This annual one-day event is an opportunity for current VU students to develop leadership skills and grow professional networks by hearing from inspirational keynote speakers, participating in interactive workshops and connecting with peers and community leaders.

The theme for this year’s conference was Human-Centred Leadership. Human-centred leaders take the time to get to know their teams, understand their needs and goals, and create an environment that allows them to perform at their best. They create a culture of trust, encouraging team members to speak up and share their ideas. This year’s conference was held on Friday 28 April at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre. Keynote Speakers and workshop presenters explored leadership practices that put people first, and empower you to empower others.

The Student Leadership Conference is hosted by the Student Leadership Team and is funded by the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF).

  View or download the 2023 Student Leadership Conference program

2023 Student Leadership Conference

Reflections on personal journeys & experiences with Human-Centred Leadership

Rochelle le Pere, Manager, Aboriginal History Archive at Moondani Balluk 

Natasha Ritchie, Research Archivist, Aboriginal History Archive at Moondani Balluk

 aboriginal history archive interns

Rochelle le Pere is a Ngati Kuia woman with a Masters in Community Development and a Bachelor of Music. With a career dedicated to the creative arts, education, youth and community sectors, Ro has experience managing projects of international scale as well as at local and national levels that have been designed and articulated by Aboriginal people within a practice of self-determination. Ro is currently the Manager of the Aboriginal History Archive at Moondani Balluk. 


Natasha Ritchie has completed a Bachelor of Social Work at Victoria University and currently works as a Research Archivist with the Aboriginal History Archive at Moondani Balluk. In 2022, Natasha completed an undergraduate internship with the Aboriginal History Archive, where she lead a project centred around the individuals who were essential to the establishment and success of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Network including the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, Koori Kollij, Aboriginal Medical Service Redfern, National Aboriginal and Islander Health Organisation and the Aborigines Advancement League.  

Attendees will choose one of the following workshops in the morning session

Leadership to Inspire

Mark Moore, Training Consultant - Institute for Communication, Management & Leadership

 Mark Moore profile picture

Leadership is multifaceted - often it is associated with profitability, deadlines and results, but these are by-products of effective leadership. There is the organisational and communication aspect, where the leader takes this information and crafts it into a clear vision and motivates others to embrace it. There is the team aspect, where a leader unites people and inspires them to cooperate and support each other in the pursuit of this vision. Finally, a leader inspires individuals and helps them to grow and fulfil their potential. The most effective leaders understand that success happens with people, and that growing and developing employees is an integral part of the equation that leads to high performing teams. Human-centred leadership focuses on people, and building and maintaining strong relationships with your team.

In this session we will explore this aspect of leadership in more detail: We will examine:

  • typical mistakes for leaders to avoid
  • what prevents some staff from realising their potential
  • how to identify what motivates and energises your staff
  • techniques to help them realisetheir goals

Mark has over 30 years of training, consulting and presenting experience. He has designed and delivered a wide range of technical and conceptual courses and presentations over this period. He has an Economics and International Politics degree from UNISA and the University of the Witwatersrand and has delivered over 2000 programs to over 200 organisations across several countries. His approach to training is to blend theory with lessons drawn from actual work experience. To achieve this end presentations are delivered in accordance with Modern Adult Learning Principles. Mark works hard to establish an open and trusting environment where participants are comfortable to share and explore these real-life experiences. His approach is to avoid over theorising - the emphasis is on practicality. Mark believes that participants should be able to immediately apply some of the tools and techniques they have learned.

Storytelling for Impact

Fleassy Malay, Writer, Educator, Performer

 Fleassy Malay profile picture

This session presents a deep skillset of storytelling techniques. With a focus on connection and harnessing of theatre skills, we look at how to foster a deeper connection with your audience utilising some basic storytelling techniques on stage. This workshop gives lived experience and practical exercise

Two times TEDx speaker and award winning poet, Fleassy Malay is an Internationally renowned, evocative and powerful spoken word artist, speaker and coach. A global advocate for Women’s and LGBTQI+ rights and a fierce voice for the power of authenticity and courage as a social change tool. She is the founder of Melbourne’s acclaimed not for profit organisation and Women's Spoken Word event, Mother Tongue Poetry. A passionate, powerful, vulnerable and honest performer who's words leave a profound impression. Fleassy has a theatrical and yet deeply authentic performance and speaking style renowned for captivating their audiences with depth, honesty, and humor. Alongside their own course and classes Fleassy also educates doctors and clinical staff for PMCV on Communicating with Confidence.

Ashlie Thorburn and Amin Eslami, Student Leadership Assistants

 Amin Eslami and Ashlie Thorburn, student leadership assistants

Ashlie and Amin are Leadership Assistants and LEAD Program Facilitators in the 2023 Student Life and Leadership team.

Ashlie is a student studying a Bachelor in Dermal Science and is currently in her third year. She is experiencing clinical work at the VU Dermal Clinic to support skin health concerns. At VU she has worked as the Vollies Assistant in the Student Life and Leadership team and a Student Ambassador for the Future Student’s team. As a student, she was a Team Leader at V4U Day and is completing the LEAD Program.

Amin is a preservice teacher, in his second year of studying at Victoria University. He is also a project Leader with the EnactusVU Club. He is a VU Vollie, and VU Blood Champion working with Life Blood team of Red Cross Australia. 

Ashlie and Amin will lead a networking session, explain why networking is important and share tips and tricks you can start practising straight away.

Earned Leadership as True Leadership

Dr Teresa De Fazio OAM (MAICD), Director, Intersect Global Partners

 Teresa DeFasio profile picture

Leaders are shaped by their vision, motivation, and sense of responsibility in engaging with people and the work before them. Each leader has a certain skill set, but they will also be shaped by their many formative experiences, some of which they will not even notice. This workshop will explore how people transform into leaders and provide an opportunity to reflect on what you bring. This highly interactive and thought-provoking workshop explores and breaks down various key notions which are integral to leading a healthy and productive environment around them, whether it be a workplace, team or community organisation.

Workshop participants will:

  • explore their personal leadership pathway
  • identify how they limit themselves in achieving or recognising ;their leadership potential
  • consider strategies to ensure that leadership provides equitable opportunities and practices for all as part of the responsibility of being a leader
  • examine the notion of earned leadership
  • have fun as they reveal their leadership self.

Dr. Teresa De Fazio OAM has a strong background as an academic in the fields of education, inclusion and equity and leadership. She is the Director of Intersect Global Partners organisation that focuses on supporting a broad range of equity and inclusion initiatives with corporate, government and not for profit entities. She remains an Adjunct Fellow of Victoria University. She has published various books, reports and papers and presented at both national and international conferences. Teresa was awarded the Order of Australia in 2021 for her services to tertiary education.

Teresa mentors and champions people who also contribute to bettering the community and workplace. A passionate advocate for multiculturalism, she was appointed as Commissioner for the Victorian Multicultural Commission for two terms by the Victorian Government. Teresais a Board Director for Zoos Victoria, and former Board Director of Multicultural Arts Victoria and Edmund Rice Community and Refugee Services. She is also a Community Ambassador for Melbourne Victory Football Club and Love of Languages, and works as a freelance journalist and writer.

Level up your Leadership

Tionne Young, Co-Founder and Programs Director, The ASE Group

 Tionne profile picture

Ready to level up your leadership? Join Tionne for a dynamic workshop on leading with energy and intention. Human-centered leadership is about putting people at the heart of everything you do. In Tionne's workshop, you'll gain a deeper understanding of how to lead with empathy, compassion, and intention. You'll learn how to create an environment that values and prioritises the needs of your people and how to build meaningful relationships that drive positive change. Most of all - you'll have heaps of fun!

Tionne Young is a young professional with a passion for creating memorable experiences and opportunities for young people. She is the Program Director at The ASE Group, which is a business for good that deliver education, entrepreneurship and employment programs for Australians of all ages. Their mission is to equip every Australian with the skills, resources and mindset they need to start a business or enter the workforce, regardless of their postcode.

With experience in event management and community building, she has worked with organisations such as the Australian Government, MYOB, and Westpac to deliver youth engagement programs. One of her career highlights was being responsible for the delivery of the Minister's Climate Challenge, featuring the Former US Vice President, Al Gore. Tionne Co-Founded the ASE Group when she was 21 years old. 

She has worked with thousands of young people across Australia and New Zealand and has been responsible for overseeing the delivery of youth engagement for over 180,000 young Aussies. When she's not busy creating events that inspire and empower young people, you can find her cooking up a storm in the kitchen, dabbling in amateur painting, or getting her daily dose of dog.

The Canary Cage

Aaron Fitzgerald, COO Grill’d Domestic | CEO Grill'd International

 Aaron Fitzgerald, COO Grill’d Domestic - CEO Grill'd International

Human-centred leadership begins with the conscious leadership of yourself.  

Hear Aaron’s story about how a young boy from Lilydale on the outskirts of Melbourne became the COO of national burger chain Grill’d and is now taking healthy fast food to the world as CEO of Grill’d International. 

Aaron is a leader who has worked with some of Australia’s most famous and fastest growing brands, including Village Cinemas, Swisse Vitamins (General Manager) and NQR groceries (CEO). He has a proven track record of driving growth and profitability via culture, people, strategy and structure. His ability to think outside the box has earned him a reputation as an innovator and has helped him turn around the fortunes of the businesses he has worked for. 

As CEO Grill’d International and COO Grill’d Domestic, Aaron is responsible for taking Grill’d to international markets. Aaron led Grill’d through the impacts of COVID ensuring the business not only survived but thrived.  

Aaron has proved time and again that he can steer an organization through difficult times and help it respond to changing external forces. His people-oriented approach and focus on providing a positive culture builds high-performing teams that are able to deliver these results. 

Aaron has a clear understanding of his purpose in life, or his “why?”. It is to give young people opportunity, education and belief. He is dedicated to helping others around him reach their goals and potential. He sees it as paying forward the belief someone once showed in him as a young professional. 

Aaron will share his knowledge and experience and let you in on some of his secrets.  

  • what are the most important words you will ever hear?  
  • how to lead yourself to drive peak performance of your teams  
  • why culture now beats strategy in importance of driving teams and business  
  • the 4 C's of building a successful Culture, Company, Community, Customer. 

To find out more about Aaron, follow him on LinkedIn


Photo Booth

 student leadership attendees group photo

Update your LinkedIn photo during the day, and join your new conference friends in group photos during the post-conference networking session!

Helen & Anshi

 musicians Helen & Anshi playing at the 2022 Student Leadership Awards

VU Music Agency's Helen & Anshi are a Melbourne based guitar/vocal duo and the newest addition to the VU Music Agency. They play a variety of pop, soul and indie tunes as well as their own original music infused with similar styles.

Catering and Networking

 students networking at the 2022 Student Leadership Conference

Enjoy coffee, hot chocolate or a variety of traditional, herbal and fruit-infused teas before the conference begins.

Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and snacks will be served for morning tea.

Lunch will feature a selection of delicious hot and cold options, plus a buffet featuring vegetarian salads, assorted roasted protein and condiments all free of gluten and nuts.

Stay for the post conference networking event and enjoy canapés and beer, wine, soft drink or juice.

 student at 2022 Student Leadership Conference

2022 Student Leadership Conference

The theme for the 2022 Student Leadership Conference was Leading in the New Reality.

The conference was held on Friday 20 May 2022 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

View or download the 2022 Student Leadership Conference program

Karen Jackson, Executive Director Moondani Balluk

 Karen Jackson, Yorta Yorta woman and Director of the Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit.

Karen Jackson (KJ) is a proud Yorta Yorta woman with more than 20 years' experience creating culturally safe spaces to enable Aboriginal people to aspire to personal, family and community goals by engaging with Aboriginal community members and service providers in the west of Melbourne. KJ is the Executive Director of VU's Moondani Balluk Indigenous Academic Unit.

Attendees will choose one of the following workshops in the morning session

“Metaverse Mental Health” Designing a healthy digital future

Emily Unity, Mental Health Professional & Software Engineer 

Emily Unity profile picture

Technology is transforming the way we live, work, and play… but what is it doing to our mental health?

Traditionally, new developments in technology have been feared and assumed to be evil. Some common narratives state that “social media poisons our minds”, “technology disconnects us from reality”, or “video games make us violent”. This workshop offers an alternative narrative and invites participants to shape their digital future. You may be familiar with the concept of the “metaverse”. Over the past few years, it’s been making headlines due to its unmatched potential, and now tech giants are building the foundations for the digital future. 

It is only a matter of time before we seamlessly integrate into the virtual world and it is imperative that we learn how to prioritise people over profits. Technology is not inherently bad, but we are often not supported to explore new developments in ways that are healthy for us. In this workshop, we will discuss how we can design a healthy digital future and prioritise mental health in the metaverse. We will explore parts of the metaverse, including virtual reality, social media, and video games, including how they can be used to help mental health. Participants will be involved in an interactive experience that will start conversations about mental health, technology, and the future possibilities. 

The workshop presenter, Emily, is a mental health professional, software engineer, and ex-professional gamer. They have experienced mental health challenges and recovery, and have worked across the sector to create healthier futures. For Emily, virtual worlds and communities gave them the creative freedom and emotional support that they could not find in real life. They want to use both their professional and lived experience to highlight that mental health recovery is not one-size-fits-all and technology can be used for social good.

Creative problem solving

Institute for Communication, Management & Leadership

 Mark Moore profile picture

Most people spend a significant part of their days finding solutions to problems. A customer is not happy with their product, a project has been delayed, a patient has an illness that needs to be identified, a vehicle is not running smoothly or perhaps an architect has to fit a construction onto a small block.  Since we spend so much of our time solving problems and making decisions it makes sense to regularly review and fine tune the techniques we use. In this session we will:

  • identify typical mistakes to avoid when solving problems
  • detail a simple problem-solving process
  • examine creative thinking techniques that help generate novel solutions
  • explore the role of intuition
  • review decision-making techniques to help identify the best solution.

Mark has over 30 years of training, consulting and presenting experience. He has designed and delivered a wide range of technical and conceptual courses and presentations over this period. He has an Economics and International Politics degree from UNISA and the University of the Witwatersrand and has delivered over 2000 programs to over 200 organisations across several countries. His approach to training is to blend theory with lessons drawn from actual work experience. To achieve this end presentations are delivered in accordance with Modern Adult Learning Principles. Mark works hard to establish an open and trusting environment where participants are comfortable to share and explore these real-life experiences. His approach is to avoid over theorising - the emphasis is on practicality. Mark believes that participants should be able to immediately apply some of the tools and techniques they have learned.

How to be a great Mentor and Mentee

Founder - Campus Consultancy

Josh Farr profile picture

This workshop aims to increase the confidence of mentors and mentees by identifying why they are involved in the mentoring program (what’s in it for them), what potential barriers may get in the way (what’s holding them back) and what skills/mindsets/knowledge they can develop in the program (how they will grow).  


  • Identify the purpose of mentoring. 
  • Explore barriers and ideate solutions. 
  • Apply the G.R.O.W. model of mentoring. 
  • Prepare for outreach and relationship building stages of mentoring. 
  • Continue to build rapport in the long term.

Josh Farr is passionate about young people stepping into their leadership potential. After gaining a First-Class Honours Degree from UNSW and working as a civil engineer, Josh realized he was in a job he didn't love. He left and spent the next two years travelling and working across 39 countries before returning to Australia to work in education & non-profits. Josh worked as the Victorian Recruitment Manager for Teach For Australia & Partnerships Executive for TEDxMelbourne where he discovered the power of social entrepreneurship as a vehicle for positive social change and innovation. 

In 2017, Josh founded his first company, Campus Consultancy and has grown it to be a market leader. His team has since taken more than 34,000 student leaders from 39 universities through his workshops on leadership, entrepreneurship & emotional intelligence. He has delivered 2 TEDx talks, is a World Cup Judge for ENACTUS, and his team leads strategic state-wide initiatives for 6 Australian state and territory governments.  

To learn more about Josh, connect with him on LinkedIn (, or visit his website,

Dr Tania Miletic,  Assistant Director, Initiative for Peacebuilding at the University of Melbourne | Founder, Peace-Meal Peacebuilding Initiative

Tania Miletic profile picture

Tania is a regionally recognised peace leader who will provide fresh insights into the way we approach conflict theoretically and stay grounded in rapidly shifting realities of practice. Tania will draw on her experiences in teaching, research and peacebuilding program support in Australia, Asia and the Pacific.

Tania will encourage student leaders and facilitators to get creative, embrace the changes and challenge themselves to be leading in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.

With her plenary before lunch, Tania will also share her thoughts about the promotion of everyday forms of peace through sharing stories and meals to help connection and community. Students will leave with some suggested questions to reflect and share over lunch.

Tania is an experienced academic and practitioner with a commitment to working collaboratively on real-world challenges from conflict prevention, social cohesion to good governance, with an ambition to influence positive change. Tania is the Assistant Director of the Initiative for Peacebuilding at the University of Melbourne. For over a decade Tania has taught as a Sessional academic with Victoria University and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, based in Cambodia.

Tania has been engaged as a consultant and facilitator to a range of government and non-government organisations and stakeholders in the areas of peacebuilding, political affairs and community engagement. Tania is also the founder of Peace-Meal Peacebuilding - an initiative that profiles and supports the important work of peacebuilders globally through connecting people through sharing stories and recipes from times of peace and conflict. A book is coming soon and the website and blog are home to this information.

Attendees choose one of the following workshops in the afternoon session

The importance of adaptive leadership in 2022 

Jahin Tanvir, Head of Growth - Campus Consultancy 

 Jahin Tanvir profile picture

The last 2 years have been difficult for many, and our understanding of leadership has changed because of that. In this session, students will learn about 4-leadership archetypes based on the Visionary, Pacesetter, Coach and Relationship Builder, and how these leadership roles can be effectively translated into the world we live in right now. Adaptive leadership is a minute-by-minute choice, and after this workshop, students will be able to make an even more informed choice on how they want to lead in their life and how to thrive as a leader in this new leadership climate of 2022. 

Students will learn to: 

  • derive the principles of strong leadership from personal experience 
  • describe the 4 leadership archetypes and becoming an ‘adaptive leader’ 
  • assess your areas of strength and development across the archetypes 
  • apply the 4 leadership archetypes to situations you may face in your role as a student leader and how that has changed over the years 
  • apply adaptive leadership into your personal/academic goals in 2022. 

Jahin Tanvir is an award-winning keynote and TEDx speaker, author, board director, and multicultural youth advocate. He is currently the Head of Growth at Campus Consultancy, proudly working with 38 Universities & 5 State Governments in Australia & the Pacific Region, providing entrepreneurship, leadership & emotional intelligence training. At 21-years-old, Jahin is a Diversity and Inclusion leader having been involved in several youth-led and multicultural organisations to champion youth empowerment, healthcare, and education for all young people. 

Jahin was recently named the 2022 Young Australian of the Year finalist whilst also receiving the 2021 Young Canberra Citizen of the Year in Individual Community Service. Jahin is a Board Director of the Adolescent Health Association of Australia and the Youth Coalition of the ACT.  

How To Get What You Want 

Kate Benesovsky, Victoria University Student Union (VUSU) 

 VUSU President Kate Benesovsky

This workshop aims to educate students about 'how to get what they want' through activism, advocacy and negotiation. Students will learn from current VUSU representatives, including VUSU President Kate, how they negotiate, and successfully bargain with decision making bodies, effectively 'getting what you want'.  


  • Learn how to build a campaign, and use social media as a positive tool. 
  • Explore various options of advocacy & activism. 
  • Expand their knowledge of negotiation, and decision-making bodies. 
  • Prepare to deal with roadblocks, and lead themselves & teams through failure. 
  • Build knowledge of appropriate language, techniques and more with conversing with stakeholders. 

VU Student Union (or VUSU) is the peak student representative body at Victoria University. We are an independent body from VU which live & breathe all things students!  

Our mission is to make all students lives' at VU easier, safer, smoother, and more fun, whether that be through social activities, college societies & the International Student Association, or welfare and educational activism. All our representatives are current students from lots of disciplines - Law, Education, Nursing, Psychology, Engineering and more. We are always looking for passionate students to get involved and join the student advocacy fight! 

What to do when change really hurts

Shiva Foroutan, Shayla Nguyen, Jessica Ritchie & Amber Karras, LEAD Program facilitators

 The LEAD Program - be more than you expected

Sometimes dealing with change can be much harder than we expect. In this workshop participants will learn about the different stages we experience when faced with a major change, and develop strategies to move through them and avoid getting stuck. 

The LEAD Program is a free, interactive and engaging leadership training program for current students. LEAD Program facilitators are students who have participated in the program and have stepped up to take on the role of sharing their knowledge with other students. Shiva Foroutan is undertaking a double degree in Business & Psychological Studies, is the President of the VU Psychology Society and the VU Student Union Cultural Diversity Officer. Jessica Ritchie is studying Psychology (Honours) and is the Secretary of the VU Psychology Society. Shayla Nguyen is studying Psychology (Honours) and is the VU Student Union Women’s Officer. Amber Karras is studying Science (Osteopathy) and is an Events Assistant in the Student Life team. 

Reinventing the workplace for a post-pandemic landscape

Vanessa Doake, Chief People Officer - Art Processors 

 Vanessa Doake profile picture

The pandemic has tested the mantle of modern leaders in every sector globally. In challenging conditions, companies are rethinking their ways of working, which traditionally relied heavily on face-to-face interactions, to accommodate a multigenerational, diverse, and generally fatigued workforce. But what exactly does this new world of work look like in a global, hybrid setting? 

In this session, hear how Art Processors, an experiential design and technology company, has turned its back on conventional and traditional workplace practices, re-designing what being a people-first organisation truly looks like: the policies, practices and benefits that support a hybrid and flexible workforce to succeed in the post-Covid world. Attendees will be provided with first-hand insight on the evolving responsibilities and expectations of organisational leading in the new reality:

  • Successful people-first policies that support life’s most challenging moments and foster human connections. 
  • Work practices that promote—and, importantly, prioritise—flexibility and work-life balance. 
  • Creating a supportive human-centric employee experience for a globally dispersed workforce. 

Vanessa is the Chief People Officer at Art Processors, a global experiential design and technology company, where she designs and executes the people and workforce strategy.  

She drove the organisation’s certification as a Family Inclusive Workplace, recognising the company’s commitment to flexing with the caring responsibilities of its diverse workforce. Always seeking to improve representation at Art Processors and within the wider tech community, she also partners with CareerTrackers to provide paid internship opportunities for Indigenous students. 

Before joining Art Processors, Vanessa co-founded Code Like a Girl, a groundbreaking social enterprise that challenges the significant imbalance of gender representation in Australia’s tech industry. As Chief Operating Officer, Vanessa introduced and optimised programs to attract and retain girls from all walks of life in STEM education and technology careers. Among her proudest achievements was a first-of-its-kind internship program she designed that didn’t require the applicant to be studying or hold a tertiary qualification and encouraged culturally diverse women and non-binary identifiers into the industry.  

Throughout her professional career, Vanessa has held several senior and executive positions in People and Culture, working with organisations across the tech, legal, health, education not-for-profit, and government sectors. She strives for more inclusive, human ways of approaching business, imploring organisations from inside and out to do better when it comes to their most valuable asset—their people. 

Previous conferences

Past speakers include:

  • Catherine Bell (Bell Training Group)
  • Tasneem Chopra (Anti-Racism Champion, Australian Human Rights Commission)
  • Professor Marcia Devlin (Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Vice-President, Victoria University)
  • Rebecca Scott (STREAT)
  • Kon Karapanagiotidis (Asylum Seeker Resource Centre)
  • Vanessa Doake (Code Like a Girl)
  • Conrad Tracey (Inspire9)
  • Nina Roxburgh (Foundation for Young Australians)
  • Tom Amos (Sidekicker)
  • Fiona Triaca (Naked Ambition).

The 2021 Student Leadership Conference was on Friday 30 April 2021, with delegates joining online.

The theme was Resilience and Reinvention.

View or download the 2021 Student Leadership Conference program

The event included inspirational keynote speakers, interactive workshops, catering, networking, a LinkedIn photo booth and more!

Keynote address by Professor Adam Shoemaker, Vice-Chancellor & President

 Professor Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker is the Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University.

Prior to his current appointment, he was Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University, and has held senior leadership roles at a number of other Australian universities. He is one of Australia’s leading researchers in the area of Indigenous literature and culture.

Adam has a compelling vision for the future of Victoria University, with a goal to make VU the best dual sector university in the world. Adam is excited to lead VU as we innovate and sharpen our progressive way of learning to ensure graduates are ready to make a real contribution to the workforce, whether it is around the corner or around the world.

Closing Keynote: Nyadol Nyuon

 Nyadol Nyuon

Nyadol Nyuon is a lawyer, community advocate, writer, and accomplished public speaker.

Nyadol was born in a refugee camp in Itang, Ethiopia, and raised in Kakuma Refugee camp, Kenya. In 2005, at the age of eighteen, she moved to Australia as a refugee.

Since then, Nyadol has completed a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Melbourne. She now works as a senior consultant in the Community Crime Prevention Unit of the Victorian Department of Justice.

Nyadol is a vocal advocate for human rights, multiculturalism, the settlement of people with refugee experiences and those seeking asylum. She has worked and volunteered extensively in these areas with a range of organisations.

Nyadol is also a regular media commentator in these areas, having appeared on ABC’s The Drum, as a panellist on Q&A and contributing to The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and the Saturday Paper, to name just a few.

Plenary presentation: Simple strategies for our mental wellbeing

The plenary session will provide a brief overview of the evidence behind the everyday strategies we can use to promote and protect our physical and mental wellbeing. We will share a few examples and practice a couple of brief and simple wellbeing techniques together.

Dr Alex Parker, Executive Director of the Institute for Health and Sport/Professor of Physical Activity and Mental Health

Alex Parker is the Executive Director of VU's Institute for Health and Sport (IHES). IHES addresses real-world problems of local, national and global relevance in both health and sport. Research within IHES encompasses exercise science, active living, chronic disease, biomedical sciences, technology, nursing, community health, psychology, public health, sport performance, sport in society, sport participation and sport business.

As a Professor of Physical Activity and Mental Health, Alex's research examines the role of movement in preventing and treating mental health concerns. Her research is mainly in youth mental health and she is also a practising clinical psychologist. Alex is involved in research to support the mental wellbeing of VU students and is a member of VU's Refreshed Student Mental Health Strategy 2018-2021 Reference Group.

In person workshops

Read about the in person workshops here.

Win the 'What if...?'s War

Anita van Rooyen, Confidence Hackers

 Anita Van Rooyen

You know those thoughts that keep you awake at night? The ones that keep swirling through your head, over and over? Together in this workshop we'll discover ways to win against your ‘what if...?', the ‘why me?’ and the ‘what the?’ thoughts.

Ignite & Rewrite Your Story

Anita van Rooyen, Confidence Hackers

In this interactive session, we'll discover the beliefs that hold us back from moving forward, then using guided vision work, create amazing new beliefs that powerfully move you forward to the version of leader you aim to be.

Resilience in your career & making opportunities

Daniel Lunardi and Tonya Wimhurst, Careers Consultants

 Daniel Lunardi

In this workshop we'll discuss resilience while searching for jobs and throughout the application process, as well as how to:

  • articulate skills developed through COVID-19 (resilience & adaptability)
  • network for support
  • explore and create opportunities for yourself through freelancing, entrepreneurship, networking, business creation, personal branding and embracing the gig economy in the future of work.
Transform discomfort & vulnerability into strength & resilience

Nicole Melder, Senior Counsellor, VU Wellbeing Services

Nicole Melder

Students will gain insights into how transformative discomfort, confrontation, and vulnerability can be when leaders have the courage to identify and admit to what we are feeling, even when the feelings may be extremely challenging to cope with. Nicole will share her experiences of being in challenging situations and invite students to share their own, and demonstrate how being open and honest about our vulnerabilities will transform us into agile, resilient and courageous leaders. Nicole will draw on work by Dr Susan David (psychologist and management consultant) to facilitate a discussion around emotions and how our emotions can be used as a strength rather than weakness.

Authentic leadership for planetary health

Jeannie Rea, Associate Professor, Senior Manager Planetary Health

Jeannie Rea

Our planet embodies resilience and reinvention – it always fights back despite all that humans do to destroy it. First Nations peoples around the planet have cared and advocated for the wellbeing of people, place and planet as custodians of Country, despite the relentless destructive impacts of invasion and colonisation. At VU we have made a whole of university commitment to make planetary health part of all we do. Students through participation and leadership in education and research as well as co- and extracurricular activities can make this real.

What makes a leader in transformative change for the wellbeing of people, place and planet? Do we need to reinvent leadership? Explore these questions, and workshop how to be a being a resilient and authentic leader to make a better world today and tomorrow.

Ending gender-based violence - what can men do?

Shelley Hewson-Munro, Teaching Focused Scholar & Project Manager, Working Together with Men

Shelly Hewson-Munro, smiling portrait in front of Australian forest

Join a leading expert in the field of gender-based violence and some guys who are working hard to become allies for equity.

Violence against identifying women and gender-based violence is one of the biggest social-justice issues and human-rights violations across the world. Ninety-five per cent of all violent acts are committed by men either towards women or other men, so many of the answers to changing this statistic rely on men joining women to work together to end violence at all levels in our society.

This session will explore:

  • Pro-feminism - could this be for you?
  • Outdated masculinity norms and their impact on men and our world.
  • Tips from men who have tried to be active bystanders and allies.
  • Your next steps for becoming an ally and principles that you can use personally, as well as in your leadership roles with men.
Resilient Me

Marian Cronin, Associate Director, Inclusion and Engagement

In small groups, women and female identifying people will have the opportunity to work with Marian for an experience of exploration, learning and growth. Together we will tap into our own resilience, recreating our narratives, examining our "self-talk", taming that "inner critic", and doing a deep dive into the myth that our success is due to "luck".

Yes, I am a human

Emma Sheridan, Senuri Weerasekara & Michael Deppeler, Student Mentors

This workshop will focus on human interaction, team building after isolation, group work and resilience. During our workshop we will be doing some interactive activities using a giant Jenga in the form of a competition. As fellow colleagues, we will also be focusing on the student experience during one of the toughest years we faced in 2020.

Building Resilience in a Disruptive World

Associate Professor Thinh Nguyen, Head of VU Academy

The last 12 months have seen unprecedented disruption and change. Many found it challenging, while other saw opportunities to thrive. What makes one person resilient while others falter from the stress? This workshop will present the science behind resilience and how to build it.

Online workshops

Read about the online workshops here.

Placemaking & planetary health possibilities for reinventing relatings

Dr Helen Widdop Quinton, Lecturer & Research Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities & Paramitha Eka Putri, PhD Candidate

Place and planetary health are both generative concepts for rethinking our relationships with and between people, places and the planet. In this workshop we will explore these concepts and some applications. Through case examples we will draw attention to possibilities for placemaking, building resilience, restoration through nature connections, contact zones for action, and shifting of worldviews for planetary health.

As a workshop group we will identify strategic possibilities for your own place based and resilience activities.

Overcoming Implicit Biases & Covert Racism

Stefan Sambol, PhD Candidate - Institute of Health and Sport

 Stefan Sambol

An inescapable reality is we make thousands of decisions a day, ranging in severity and the amount of mental effort we apply when making a decision. There are many mental shortcuts we take to save time and effort. However, through these "automated" decision-making processes we are susceptible to biases and display clear favouritism for our own in groups.

In this workshop we will cover implicit cognition, how through our life experiences we have unconsciously made associations that may negatively affect how we interact with people of different ethnicities, gender, or sexual orientation. You will have the opportunity to complete a racial implicit association task and learn what "unconscious biases" you may harbour. Most importantly, we will learn what it means to have these implicit biases and how to be more "conscious" when interacting with others.

Using feedback to gain the edge in your next job interview

Justine Warne, Coordinator Enterprise Skills Development, Employability & Success

Justine Warne

This workshop will explore how to use feedback to your advantage in your next job interview. You will learn how to ask for constructive feedback, and how to apply it to give you the edge that will help you land the job you want.

The 2020 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 18 September 2020.

The theme for 2020 was Inspirational and Collaborative Leadership.

The Conference was held virtually through the EventsOnAir Online platform and included:

  • inspiring keynote presentations
  • interactive workshops
  • speed networking opportunities in between workshops to meet new people
  • a stretching session to promote physical and mental wellbeing
  • an opportunity to participate in a paint & sip event

Conference Program

Official Welcome: Leon Kerr (Director, Student Services) and Alexander Haw (Student Leadership Assistant)

Acknowledgement of Country: Karen Jackson, Director Moondani Balluk

Opening Keynotes

Professor Corinne Reid ‘Extreme Teams’

Professor Corinne Reid (DVC) is responsible for the VU Research Portfolio and co-sponsor of the Planetary Health initiative at VU.  

Corinne formerly held a Chair in Psychological Therapies in the School of Health in Social Science, The University of Edinburgh and continues to be a Senior Fellow of the Global Health Academy.

Corinne is also a primary researcher with the Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity in Western Australia, and co-lead of the FLOURISH research team with members in the UK, Chile, Malawi and Australia.

Corinne is committed to the values of Olympism; that is, the strengthening of the global community and development of mutual respect through sport. For the past 25 years she has worked with Olympic teams and individuals as they strive to be the best they can be.

Corinne’s PhD explored the personal qualities and values that support individuals and teams to perform under the most extreme conditions and to build team relationships that can withstand the pressures of the highest levels of competition.

Dr Ross Coller

Ross is a senior executive with over 25 years’ experience within the tertiary education sector, the last 14 with a focus on advancing the educational mission of universities through engagement with those outside the institution. 

His approach is on creating value through understanding the drivers of the University and building relationships based on trust, relevance, authenticity and resonance.

Ross is also the Chair of the VU Ally Network and is committed to creating an inclusive and respectful culture at VU for LGBTQI+ and gender diverse community members, staff and students.


“Tell me about yourself" confidently in 2020 - Annique Teycheney

Networking for Success – Anita van Rooyen, Confidence Hackers

Power up Your LinkedIn profile - Daniel Lunardi

Commitment to gender equality: a core 21st century skill - Marion Cronin & Fleur Taylor

Wise Words I Have Heard - Grant Weir

Being an LGBTQIA+ ally can inspire you to be a better leader - Tessa Caramia, Minus18

Performing Brave - resisting the persistence of sexism - Jeannie Rea

Leading Fearlessly – Anita van Rooyen, Confidence Hackers

How to foster team well-being, innovation and collaboration amidst the ultimate disruptor: a global pandemic! - Donna de Zwart, Fitted for Work

Stretching Plenary Session

Brooke Olsen from VU Sport guided conference attendees through a stretching session in the middle of the day. The much needed stretch after being zoomed out acts as a movement break that energizes students for the rest of the day’s workshops.

Closing Keynote

Catherine Bell ‘The Heart of a Leader’

A proud Victoria University graduate, Catherine is the Director of Bell Training Group, a boutique consulting firm inspiring visionary leadership and best people practice with organisations around the globe.

Catherine passionately believes that good business can change the world and through her own work, has contributed over 100,000 impacts towards the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, including clean drinking water, health and education support for those in need.

Catherine works with leaders and teams to help them find the courage to face challenges, create environments of excellence and bring out the best in every individual, and brings her unique blend of science and heart to every interaction.

Post Conference Social Event

Paint & Sip with Cork & Canvas: Conference attendees received a Creativity Kit with everything needed to paint. A talented artist guided participants step-by-step to paint the featured artwork while enjoying a glass of wine or other beverage and some nibbles.

The 2019 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 5 April 2019.

The theme was Inclusive Leadership: Leadership for All.


Professor Marcia Devlin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Vice-President, Victoria University


Empathy, body language, tolerance and words: What have they got to do with inclusive leadership?
Presented by: Alison Whan, Senior Alumni Relations Coordinator & Bec Carey-Grieve, Manager, Cultural Diversity, Footscray University Town

Advance Your Inner Leader
Presented by: Amy Liston, Learning Advisor – Careers

LEGO Serious Play
Presented by: Vicky Schilling, Talent Connect Coordinator, Victoria University & Annique Teycheney, Industry Mentoring Project Officer, Victoria University

Developing an Intercultural Leadership Mindset
Presented by: Dr Teresa De Fazio, Manager, Cultural Diversity, Victoria University

Sharing Aboriginal Story & Testing Your Cultural Lens
Presented by: Karen Jackson, Director, Moondani Balluk

Is Inclusive Leadership 21st Century Leadership?
Presented by: Marian Cronin, Senior Manager, Respect & Responsibility, Victoria University

The Enlightened Leader
Presented by: Tanya Camilleri, Facilitator, Neuroscience Coach and Speaker, The WRAP Group

Creating Diversity in Leadership
Presented by: Victoria University Student Union (VUSU) Executive team


Tasneem Chopra, cross-cultural consultant and writer

The 2018 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 31 August 2018.

The theme was The Future of Work.

Conference speakers

  • Amanda Brown – Social Innovation Manager at Australia Post
  • Amy Liston - Learning Advisor - Careers, Centre for Student Success
  • Bec Carey-Grieve – Manager, Place and Creative Program, Footscray University Town
  • Devon Taylor – Executive Director at Women's Circus
  • Dimity Gannon – Community Health & Wellbeing Manager at Western Bulldogs Community Foundation
  • Dr Teresa De Fazio – Manager, Cultural Diversity, Victoria University
  • Fiona Triaca – CEO of Naked Ambition
  • James Goring – 21st Century Skills Project Officer, Centre for Student Success
  • Leonie Nott – Talent Connect Coordinator, Centre for Student Success
  • Nina Roxburgh – Public Affairs Coordinator, The Foundation for Young Australians
  • Peter Sandor – CEO of Fearless Digital
  • Thomas Anbeek – VU Entrepreneur in Residence, Learning & Innovation
  • Tom Amos – CEO and Founder of Sidekicker

The 2017 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 1 September 2017.

The theme was Leadership for Social Change.

Conference speakers

Rebecca Scott is the co-founder and CEO of award-winning social enterprise STREAT. Scientist turned social entrepreneur, Bec grew STREAT from a single food cart in 2010 to a portfolio of seven businesses. STREAT has served 2 million customers, and provided over 55,000 hours of training to over 800 young people.

Kon Karapanagiotidis OAM is a lawyer, social worker and teacher who has worked with individuals facing inequality and oppression for the past 26 years. Kon founded the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in 2011. ASRC is the largest organisation helping people seeking asylum in Australia.

Koky Saly was born in Cambodia in a temple that had been converted to a prison for pregnant woman. Koky and his family sought asylum in Australia when the war ended. He has pursued his interest in community support through his work with BabyTree Projects, a non-profit organisation he founded in 2007, and Beekeeper, which he launched in 2014.

Liz Mordaunt is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Victoria University, where she is responsible for developing leadership programs. She is also a long-time volunteer for Forever Friends Pet Rescue.

Mirai Kirsanovs is the co-founder and director of Asia Options. Asia Options is an online community and information hub that aims to empower and enable young Australians to access professional and educational opportunities across Asia. She has worked in the not-for-profit sector in China and the U.S. and now works at Asia Australia Mental Health.

Conrad Tracey is a thought leader in the start-up, music and local community. He is currently working with Inspire9 to empower small teams and individuals to achieve greatness through generating connections locally, nationally and globally. Conrad is a passionate entrepreneur with a deep interest in problem solving, leadership, community and helping people prosper.

Vanessa Doake is a co-founder of Code Like a Girl, a highly successful and award-winning organisation that provides girls with the support, tools and knowledge to enter and flourish in the world of coding. Vanessa leads HR and Operations at the Women's Legal Service Victoria and serves as a committee member for the Australian Human Resource Institute Diversity Network.

Vincent Shin has a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) from Victoria University. In 2016 he was the recipient of the Modelling a Generous Community Award from the Commission for Children and Young People, and a finalist in the Young Achiever Alumni Award category at VU's Alumni Awards. Employed by Westjustice, Vincent is based at The Grange P12 College in Hoppers Crossing and provides legal advice and representation to students.

The 2016 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 16 September 2016.

The theme was Leadership for Social Change.

Conference speakers

Penny Daly is a life-long volunteer and social worker who founded The Welcome Group, a charity which supported nearly 4000 houses of newly arrived refugees with material aid basics.

Rhyll Dorrington has worked in varied roles within the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, she is currently CEO of Western Chances, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided 2600 young people facing financial barriers with scholarships to support their educational journey”.

Simon Griffiths is an engineer and economist turned social entrepreneur who gives a crap. His latest venture is Who Gives A Crap?, an environmentally friendly toilet paper using 50% of its profits to build toilets in the developing world.

Tim Marchinton is a VU alumni and founder of Purple Soup, a unique not-for-profit organisation that offers adventure camps and day programs to children affected by serious illness and their families.

Liz Mordaunt is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Victoria University and responsible for developing an enriched leadership program. She is also a long-time volunteer for Forever Friends Pet Rescue.

Koky Saly has built five schools in rural Cambodia through BabyTree Projects, a non-profit organisation he founded. He has also founded Beekeeper, a fashion and accessories social venture, which funds English classes for Cambodian children.

Danya Sterling is the Manager – Education Enterprises at The Big Issue with numerous experience as an educator, and on community development projects in internationally.

The 2015 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 21 August 2015.

The theme was Challenges of Change.

The 2014 Student Leadership Conference took place on Friday 16 May 2014.

The theme was Your Future.

Keynote speaker, Susan Alberti AO, is one of Australia’s pre-eminent philanthropists, having donated millions of dollars to medical research and other charitable causes over her successful business career. Susan was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia on in 2007, in recognition of her long and outstanding contribution to major medical research institutions, particularly as a philanthropist, fundraiser and advocate for Type 1 diabetes care and research.

Other engaging and inspirational speakers spoke to students about their experiences, successes and some of the challenges they had to overcome.

2021 Conference highlights

 Guests at 2019 Student Leadership Conference
 Guests at 2019 Student Leadership Conference