Thinking Leaders: Provocations and Opportunities

Registrations are now open for the 2021 PDN School Leaders’ Conference, taking place from Wednesday 18th to Friday 20th August 2021 (Main program 19 & 20 August).

While we have made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 PDN Conference, we look forward to bringing you this incredible program in 2021. We are also excited to announce that the PDN Conference will be presented as a hybrid event for the first time, with tickets available to access the program online or attend in-person.

Join Queensland’s top school leaders from the public, private, primary, secondary and special school sectors for the Professional Development Network's (PDN) 2021 School Leaders’ Conference.

The conference theme is Thinking Leaders: Provocations and Opportunities. With five keynote speakers, panel discussions and four workshops to choose from over two days, plus a special welcome reception on 18 August with guest speaker Professor Pasi Sahlberg, PDN celebrates 25 years of provoking leadership excellence.

Our presenters will examine the barriers and obstacles to improvement and innovation that confront school leaders and challenge the status quo.  You will be provoked to clarify challenges and seek opportunities to response with precision and purpose.

The PDN Conference is the perfect chance for your leadership team to culminate their shared experience in a rewarding, collaborative and stimulating environment that promotes networking across schools.

Click here to view the virtual conference information or register your team now.

Please view Frequently Asked Questions or contact your conference organisers at or on 07 2102 4865 if you have any queries.

School Leaders' Conference

18-20 August 2021

What to expect

PDN celebrates its 25th annual conference with a welcome keynote and reception, with world-renowned Finnish educator, author and scholar Professor Pasi Sahlberg joining attendees to share some of his wisdom in an unmissable keynote presentation, followed by drinks and canapés.

This very special event is included in the full conference registration, or purchasable as an individual event ticket. Afterward, conference attendees can choose to have an early rest ahead of the big two days to come, or enjoy a team dinner and set your goals for the conference at one of the hotel’s inviting restaurants and bars.

Rise and shine, it’s registration time! Collect your satchels and complimentary coffee vouchers at the registration desk and fuel up for a jam-packed day of learning and strategic planning.

Waveney Yasso welcomes us to country, before Prof Pasi Sahlberg presents an opening address. Our opening Keynote speaker Jane Caro AM is a social commentator, writer and lecturer who is passionate about education.  Jane will come together with David Gillespie, a recovering corporate lawyer and author of eight bestselling books, and Prof Pasi Sahlberg in a panel discussion, cracking open the can of worms on provocations and opportunities school leaders are facing right now.

Take a morning tea break to discuss with your teams, before we return to the plenary room to hear pitches for our two workshop options - Dr Michael Rosemann, Director of QUT's Centre for Future Enterprise will delve into trust opportunity, and the Mad Hatters’ Society with Dr Rachel Hannam and Dr Shannon Morton will explore disruption, innovation and shame resilience. The difficult choice is yours!

Before we break for workshops, enjoy dedicated marketplace time where you can explore the wide range of activities, products and services on offer in our exhibition areas, before a delicious lunch is served.

Directly after lunch, attend your workshop of choice. Workshops have been extended to 1.5 hours this year to allow you to dive a little deeper. Grab some afternoon tea before hearing from our final Keynote speaker for the day, AFLW Victoria's Development Manager Chyloe Kurdas, who will speak on leadership for change.

You will have a couple of hours free to debrief with your teams or get glammed up, before everyone’s favourite part of the conference – the Gatsby themed Gala Dinner is the time to celebrate, laugh, and dance the night away!  Put on the ritz and don your swankiest 1920s attire for a night of glitz and glam, with special entertainment that will have you shimmying and swinging like it’s the Twenties all over again!

We hope you saved one of your complimentary coffee vouchers, because you may need an extra kick-start after the celebrations last night!

First up, hear from John Marsden, world-renowned children’s author and Principal of Candlebark School and Alice Miller School, on how he has successfully shaped some of Australia’s most sought-after schools before we hear from today’s workshop choices – Dr Suzanne Carrington, Professor and Associate Dean of Research, Faculty of Education at Queensland University of Technology, will discuss how to promote equity and inclusion in schools, and Laureate Prof Marilyn Fleer, Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki and Dr Prabhat Rai from Monash University will delve into leading by using and generating evidence-based practices with Conceptual Playwords for teachers in primary schools.

After a quick morning tea, we move straight to workshops of choice. To keep things moving we offer a delicious express lunch before the final keynote, presented by Australian artist Tim Sharp and his mother Judy. They will share their incredible story about the power of love and art, following Tim’s journey from being diagnosed with severe autism to becoming an internationally acclaimed artist.

Let's not forget the prize draw before you depart.  Who doesn't love the chance to win something, especially the amazing products that the sponsors have donated!


John Marsden

John Marsden

John Marsden was born in Victoria, Australia in 1950.  He went to many different primary schools, and from an early age enjoyed the journeys into magical worlds that reading could provide. His teachers in Grade 4 and Grade 6 encouraged him to write, and at the age of nine he decided he wanted to become an author. For seven years he attended The King's School Parramatta, a strict military school in Sydney, and from there went on to the University of Sydney. When he was 28, he began a teaching course, which he loved from the start. Embarking on a teaching career, he also became more and more interested in writing, and in 1987 succeeded in getting his first book, "So Much to Tell You", published.  A string of huge hits followed, highlighted by the Tomorrow series and Ellie chronicles.

Jane Caro

Jane Caro AM

Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award-winning advertising writer and Walkley Award recipient. She has published nine books; “The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education” co-authored with Chris Bonnor (New South 2007), “The F Word. How we learned to swear by feminism” co-authored with Catherine Fox (New South, 2008) “Just a Girl” her first novel (UQP, 2011) and “What Makes a Good School?” co-authored with Chris Bonnor (New South, 2012). Jane was awarded an AM in June 2018 for significant service to the broadcast media as a journalist, social commentator and author.

Pasi Sahlberg

Pasi Sahlberg

Pasi Sahlberg is a Professor of Education Policy and Research Director at the Gonski Institute, University of New South Wales (UNSW), in Sydney. His working experience includes Director General at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, Senior Education Specialist at the World Bank in Washington, Lead Education Specialist of the European Training Foundation in Torino, and Visiting Professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. He has analysed education systems, researched school reforms, and advises governments about education around the world. His latest book is “Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive” with William Doyle (2019). He lives with his family in Sydney, Australia.

Chyloe Kurdas

Chyloe Kurdas

Chyloe Kurdas, a former elite Australian rules footballer, television and radio sports commentator, has spent a decade building the catalyst for Australia’s first ever national women’s professional competition, the AFLW, as AFL Victoria’s Female Football Development Manager. She credits being one of the first women to play football on the MCG as one of best days of her life. Chyloe is a sought after expert and prominent advocate for gender equity and cultural change. She is an Associate of the Melbourne Business School and her expertise is currently being used to present leadership programs to the Department of Defence.

Sarah Kanowski

Sarah Kanowski MC

Sarah Kanowski co-hosts ABC Radio’s Conversations, Australia’s most downloaded podcast. She has worked on a variety of other programs with ABC Radio, including Books and Arts and Late Night Live. Sarah has a masters in literature from The University of Oxford, which she attended on a Commonwealth Scholarship. At home, much of her time is taken up by her three children and her three chooks.

Michael Rosemann

Dr Michael Rosemann

Dr Michael Rosemann is the Director of QUT’s Centre for Future Enterprise and a Professor for Innovation Systems at Queensland University of Technology. His areas of interest are revenue resilience, innovation (eco)systems, systemic ideation, process management and trust management.

As Head of QUT’s Information Systems School he established the Woolworths Chair in Retail Innovation, the Brisbane Airport Chair in Airport Innovation and the PwC Chair in Digital Economy. Dr Rosemann is the author/editor of seven books, more than 300 refereed papers, Editorial Board member of ten international journals and co-inventor of US patents. His publications have been translated into Russian, Mandarin, German and Portuguese. As a member of an innovation advisory committee, he provided for many years advice to St Margaret’s Anglican Girls School. More recently, he spoke at selected schools (e.g., Queensland Pathways State College, Wavell State High School) about the role of managing.

Rachel Hannam

Dr Rachel Hannam - Mad Hatters’ Society

Dr Rachel Hannam has been a registered psychologist since 2002. She consulted to various organisations for years, working with doctors, nurses, teachers, pilots, lawyers, managers and executives, and gained broad experience in coaching individuals and groups. She is skilled at helping people cope with stress and trauma, relationship conflict, and personal change. In 2006, Rachel was awarded her PhD which looked at psychological burnout and resilience.

Shannon Morton

Dr Shannon Morton - Mad Hatters’ Society

Dr Shannon Morton is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with a special interest in treating young people who naturally exist outside the usual boxes and prefer to colour outside the lines. She is the Clinical Director of the “The Kooky Kid Clinic”, a multidisciplinary clinic with a difference in Brisbane, where humour and holistic, expressive therapies are used to celebrate differences, reframe medical symptoms and sufferings, and challenge stigmatizing stereotypes head on. She has previously worked in a Prison Mental Health Service, and spent many years working in a low socio-economic area, with many children with externalizing disorders in her practice.

Suzanne Carrington

Dr Suzanne Carrington

Suzanne has an international reputation in inclusive education and disability and experience in leading and contributing to a range of competitive national/ international research grants and development projects. Suzanne was seconded 2002-2004 to establish the Staff College, Inclusive Education in the Department of Education, QLD, Australia. As Director, she led professional learning of QLD education staff to support the development of inclusion. She has been awarded over $2 million in competitive research funding (NHMRC; ARC; Australian Awards [ADRAS]; CRC; European Union Executive Agency) and is currently the Program Director of Enhancing Learning and Teaching for the Autism CRC. The Autism CRC is the first CRC with a strong focus on education and has over $110 Million of funding (cash and in-kind) over 8 years.

Tim and Judy Sharp

Tim and Judy Sharp

Tim Sharp is an internationally acclaimed 27-year-old artist from Brisbane, most famously known for his creation of a superhero called Laser Beak Man. Tim has Autism, diagnosed when he was three years old, the doctor's advice was to "put him away and forget about him". Rejecting the prognosis, therapy began and bravely Tim tried to overcome what was so terrifying and difficult to him. After being told that Tim would never speak, drawing was used to help him communicate. At age eleven Tim invented Laser Beak Man and has been drawing his superhero ever since. Tim’s joyful drawings involving his superhero, Laser Beak Man, have been exhibited around the world. From the Powerhouse in Brisbane to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, some of the world’s greatest galleries have showcased Tim and his amazing career.

David Gillespie

David Gillespie

For the last ten years, former lawyer and best-selling author David Gillespie has devoted himself to exposing forces in today's society that work against our interests as consumers and citizens.

David’s first book, Sweet Poison, was published in 2008 and remains a best-seller. Sweet Poison, is credited with starting the current wave of sugar awareness in Australia. He followed this up with another four books on nutrition and diet. Having upset the dietetics industry by writing about stuff in which he had no qualifications, David turned his focus to something else he was unqualified to write about, education, in his 2014 work Free Schools. David then briefly detoured back to nutrition in his next books Eat Real Food (2015) and The Eat Real Food Cookbook (2016). David’s latest focus is psychology and in 2017, he released his with his much-anticipated book on surviving contact with psychopaths in the workplace and at home, Taming Toxic People. In 2018 David released Teen Brain, a book about how teenagers are uniquely susceptible to addiction and the severity of this problem in an age where addictive screen time is the norm for every single teen.

Marilyn Fleer

Laureate Prof Marilyn Fleer

Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer holds the Foundation Chair of Early Childhood Education and Development at Monash University, Australia. She was awarded the 2018 Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council and was a former President of the International Society of Cultural-historical Activity Research (ISCAR). Additionally, she holds the positions of an honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Education, University of Oxford, and a second professor position in the KINDKNOW Centre, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences. She was presented with the 2019 Ashley Goldsworthy Award for Outstanding leadership in university-business collaboration.

Glykeria Fragkiadaki

Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki

Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki is a Senior Research Fellow in the Conceptual PlayLab, Faculty of Education, Monash University in Melbourne. She has acted as an Adjunct Faculty Member in the Depart. of Educational Science and Early Childhood Education at the University of Patras in Greece and in the Faculty of Education at the University of Nicosia in Cyprus. She also has an extensive experience as an early childhood educator and acted as ΟΜΕΡ Patras’ Local Committee Secretary. Dr Fragkiadaki’s research interests are early childhood learning and development, STEM education as well as cultural-historical theory and research methodology. Her expertise is in methods of dialectic analysis of diverse perspectives and different aspects of a child’s everyday reality over time. Her research work has been published in international journals and book chapters as well as presented in many conferences.

Prabhat Rai

Dr Prabhat Chandra Rai

Dr Rai holds a senior early childhood position in the Conceptual PlayLab. He has worked extensively with rural and remote communities in the past, leading course development, and recently engaging with playgroups in rural and city communities in Australia. As a Felix Scholar his PhD research from the Oxford University, UK and subsequently his research and engagement work as an academic at Ambedkar University Delhi and Ministry of Human Resource Development in India has focused on multi-age teaching and learning models in early and primary years. As an Assist. Director (Academics) in the Central Board of Secondary Education in India, he also led and designed the training modules for the "Assessment for Learning” reforms to be implemented in the entire country. He has more than 10 yrs of research experience in the area of early years education and designing academic programs for teachers.


* The PDN Management Committee reserves the right to alter the program if circumstances change.  Please also note that timings are approximate only.

TimeWelcome Activity
5.00-7pm Keynote by Professor Pasi Sahlberg - 'Innovation or Improvement? Opportunities, alternatives and provocations for leaders'.
Followed by drinks, canapes and networking. Please feel free to make your own dinner arrangement offsite, or make a reservation at any of the Hotel's Restaurants and Bars.

* The PDN Management Committee reserves the right to alter the program if circumstances change.  Please also note that timings are approximate only.

7:15-8:15 am Registration
8:15 am Conference Opening
8:30 amOpening Address - Professor Pasi Sahlberg
9:00 am

Keynote: Jane Caro AM  - 'Don't buy the BS, listen to your instincts'

Table talk: How can you turn these provocations into opportunities?

10:00 am

Panel Discussion:  'Provocations and Opportunites in Education'

Jane Caro AM, Prof Pasi Sahlberg and David Gillespie

Table talk: How can you turn these provocations into opportunities?

11:00-11:20 am Morning Tea
11:20-11:50 am

Workshop Introductions:

1.  Dr Michael Rosemann - 'Trust Opportunity:  How to scale empathy'

2.  Mad Hatters’ Society - 'The Shame Game Workshop:  Unapologetically, Shamelessly Shameful'

11:50-1:20 pm Marketplace / Lunch
1:20-2:50 pm

Concurrent Workshops:

1.  Dr Michael Rosemann - 'Trust Opportunity:  How to scale empathy'

2.  Mad Hatters’ Society - 'The Shame Game Workshop:  Unapologetically, Shamelessly Shameful'

2:50-3:10 pm Afternoon Tea
3:10-4:10 pm

Keynote:   Chyloe Kurdas - 'Leadership for Change'

Table talk: How can you turn these provocations into opportunities?

7:00-11:00 pmGatsby Gala Dinner (1920's dress)
9:00 am Welcome
9:30 am

Keynote - John Marsden – '10,000 Joys, 10,000 Sorrows'

Table talk: How can you turn these provocations into opportunities?

10:30-10:50 am

Workshop Introductions:

1. Dr Suzanne Carrington - 'Working in Ethical Ways to Build Inclusive Schools for All Students'

2. Laureate Prof Marilyn Fleer, Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki and Dr Prabhat Rai - 'Leading by using and generating evidence-based practices: Conceptual PlayWorlds for teachers in primary schools'

10:50-11:30 amMarketplace / Morning Tea
11:30-1:00 pm

Concurrent Workshops: 

1. Dr Suzanne Carrington - 'Working in Ethical Ways to Build Inclusive Schools for All Students'

2. Laureate Prof Marilyn Fleer, Dr Glykeria Fragkiadaki and Dr Prabhat Rai - 'Leading by using and generating evidence-based practices: Conceptual PlayWorlds for teachers in primary schools'

1:00 -1:15 pmExpress Lunch
1:30-2:30 pmKeynote: Tim and Judy Sharp - 'A Double Shot of Happiness'
2:30-3:00 pmConference closing and prizes

Registration information

In order to save on your Conference registration and a range of quality programs throughout the year, subscribe now to the PDN.  Complete and return the 2021 Subscription form.

PDN Member Fees

Non PDN Member Fees

What do registrations include?

PDN Virtual Event Fees

Cancellation Policy


QT Gold Coast Hotel guests can indulge in the vibrant beachside location at Surfers Paradise and the unique Gold Coast atmosphere. Enjoy the Baja California cool of Stingray Lounge, the unique marketplace style dining at Bazaar, and the modern Japanese cuisine of Yamagen.

The perfect setting for relaxation and collaboration, experience both with plenty of inviting areas for your team to meet, celebrate and reflect, such as the newly renovated Malibu-style pool deck or the vibrant Fixx Café. Why not spoil yourself with a treatment at spaQ while you are here and make the most of all QT Hotel has to offer!


To book your accommodation: QT Hotel can be contacted directly. Call the Reservations Department at the Resort directly on 07 5584 1200 or email Brooke Hopwood, Group Reservations, at Advise of your PDN Conference affiliation and arrival and departure details.

QT Hotel
Room type
Room only Room + 1 breakfast Room + 2 breakfasts
Mountain View & River View Room $179 $204 $229
Ocean View Room$209$234$259

Sponsors and Exhibitors

If you would like to be a Sponsor or Exhibitor, please contact or call 07 2102 4865.

Sponsor Level Sponsor Name Sponsor Product
Silver Sponsor Jabiru is a local, social-purpose, not-for-profit organisation.
Jabiru partners with children, young people and families, particularly focusing on those experiencing vulnerabilities, by creating safe places and relationships that connect people, resources, ideas and communities.
Jabiru is more than a school-age care provider. Our deep-rooted history in community development and wraparound support services provides the cornerstone of our practice within a school-age care context. As a local not-for-profit community organisation, embedding ourselves in local communities is not an add-on. It is what we were created to do. It is in our DNA.
As an organisation, we not only deliver school-age care, we engage with a range of educational-based communities, including delivering student support services, employment and training programs and our own independent school – Jabiru Community College. We genuinely know the challenges of working within the educational ecosystem, including curriculum development, recreational activities, social and emotional support for children and families, and working within Education Queensland systems and structures.
We are renowned for innovation and industry best practice.
We have an excellent reputation in innovation and leadership. Our research and development partnerships with QUT and Griffith University inform the ongoing improvement of our programs. Author of the national framework for school-age care ‘My Time, Our Place,’ Dr Jennifer Cartmel from Griffith University, is a long-term collaborator who provides ongoing encouragement, advice and support in the development of our Communities for Kids program. Jabiru presented alongside Dr Cartmel at the World Education Research Network Conference on Extended Education in Stockholm in September 2019, on ‘Experiences of Community in School Age Care’. We are continuing this research in partnership with Dr Cartmel and will be presenting the paper ‘School Aged Care Services: A new neighbourhood for children’ at the World Education Research Network Conference on Extended Education in September 2020.
We are a social enterprise that is entrepreneurial, innovative and operates to intentionally tackle social issues, improve communities and provide people with access to resources, employment and training.
Silver Sponsor Looking for a health fund that’s ALL ABOUT YOU?
A fund that values YOU and offers YOU amazing value – all day, every day?
Lately health funds have made a lot of noise to get your attention. Short term incentives, honeymoon periods and a pile of promises designed to win you over. It feels like it’s all about what they need, not what’s right for YOU.
Move to a lifetime of quality health and wellbeing and great value with TUH. Value that comes from a long-term partnership that delivers personalised health and wellbeing support that’s all about YOU every day, not just when we’re trying to woo you. TUH is a not-for-profit health fund that has put the education community first since 1972 and that will never change!
Bronze Sponsor   ASCA is a unique not-for-profit member association of over 5,500 schools that focuses on improving the financial outcomes for
schools by using its significant buying power to bring savings and improved service to schools and school canteens.
Bronze Sponsor A better way to create your class lists – your way. Class Solver helps schools create their best class lists in a fraction of the time.
Bronze Sponsor Experts in the art of timetabling, Edval Education has been focused on solutions-based software and services for school timetabling for over 20 years. We aim to help schools get better outcomes for teachers and students through smarter timetabling. A trusted provider of unparalleled software, timetable solutions and support. We listen to our customers, creating innovative software based on their needs and requirements. Edval’s powerful algorithms set our products apart and produce optimised timetables of high quality. For smarter timetabling in your school, just Edval it. To learn more and our software and services visit our website.
Bronze Sponsor  Footsteps specialises in curriculum/age-based movement programs for Foundation to Year 12 students. Our ultimate wellbeing program offers schools a Dance component as well as an activity based Social Emotional Learning program. Classroom resources have been developed for every lesson as a part of our commitment to integrating our programs across all curriculum areas. Quality outcomes including discos, formals, parent presentations and school concerts give students the opportunity to display and share their Footsteps experience. Let a talented Footsteps instructor deliver our ultimate wellbeing program and turn your students into active, creative, risk takers!
Photography Partner   advancedlife School Photography and Print Specialists is an Australian, family owned company that has been providing professional school photography services at family friendly prices for over 32 years. Our printing, branding and marketing division, advancedprint, also offers a huge range of print and promotional products, and works with schools to personalise print to suit your requirements, optimise and refresh branding, and offer you affordable, innovative suggestions and practical solutions. If you are already enjoying our school photography services, have a chat to your advancedlife Client Manager about the great branding and printing offers available. If your school is not using advancedlife school photography services, and your parents and students are not enjoying the fantastic benefits of our advanced you portals, why not allocate a time to discuss an obligation-free, personalised offer, tailored to your school’s requirements? We are making school photography and print easy!
Print Partner  Fuji Xerox Australia is part of a world leading enterprise for business process and document management solutions. We are proud to serve over 3,000 Australian schools with our broad portfolio of document technology, services, soft ware and supplies. No matter where your school is up to in its digital transformation, Fuji Xerox Australia has answers. Welcome to a new school of thought.
IT Partner IT FOR SCHOOLS is an Information Technology company based in Brisbane, Australia and we provide schools Australia-wide with customised IT Support Solutions. We understand school-based education systems and our priority is the seamless facilitation and integration of state-of-the-art technology for schools which utilise the Australian School Curriculum, although we are not limited to this.  In so doing, we achieve complete satisfaction for our clients, enabling them to seamlessly reach their education goals and objectives in their budget-constrained environments.
Trade ExhibitorDaymap is a learning and student management system that helps augment existing school systems to make life easier for staff, students and parents. Our core product includes a range of features that can be used in a customised bundle that meets the needs of your school.
Trade Exhibitor EDUmarking create a fantastic range of long-lasting playground markings all across Australia. Our thermoplastic playground markings are vibrant and tough!
Trade Exhibitor Empowered Learning is Australia's leading supplier of the Promethean ActivClassroom and Promethean's Business Partner in NSW, ACT, QLD and NT.  Empowered Learning is Preferred Supplier to the Department of Education (DETPSA-100543).
Trade Exhibitor PL Hub - Our tailored professional learning focuses on the issues that are important to you and your team. Bringing together the expertise of Griffith University’s academics and research centres, our professional learning is designed to deliver creative solutions for the workplace of tomorrow.
Trade exhibitorMSP Photography is Australia’s leading school photography company. Our national footprint consists of 25 local businesses, backed by a national support network. Together we work closely with schools throughout the year, providing local, personalised service with a local understanding. Following our philosophy, we aim to make your life easy by skilfully handling the unique printing, promotional and marketing needs of your school, implementing innovative school solutions that extend beyond photo day.



Mary-Ellen Feldhagen

Conference organisers

Dot Dash Events

  • Leisa Thompson
  • Tina Gaudry

+61 447 031 410


Contact conference organisers if you would like to be a sponsor and or hold an exhibit.