Steering Committee

Volunteer Steering Committee Members 

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Our Steering Committee have been instrumental in advising the research team, keeping us informed, relevant, on time, encouraged and supported with their wealth of knowledge. They have helped author, edit and inform all of our resources and their support has made an enormous difference. We salute them!

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  Margaret Mead

Alison Tammen

Until 2024, Alison was an early childhood educator (B Education EC from UNE) with three decades of experience in various roles in early childhood. She is part of a defence family and faced the many challenges during relocations with young children and enjoyed the rewards of being part of a supportive community. She is has a keen interest both professionally and personally to be part of this project as a volunteer.

Professor Margaret Sims

Margaret is a Professor in Early Childhood Education and Care and has worked in the areas of family support and disabilities for many years. She researches in the areas of professionalism in early childhood and higher education, families, disabilities, social justice and families from CaLD backgrounds. She is an Honorary Professor at Macquarie University.

Marlize Pretorius


Marlize grew up in South Africa in a Military Family and joined the Army after graduating from High School. She was appointed as an officer at the end of that year and was part of the Army Engineer Corps (Field Engineers). Her husband was also in the military and they have teenage children now. Marlize studied Business at the Military Academy (a satellite faculty of the University of Stellenbosch), and she has a Masters of Communication degree Human Resources (Organisational Psychology). One of the subjects that she studied since second-year pre-grad was Military Psychology. Marlize has been in Australia since 2009 and works as a primary school Chaplain supporting many defence families.

Jeni Elkhuizen

Jeni is an early childhood educator working at a community preschool who is also studying her Masters of Education through Newcastle University. Her studies involve exploring policies and procedures in early childhood education and care. She currently supports children whose parents work away in the mines. Jeni’s partner has just joined the Navy and they have two young children who attend school with other children from defence families.

Jo Beavis

Jo is an Army Veteran who medically retired due to Post Traumatic Stress. Jo has three adult children, so offers the committee invaluable insight into veteran families, and those who have given their health in service. Jo assists a number of organisations that support veterans.

Associate Professor Jill Fielding

(From 2022)

Jill is an Associate Professor in STEM Education at the University of New England In Armidale, Australia. She is a former primary teacher, with a keen interest in teaching approaches that enhance student motivation and cognitive engagement in both mathematics and broader integrated STEM contexts. As a military daughter, grand-daughter, sister, niece, sister-in-law, wife and mother, I have had very close personal experience with resources and organisations that support defence families.

Darren Wagner

Darren grew up in an Air Force family. As a lived experience member of the Manna institute, Darren is also studying his PhD at UNE. He is a Post Traumatic Growth advocate, Psychotherapist and a former Police Officer with a lived experience of complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suicide attempt survivor with extensive experience working with mass trauma after supporting his community of Sandy Hook, United States through a school shooting. He is passionate about recovery and resiliency for individuals and communities.

Dr Sally Fitzpatrick

Sally is a Program Manager and member of Everymind’s Senior Leadership Team. She leads the Families and Caregivers priority program area and Everymind’s research team. She holds conjoint positions with both the University of Newcastle and Macquarie University, and is an Affiliate Investigator with the Hunter Medical Research Institute. Sally is a registered psychologist (with clinical psychology endorsement) and researcher who is passionate about the prevention of mental ill-health and suicide, as well as the promotion of wellbeing for all Australians.

Sally 950X725

Professor Navjot Bhullar

From 2023

Navjot is a Research Professor of Psychology at Edith Cowan University. Her research examines various psychological and environmental influences on mental health and well-being. She is especially interested in exploring risk and resilience profiles and how these are associated with mental health outcomes and designing and evaluating targeted messaging to support people in distress. She also has extensive experience in conducting survey-based research, program design and evaluation, and advanced statistical analyses.

Natasha Grabham

From 2023

Natasha is a psychologist and the Director of Programs, Fortem Australia. Fortem Australia is a national provider of wellbeing and mental health services for first responders and their families. Natasha has worked in service-related mental health with first responders and defence personnel since 2009. Prior to this her work was with families and children around developmental and learning difficulties.

Karen May

From 2023

Karen May is the Associate Director, Military and Emergency Services Health Australia. She is also working on her PhD at University of Adelaide, focussing on a therapeutic model for children of a parent with service-related Post-Traumatic Stress. Karen’s background is in psychotherapy, participatory action research and community development.

Karen has worked with many communities that have experienced trauma in Australia and developing countries. Since 2015 Karen has worked on building capacity in the military, emergency service and family sectors to improve health and wellbeing through research, advocacy and sector collaboration to establish policy, change, models of care and programs.

Lidia Hall

From 2023

Lidia is the partner of a Veteran who has mental and physical war service injuries. They have experienced the fragility and the confrontational cost of a war on human life. Trauma had a huge impact on their family, and as they recover, they would like to support others. Lidia found it very challenging to navigate and access the services and organisations to support their family to thrive and function. Lidia and her husband and team have founded Resolute Ready, aiming to encourage families to reach out and connect while providing them with access to services quickly and efficiently. Lidia has taught in varied sectors and age groups, from primary school to adult education.
From 2023
Colin is an education consultant based in the Albury-Wodonga area. He served with the Australian Army for 36 years as a regular and reservist. Colin’s family experienced Defence family life when he was posted and deployed to various locations. He had two years on attachment to Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
From 2024

Michelle Gossner is PhD student at Central Queensland University. She began her career as a primary school teacher working across various educational contexts in Australia and the UK. Michelle completed her Bachelor of Psychological Science (Honours) and received a First-Class classification. Prior to starting her PhD, Michelle undertook an undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship and interned on various research projects. She has a strong interest in child and adolescent development, particularly the influence of family context, parenting practices and parental mental health. Michelle is passionate about conducting research that can impact the community in a meaningful way.

Previous members of the Steering Committee

Michelle Anderson

During 2023

Michelle is an accredited mental health social worker and a project officer with Fortem Australia. She is working on the development and delivery of a suite of resources for first responder families, with a focus on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. Michelle is a former paramedic and primary teacher, UNE alumni for two degrees, mother of 3 sons, and wife of a retired paramedic.

Nikki Jamieson

(until early 2022)

Nikki Jamieson is a suicidologist and social worker, who has dedicated her life to suicide prevention since losing her son Daniel to suicide in 2014 whilst he was serving in the Australian Defence Force. Since then, Nikki’s primary focus has been suicide prevention with a particular focus on the Australian Defence Force. Nikki has a Masters in Suicidology, and is currently leading innovative and comprehensive Ph.D research (at UNE), exploring the concept of moral injury with former defence force members with the University of New England. Nikki has delivered presentations and workshops nationally, and has published on moral injury and has developed a conceptual analysis on moral injury (in press). Nikki also works strategically on early intervention and suicide prevention in Queensland and is actively involved in suicide prevention networks with memberships across multiple national and international organisations including International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, Suicide Prevention Australia and Beyondblue. She is also President of the Redlands Coast Suicide Prevention Network.

Emily Small

(until 2022)

Emily is a qualified early childhood teacher (UNE) with more than 15 years of experience, specialising in inclusion programs for children of military families. She is passionate about encouraging all early childhood services to respectfully acknowledge and develop an understanding of the challenges military families and children face, with a focus on embedding age-appropriate, sustainable programs. Coming from a military family herself, Emily has genuine insight into the issues these children face. She currently runs a consulting company Small Hands Early Learning. Prior to this, she has worked as a director, an international consultant and, most recently, an inclusion professional for the NSW/ACT Inclusion Agency in a role where she supported many military families.​ Emily has also independently founded education projects, both in Australia and internationally.

Denisa Cochran-Spadova

(Until 2021)

Denisa is currently raising young children within a defence family so fully understands the challenges and rewards the military lifestyle brings. She is passionate about supporting young children and families from the defence community.

Grant Harris

(Until 2021)

Grant is a representative of the Armidale Legacy Club of Australia. He has supported veteran families for many years and was the Branch Manager in Armidale, NSW for a number of years.

Tegan Kanard

(until 2023)

Tegan is the 4G Family Support Team Leader for NSW Legacy Club Services. Tegan works to support the families of veterans who have passed away or who suffer from ongoing debilitating mental health issues. Tegan’s background is counselling and child protection and she has a keen interest in supporting families and keeping them safe.

Professor Frances Martin

(Until 2022)


Frances has many years of experience as a researcher and lecturer in the field of psychology. She is currently at the University of Newcastle and has been researching in the field of dyslexia and the effects of alcohol and minor tranquilisers and dual tasks on cognitive processing.

Dr Gail McDonald OAM

Gail is a registered nurse, a lecturer in health at UNE, and a founding member of the Partners of Veterans Association of Australia Inc. She has a degree in psychology and her PhD explored the psychosocial well- being of partners of Australian combat veterans. Gail founded The Australian Families of the Military Research Foundation (AFOM) and received an Order of Australia Medal in 2011 for her work with past and present Military families. Gail is married to a Vietnam veteran.

Current service personnel

(until 2021)

As a father of young children, our active service member has much to contribute. He has just returned from deployment and is keen to support us to develop resources and conduct research to support defence children. He was previously a high school teacher and studied education at UNE.

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