Make an Impact | International Volunteer Conference 2020

Discover what's on the conference program

Day 1 - Friday 27 March, 8:00am - 5:15pm

8:00am - 9:00am | Registration

Arrive early to allow time to register and collect your conference ID.

9:00am - 10:30am | Conference opening and keynote speaker Kurt Fearnley AO

Welcome and official opening of the conference.

Be inspired by our keynote speaker Kurt Fearnley AO. Kurt, a three-time Paralympic gold medallist and two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, is a passionate disability advocate and community leader. One of Kurt’s proudest achievements is crawling the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

Kurt will share his inspiring story – the aspirations, defining moments, and individuals that inspired and supported him on his journey.

10:30am - 11:00am | Morning tea break

Enjoy morning tea and refreshments while networking with conference speakers and delegates. 

11:00am - 11:50am | Inclusive development plenary

Hear from a panel of expert speakers on inclusive development themes including disability inclusion, gender equality and LGBTQI+ inclusion. This discussion will set the scene for the following breakout sessions where you can dig deeper into a range of inclusion themes.


  • David Sharman-Selvidge, Australian Volunteers Program, East Asia Region


  • Emily Dwyer, Edge Effect, Australia
  • Elenoa Kaiseu, The Society for Indigenous Women of the Cakaudrove Province (SVTC), Fiji
  • Dorcas Gano, Hako Women's Collective, Bougainville

12:00pm -12:50pm | Gender Equality in Papua New Guinea and Myanmar, & the role of Australian volunteers

Esther Silas, from Touching the Untouchables, will share and explore her experience of gender and power in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, and returned volunteer, Carolyn Grant, will explore the role of volunteers in helping to understand the relationship between cultural norms and gender equality.


  • Esther Silas, Touching the Untouchables
  • Carolyn Grant, EDGE Effect
  • Sharon Rawlings, Australian Volunteers Program

12:00pm -12:50pm | Australia Awards Scholars and inclusive development (Breakout)

Current Australia Awards Scholars from Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Laos discuss how their work and education is shaping more inclusive development pathways for their communities.


  • Cheryl Johnson, Assistant Secretary, NGOs and Volunteers Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


  • Philemon Yalamu, Australia Awards Scholar, Papua New Guinea
  • James Mauai, Australia Awards Scholar, Samoa
  • Phakhinda Khanthavilay, Australia Awards Scholar, Laos

12:00pm - 12:50pm | Disability-inclusive development (Breakout)

An engaging panel discussion led by CBM Australia (a disability-focused INGO) to explore some of the nuts and bolts of disability-inclusive volunteering. Learn more about programming for inclusion, better ways to communicate with people with disabilities, and designing accessible meetings.

Jen Blyth, Disability Inclusion Advisor, CBM Australia will facilitate this session and returned volunteers will share examples of good practice.


  • Ipul Powaseu, Papua New Guinea Assembly of Disabled Persons
  • Elizabeth Morgan, CBM Australia and returned volunteer
  • Ben Clare, Pacific Regional Chairperson for the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) and returned Volunteer

12:00pm - 12:50pm | Working cross-culturally: What's it like to work with Australians? (Breakout)

An interactive and engaging discussion about at what it's really like to work with Australian volunteers, led by Eve Aihunu, Program Manager for the Australian Volunteers Program in Solomon Islands. Partners from Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea share their insights on working with Aussies of all professions, ages and backgrounds.


  • Eve Aihunu, Australian Volunteers Program, Solomon Islands


  • Janaurio Mok, East Timor Development Agency, Timor-Leste
  • Freddy Lemeki, Kokopo Vunamami Urban Local Level Government, Papua New Guinea
  • Latra Nengah, Puspadi Bali, Indonesia

12:00pm - 12:50pm | Strengthening LGBTQI+ inclusion (Breakout)

How do we strengthen LGBQTI+ inclusion in international development and volunteering? Emily Dwyer, Managing Director of Edge Effect, facilitates this panel discussion which will include insights from partners, volunteers and staff. Discussion will be informed by key findings from the Australian Volunteers Program's LGBQTI+ inclusion review.




12.50pm - 1.40pm | Lunch break

Enjoy lunch while networking with conference speakers and delegates. Don't forget Tai Chi is on too.

1:00pm - 1:30pm | Tai Chi session

Join Tai Chi Australia’s Chief Instructor, Master Han Jin Song, for 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement and relaxation. There are no special requirements for the class - just wear flat-soled shoes and loose, comfortable clothing.

1:40pm - 2:25pm | Traditional knowledge and environmental management plenary

Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment Jamie Isbister will speak with Joe Morrison, Managing Director of Six Seasons, and a Dagoman and Torres Strait Islander man about his extensive experience in traditional knowledge conservation, climate change, and fire management. The conversation will explore the renaissance of traditional methods of caring for country, what the lessons from other countries can teach us, and how Australia’s experience can influence our development cooperation program.


2:35pm - 3:25pm | Australia Pacific Climate Partnership (Breakout)

Australia is working with Pacific islands governments to deliver climate and disaster resilient, low carbon growth. The partnership aims to increase access to climate information, to support Pacific governments to better integrate risks into policies and budgets, to better integrate gender and socially inclusive approaches into Australia’s climate change investments and provide technical advice to technical partners.


Kate Duggan, Australia Pacific Climate Partnership

2:35pm - 3:25pm | Eliminating plastic waste in the Pacific (Breakout)

Join this discussion on the environmental impact plastics are having in the Pacific. How are single use plastics being banned? What are the policy challenges and approaches? And how are alternative products and markets are being established? Hear from partners and volunteers from Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.


  • Miriam Malao, Green Wave, Vanuatu
  • Margie Morris, Australian volunteer, Vanuatu
  • Elizabeth Manning, Australian volunteer, Solomon Islands

2:35pm - 3:25pm | Disaster READY: partnerships to support disaster preparedness (Breakout)

How are Australian volunteers supporting local organisations to manage their own disaster risk and preparedness? Learn about the innovative Disaster READY model, how volunteers support the localisation agenda of Pacific Islands, and new volunteering models that encourage greater collaboration.


  • Bernadette Whitelum, Whitelum Group
  • Liam Sharp, Australian Humanitarian Partnership Support Unit
  • Emma Hess, Australian Volunteers Program

2:35pm - 3:25pm | Activating local cuisines in the Asia-Pacific to address food security and climate change (Breakout)

How can the activation of local cuisines, including climate-resistant local foods, mitigate the impact of climate change and improve food security? Robert Oliver, Pacific Island Food Revolution Founder, joins Timor-Letse Food Studio to look at innovations in the Asia-Pacific to revitalise local foods, improve nutrition and protect biodiversity.


2:35pm - 3:25pm | Case study: Biodiversity in Bhutan (Breakout)

Australian volunteer Danielle Northey spent a year in Bhutan, supporting the National Biodiversity Centre in the role of Biodiversity Research Advisor. Hear about Bhutan's commitment to preserving the country's rich biodiversity as part of the Bhutan's unique Gross National Happiness Index. 


  • Colin Collett van Rooyen, Australian Volunteers Program Regional Director for South Asia and Africa


  • Danielle Northey, Returned Australian volunteer and biodiversity specialist

3:25pm - 3:45pm | Afternoon tea break

Enjoy afternoon tea and refreshments while networking with conference speakers and delegates. 

3:45pm - 4:45pm | The Living Library - sharing inspiring stories (Plenary)

Join our Living Library to be inspired by our 'human books'. Each storyteller (human book) will engage with small groups of 'readers' to share their story.

4:45pm - 5:15pm | Day 1 closing plenary

Zoe Mander-Jones, Program Director of the Australian Volunteers Program, shares some reflections on day one of the conference. What was surprising, what was inspiring?

Celebration dinner: Friday 27 March, 7:00pm - 10:30pm

Celebration dinner at Zinc Federation Square

Join our Celebration Dinner! Guests will hear from guest speaker Robert Oliver, Pacific Island Food Revolution chef, and be entertained by the Djirri Djirri.

Dress code: National dress or cocktail

Day 2 - Saturday 28 March, 9:00am - 4:30pm

9:00am - 9:20am | Opening plenary

What to expect from Day 2 of the conference.

9:20am - 10:20am | Indigenous Australians and international volunteering

The Australian Volunteers Program is committed to increasing Indigenous Australian participation in international volunteering. Hear from Indigenous Australian volunteers about their international development experiences, and how these are informing experiences for future Indigenous Australian volunteers.


Madeline Hayman-Reber, Cross Platform NITV Journalist

Returned Australian volunteer panellists:

  • Clinton Wilson
  • T'ara Cole
  • Dimity Shillingsworth
  • Kevin Yew Yeh

10:20am - 10:50am | Morning tea break

Enjoy morning tea and refreshments while networking with conference speakers and delegates. 

10:50am - 11:50am | Impact in action: Overseas partners share how Australian volunteers have been part of their development journey (Plenary)

Long-term international partners from Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea discuss how Australian volunteers have contributed to their development journey. Facilitated by James Gilling, Humanitarian Coordinator at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, this panel explores how forging relationships, sharing skills and building capacity supports locally-led development.


  • James Gilling, Australia’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade


12:00pm - 12:50pm | How can international volunteering impact your career? (Breakout)

How can the skills and experience you gained on your volunteer assignment enhance your career? Learn from and be inspired by returned volunteers' experiences and career paths. Share ideas, tips and resources for making sure your international volunteer experience has a positive career impact.


  • Kathy Townsend, Kathleen Townsend Executive Solutions, AVI Chair and returned Australian volunteer
  • Elise Giles, Capability Development Manager at Asialink Business, Returned Australian volunteer (Vietnam and Indonesia)
  • Rebecca Redden, Australian Volunteers Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and returned Australian volunteer (Afghanistan)

12:00pm - 12:50pm | Volunteering and sustainable development impact (Breakout)

Together, partners and volunteers can make a unique contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. This interactive session explores what progress has already been made, and the opportunities for global connections that international volunteering fosters among diverse groups, and across different sectors and countries.


  • Dr. Peter Devereux, Returned Australian volunteer (Myanmar), volunteering for sustainable development academic and Senior Research Officer, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute

12:00pm - 12:50pm | Case study: Special education in Fiji (Breakout)

This session will explore the impact a collaboration between Fiji’s Ministry of Education and Australian volunteers has had on Fiji’s special and inclusive education sector, since 2013. Discover the achievements and lessons learnt in implementing inclusive education approaches and supporting students with disabilities to gain meaningful employment. Hear from students who have benefited from the program, and how the private sector organisations are supporting the program.


  • Apai Rokotuni, Australian Volunteers Program, Fiji


  • Litea Naliva, Senior Education Special and Inclusive Officer, Ministry of Education, Fiji
  • Kristyn Bashford , Australian volunteer, Fiji
  • Afrana Khan, Student speaker, Fiji
  • Sharmein Voi, Student speaker, Fiji


12:00pm - 12:50pm | Telling your impact story workshop (Breakout)

Storytelling has been at the heart of every culture since the dawn of humankind. It's how we've sought to make sense of who we are and how we interact with the world around us. Our natural inclination to process experiences through storytelling can be challenged in the digital age. In this interactive workshop, the Editor of Dumbo Feather magazine, Nathan Scolaro, shares tips and ideas for finding your stories through conversation and reflective practices.


12:00om - 12:50pm | Partnering for impact (Breakout)

What makes a good partnership? Through the strategic partnership between the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and DFAT, Australian volunteers have contributed to ACIAR research programs, and rural and remote Australians have volunteered as part of the Farmers without Borders initiative. This session explores what makes a good partnership, and how to manage the complexities of collaborating with a range of stakeholders.


  • Emma Hess, Partnerships and Innovation Manager, Australian Volunteers Program
  • Eleanor Dean, General Manager, Outreach and Capacity Building, ACIAR
  • Jamie Quilliam

12:50pm - 1:40pm | Lunch break

Enjoy lunch while networking with conference speakers and delegates. 

1:00pm - 1:30pm | Tai chi session

Join Tai Chi Australia’s Chief Instructor, Master Han Jin Song, for 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement and relaxation. There are no special requirements for the class - just wear flat-soled shoes and loose, comfortable clothing.

1:40pm - 2:40pm | Go Back Give Back Competition (Plenary)

Be entertained and inspired by returned Australian volunteers and their partner organisation colleagues as they pitch their project to secure a Go Back <> Give Back prize. Delegates will vote for their favourite project ideas and three competition winners will be announced at the conference closing. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to support a returned volunteer to go and give back to their partner organisation.


2019 Go Back<>Give Back Competition Finalists

  1. Water Well Project for Conservation Foundation Nusa Penida, Friends of the National Parks Foundation, Indonesia, Le-Anne and Damai
  2. Establishment of the First Human Milk Bank in Nepal, Kathmandu University School of Medical Science and Dhulikhel Hospital, Nepal, Maxine and Kavita
  3. Capacity Building Workshop: Clinical Application of Custom-Lower-Limb-Braces to Improve Independent Mobility and Social Integration for Children with Cerebral Palsy, BAHATALA Rehabilitation Centre, Philippines, Udo and Cecilia
  4. Early Identification and Intervention of Ni-Vanuatu Children Living with Disability, Disability Promotion & Advocacy Association, Vanuatu, Sky and Leontine
  5. AeroGym Women's Leadership Workshop for Vanua Levu, Gymnastics Federation of Fiji and Gymnastics Australia, Fiji, Caitlin and Kunjal
  6. The Royal Life Saving Society of Australia (RLSSA) Training for Swim Vietnam, Swim Vietnam, Vietnam, David and Trung
  7. Support for Cambodian Patients: Developing Information to Understand and Manage the Cancer Journey, Department of Social Work, Cambodia, Mara and Chenda
  8. Healthy WeightHealth Promotion Unit - Ministry of Health, Tonga, Jenna and Ofa


2:40pm - 3:10pm | Afternoon tea break and voting

Vote for your favourite Go Back <> Give Back projects

3:10pm - 4:00pm | Speculative Futures: Volunteering 2050 (Plenary)

What might volunteering look like in 2050? A speculative design exploration of possible and preferred futures for volunteering and how we might move towards that future now.


4:00pm - 4:30pm | Go Back Give Back winners and closing plenary

Don't miss the announcement of the Go Back <> Give Back competition winners at the closing plenary.

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