Now and Next Family Conference 2019

Small steps, giant leaps


We invite you to join us at the 3rd annual Now & Next Family Conference on Saturday 26th October 2019. The conference will bring together families of children with disabilities and their allies.


Themes of the conference include:

– building the capability of families to create the best life for their child

– ways to promote the voice of our children to encourage independence and flourishing.

Presenters include families, autistic adults and children, people with disabilities and allies.


Through little steps and from the earliest moments, we can make giant leaps for our children. In doing so, we lay the foundations for our children to become the directors of their futures.


The conference is brought to you as a collaboration between Plumtree, Now and Next™ , Reframing Autism and Reframing Disability.



Saturday, 26th October 2019
9:30am – 4:30pm
Family breakfast and registrations from 8:30am



St Peters Public School
St Peters, Sydney NSW


How much?



Available by application.


8:30am | Breakfast and registrations

Come along and enjoy breakfast and a chance to connect with other families.

Childcare by booking only


9:30am | Welcome to Country | Michael West, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council
9:40 | Opening of the Conference | Jordan O'Reilly, CEO Hireup
9:50am | KEYNOTE PANEL: Including the voice of your child: Building independence and flourishing

In 2017 and 2018, our panel discussions centred on parent-professional relationships and how parents can ‘lean into’ their relationships with professionals. This year, we are shifting focus to how we can support out children to ‘lean in’ too.

Our panel of experts will discuss the ways that families can encourage, incorporate, and include their child in decision-making and planning through asking the questions: Why should we include children in the decisions that affect them? What is our role to promote this? How can children be integral members of their teams, even when they are very young? In what ways can children express their view in therapy, home and community environments?

Join us, as we explore how our children can flourish through developing independence in their own lives.


Dr Melanie Heyworth, peer worker

Panel members:

Marlena Katene

Kylieanne Derwent

Melo Kalemkeridis

Jordan O’Reilly

Jodie Laughton

10:50am | KEYNOTE: Helping children recognise and express emotions | Dr Emma Goodall

It is frustrating for children and their families when a child cannot recognise or safely express their emotion. This session will explain why many children with disabilities struggle to identify and manage their emotions. It will also give you practical strategies to support them to do so.

These strategies require 5-20 minutes a day and are suitable for all people regardless of their age, challenges and their support needs. However, while children are still learning about their emotions, they need the adults around them to help them manage their feelings.

This session will provide you with three strategies that will be useful when helping children to manage and recognise their emotions.

11:35am | Launch of two new parent-led organisations, Reframing Autism & Reframing Disability | Margie O'Tarpey

Since 2015, Plumtree has been investing in new ways to build the capability of families of children with a disability or developmental delays to set a positive and hopeful vision for their child and to help them work towards achieving their goals.

In 2019, Plumtree has been successful in applying for funding from the NDIS to set up two new parent-led organisations, Reframing Autism and Reframing Disability.

The vision of the two organisations is to:
– Reframe Disability and to Reframe Autism;
– Respect, accept, embrace, and empower people, parents, families and children, who have a disability and/or who are Autistic;
– Be evidence-based, founded on the theory and practice of early intervention, post-traumatic growth, prospection, hope, goal attainment, strengths-based and family-centred practice;
– To build the capability of families through empowerment, participation and control;
– To be citizen-focused.

Learn more about these organsiations.

11:50am | LUNCH



12:55pm | Reframing Autism: Helping parents recognise and manage demand avoidance (PDA) | Dr Wenn Lawson & Katy Reid

Wenn & Katy talk together about the Pathological Demand Avoidant (PDA) profile in Autism, and the role in PDA of neuroception (how our brains distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life-threatening), interoception (one’s inner senses, e.g., recognition of body temperature, heart rate, hunger etc.), and poorly developed Object Permanence (knowing objects, people, emotions and so on, to have a life of their own, even when out of sight). Wenn will explain the neuroscience and Katy will give examples. Together they will offer ideas to assist young people and their families in lowering stress and anxiety and increasing daily learning/coping  .


12:55pm | Getting the start right, Friendships & Building Independence | Melanie Dimmitt, Nerida Bodycote, Sylvana Mahmic

Getting the start right: Creating expectations for our child and family. Melanie Dimmitt, Author of ‘Special

The early stages of navigating a child’s disability can be an emotional rollercoaster – so how can we soften the ride? Melanie Dimmitt will explore ways to overcome fear, turn around negative thinking and carve out a ‘new normal’ for your family.

Friendships: Building a community around your child. Nerida Bodycote

Sometimes our children need some help to build a community around them so that friendships are encouraged to blossom. Nerida Bodycote will share the strategies that have laid the foundations of community and friendships for her daughter and family.

Building independence: Using your individual funding through self-managementSylvana Mahmic

Our expectations, decisions and actions shape the futures of our children. Sylvana Mahmic reflects on the successes and challenges of how she has used self-managed funding to build her sons independence.





3:00pm | A Whole Family Approach: Children's insights about having their voices included | William Brown

In a casual interview with his Mum, William reveals different ways in which his voice is heard in the big and little parts of his life. William is the expert in his life, and he will talk about the ways he expresses his wants and needs. He will also talk about the ways his family approaches ‘big’ decisions that affect him

Using a whole family approach to negotiation and conversation, William shows how he is supported to make important decisions and to become independent. Covering everything from schooling, to hobbies, to screen-time, to therapies, William will discuss what works for him so he can have his voice included and can flourish.

3:15pm | Communication through a child's eyes | I am Cadence

In this session, we will launch a self-directed documentary by Cadence, in which she shares her reflection on communication as a non-speaking young person. Cadence shows how spoken or verbal communication is not just a product of language processing, but also a product of thinking processes. She gives speaking people access to her unique perspective by showing how much she has to say.


3:35pm | 10 things I love about having an inclusive life | Marlena Katene
Having a disability does not equate to having a boring or stagnant life. In Marlena’s presentation ‘10 things I love about having an inclusive life’ she will show how with the right supports, a clear vision and a purpose, no matter what the disability, we can ALL attain to living the good life. 


4:05pm | Closing of the Conference


4:15pm | Karim's Mojo Disco

Karim’s Mojo Disco is a life-changing motivational presentation by “Don’t Dis My Ability” ambassador, Abdul-Karim Bouchafaa.

Guaranteed to put a smile on your dial and a spring in your step, Karim’s Mojo Disco will completely change the way you think about people living with disability and might change the way you look at yourself and the world altogether.



Michael West, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Michael is a member, cultural representative & Traditional Custodian with fellow Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council members, being responsible for the Land, Air, Water, History, Traditions and Culture within our boundaries and is currently the Community Development Manager.

He is a member of the Stolen Generations, an Aboriginal man of the Gamilaroi Nation and was born, raised and has lived his whole life in Sydney.

Michael is proud to be part of the oldest living Civilisation, encompassing History, Knowledge, Ceremony, Traditions and Culture practiced for more than 65,000 years.

Everyone should learn about their own History, Traditions and Culture. Understanding and appreciation of diversity, gives greater insight into humanity and oneself.

Embracing diversity, brings greater opportunities both here in Australia and throughout the world, and can only be achieved through culturally respectful collaboration.

Really putting things in perspective in 2010, was participating as one of the members of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council in a Repatriation Ceremony of Ancestral remains “Stolen” 120 and 140 years ago taken to Europe and England.

Helping their spirit achieve rest by returning them to their ancestral country in Sydney was an affirmation that all Australians need to understand and respect our shared history, if we are to grow as a nation and the individual.

Michael sees himself as an educator sharing stories spaning from contemporary urban based Artist to cultural representative with Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council.

Burning and creating “Message Sticks” is practicing my culture and they are used for symbolism, marking points in the continuum and the education of people about history and Aboriginal perspectives.

Fifty (50) Message Sticks have been created some have been, Federal Circuit Court in collaboration with Grandmothers Against Removals, Invictus Games, Paralympics 2016, NSW Health Chronic Care, NSW Health Oral Health and as educational tools in his cross cultural education on Diversity, Family, Health, Housing, Law, Employment and Education.

The Federal Circuit Court and Grandmothers Against Removals Message Stick has words and symbols as a catalyst for honest tough conversations, it is in the shape of a boomerang representing children returning to Country, Culture and Community.

Everyone has an intrinsic value, it’s upon us, the individuals, the communities and society to support and develop capabilities to enable the achievement of dreams and aspirations.

Michael has had a variety of current and previous roles

  •   Director – NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce
  •   Director – Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
  •   Co-Chair – National Sorry Day Committee
  •   Delegate – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  •   Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Committee to the Board ofHeadspace
  •   Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group Australian CurriculumAssessment Reporting Authority
  •   Cultural Advisor Tedx SydneyHe recently co-created artwork with friend and fellow educator Brendan Kerin on the story is of Jukurrpa. It explains the connection and respect between clans through language, ceremony, beliefs and lore. The centre circle is a neutral ground for all clans to get together and share in the Jukurrpa. There is always a connection to the centre as the centre is also the starting point for everything in life. It symbolises the seven continents of the world, Australia is in the middle with the other six continents coming to Australia to sit in a circle sharing stories, culture and trade while also reinforcing that Australia has been trading for 65,000 years and traded with Indonesia and China from 500 years ago. This piece sits in Australian Trade & Investment Commission’s (Austrade) flagship national headquarters in Sydney and is the first thing trade delegations see when entering the Sydney office
Jordan O'Reilly

Jordan O’Reilly is the co-founder and CEO of Hireup, an online platform connecting Australians with disability with support workers who fit their needs and share their interests.

For Jordan, the design of Hireup comes from a very personal experience. As a sibling growing up alongside a brother with a disability, Jordan knew how important it was for people with disability and their families to have control over their supports.

In just 4 years, Hireup has grown into a community of over 75,000 registered users and an established for-purpose business widely recognised for its social impact. Last year, Hireup was named a Impact Challenge winner, as well as Australia’s fastest growing tech company by Deloitte in 2017. Jordan has also been recognised as EY’s 2018 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year and a NSW State Finalist, Young Australian of the Year Award 2015.

Jordan has dedicated his adult life to building organisations and enterprises that empower people with disabilities and their families to live life to its fullest potential. Prior to Hireup, Jordan co-founded Fighting Chance Australia a not-for-profit organisation that exists to enrich the lives of young Australians with significant disabilities. Fighting Chance supports over 500 young adults on a weekly basis toward goals of employment and social inclusion.

Dr Emma Goodall

Dr Emma Goodall is an autistic disability researcher, author and professional. On the board of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, she is also on the executive of the Australian Society for Autism Research and a visiting fellow at the University of Wollongong. When not writing books, journal articles or researching, Emma works in the South Australian education system as their Senior Autism Adviser. Emma’s drive comes from a belief that individual autistics need opportunities and understanding in order to achieve their potential and to live happy and meaningful lives.

She is also a wife and mother of a young adult who grew up with challenges, but who is now proudly growing in confidence and skills.

Sylvana Mahmic

Sylvana Mahmic is the CEO of Plumtree Children’s Services and has served on over 15 advisory groups, five Ministerial appointments, and been a member of the Disability Council NSW.  She has held executive positions on the Board of Early Childhood Intervention Australia NSW/ACT and was a  foundation board member of Diversity Disability Alliance.

Currently, she is a member of the Access Advisory Group NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet, the NSW Family and Community Services Multicultural Advisory Group, Australian Museum Access and Inclusion Advisory Panel and the NDIA Independent Advisory Committee.Sylvana has worked for over twenty-five years in the early childhood intervention field, with a particular expertise in whole of family and peer led approaches.

She is the co-creator of the peer led program Now and Next and has incubated two new peer led organisations. Currently, she is undertaking postgraduate research with a focus on individualised funding, which has been her interest since 2009, when her son commenced with self-managed funding.

Margie O'Tarpey

Margie O’Tarpey is an accomplished CEO, with over 30 year’s experience in the Not for Profit sectors, primarily in heath and community services and professional Associations. Margie has a background in law, social work & nursing.

She is recognised for her ability to lead people through change; being an innovative thinker, with a strategic focus.

Margie is committed to sound governance and financial sustainability standards and human resources emotional intelligence management.

She has proven success in change management and in liaising and advising at senior levels of organisations, with all levels of Government and Industry.

Dr Melanie Heyworth

Melanie became interested in disability four years ago, when her eldest son was identified with autism. In the subsequent years, her two other sons, and Melanie herself, have also been given identified as autistic. In order to better understand the implications of her sons’ autism diagnoses, Melanie completed her postgraduate study in autism in 2015.

She is a passionate champion of autism acceptance and inclusion, equity, neurodiversity, and listening to autistic voices. Although she home-schools her three boys, Melanie is deeply committed to helping families with school-aged children in their journey to experience genuinely inclusive schooling.

Marlena Katene

Marlena Katene is a music journalist, business owner, workshop presenter, trainer and first base jumper with CP.

Her goal with is to become the next Molly Meldrum and is already seeing this goal be achieved having interviewed the likes of Boy George, Russel Brand and may other celebrities.

Check out Marlena’s YouTube channel the AAC Journalist

Melo Kalemkeridis

Melo has held National and State roles in Sales and Training within the FMCG sector for 20+ years. He is father to 8yo Yianni and 6yo Victoria who has a disability.

Since the birth of his daughter Melo shifted his focus from understanding consumer behaviour to studying individual behaviour. He is a Performance Coach, NLP Practitioner, Facillitator of parenting programs, Circle of Security, 123 Magic and Now and Next, and runs MyTime Men’s Group. His philosophy is, Better Parent, Better Partner, Better Person. He couldn’t do any of the work he does without the support of his beautiful wife, Angela.

Kylieanne Derwent

Kylieanne is Autistic with ADHD. She is the proud parent of two Autistic children with ADHD. Kylieanne is one of the co-founders and a board member for The Autistic Realm Australia Inc., an Autistic led Not-For-Profit that supports, educates and advocates for Autistic people and their families. She also sits on the board of GFSG Inc NSW. Her background is in business and marketing and she runs her own business from a rural area on the south Coast of NSW. Kylieanne is pursuing further education to further increase her knowledge in her passion area of neurodiversity and inclusion, with a focus on rural and remote areas.

Jodie Laughton

Jodie is a skilled Speech Pathologist who has over 20 years experience working with children and families.

She is passionate about working with young children and their families in their natural environments, building the capacbility of families and carers and drawing upon the child’s strengths and interests from a young age.

Dr Wenn Lawson

Dr Wenn Lawson is an Autistic lecturer, psychologist, researcher, advocate, writer and poet. He has passionately shared his professional and personal knowledge about Autism for 25 years. He has written and/or contributed to over 20 books and many papers. Dr Wenn iTutor for the University of Birmingham’s Masters Autism course, participant with the Autism CRC, member of the ‘I CAN Network’ board, and is on the Editorial Board for journal, Autism in Adulthood. Dr Wenn also consults for the South Australian Government, and is a family man with both Autistic and non-autistic children and grandchildren. In 2017 he presented to the United Nations on matters of Autism and ageing.   

Katy Reid

Katy is Wenn’s daughter, and a neurodivergent mother to her Autistic daughters, aged 12 and 9. Katy has a degree in Disability studies and a postgraduate degree in Primary Education (primary). She is partway through her Masters of Education and her Graduate Certificate of Autism Studies at Griffith University.

Katy has been teaching for over 16 years and is currently homeschooling her children as well as lecturing at Federation University in their Bachelor of Teaching course within their disability sector.

Melanie Dimmitt

Melanie Dimmitt is an Australian journalist who has written for publications including The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Collective Hub magazine, Broadsheet, The Tot and Mama Disrupt magazine, and has created content for Smack Bang Designs and You & Co Media. A Perth native, who has also lived in Melbourne and London, Melanie currently lives in Sydney with her partner and two young children.

Melanie is author of ‘Special: antidotes to the obsessions that come with a child’s disability’ – a candid companion for parents who are coming to terms with their child’s disability.

Nerida Bodycote

Nerida is an accomplished Chartered Accountant with over 25 years experience at executive level leadership working for international accounting and law firms as well as film and media companies.

Whilst very proud of her accomplishments in her professional life, nothing has been more rewarding than her role as a mother to 11 yo Madison and the work she is doing as a passionate public advocate for rare diseases, disability, inclusion and medicinal cannabis for intractable epilepsy.

Nerida’s advocacy sees her speaking regularly with media and local, state and federal politicians, most notably Mike Baird the then NSW Premier and Anthony Albanese.

Nerida is currently the Finance Director at Taste Creative which is an inclusive creative agency that produces films and documentaries that focuses on inclusive themes and content.

Nerida is also a strong ambassador in the community holding a variety of roles including an honorary board role for the Ella Centre (a centre for adults with disability), a member of the parent advisory board for the Little Heroes Swim Academy (an organisation that provides swimming lessons to kids with disabilities), and parent advocate for Variety, Rare Voices, Plumtree, the Touched by Olivia Foundation, Syndromes Without a Name (SWAN), Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Inner West Council.  She also provides support to other families in their rare diseases/additional needs journeys.

William Brown

William is a twice-exceptional, Autistic 10-year old who is homeschooled after deciding that mainstream school was not the right place for him. William enjoys his life which is a mix of routine, and flexibility and freedom. William spends much of his time engaging in his passions and talking about them to anyone who will willingly (or not so willingly) listen. His passions include modelling Warhammer 40K, and WWII aircraft and land vehicles; building realistic architecture in Minecraft; working on his Hornby train layout, and listening to audiobooks (bankrupting his Mum in the process).

I am Cadence

Cadence is an active, playful and bright 11 year old girl diagnosed with ‘Autistic Disorder’ (commonly known as ‘Classic Autism’).

Cadence delights in writing, twirling, patterns, counting, and painting. She has a great love for animals, being outdoors and all things princess and fairy. Her first public piece, ‘Autism is why I am different’,  published by Kidspot magazine in August 2015 when Cadence was just 7 years old, has since been made into a Spanish short film, ‘Acceptance’ (released August 2016).

Karim Bouchaffa

Karim is a performer, university student and two times “Don’t Dis My Ability” ambassador.

His dream is to show the world just how much people with disabilities have to offer. Since 2010 he has been a public speaker sharing the benefits of self-directed funding. His business, Karim’s Mojo Disco, is a life-changing motivational presentation, in which he conveys his message that disability shouldn’t stand in the way of achieving goals.

Brought to you by


The 2019 Now and Next Family Conference is a collaboration between Plumtree, Now and Next, Reframing Disability and Reframing Autism.

Plumtree is delighted to officially launch, Reframing Disability & Reframing Autism, two new parent-led organisations at the 2019 Now and Next Family Conference.

This fantastic collaboration promises to deliver an engaging conference celebrating and highlighting the benefits of an approach in which disabled people and families lead their communities. Plumtree has long believed and invested in building the capabilities of families who have a child with disability or developmental delay, and the role of the broader disability community to support this capacity-building.

Reframing Disability is run by families for families and aims to combine capacity-building and leadership development with education, research, resource development, mentoring, and support. Reframing Disability will provide an innovative platform in which families unite to understand their role in creating a future of possibilities for their child.

Reframing Autism is run by Autistic and neurodivergent people, for their families and allies. It is a group in which Autistic people and their non-autistic families and allies come together to understand Autism and neurodiversity to effect social change and achieve genuine respect, acceptance and inclusion for the Autistic community.


We acknowledge that Plumtree Children’s Services was funded by the NDIA to auspice the two new organisations in June 2019 under the Program Name ‘Community Inclusion Capacity Development’ and Activity Name of ‘Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) Readiness Round 2018-19’ and we commend the NDIA for enabling these two new organisations that will champion peers to pioneer change.


We are excited that St Peter’s Public School have opened up indoor spaces and the playground and oval to be used for child-minding.

The usual Plumtree child-minders and preschool staff will be on-site to care for the kids. The children will be enteratined with arts & crafts, games & activities, chill-out space and lots of outdoor fun!

There will be breakfast available, but please bring enough food and snacks for the whole day and any comforters or things your kids enjoy (such as a device or book).

It is very important that if you are no longer bringing your child, that you cancel their registration or let us know, as spaces are limited and  the child-minders are booked on the ratio of children.

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