The REAIE Committee
The REAIE Committee is an entirely volunteer group that serves the membership through project groups and collective decision making.
Project groups meet regularly and are responsible for proposing the scope of work relevant to their project, the budget, the time frame and the resources.
Each month the whole committee meets to hear about the progress of each of the projects and to respond to any pressing issues. Each committee member sits on one or two project groups.
Much time, many skills and numerous points of view are needed to make the work happen. Many REAIE members and the Network Groups through the Network Conveners offer suggestions and feedback about the future directions of the organisation.
Committee members are elected for a two year term. If you are interested in being involved with the REAIE Committee, please click here.
The REAIE Committee - 2021-2022
Kerrie O’Neill is an Early Childhood Consultant, with over 30 years experience as a kindergarten teacher, director of an early learning centre, trainer and assessor, and as a tertiary level lecturer at Melbourne Polytechnic (formerly NMIT). Kerrie has worked for the Victorian Department of Education and Training as an Authorised Officer and a Senior Policy Officer. Kerrie was a founding member of REAIE in 2000 and has been a committee member since. Kerrie’s work in the early childhood sector has been profoundly influenced by the educational project of Reggio Emilia, Italy, since her first study tour to the city in 1996.
Cara Mearns is a kindergarten teacher and the Head of Early Learning at Fintona Girls’ School in Melbourne. She have been actively involved with REAIE for many years, including participation with the Melbourne Network Group. As part of her role on the Committee, Cara is a member of the Documentation Centre, Conference and Challenge Projects. Cara is enthusiastic to continue her role as Vice Chairperson and is proud to be a part of the important work of REAIE.
Leanne Mits is a kindergarten teacher with 35 years’ experience, teaching in rural Victoria and Melbourne, in a variety of settings: Long Day Care, community kindergartens, TAFE and Playgroups. Leanne has been a REAIE Committee member since 2000; she is the national REAIE Secretary and Convenor of the Exhibition Task Group. Leanne has been a participant and also study tour leader of REAIE Study Tours to New Zealand and Reggio Emilia. Leanne coordinated a regional teacher’s network group for over 15 years, building the capacity of professionals in the region. Leanne’s teaching is grounded in learning through relationships, using documentation as a tool for listening, research and professional learning.
Heather Conroy has worked for many years in Australia and Singapore to support the professional learning of colleagues in building understanding around the values and principles of the educational project of Reggio Emilia. Her current position involves working with colleagues in both the ELC and Prep to Year 2. In Singapore (2003-2014) she established a Network Group as a reference point for Reggio Children in Asia. She became a committee member of REAIE in 2015 and represented REAIE at two Reggio Children International Network Meetings. She is currently co-convenor of the Conference Group. She values opportunities which support on-going professional learning and dialogue and working with such a dedicated and committed group of professionals as is the REAIE committee.
Catharine Hydon is the Director and Principal Consultant at Hydon Consulting. Over the last 10 years she has worked at a range of organisations and governments to understand and articulate quality and inspire change. With a Masters in early childhood education, Catharine has extensive experience in the early childhood sector beginning as a teacher in a kindergarten program in the northern suburbs of Melbourne to lead roles in a range of services and projects for children and their families.
Catharine draws on her experience and ongoing practice research to consider how theory connects and informs practice. Specialising in early childhood practice and pedagogy, quality improvement, policy and governance, the delivery of integrated services to engage vulnerable children and their families.
Catharine’s involvement in the early childhood sector is an important part of her commitment to the outcomes for children. She is a long-time member of Early Childhood Australia (ECA), regular contributor in ECA publications and has just completed 7 years as the Co-chair of the Reconciliation Advisory Group. Catharine is a Board Member of the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority and the Early Years-10 Curriculum and Assessment Committee for the VCAA as well as a second-tier reviewer for ACECQA.
Kirsty Liljegren is the former Director of Cornish College Early Learning Centre, in Patterson River, Victoria. During this time Kirsty has had the pleasure of working with educators in the professional learning space both nationally and internationally. Kirsty consults and lectures in a variety of contexts and shares insights from both a practitioner and leadership perspective. On the REAIE Committee Kirsty was Co-convenor of the 2017 Conference Project and is a current member of the Exhibition Project and the Professional Learning Project Group.
Chris is a former school principal of Cannon Hill State School in Brisbane. Currently, she is engaged in working on her Doctorate researching the leadership to implement the Australian Curriculum with the influence of Reggio Emilia. Chris has contributed to education in Queensland in a number of roles including consultancy in Indigenous education and parent participation as well as a Social Justice Coordination role. In 2005 the teachers and parents of her school worked in research teams to redesign the school. As a result, this school undertook to learn from the practices of Reggio Emilia. Year by year the school grew in its understanding of this work in the primary school context. Chris has participated in four Reggio Emilia study tours as well as a number of National Conferences. She is excited to be included in the REAIE Committee and looking forward to making a contribution to this important national agenda.
Deb Mann is a Wakka Wakka woman and describes her 35 plus years navigating early education and academia as a challenging learning experience. She has spent most of this time thinking about the disconnect between the western system that disrespects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s rights to have their families and communities collectively determining how their children learn. Deb recommends that cultural safety is improved by engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators and families to take the lead, and for educators and systems to rethink their current perceptions and practices to ensure that Aboriginal children’s and family’s rights are listened to and are practiced as a daily quotidian. Deb believes policy changes that ensures funding is directed to a community-controlled model, will sustain cultural authenticity. Deb believes that the privilege of experiencing Reggio in action was the first time she felt a sense of belonging, that aligned with her family, community and cultural beliefs. She has continued to think more about how the International Network of Reggio Emilia has sustained the integrity of the values that advocate for the rights of children to take the lead in their learning. She dreams of the day Australian educators are licenced by local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to ensure cultural ways are upheld and approached with respect and permission.
Kate Mount is an experienced Early Childhood educator working the majority of her career in Adelaide, South Australia. Kate has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and is currently the Director of St Peter’s Girls’ Early Learning Centre, Stonyfell, one of the prototype centres in the South Australian Collaboration. Kate has participated in two Reggio Emilia Study Tours and was convenor of the SA Network Group for six years, where she continues to be an active group member. Kate’s ongoing desire is to immerse herself in rich collaborative professional learning experiences.
Anna Munari has been a Kindergarten Teacher for more decades that she cares to mention, and has worked in a variety of settings, including in the private school system, local council, church and community kindergartens. Anna has worked as a Casual Academic/Tutor and Placement Supervisor in various tertiary institutions, including Deakin, RMIT and Melbourne Polytechnic. She has attended two Study Tours in Reggio Emilia, in 2006 & 2020, and still has a passion for the furthering the rights of the child and the advancement of early childhood education and mentoring of pre-service teachers. Anna has also facilitated sessions in the Documentation Centre as well as been part of the REAIE Research and Development Project Group. Anna’s involvement in REAIE supports her desire to continue to learn, understand and deepen her knowledge of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and practices.
Debbie Nicholas has 40 years’ experience as a Kindergarten Teacher having initially worked a community kindergarten setting for some years before teaching three and four year olds at Fintona ELC for over twenty years. Her teaching has been influenced by the principles and practices of the educational project of Reggio Emilia for the past twenty years. A committee member since 2010 Debbie has served on varied projects and has co-led Study Tours to New Zealand. Currently Debbie is on the Editorial Board of the Challenge, Convenor of the Marketing and Communications Group and assists with the organisation of the Documentation Centre. Debbie looks forward to continuing to work with other REAIE Committee members in advocating for children, educators and families through the promotion of dialogue, professional learning and research.
Sonia van Hout
Sonia van Hout has worked across a number of Educational setting including private providers, local government, independent schools enabling her to gain insight and experience in Early and Primary Years, Leadership and Management, Program and curriculum design, Professional Learning and development. Sonia has had a long association with REAIE and has previously been a member of the committee. Sonia’s experience in both Early childhood and Primary settings will enable her to contribute to the organisational goals, viability and continued development of membership benefits.
Ruth Wallbridge is a kindergarten teacher in a community kindergarten in Melbourne. She joined the REAIE committee in 2005, and is currently REAIE Chairperson and Co-Convenor of the 2019 Conference. Ruth has been involved in a number of project groups, has represented REAIE at two International Network Meetings, and feels privileged to have journeyed alongside educators as a Reggio Emilia Study Tour Leader. Ruth is honoured to serve REAIE, comprising many passionate and dedicated people who share the vision for a better world for every child.
Ruth Weinstein has over 45 years’ experience working in the early childhood sector. She has worked as a TAFE Lecturer and has been the owner and Director of two early childhood education settings in Sydney for the last 44 years. Ruth has attended 7 study tours to Reggio Emilia and is currently one of the Reggio Emilia Study Tour Leaders. Ruth has been a REAIE committee member since 2015. Ruth is a founding member of the NSW Eastern Suburbs Network group and is currently a Co-Convenor of this group. Ruth is keen to use her current roles to encourage and support educators in their growing interest in the Reggio Emilia philosophy.
Fiona Zinn is an educator first and foremost. In addition to this, she is an education consultant, researcher, curriculum developer and lecturer who works with early childhood and primary teachers from many different contexts. Based in Hobart, Fiona’s work with International Schools and Early Childhood Services regularly takes her to cities throughout the Asia Pacific and beyond. Since 2017, Fiona has collaborated with the Department of Education in Tasmania to design and deliver a Statewide Professional Learning Initiative: ‘ReFocus Teaching and Learning in the Early Years’. At the beginning of 2020 she returned to work a school context undertaking the role of Deputy Head (Early Learning – Year 1) at the Friends’ School in Hobart. Fiona continues to consult and advocate for children and pedagogy with Local and International Schools. Fiona joined the REAIE Committee in 2004 and is currently the Professional Learning Project Group Convenor. Fiona believes passionately in professional learning as a key strategy in the growth of REAIE and its members, as we strive to provide meaningful opportunities for educators to connect and exchange ideas towards a new identity for childhood and education.