellbeing. She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, and in 2017 a finalist for WA Scientist of the Year. Donna’s 2017 Churchill Fellowship investigated ways children’s wellbeing, development and learning is influenced by their use of technology.

Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald AM 

Robert Fitzgerald AM was formerly a Commissioner on the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for 5 years. He has served as a Commissioner with the Productivity Commission since 2004 and was appointed as the inaugural NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner in 2019.

He has served on numerous NGO boards including previously as President, Australian Council of Social Service and currently Social Ventures Australia. Robert was the inaugural Chair of the Advisory Board, Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

Robert holds degrees in commerce and law from the University of NSW and an honorary doctorate from the Australian Catholic University and is currently an Adjunct Professor with the University of Western Australia. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1994.

2021 Panel Session - Principal Wellbeing



Dr David Mulford
Mulford Consulting, Former Headmaster Newington College
Professor Donna Cross
Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Western Australia
Dr Kate Hadwen
Principal, Pymble Ladies’ College
Professor Tony Okely
Director of Research at Early Start, University of Wollongong. Chair, The Illawarra Grammar School
Steven Bowers
Principal, Burgmann Anglican School

2021 Major Sponsors


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Registrations are now open to the AIS Governance Symposium 2021.
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