Conference Schedule 

Click here to download the PDF Conference Program




Conference Day One:

Wednesday 13 September

08:30 - 16:00 ____________

Registration open

Art exhibition:

Open Canvas, Open Canvas was created to empower disadvantaged artists.

The art on displayed is created by artists from a range of backgrounds. Some have experienced homelessness; some have experienced substance abuse and addiction; some are on low incomes within supported and crisis accommodation, and others live with mental health issues and disability.  All purchases will go to supporting these artists and, attendees will also have the chance to enter to win a copy of their favourite artwork. 

09:00 - 10:00

Opening Plenary Session


John Blewonski, Council to Homeless Persons Chair and CEO of VincentCare

Welcome to Country

 Wurundjeri Elder Colin Hunter

Ministerial Address

The Hon. Martin Foley MP, Minister for Housing, Disability & Ageing 

10:00 - 10:20

Morning tea


10:20 - 12:00

Keynote Plenary Address

Putting the home into ending homelessness – the evidence from Europe

Can we end homelessness without housing for people who have no home? How do we build an effective homelessness service system? Many European nations have adopted evidence-based ‘housing led’ homelessness strategies, but with different implementation approaches. Professor Eoin O’Sullivan, a leading academic on homelessness in Europe, and editor of the European Journal of Homelessness points to the way forward for Australia by comparing the approaches in Ireland, Denmark, and Finland to highlight what works, and what doesn’t.
Keynote Address: 
Eoin O’Sullivan, Head of School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin 
Jenny Smith
, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons
Guy Johnson, Unison Professor of Urban Housing and Homelessness; Director, Unison Housing Research Program, RMIT University

12:00 - 12:45



12:45 - 14:00

Plenary Panel

The NDIS - is it working for people experiencing homelessness?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) delivers choice and control over individualised ongoing support to people with severe and permanent disability. This could be life changing for the many people who have psychosocial disabilities, alongside other complex needs, and who are highly vulnerable to homelessness. Yet in practice, there are roadblocks for homeless people with complex needs, on the path to having those needs met by the scheme. This panel will explore what’s working and what is yet to work for people with disability who are also homeless.


Kate Paterson
, Consultant with a background in advocating for appropriate housing and support for people with psycho-social disability


Mark Rosser, Director Scheme Strategies, Scheme practice approaches, Participants and planning, National Disability Insurance Agency

Mirella Rao, Flexible Outreach Support Service Coordinator, Launch Housing

Andrew HollowsExecutive General Manager - Research, Policy and Service Development, Launch Housing

14:00 - 15:10

Concurrent Sessions

1A: Swimming against the tide: managing impossible demand

Demand for homeless services far exceed the sector’s capacity to respond, and continues to increase as broader inequality deepens. This session explores the innovations in demand management and ‘triaging’ homelessness in specialist homelessness services and debates how best to balance competing needs.

Jenny Smith,
CEO, Council to Homeless Persons


Heather Holst, Deputy CEO, Launch Housing

Guy Johnson, Unison Professor of Urban Housing and Homelessness; Director, Unison Housing Research Program, RMIT University


Wayne Merritt, General Manager (Acting), Homelessness and Justice, Melbourne City Mission

1.B: LGBTIQ homelessness – understanding the gaps, delivering great responses

This workshop will explore how to deliver best-practice responses to LGBTIQ service users, and look at current projects in the area - including a pilot project focused at Launch Housing, and an upcoming project to develop specific guidelines for the sector. After hearing from the panel, you will be asked to join the conversation to inform the development of best practice guidelines for homelessness services working with LGBTIQ clients. This is policy in action – come ready to be part of the process and thrash out the real-life challenges and ways forward.


Sue Carlile
CEO, Family Access Network


Dr Cal Andrews, LGBTI Homelessness Research Project, Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia & The University of Melbourne

Sally Goldner, Executive Director, Transgender Victoria

Anna Wark, Practice Leader - Service Development, Launch Housing

1.C: Resolving tenancy issues: learning about great practice from the specialist advocates

Homelessness is often the consequence of tenancy breakdown, which makes resolving tenancy crisis a critical skill in the homeless workers' toolkit. In this practical workshop, you’ll learn top tips from the experts, including how to use unexpected avenues to solve tenancies at risk.


Angela Kyriakopoulos
, Homeless Advocacy Service, Council to Homeless Persons


 Tenants Victoria

Sally Kenyon, Lawyer, Homeless Law

Rachelle Driver, Women's Homelessness Prevention Project Liaison Officer, Homeless Law

1.D: Modern life and family breakdown: Join the dots with youth homelessness

Breakdown of family relationships is the most frequently identified reason that young people seek help with homelessness and feel unable to return home. We can better prevent youth homelessness or intervene early to respond if we better understand the nature and causes of this critical driver. In this workshop, Melbourne City Mission and the Australian Catholic University will share findings from new research undertaken with young people and their families that explores the dynamics of family breakdown. More info on sessions and speakers

Paul Turton, Senior Manager, Homelessness Early Intervention Services, Melbourne City Mission


Dr Justin Barker, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University

Steven Roche, Research Associate, Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University

1.E: Getting young people engaged: Music therapy in youth homelessness

"Music is my life"

"Music gets me through everything"

Many young people connect with music as part of their social world, to explore their identity, or just to relax. It is in this context that music therapy offers an opportunity to connect with young people, and to support and strengthen their pre-existing coping mechanisms; delivering a truly strengths-based intervention. 

This workshop will provide an overview of the music therapy program at Frontyard Youth Services and include an immersive music activity for participants. More info and session and speakers


Asami Koike, Registered Music Therapist Melbourne City Mission

15:10 - 15:30

Afternoon tea


15:30 - 16:30

Keynote Plenary Address Sponsored by Melbourne City Mission

Trauma and adolescent family violence: Delivering better homelessness responses

Young people who use violence in the home are often both victims and perpetrators of violence and commonly have experienced significant trauma. This presents complex challenges for both mainstream and youth homeless services. How can we both protect family members and best support young people with complex behaviour to become positive and independent adults with healthy relationships? What does our understanding of trauma bring to these problem-solving efforts? Dr. Anita Morris, the Family Violence Principal Practitioner at Department of Health and Human Services will speak on these challenges in the context of Victoria’s family violence reforms. More info on sessions and speakers

Keynote address:
Dr Anita Morris, Family Violence Principal Practitioner, Department of Health and Human Services

Vicki Sutton, CEO, Melbourne City Mission


Homelessness Achievement Awards Ceremony and reception drinks



Sami Shah, Comedian, ABC RN, ABC Melbourne, The Project and more



Conference Day Two:

Thursday 14 September 


08:30 - 15:30

Registration open


09:00 - 10:15

Keynote Plenary Address Sponsored by the HomeStretch Campaign

Resolving homelessness for young care leavers - Ireland's success

The Republic of Ireland has successfully reduced youth homelessness over the past 25 years. Starting with the Child Care Act, 1991  (which put in place a statutory right to services for homeless young people, including limited aftercare) through to Child Care (Amendment) Act 2015 (which provides an enhanced statutory right to aftercare), a combination of statutory entitlements and  strategic focus on prevention, homelessness among young people (under the age of 18) has substantially declined. Professor Eoin O’Sullivan will explore the lessons of the Irish experience – with a particular focus on the last part of the lengthy process to end youth homelessness, the provision of an enhanced statutory right to aftercare.

Keynote address:
Eoin O’Sullivan, Head of School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin 

Paul McDonald, Chair Homestretch and CEO, Anglicare Victoria 

Eveanne Liddle, Executive Manager, Southern office, Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)

Aisha Rizanovic, Young person with an experience of out-of-home care

10:15 - 10:45

Morning tea


10:45 - 12:00 

Plenary Panel: presented in partnership with the Victorian Indigenous Statewide Homelessness Network

Aboriginal homelessness: strengthening cultural responses / improving outcomes

Aboriginal people represent almost 1 in 10 clients of Victorian homelessness services, but there are few Aboriginal specific service responses. What are we doing well around prevention, early intervention, and tenancy sustainment with Aboriginal consumers, and where do we need service reform?

Dan Laws, Victorian Indigenous Statewide Homelessness Network Coordinator, Ngwala Willumbong


Jamie Waring, Service Manager – Wadamba Wilam, NEAMI

Karen Derschow, SHS Support Worker, Southern Metro, Ngwala Willumbong

Faye Chapman, Aboriginal Tenancies at Risk worker, Child and Family Services Ballarat (CAFS)

12:00 - 12:50



12:50 - 14:00

Plenary Panel

Effective support post-housing: What works? 

Once people experiencing homelessness are housed they often experience a new set of challenges – battling loneliness, managing unresolved trauma, and dealing with the day to day grind of poverty. A panel of people with a lived experience of successfully transitioning out of homelessness share their knowledge about what works, and what doesn’t, and pose some challenges for the homelessness sector.


Cassandra Bawden, Team Leader, Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons


Christine Thirkell,
Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons


Jody Letts, Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons

Trevor Brown, Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons

Jason Russell Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons

Allan Martin Peer Education and Support Program, Council to Homeless Persons

Emma Ladd General Manager, Quality and Service Development, Wellways Australia 

14:00 - 15:10

Concurrent Sessions

2.A: Ending rough sleeping and chronic homelessness: Practice evolution

The housing affordability crisis is driving dramatic increases in rough sleeping across Victoria. This has resulted in a corresponding escalation of media and political attention to the challenge of homelessness. This panel explores how practice is evolving to better respond to rough sleeping and chronic homelessness. You will hear from Tony Nicholson about the development of a state-wide strategy in relation to rough sleeping, explore options for more effective coordination of homelessness services in inner Melbourne, and understand how Street to Home and Crisis Supported Accommodation can provide pathways to permanent supportive housing.

Cathy Humphrey
, CEO Sacred Heart Mission, and Deputy Chair, Council to Homeless Persons


Tony Nicholson, Executive Director, Brotherhood of St Laurence

Sandy Forbes, Principal, NOUS Group

Theresa Swanborough OAM, Manager, Royal District Nursing Service, Homeless Persons Program

Jane Barnes, General Manager, Salvation Army - Adult Services

2.B: Reform reform reform: What has changed, and what remains to be solved?

New funding and significant reform have followed the Royal Commission into Family Violence. Reform has also been progressing in housing and homelessness services. This session explores and debates what reforms are taking place, what they might mean, and what remains to be done? 


John Blewonski, CEO Vincentcare and Chair, Council to Homeless Persons 


Fiona McCormack, CEO, Domestic Violence Victoria

Jenny Smith, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons

Josh Smith, Director, Human Services at Department of Premier and Cabinet

Lisa Morgan, Co-ordinator, Gippsland Homelessness Network 

2.C: “Happiness is hugging a therapy dog”: Exploring the use of Animal Assisted Interventions with homeless young people      

We know animal-assisted interventions (AAI) can have great benefits, including to help homeless young people cope with challenges, and build social skills, intrapersonal awareness, interpersonal skills and to reduce aggressive behaviours.

The session will showcase Frontyard Youth Services’ implementation of a 12-week Animal Assisted Intervention, facilitated by Lead The Way. You’ll learn about some of the short- and long-term benefits of applying the Neurobiological Model of Animal-Assisted Therapy and Interventions, about the practical challenges of using therapy animals, and about recent advances in AAI research with vulnerable population groups, and you will meet a wonderful therapy dog. More info on session and speakers


Poppy Fotiadis, Frontyard Youth Services

Melanie Jones, Lead The Way

Jess Heerde, Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Research Fellow, The University of Melbourne

2.D: Learning and employment - making the link for young people at risk of homelessness

Young people at risk of homelessness, and those who are homeless, often struggle to stay engaged in education or employment, making them highly vulnerable to social exclusion and long-term unemployment. This session explores why keeping young people connected is so important, and how to achieve it. More info on sessions and speakers

  • How early intervention can be accomplished systemically
  • The challenges and learnings from the Youth Foyer model, and its cost effectiveness
  •  How flexible education opportunities can improve homelessness outcomes
  • Innovations and reforms need to achieve collaboration between the homelessness and education sectors


Associate Professor David MackenzieSwinburne Institute for Social ResearchSwinburne University

David Wells, General Manager - Early Years, Education & Employment, Melbourne City Mission


2.E: Advocacy skills: How can we achieve change?

Working in homelessness is often immensely frustrating. We know we can end homelessness with the right strategies and resources, and yet despite considerable evidence about what is needed, every year the challenge grows. This session aims to empower homelessness sector workers and consumers with practical tools to be a part of the change process. Learn how to plan and execute a successful campaign, why and how to engage your local MP, how to get media attention, and how to make a digital splash on social media.


MP: Danny Pearson, State Member for Essendon

Kate Colvin Manager - Policy and Communications, Council to Homeless Persons

Lanie Harris Media and Communications Coordinator, Council to Homeless Persons


Belinda Lack, Digital Communications Officer, Council to Homeless Persons

15:10 - 15:30

Afternoon tea


15:30 - 16:30

Plenary Debate

Transitional housing: does it still have an important role in addressing homelessness 


Chris Povey, 
Head of Policy and Research, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission


Heather Holst, Deputy CEO, Launch Housing
Mark Smoljo, Community Housing Federation of Victoria
Mark Dixon, General Manager, Homelessness Services, UnitingCare Harrison



Michael Perusco, CEO, Unison Housing
Jo Swift, CEO, Kids Under Cover
Lucy Adams, Manager and Principal Lawyer, Homeless Law

16:30- 16:45

Conference close


Jenny Smith
, CEO, Council to Homeless Persons

Web Design by Gray Design Melbourne