Our 2023 Winners:


Practitioner of the Year 2023 Nominees (9 Nominees)

Bryony Wiseman - School Counsellor (Dee Why PS)

Bryony was chosen by her team as the practitioner who demonstrates exemplary professional practice in both the areas of clinical skill and knowledge. She is meticulous in the work she does and respects every family that she meets. These skills were recently demonstrated when listening to the complex needs of a family and appropriately adjusting the support that their child was accessing. The family was so thankful for this help that they contacted the Education Department to provide feedback about her “exceptional service”. The family reported “I would like to thank Bryony Wiseman for her extra efforts. We have a disabled child who will start school in 2025. It has been extremely difficult and upsetting dealing with a recent diagnosis of a high-needs disabled child. Bryony has gone out of her way to assist. She is very responsive, is a wealth of information, and clearly has a passion for assisting vulnerable children. It provides a high level of comfort that we are doing the right thing for our child knowing that Bryony is involved. Thank you.” In the high school that Bryony services her principal reported that Bryony has established strong relationships with students based on trust, which encourages open communication and allows students to feel comfortable seeking help. Bryony shows genuine empathy toward students' concerns. Through supervision with Bryony, I am aware of the comprehensive evidenced-based support students and their families with behavioural and emotional concerns receive. She engages clients and their families with appropriate support and ensures that risk is managed and reported. Her strong moral and ethical compass guides her through challenging clinical situations. Bryony’s personal qualities of humour and humility make her an asset to the profession. As a team member, Bryony demonstrates the team's core value of camaraderie through her warm, sincere and good-humoured presence in group supervision. She collaborates and shares resources for the building up of colleagues. A recent example was when she prepared detailed, engaging, practical professional learning for the team on the topic of assessment of eating disorders. Bryony shared insights into presentations, assessment tools and referral options that many team members weren't previously aware of that has enabled our team to better support young people with these needs. Bryony is a champion for her clients and does everything in her power to maintain and support their well-being. She actively listens and is open to ideas and working with others, to allow for the best outcome for students' wellbeing and the cohesion of the team she is collaborating with. This was demonstrated when she was working with a student who presented as distressed about the well-being of family members. Bryony supported her client to continue to make good decisions for herself and also reached out to the other family members to engage them with support. Bryony reached out to peer networks and community resources to gather information about appropriate and available services. At the high school Bryony services, she works with two other professionals to support the school community. Bryony ensures that information is passed to colleagues in a timely manner and that client confidentiality is always respected. The principal reported that Bryony maintains open lines of communication with all stakeholders. She works with the school team to collaboratively design intervention plans for students with complex needs.  

Christie Burgess - School Counsellor (Gunnedah South PS)

Christie has consistently demonstrated exemplary professional practice during her tenure as an admirable school counsellor. Christie demonstrates a remarkable ability to develop and maintain robust collaborative relationships within her school community, peer networks, and multidisciplinary teams, significantly contributing to students' positive well-being and mental health. Within the school community, Christie's approachable nature and clear, concise communication have created an atmosphere of trust and open dialogue. This has made students, parents, and colleagues comfortable seeking her support and guidance, ensuring student well-being remains a top priority. Christie's involvement in students' transition to the local high school exemplifies her adeptness at collaboration within the school community. Working closely with school staff ensures a smooth transition process, reducing stress and anxiety associated with such changes. Christie actively shares her knowledge and skills within peer networks, providing invaluable colleague support. Her dedication to guiding and supervising school counsellors for registration is a testament to her commitment to the team's professional growth. Christie exhibits exceptional professionalism and proficiency while consistently upholding the highest standards of integrity. As a senior team member, she is admired by colleagues who seek to emulate her. Christie’s mentorship of School Counsellors in Training (SCITs) significantly elevates the quality of counselling services, ultimately translating into tangible student benefits. Christie's diplomatic and open-minded approach is precious in multidisciplinary teams. Christie actively contributes insights and strategies to support struggling students, aligning interventions with the broader educational goals of the institution. This collaborative mindset ensures that students receive comprehensive care and support within and outside the classroom. In conclusion, Christie's exceptional ability to develop and maintain strong collaborative relationships within her school community, peer networks, and multidisciplinary teams has profoundly impacted positive student well-being and mental health outcomes. Her approachability, commitment to professional growth, and active engagement with local service providers creates a supportive and inclusive environment that significantly benefits students. One key highlight of Christie's professional practice is her commitment to mentoring and supporting colleagues. She voluntarily supervises school counsellors for registration while actively sharing her knowledge and skills with School Counsellors in Training (SCITs). This commitment to building capacity within the team not only enhances the skills of her colleagues but also ensures that the next generation of school counsellors is well-prepared. Christie's dedication to student well-being is evident through her involvement in transitioning 6-7 students to the local high school. Her support during this crucial period benefits both school staff and students, facilitating a smoother transition process. Additionally, she was instrumental in designing a best practice model of learning and support at Gunnedah South Public School. Additionally, Christie's proactive approach to establishing working relationships with local service providers (Social Workers and Psychologists – SWaP Gunnedah) and maintaining readily accessible documentation on local services underscores her commitment to providing comprehensive support for students across our community. Christie's membership in the local services demonstrates her dedication to collaboration and community engagement. Regular participation in meetings with local service providers ensures that students receive holistic support. Her professional attributes, including outstanding report writing, clear and concise communication, approachability, and diplomatic conduct, further reinforce her effectiveness as a school counsellor. Christie's ability to explain disorders, behaviour, and case conceptualisation in the context of school policy ensures that her interventions align with educational objectives. In conclusion, Christie's admirable professional practice as a school counsellor is evident through her mentorship, student transitions, engagement with local service providers, and active participation in the professional community. Her expertise, dedication, and commitment to her role make her a valuable asset to her team and a role model for her peers. 

Dr Sylvia Ruocco Guthrie - Senior Psychologist Education (Great Lakes College Tuncurry Campus)

As a school counsellor and now as Senior Psychologist Education, Dr Sylvia Ruocco Guthrie is very highly regarded and respected by her school counsellor service colleagues. Dr Ruocco Guthrie continues to develop her school counsellor/psychologist team in all aspects of school counsellor service. She provides a deep level of knowledge, understanding and skill in psychological practice with a particular interest in counselling skills and creative play-based modalities. Supporting children and adolescents in a fun engaging manner is her passion and is evident in all interactions. Dr Sylvia Ruocco Guthrie gained her PhD by developing and evaluating the pictorial semi-structured Child Anxiety and Coping Interview and examining the early intervention school-based program Get Lost Mr Scary (GLMS) for young children 5-7 years. The findings showed that children are viable reporters of their mental health and demonstrated the utility of GLMS to both improve child self-reports of coping skills, and improve parental, teacher, and child reports of anxiety. The thesis added to clinical knowledge by identifying anxiety-specific coping skills that may have utility in clinical practice when exploring the effects of coping skills interventions. Dr Ruocco Guthrie’s thesis included three peer reviewed publications. The Black Dog Institute recommends GLMS as an effective and reliable cognitive behaviour therapy program for early intervention, addressing anxiety for children aged 5-7 years. GLMS was developed by Carol MacGregor and Kerry Herger and first implemented in 2001. Dr Ruocco Guthrie’s strong collaborative relationships with the program developers and a range of school counsellors evidences her ethical practice and ability to form extremely strong, trusting, and professional relationships. Dr Ruocco Guthrie’s enthusiasm and involvement with GLMS continues today as the program is being rolled out in NSW schools. Sylvia aka “Sparkly Sylvia” is one of a small number of GLMS trainers currently training school counselling staff to facilitate the GLMS program for students in NSW public schools. Sylvia remains committed to play-based therapy and the development of early career school counsellors to provide them the skills necessary to run a structured evidenced-based intervention that supports young children coping with fears and worries. Dr Ruocco Guthrie works tirelessly through supervision to identify the strengths and needs of her team of early career school counsellors and school psychologists. She models self-reflection with a strong focus on improvement for herself and for others, resulting in the creation of a strong, safe and supportive environment for her team to grow and flourish.Recently, Sylvia presented to a large group of Senior Psychologists Education sharing her knowledge of reflective practice and in particular the Gibbs model and Zones of Fabulousness. Her presentation was evaluated very highly by the participants with many requests for more presentations and training to assist her colleagues in their supervisory practice. As her colleagues and supervisor, we enthusiastically recommend ‘Sparkly Sylvia’ for this award in recognition of her many years of dedicated service and continued striving towards best practice. We admire her desire to develop the knowledge and skills of the school counselling service with the ultimate outcome being the wellbeing of students. 

Gabrielle Foldes - School Psychologist (Bilgola Plateau PS & Elanora Heights PS)

Gabby is an outstanding practitioner and we are so fortunate to have her supporting our schools. By way of background, BPPS is a small public school located on Sydney’s northern beaches. Despite our magical location and wonderful community, there is a huge need for school psychology services in our school. In 2023, 30% of our students were included in NCCD. We have an increasing proportion of students presenting with anxiety, ADHD, autism, reading difficulties and behaviour difficulties. Such a sensitive and unique student body requires an exceptional school psychologist and we are so grateful to have Gabby supporting our school. Gabby’s commitment to our students’ wellbeing is evident and admirable. She is highly perceptive, managing to navigate through complex dynamics with grace and good humour. From the moment Gabby arrived at Bilgola, she has been warm, open and collaborative. Gabby has developed a high level of relational trust with staff, students and parents. Staff value Gabby’s advice and strategies, which are always detailed and on-point. Students respond to Gabby’s warmth and kindness. Parents appreciate Gabby’s empathy and are comfortable following her guidance. As a key member of the Learning and Support Team, Gabby works closely with community members to achieve the best possible outcomes for our students and their families. This was particularly evident recently in Gabby’s support of one of our very high-needs students. Gabby worked with the student, his parents, the classroom teacher, the learning support team, our school principal and external services to achieve the optimal mental health outcome for this student. Gabby’s level of care, concern, innovation and patience, combined with her non-judgemental attitude, makes her an exemplary school psychologist. Eleni Caldis, Relieving Senior Psychologist Education, supports this nomination: “ I whole heartedly agree that she is an efficient, organised and approachable School Psychologist who I have enjoyed providing supervision for the last two terms. I can see her warmth and unconditional positive regard with the interactions I have with her as well”. Gabby expertly communicates with children, teachers, executive team members, parents and external health providers, balancing the needs and personalities of all parties. This she does with the utmost professionalism and confidentiality, always prioritising the mental health outcomes of the students. Gabby's efficiency has been evident in her ability to skillfully clear a large caseload, which she had inherited, thus enabling us to focus on whole-school preventative intervention measures. Gabby has an amazing ability to support our students in the most effective way possible. In the words of Bilgola Plateau Public School Principal, Cindy Gardiner, “Gabby’s efficiency in acting upon learning support team consultation is the best I have seen in my 20+ years in education”. Elanora Heights Public School Principal, Lisa Phillips, is in strong agreement: “Gabrielle has made a significant improvement and outstanding contribution to our Learning and Support practices at Elanora Heights Public School. We are extremely fortunate to have such a considerate expert on our team". 

Kris de Jong - Senior Psychologist Education (Nambucca Heads HS)

Kris is admired for her professionalism, work ethic and enthusiasm across the Nambucca Valley schools by Principals and all staff levels. As the Senior Psychologist Education (SPE) of our team, she sets a high standard in all aspects of our roles and guides us as individuals to maintain such standards. Her priority is always to have the young person at the centre of every consideration. Kris’ in-depth knowledge and understanding of complex ethical issues has helped her team to understand and follow guidelines, policies and procedures while exploring different legal and ethical issues encountered in our practice. Kris demonstrates her highly efficient organisational and leadership skills through her open communications with the team, individual supervision and fortnightly Team Supervision. Kris provides team members with valuable training and supervision in different therapeutic approaches, assessments and interventions and leads by example in using the scientific-practitioner approach. An important focus for Kris’ team this year has been the deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures and how we can best support our Indigenous students. This has involved arranging for AECG involvement in team meetings, ‘connecting to country’ training and professional learning about appropriate selection of assessments and interventions for Indigenous students. Appropriate assessment of children on the autism spectrum has also been a focus with Kris researching and investigating more neuro-affirming assessment tools and guiding the team to adopt a more neuro-affirming practice. She has consulted with education, psychology and health leaders to ensure that any new directions are well-supported in the field. Kris’ high expectations of herself have a contagious effect on those around her – she makes you want to learn more, do more and be better, and there is not another person who is more deserving of recognition for their work. Kris is all about working together with all stakeholders and works tirelessly to maintain these relationships. For example: 1. Distance Education – Kris set up an outreach at Nambucca Youth Centre for DE students. She organised a teacher to be allocated time weekly to work with students. 2. ALLIED HEALTH: Kris negotiated and collaborated with Southern Cross University to provide OT and Speech Therapy students to do clinical placement in our Nambucca Valley schools. 3. PSYCHOLOGY: Safeguards & CAMHS: Kris has had frequent communication with clinical leads to ensure students are receiving adequate support as they return to school following contact with CAMHS by ensuring Safeguards informs the school counselling service. Trialled ‘OnPsych’: This trial was difficult to get established due to the barrier of needing Mental Health Care Plans. But this did not stop Kris. Instead, she removed that barrier and is in the process of getting Doctors in Schools. 4. MEDICAL: Paediatricians: Initiated first-ever meeting with 3 local paediatricians and region SPEs to establish better communication and support of students. This will now be an annual occurrence. She requested and achieved financial relief for our more disadvantaged families. Doctors in Schools (Youth Clinic): Kris has been working collaboratively with multiple external services including PHN (Primary Health Network - Healthy North Coast), First Nations and Population Health, Mental Health Reform, and GP clinic North Bellingen. Through data collection and conducting a needs analysis, this initiative is very close to getting up and running. Suicide response: Kris worked with outside agencies (e.g. Headspace) to improve support for those impacted by suicide across our area. These are just highlights. Kris is valued and respected by all who work with her in and out of schools. Our school, students and wider community are all in a better place for having Kris on their team! 

Melissa Moss - R/Senior Psychologist Education (Northern Beaches Secondary College, Manly Selective Campus)

Melissa works unselfishly to support the schools in her team, providing direct service to numerous schools. Melissa goes beyond her role as supervisor in supporting the wellbeing of students and the staff in her schools by willingly supporting executives and teachers as requested. As a SPE colleague, Melissa is always willing to collaborate and work together on projects and overcome difficulties due to staff shortages together, supporting not only the schools in her team but also schools in adjoining teams. Melissa is always available for collegial support and is never too busy to problem-solve and offer support to SPE colleagues when needed. Melissa is involved in numerous committees focusing on providing professional development to colleagues. She is aware of the need within the service to develop new counsellors and psychologists and willingly involves herself in committees with the interest of others at the forefront. She is involved with SCPA, the provisional psychologist PL committee and facilitates joined team meetings for the Northern Beaches teams. Melissa also supports the work of School Link and the professional learning opportunities that they offer our service. Melissa provides the opportunity for her team to develop and supports her team with their goals and career development. She is truly invested in the wellbeing of her team, ensuring the retention of staff and in turn guaranteeing high-quality counselling support for the schools in her team.  

Michelle Azoum - School Psychologist (Miller PS)

Michelle has been a member of the Miller Public School staff for two years. During this time, she has become a highly regarded and well-respected team member. This is a direct result of her ethical behaviour and student-centred decision making. In all dealings she prioritises the building of relationships. She is respectful and genuine. Michelle continually demonstrates that her priority is to make students feel comfortable and at ease by always being an empathetic listener. The way that she interacts and communicates with students, teachers and the community is indicative of her high professional standards. Michelle is a great communicator and has been pivotal in building and maintaining relationships within the community as she has built these relationships on trust, collaboration and support. Families seek her out for guidance, support and feedback as they know she can be trusted, she will be honest, and she is operating with the best interests of the student in mind. Michelle is a committed and dedicated school psychologist with deep knowledge and expertise within her role. This is evident through the relationships that she has developed with the students, teachers, parents, community members and external support services at Miller PS. As a member of the Learning Support Team, she has been pivotal in collaborating with the school to meet the needs of all students and their families, particularly those with disabilities. Michelle has successfully engaged external agencies to assist families to access appropriate and meaningful support including providing a family with access to a comprehensive speech therapy assessment and ongoing, free, therapy sessions for a student who is not eligible for NDIS. She has also provided in-class support and strategies to teachers to allow students to access the curriculum. Michelle has supported our pre-Kindergarten students to access appropriate schooling options by completing preschool observations, assessments and checklists to develop the Disability Confirmation Sheet required for them to access a supported setting. As a result, all students she has supported this year, have successfully gained placement for 2024. Michelle works closely with the school WHIN nurse to further support families across our school setting. This partnership has been instrumental in facilitating multidisciplinary support for families with complex and diverse needs. She is well-versed in the unique needs of the community in which she works and seeks continued opportunities to explore all avenues for support. Michelle is committed to ensuring she remains up to date with her professional knowledge through her participation in learning and enthusiastic engagement in her counselling team meetings.  

Nathan Attard - School Counsellor (Cecil Hills HS & Cecil Hills PS)

Nathan always puts the wellbeing of our students first. He possesses qualities such as empathy, active listening and professionalism. He is non-biased, patient, and resilient, and he shows a sincere desire to help others and go above and beyond to support students and staff. He is a very effective communicator and is particularly adept at communicating complex ideas. Nathan has an unwavering commitment to promoting positive student wellbeing and mental health outcomes. He constantly engages in cross-collaborations in the school via meetings with students, teachers, SSOs, Head Teachers of Wellbeing and Senior Executive. This ongoing collaborative effort has resulted in the development of comprehensive individualised support and programs that cater to students' emotional and psychological needs. He continues to play a pivotal role in mandatory reporting and assessment of students and in establishing partnerships with external mental health organisations.  

Renee Eyre - School Counsellor (Narrabeen North PS)

Renee consistently exhibits commendable professional practice in line with the Narrabeen North School Values of Respect, Responsibility, Acceptance and Accountability. Renee’s dedication, empathy, and expertise have made a profound impact on the students, parents, and staff within our school community. One notable aspect of Renee’s admirable professional practice is her exceptional interpersonal skills. Renee consistently demonstrates the ability to connect with students on a deep level, creating a safe and supportive space for them to express their thoughts and feelings. Students often seek out Renee for social and emotional concerns. Her empathetic and openly approachable style has been pivotal in helping students navigate their personal challenges. Renee is an exemplary school counsellor who serves the Narrabeen North School community upholding the public service values of; Excellence, Equity, Accountability, Trust, Integrity and Service at all times. Renee’s exceptional ability to cultivate and sustain strong collaborative relationships within our school community, peer networks, and multidisciplinary teams has made a profound impact on the positive wellbeing of our students. Within the school community, Renee has actively engaged with parents, teachers, and students to foster a supportive and empathetic environment. Within the learning support team, Renee’s contributions have been invaluable. She actively participates in the development and implementation of Personalised Learning Plans (PLP), bringing a holistic perspective to student support. Renee’s ability to collaborate with the NSW DoE Team around a school, and complex case teams, ensures that students receive comprehensive care that addresses both academic and mental health needs. Renee’s approachability has made her a trusted confidant for students. Students feel comfortable approaching her for support. Renee’s dedication to fostering an environment of open communication, willingness to share knowledge, and her genuine concern for student welfare make Renee a truly outstanding candidate for this recognition. 

Early Career Practitioner of the Year 2023 Nominees (12 Nominees)

Abigail Brown - School Psychologist (Plumpton House)

Abigail demonstrates strong professional practice in her role as a school psychologist by conducting herself in an ethical manner. She adheres to the professional, legal and ethical guidelines set out by AHPRA and the NSW DoE. She maintains the client’s confidentiality and demonstrates a commitment to ensuring that clients understand the purpose of assessments and interventions. Abigail undertakes risk assessments in a thoughtful manner, putting the client’s welfare and wellbeing needs first. She continually expands her knowledge and skills to improve her practice. Through her hard work, Abigail successfully completed her registration as a psychologist and became Established on the PPF this year. Abigail has attended professional learning workshops, such as Get Lost Mr Scary, and initiated self-learning to better support and understand her client’s needs. She implemented an anxiety intervention program with positive outcomes for students. Abigail has also displayed cultural sensitivity and awareness when working with people from ATSI and Islander backgrounds, as well as with clients with additional needs. This is demonstrated through administering a range of appropriate assessments and providing individualised treatment and intervention plans based on assessment results. Abigail has clear and open communication skills. She can communicate effectively with parents, carers, teachers and students. She listens actively to client’s concerns and expertly explains assessment findings and treatment options, which enables clients to follow up. This has led to students receiving additional support to help them meet their educational needs. Abigail consistently seeks supervision with her supervisor and peers to enhance her clinical skills. She is open to feedback and will use it to constructively improve her practice. Abigail regularly engages in self-assessment and reflection, to ensure that she maintains a high standard of professional practice for all her clients and those she encounters. Abigail is a dedicated school psychologist who cares deeply about the wellbeing and mental health needs of students. She works successfully in a behaviour school setting and a primary school with several support classes. Abigail participates in the BD/ED network meetings and provides valuable insight into the needs of students with behavioural and emotional challenges. She is a source of support for other counselling staff who also work in these settings. Abigail participates in collaborative meetings and in feedback sessions to improve her professional practice. She has established trust with her colleagues, students, and parents by being honest, reliable, and respectful. Abigail involves carers, parents, teachers, executives, and students in decision-making processes and includes their input when planning programs or initiatives related to student wellbeing. She willingly facilitates discussions regarding challenging and complex cases with executives and the school's learning and support teams. She initiates conversations on best practice that promote student wellbeing with colleagues and in supervision. In her schools, Abigail maintains relationships with students and works collaboratively with student support officers and community liaison officers to develop appropriate pathways, particularly for Out of Home Care students, at school and in the community, that support positive behaviours and student mental health needs. She works tirelessly to create an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are respected and valued to support student wellbeing. Abigail works with organisations, such as DCJ and external support agencies, as well as medical and health professionals, to support students’ wellbeing and achieve better outcomes for them. She is an advocate for young people and will continue to promote positive student wellbeing in her schools to allow all students to achieve their full potential and meet their educational goals. Abigail is a competent practitioner who will continue to flourish in her role as a school psychologist. 

Alice Randall (now Romero) - School Counsellor (Bella Vista PS)

Alice is an outstanding practitioner and exemplary model of professional school counselling practice. Student wellbeing is the cornerstone of her approach to everything she does within her practice. Alice goes beyond expectation to identify and understand the individual needs of students and foster their development through comprehensive and evidence-based intervention. Alice is proactive, utilising her specific skill set to address evolving current situations. A specific example is the impact of COVID-19. She developed and provided resources for the school community ensuring a home/school connection for families and students. Alice was a panel member for COVID-19 information forum (online) where she delivered a wellbeing presentation to parents and community members providing information about observing child demeanour, routines, self-care and positive frame of mind.  Another example would be an enrolment of a student requiring significant support. Alice initiated Zones of Regulation training for staff and helped deliver this to the class so that the student would be supported in their new setting. Alice is perceptive, showing a thorough understanding of the privilege and responsibility of her role in working with young people. She is a sincere advocate for all students and strives to foster connections within the school, supporting students to negotiate the various complexities faced at school, where students feel confident and self-reliant. Alice has a fresh approach to a well-established role and continues to show her creativity and resourcefulness by incorporating evolving changes in technology in her everyday practice. Alice is an integral part of the learning and support team at both primary and high schools. She works collaboratively with school staff, wellbeing services, the school learning and support team and both parents/carers and students to improve student outcomes and promote positive student wellbeing and mental health. Alice works in consultation with the principals and the executive staff to improve student learning and wellbeing outcomes. She regularly consults with student support services to improve and implement school priorities. Alice continues to contribute to the social and emotional development of students by delivering evidence-based programs to students. She is an active member of the schools LST and assists in the planning, development and review of personalised learning and support plans for students with additional learning and support requirements. As part of a team, Alice has responded to schools experiencing serious incidents. She continues to support the most vulnerable students in the school, providing guidance and support to schools for students with complex behaviour needs. Alice continues to work as part of a multidisciplinary team for students and families requiring additional external support and will provide referrals to these agencies as required. 

Aye Chan Khin - School Psychologist (Provisional) (Blackwell PS)

In a short space of time, Aye Chan has learned the swathe of ethical and legal guidelines relating to the role of school psychologist. She references and uses them in her everyday work to maintain a very high standard of clinical practice. Aye Chan regularly reads peer reviewed research and readily shares the information she has considered with her colleagues in group supervision to improve clinical practice for the team as a whole. Aye Chan has sought additional professional learning in working with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander and LGBTQIA+ students and families to provide a counselling service that is inclusive and culturally safe. She shows a very high level of reflective skill when considering her own cultural context and how this may impact on her practice with diverse clients. Aye Chan is student-centred in all aspects of her practice, working collaboratively with school staff and families to navigate situations that are contentious and complex. Aye Chan has shown leadership qualities when working in a team to manage serious incidents including the unexpected death of a student. She worked alongside school executive to contribute psychological post-vention responses. Aye Chan has developed strong skills in hypothesis generation, assessment, case formulation, interpretation and report writing in the short amount of time she has been a provisional psychologist. Her assessments are succinct but include all the information needed for use by parents and school staff. They are worded in accessible language that is tailored to the audience the report is aimed at, leading to better outcomes for students and the school community. Aye Chan has been able to develop fruitful relationships within school communities to enhance the impact of the school counselling and wellbeing service in her school. Specifically, she has been instrumental in working with the learning and support and wellbeing teams within her high school to facilitate wellbeing systems that allow students to be directed to the right level of intervention based on the stepped-care model. This has reduced inappropriate referrals to all members of the LST / wellbeing teams and assisted in students accessing the appropriate level of intervention for their needs. Aye Chan has also been working within her peer network and SPE team to disseminate high-quality peer-reviewed information on mental health and working with those with disabilities to enhance her own understanding as well as colleagues.  

Emily Myers - School Psychologist (Annangrove PS)

Emily is in her second year as a school psychologist in the Department of Education. During this time, she has successfully completed her psychology registration along with meeting the demands of learning a new role. Emily has consistently shown exceptional understanding of individual student needs through comprehensive and evidence-based interventions, including individual therapy and group intervention. She has actively worked with Learning and Support teams to target interventions. Emily’s thorough assessments, recommendations, and treatment planning have resulted in positive outcomes for multiple students. Specifically, to demonstrate, Emily assessed and provided intervention for a student experiencing specific learning difficulties around reading. Emily used assessment results and researched best practice remediation to upskill the LST to cater to this student academically whilst simultaneously providing evidence-based intervention to work on building his elf-esteem that had been depleted after years of learning difficulties. Emily also actively contributed to supporting two critical incidents in her schools, one which she managed independently in August 2023. Emily is currently working with school executive around planning procedural changes to the referral process and stepped care approach in order to streamline caseload and management of counselling service in a busy high school. In her very first year, Emily provided service in six school settings to students with diverse needs. This includes her base school with students from a semi-rural population to a school for special purposes attended by students with moderate to severe developmental delay and comorbid presentations. Additionally, Emily provided counselling services at two high schools, including one in a neighbouring team that was short-staffed. Her excellent interpersonal skills are evidenced by her ability to build positive professional relationships across multiple schools. Emily’s commitment to learning has resulted in considerable growth in her practice and demonstration of her knowledge of the discipline, psychological assessment, and intervention strategies. Emily has worked in six different schools since starting her role as a School Psychologist with the NSW Department of Education in 2022. Her ability to communicate effectively and build interpersonal relationships has been demonstrated in all contexts. Emily makes herself visible in schools and this helps her foster positive relationships with students, staff, and parents. She always wears a smile and promotes positive student well-being through her advocacy for students and contributions to LSTs. Emily actively participates in our school counselling team meetings, bringing fresh insights and adding value to our peer supervision sessions. Her presented case discussions demonstrate extensive knowledge of the discipline, assessment, intervention strategies, and ethical, legal, and professional matters. Emily’s policy and procedural knowledge has rapidly grown in her short time on the job. She has been able to streamline caseload management processes in her schools which has increased her efficiency and ability to manage multiple complex schools. Emily’s excellent work ethic is evidenced by her positive collegiality with her team and staff at multiple schools. Due to frequent and unforeseen service changes, Emily has frequently been called upon to respond to service delivery itinerary changes. She has done so with great maturity and competence. Her work practice is of a high standard and has been regularly acknowledged by Senior Executive staff at all the schools she has been placed in. Emily is an asset to the school counselling service! 

Emma Whitelaw - School Counsellor (Provisional Psychologist) (Mona Vale PS)

Despite being an early career Psychologist, Emma is often utilised in complex cases due to her strengths in psychotherapy and DBT skills. Emma is also able to manage a high admin caseload due to a high number of students on integration funding. Therefore, her ability to multitask and be organised and still focus on the needs of the student is highly commendable. She is developing her skills in group work in order to work effectively with key presenting issues and shows a high level of rapport with her students. Emma has worked collaboratively with school staff, students and parents and provided her expertise in a professional manner. She is currently working at a complex school with a Support Unit, IFS students and Opportunity Class. During her time she has provided advice to all members of the community, including external providers, to create a safe learning environment at our school. She regularly attends case management meetings (IFS and Support Unit), completes assessments for students who are referred to her through our school learning and support team, supports transitions in and out of the school, and provides advice for families to understand and manage their children’s learning and mental health needs. Emma engages in professional learning to ensure she is demonstrating best practice and has the knowledge and understanding to support the school community. She is able to articulate and share her learning with staff where relevant, empowering our school to maintain a positive and safe learning environment. Emma is an integral part of our school team and her impact is evident in our strong learning and support team, individual student improvement and wellbeing support at our school. Her warmth, genuine care and passion is evident in every interaction she has with staff, students and members of the community. Emma is well respected and liked in her schools due to her ability to connect and collaborate with others. She is utilised in stakeholder meetings frequently and contributes to team meetings showing a high level of consideration and reflective practice skills. Emma uses evidence-based interventions and strategies to work effectively with students particularly with neurodiverse populations. She shows a high level of professionalism and calmness in her practice which has created a collaborative working environment. Emma has developed and maintained collaborative relationships within the school community through being an integral part of the learning and support team. Emma leads our referral process, working with staff to support individual students across K-6. She also is part of the Support Unit team, working alongside staff and parents to support students with disability to achieve their goals, access support and services and she completes assessments as needed. She currently works across 2 schools and works with her peer network to effectively provide counselling services in both a primary and secondary setting. Emma understands the need to understand and work with external supports. She has a well-rounded knowledge of the external supports available in the community and works with these agencies when appropriate to support students and families. Emma has introduced new programs (such as the Got it! program) to our school to trial as we continue to look at different ways to support student wellbeing. Emma goes above and beyond her job description and shows passion, expertise and develops relationships with all stakeholders. Since working with Emma, she has consistently developed her capacity and continues to wow us each and every day with her professionalism, compassion and enthusiasm for the role. Personally, she has built my capacity and skills so I can work with staff more confidently in relation to wellbeing and support. 

Jahna Sullivan - School Counsellor (Provisional Psychologist)  (The Forest HS)

Jahna uses reflective practice in her supervision and day to day practice by evaluating techniques, strategies and measurements used whilst also critically evaluating the experience, individual characteristics and knowledge that might impact on the delivery of her services. Jahna displays a high level of written and verbal communication skills and has strengthened her professional practice by undertaking GERRIC’s Mini COGE through UNSW as well as recently undertaking Dr Westerman's training in supporting MH Assessment & Suicide Prevention in Aboriginal Communities. This has allowed her to expand on her knowledge in these areas and support vulnerable students. Jahna has started her career as a Provisional Psychologist last year and was appointed to a challenging high school and primary school. She has worked on developing a culture of change in those schools that is focused on early intervention, inclusivity and evidence based practices. Jahna has a strong focus in supporting indigenous students and OOHC students succeed and shows a high level of professionalism when working with others during stakeholder meetings. Jahna uses a student centered and trauma informed lens in order to work collaboratively with students and has developed strong therapeutic relationships with her students.

Madelyn Smith - School Psychologist (Dungog HS)

Madelyn has had to manage very complex issues at her high school.(Content about complex issues redacted due to confidentiality, please email info@scpansw.org.au should you require clarification). She was able to establish a working live document to identify students at risk and referrals made. It allowed for others to add notes as support counsellors came in to assist. She is appreciated and respected by the staff and parents. She seeks advice, puts suggestions into practice and then reflects on her practice to improve her outcomes. Madelyn is a valued member of her LST in her school. Madelyn works in low socio-economic areas with very few services in the town. She has assisted parents with accessing support for not only their child but also often their family. She is a valued member of our counselling team who makes an effort to be inclusive of others and works hard at looking for ways to assist all of the team. She is truly a very special young woman. I cannot speak more highly of her abilities, personality and work ethic.

Natalie Shamir - School Counsellor (Manly West PS & Northern Beaches Secondary College, Freshwater Senior Campus)

2023 marked the beginning of Natalie's third year working as a School Counsellor (dual-qualified provisional psychologist and primary teacher). In her primary school, she has helped to refine referral processes, provided training to new psychologists/school counsellors in training, and provided executive advice and support. She has sought supervision where there were gaps in her knowledge, explored further professional learning to broaden knowledge and explored her areas of interest specifically in the area of gender diversity and sexuality and provided professional learning presentations to staff in this area. This, in addition to the core aspects of the role which involve counselling, assessment and support to complete applications for individual funding support or applying for suitable class or school settings for individual students. Every approach she takes in her role as a school counsellor within her schools delivers efficient services, and she does so with warmth and innovation. Delivering and improving student mental health outcomes is a priority for all psychologists. Natalie's approach in doing so has aimed to fill the gaps she found not just within her schools but wider community too. For example, Natalie advocates for and promotes wellbeing outcomes for students who identify within the LGBTQIA+ community. She has developed professional learning for teachers and counsellors to allow for an understanding of the spectrum of sexualities and gender identities that exist today and alleviate anxieties when working in this lesser-understood space. She has also set up and guided student facilitators in running her high school’s first GSA (gender and sexuality alliance) student interest group aimed to promote inclusion and provide a safe space for students. She has worked with parents and individual students in both primary and high school settings to provide individual support and linked them in with external support, e.g. the gender centre, where required. This work has been difficult, especially considering some schools have more conservative communities and executive teams. However, it has been nothing less than rewarding to create inclusive practices in the schools and the wider community. Natalie self-published a picture book which she donated to many schools’ libraries aimed to promote self-efficacy. She presented a lecture at Macquarie University for final year education students to provide them with resources for creating inclusive classrooms for children who identify as gender or sexuality diverse and she currently volunteers with the Northern Beaches Council to promote LGBTQIA+ wellbeing within our community.

Sacha Kennedy - School Counsellor (Busby PS & Busby West PS)

At all times, Sacha demonstrates strong professional practice in her role as a school counsellor. She works directly with students to help them with issues related to learning, peer and family relationships, and managing emotions, such as depression, anxiety, worry and isolation, and supports me in my role as the DP Wellbeing to support students and their families. She is a collaborative and efficient colleague who makes my role so much easier due to her efficiency and professionalism. She assesses our students with additional needs and interacts with compassion and empathy supporting them with long-term strategies. She is a vital member of our Learning Support Team and supports our wider school community, not only students referred to her. She demonstrates her expertise in all her conversations with colleagues and families alike. Sacha is a collaborative colleague who liaises not only with me as DP wellbeing, but our entire teaching staff to support with assessing students with specific needs. At all times, she works collaboratively with teachers and specialist staff and helps families understand and manage their children’s learning and mental health needs. Sacha liaises with external agencies and other mental health professionals to provide coordinated, wrap around support for individual students. An example of this is how she will visit early learning centers with me and get to know students deeply before supporting me with funding and placement applications. Sacha's expertise in mental health, learning, and behaviour supports our children to succeed academically, socially, behaviourally, and emotionally. 

Sophie Limbert - School Counsellor (Forbes PS)

Sophie has demonstrated strong professional practice since starting in her role in 2021. When faced with the recent crisis management of the November 2022 Forbes floods, Sophie was able to effectively triage families according to need, manage and support students and the school community during the time of school closure and then school relocation over a period of two months, while juggling the day to day administration requirements of her role, such as completing Access Requests and keeping up to date with student assessment and reports. Her work with flood affected families has continued in 2023 around trauma and post-flood implications such as loss, homelessness, and anxiety, where she has demonstrated strong leadership in facilitating the school’s chaplain and School Support Officer to implement programs for students such as Storm Birds. Sophie demonstrates strong advocacy for student needs, working with staff across pre-, primary and high school settings to bring policy to life, an example is the support she has provided schools with the implementation of the Inclusive, Engaging and Respectful schools reform, supporting school leaders, teachers and parents with processes to support student equity and safety, assisting with resources within and across schools to better meet the mental health and emotional needs of students. Examples of successful collaboration with teachers, administrators, and other professionals across schools has been evident in her role on the many Learning and Support Teams she contributes to. Sophie helps support staff to develop and implement programs that support students' engagement and access to the curriculum and specified/differentiated student-centered need. There has been strong evidence of improved student well-being, academic performance, behavior, and emotional development because of the counselling, interventions and support Sophie has put in place, making her a very well-respected member of the educational communities in which she engages. Sophie has demonstrated a remarkable ability to foster collaborative relationships within and across her school communities through building peer networks, and multidisciplinary teams, resulting in significant advancements in the early identification of student needs prior to school transition, as well as wellbeing and mental health support for students across both primary and secondary settings. Sophie has brought together service providers, educators, peer counsellors, parents, and community members by leveraging her exceptional communication skills and high-trust relationships. She’s facilitated open dialogues that address the multifaceted challenges students face through regular Learning and Support fortnightly meetings. Furthermore, Sophie's success in developing school support networks was evident through the implementation of disaster recovery support resources. By training school staff to identify signs of distress and provide initial assistance, she empowered peers to play an active role in the wellbeing of their students. This approach not only created a safe space for students to seek help but also created a consistent approach to enabling wellbeing. Sophie’s collaboration extends beyond the school walls. She engages with external mental health professionals, early childhood providers, and disability support personal, inviting them to participate in network meetings for both students and parents. This partnership allows for a more holistic approach to student wellbeing, where expert insights complement the school's efforts to enable the best outcome for students and their families. Sophie’s exceptional teamwork was pivotal in achieving positive outcomes for our Forbes schools post floods. By involving parents, Sophie ensured a consistent support network for students, both in school and at home. Regular updates and access to resources educated parents about identifying early signs of mental health challenges and equipped them with tools to provide effective support. Sophie's ability to cultivate collaborative relationships across her school communities, has undeniably contributed to positive student outcomes.  

Stephanie Jones - School Counsellor (Kincoppal Rose Bay)

Stephanie's knowledge and application of legal and ethical guidelines is comprehensive. For example, Stephanie has made multiple mandatory reports, which demonstrates that students feel comfortable and supported by her to disclose their experiences of a serious nature. Further, Stephanie maintains confidentiality to support complex cases, while keeping rigorous and up-to-date case notes. Stephanie has designed, developed, and presented contemporary strategies to both staff and students to be applied when working with students with complex presentations. Thus, providing professional learning to colleagues to advance their skills and knowledge is consistent from Year K to Year 12 staff. In addition, Stephanie takes an active role upskilling the staff to support their management of students in their classroom 
In order to meet best practice, Stephanie proactively initiates regular supervision, particularly for complex ethical and legal issues. Moreover, she proactively evaluates peer-reviewed literature and disseminates to the relevant stakeholders via presentations, email, or discussions. Stephanie provides and maintains both inclusive and culturally nuanced resources to ensure students, families and stakeholders feel safe. Further, she consistently engages in reflexive practice to ensure an awareness of her own biases. Stephanie has demonstrated an understanding of the importance of formulation in selecting appropriate evidence-based interventions that optimize individual student potential. Moreover, Stephanie goes further than this and reviews the efficacy of said interventions when working with and supporting the child and adolescent populations. Thus, reports on key interventions and therapeutic strategies and outcomes. Stephanie models evidence-based problem-solving skills within a student-centred framework, and in so doing collaborates with colleagues in analysing and managing contentious dynamic situations. Additionally, Stephanie works in partnership with the School Principal, Director of Students, Healthcare Team, Boarding and Year Coordinators to ensure the students in her care are fully supported across multiple contexts within the school. Importantly, Stephanie works with the school executives, and builds capacity in the context of responses to serious incidents. Further, Stephanie mentors staff, particularly the Year Coordinators using data to inform best practice. This is particularly important due to working in a boarding school where country and international students are dependent on receiving support that they may usually receive from the parents. Stephanie partakes in the school community events. For example, spiritual days, vale, and community days where the school prepares meals for the homeless people in Sydney. Stephanie visits the boarding house after hours weekly. This is to upskill the boarding staff and provide mindfulness and meditation activities for the students living away from home. Stephanie is actively involved in peer networks. Namely, she is a member of Australian Psychological Society, Australian Association of Psychologists, Early Career Psychologist Support Group, Clinical Psychology of Australia – Students, The Provisional Psychologist Network, The Provisional Psychologists Forum, 4+2 Provisional Psychologists 2021-2023 Group to name but a few. Stephanie also engages in regular peer meetings, to ensure rigour in her practice is apparent. Working within a Kindergarten to Year 12 Boarding and Day School allows for Stephanie to work with diverse experts. For example, Stephanie works consistently with students’ external psychologists, general practitioners, and psychiatrists to ensure a holistic approach to the support is provided. Further, Stephanie works with nutritionists and dieticians who she has referred students to when they present with concerns outside her area of competence.

Yanan Sun - School Psychologist (Warawee PS)

Yanan's profound understanding of the principles and practices of counselling and psychology is well beyond that of an early career psychologist. Her expertise shines through her skilful use of powerful intervention tools, including the creative application of sand play and visualisation techniques. Yanan cultivates rapport and trust in her work with students and carefully steers therapy toward a positive outcome. Yanan is deeply caring and thoughtful, and her dedication to maintaining the wellbeing of students is evident as she consistently places the students' welfare at the forefront of her considerations, ensuring that their emotional and psychological needs are met with the utmost care and sensitivity. She has firmly established herself as a reputable and respected professional within our team and in her schools, where she fosters a collaborative approach with parents, school staff members, and external practitioners to ensure that students receive comprehensive and timely support, wrapping them in a network of care that extends beyond the classroom. Yanan's commitment to cultivating collaboration has earned her respect and appreciation from not only the school staff and executive but also from students and parents alike. Yanan's comprehensive knowledge of both school-based and local support systems has proven invaluable in improving student wellbeing and mental health outcomes, making her a valued member of her school community. Within the School Psychology and Education (SPE) team, Yanan consistently shines as a proactive and dedicated member. Her involvement extends beyond attendance; she actively contributes by delivering insightful case presentations and engaging in enriching discussions during professional learning sessions. Yanan's ability to distil complex psychological concepts into actionable strategies has also advanced the team's collective expertise. She has taken the initiative to upskill her team members by sharing her proficiency in play therapy and visualization techniques, expanding the range of therapeutic tools available to support students effectively. Yanan is an admirable representative of our school counselling service and would be a thoroughly deserving Early Career Practitioner award recipient. Well done, Yanan. 

Innovator of the Year 2023 Nominees (3 Nominees)

Kris de Jong - Senior Psychologist Education (Nambucca Heads HS)

Over the 18 months that Kris has been in the SPE role, she has significantly raised the profile and improved the efficacy of the School Counselling service across the Mid-North Coast through her innovative approach to all areas of practice. She has been the driver behind introducing processes and systems within schools as well as forging new or stronger relationships with outside agencies that enhance student wellbeing and mental health. Kris led our team to create an electronic pdf ‘SC Toolkit’ that uses the step-care model to guide SCs in referral pathways to local mental health support and intervention services. Recognising the inordinate wait times for diagnosis of students presenting with symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as the prohibitive costs to families, Kris researched alternative pathways for SCs to alleviate these barriers. With a focus on neuro-affirming methods, she introduced our MNC teams to a gold standard diagnostic assessment tool (MIGDAS) that School Counsellors can administer and has begun a roll out of training opportunities while ensuring that stakeholders in Education, Psychology and Health accept it as a diagnostic tool. She has also negotiated with a local Autism service to provide low-cost assessments for financially disadvantaged families. Kris is developing a ‘Doctors in Schools’ initiative to bring GPs into schools on a regular basis to assess students with Mental Health issues who may not be able to access this service otherwise. She conducted a survey with students for a needs analysis and to determine the most effective user-friendly way of operating.  Kris has introduced our team to other physical and online resources to upskill our team in issues such as eating disorders, depression/anxiety in students with an intellectual disability (Black Dog) and dyslexia. Kris was responsible for initiating the delivery of an anti-vaping program in our schools. Kris works collaboratively across our region with Education, Health and various services to build strong relationships and better pathways to care for our students’ mental health and wellbeing. She prioritises promoting an understanding amongst stakeholders of the DoE processes, services, skills and challenges to open discussions around how we can work collaboratively towards meeting student needs. Kris initiated the first-ever meeting of MNC region SPEs with 3 local paediatricians to establish better communication and understanding of DoE policies and processes as well as the challenges families face when seeking paediatric consultations. She achieved an agreement for fee relief for our more disadvantaged families. Kris established a weekly face-to-face outreach tutoring program for Distance Education students to support their learning and wellbeing through maintaining connections with schooling and relationships with the allocated teacher and peers. Kris negotiated with Southern Cross University to have Speech and Occupational Therapist student placements in schools. This will provide much-needed therapy for some students who cannot otherwise access these services. Kris established and maintains communication with Safeguards and CAMHS Clinical leads to ensure that students returning to school following contact with those services are adequately supported in and out of school. An agreement was made that SCs would be informed about these students as a matter of priority. Kris recently met with the NSW Minister for Regional Youth to discuss her ‘Doctors in Schools’ initiative to inform them of the program, to clarify needs/goals and to seek support. Kris attends AECG meetings and has invited members to team meetings to talk about the mental health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. She has facilitated ‘Connected to Country’ professional learning and discussions around culturally appropriate assessments and interventions.  

Melissa Mellish - School Counsellor/Senior Psychologist Education (Colyton PS)

Melissa developed a program called 'Calm Minds' to support Year 3 students in learning about anxiety and how to manage these symptoms. She created this program using evidence-based resources such as the Smiling Minds app to not only teach children about what anxiety looks and feels like but also to help them access good resources they themselves could use after each session. Melissa assessed scores using an anxiety scale pre and post program, and also provided parents with these scores and feedback on their child at the end of the program. Melissa led this program with Year 3 students but also brought me on to team-lead some sessions. The program enhanced my work in learning how to target Year 3 students at a level they would respond to and understand. All resources and session outlines were shared as well as parent information sheets for the students to take home. Melissa has since shared this brilliant program with the Minchinbury Team to run in their primary schools.  

Sue Macindoe - Leader Psychology Practice (Kendall PS)

The strength of Sue’s leadership is evident in the twelve teams that she supports. Sue provides evidence-based supervision to lead and grow her Senior Psychologists of Education. She uses the Professional Practice Framework, Teaching Standards and reflective practice to guide practitioners’ practice. In addition, Sue considers current systemic factors relating to how we support our students and their families to enhance the wellbeing of mental health within local communities. Sue’s leadership meetings are innovative and engaging and promote a sense of collegiality and learning. She is sensitive to the needs of individuals but also challenges her team to consider systemic factors relating to our practice. Sue is well-versed in systems and processes relating to the department and always considers the complex mental health that schools are managing. She has been instrumental in the development of systems and processes for Student Support Officers, to guide their practice, and how best to integrate these services for the benefit of wellbeing within schools. Sue is extremely knowledgeable in the systems and processes impacting work within schools. She delivers training that is in support of department initiatives, thereby providing an opportunity to consider and implement current focus areas within schools. Sue is highly respected among her peers and she is most definitely an innovator who has, and will continue to make a significant contribution to the school counselling service. Sue’s ability to develop relationships and her collaborative skills enable her to embark on a range of innovative practices. She actively shares her initiatives with her LPP colleagues. For example, she has assisted in the development of a vision statement that guides the clinical practice of the school counselling service. As a leader and team player, Sue has shared this vision with other Leaders of Psychology Practice (LPPs) to develop a best practice approach to support teams in their service delivery across schools in NSW. Sue proactively shares information with her colleagues. She has provided her LPP colleagues with information on how best to collaborate and work with school principals. She has also developed a best practice guide on how to manage complaints. Within her SPE team, Sue has created hubs with an aim to improve the school counselling service specific to the needs of the community. Initiatives include a strategic approach to staffing shortages which has been well received within specific catchment areas affected. Sue’s thorough and considerate approach to supervising her team of SPEs ensures that best practice is cascaded to individuals within teams. Her approach is to work collegially with her SPEs. More recently, Sue has assisted in facilitating training for an anxiety program to be implemented within schools and developed kits for each SPE team that participated in the training. She has discussed a range of innovative ways in which the program can be delivered. Sue encourages the development of networks in the interests of student wellbeing to achieve sustainable outcomes for the students we support. Sue always refers to the importance of the student voice and working within a family system. She is also mindful of the current climate impacting student mental health and how best to support her team to do this effectively.