Michele Carnegie

Chief Executive Officer

As Chief Executive Officer, Michele drives CELA’s strategy to amplify the value of early education, and to raise ECEC quality standards across Australia. Michele is recognised as an influential leader in our sector and is a catalyst for policy reform and new sector initiatives. She is a member of government advisory panels including the NSW Education Department Early Childhood Panel and the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Early Childhood Reference Group. 

Some of Michele's achievements include successfully advocating for vital sector funding during COVID 19, and the implementation of the National Quality Framework, Early Years Learning Framework, Preschool Funding Model and Proposed Jobs for Families Child Care Package in rural New South Wales.  She was also instrumental in implementing the Skilling Rural Children’s Services program, supporting early childhood educators in rural NSW to increase their qualifications. 

Kerrie Maguire

Learning and Development Specialist

Kerrie has been working in children’s services for over 20 years and is one of Australia’s leading early and middle education professional development specialists. Driven by a passionate belief in the significance that educators have in the lives of children, Kerrie is committed to driving quality service delivery within the ECEC sector. She has an in-depth understanding of the National Quality Framework, learning frameworks and supplementary regulations. She is renowned as an inspiring and effective communicator, with a unique ability to connect and engage with professionals at all levels of career development. 


Rachel Ho

Professional Learning Coordinator

Rachel has worked in the early childhood sector, specifically in long daycare settings, for more than ten years. During this time, she has held a variety of teaching and leadership positions and is currently studying for a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Teaching). 

Rachel is particularly passionate about practice with infants and toddlers and loves exploring how that area of practice can be further developed within the care space. She is a staunch advocate for the early years sector and believes in the power of quality early education and care for nurturing neural pathways and fostering holistic well-being in children. She is also passionate about educator well-being and professional development as critical ingredients to professional fulfilment and a sustained and skilled workforce. 

Vanessa Knox-McKay

Early Education Specialist

With 30 years of experience in the early education sector, Vanessa brings a wealth of knowledge and skills to CELA.

Vanessa began her career in community-owned early education and care services as a teacher and director before taking a position at TAFE as head teacher of childhood education and a manager of teaching across the community services and health faculty. During this time she taught and supported the professional growth of many educators in the early education and community services sector.

Before joining CELA, Vanessa worked as early education and care operations manager for a large organisation, where she was involved in service approval processes and operational support across a group of services.

Felicity Dunn

Policy and Research Manager

Working with our CEO, Felicity monitors and analyses government policy changes that relate to our sector, and drives and analyses CELA's pulse check research into how policy is affecting the operations of our members. Felicity provides clear updates for members through our member news page, as well as input for CELA’s advocacy work through documentation and reporting. Felicity’s background includes a Postgraduate Diploma of Public Policy & Management (First Class Honours), Graduate Certificate in Education and Bachelor of Arts, Political Science and Music.

Louise Black

Learning & Development Specialist

With a background in local government as a teacher director, and as a validator and trainer with the National Child Care Accreditation Council, Louise Black brings many years of sector experience.

She is an integral part of the Learning and Development team at CELA, specialising in quality assurance and training needs analysis across all service types. Louise designs customised training to meet the specific needs of individual educators and teams.

Aline Majado

RTO Manager

Aline is an education sector professional with 17 years of experience working across different sector levels; from early childhood to middle years, high school and vocational education. Aline has a background in art education and has worked with welfare projects to support closing the gap of access to the arts in low socioeconomic areas in South America.

Aline has extensive experience in vocational training and has held roles such as trainer and assessor, work placement coordinator and RTO operations manager for independent and not-for-profit Registered Training Organisations.

Dr Debra Williams

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Dr Debra Williams brings invaluable expertise to CELA gained over her 40+ year career in the sector where her roles included Director of community based and private sector services. She is a Doctor of Philosophy, holds a Graduate Certificate in Research Methods and a Bachelor of Arts with Diploma of Education Diploma of Management, among other credentials. Debra has also achieved Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher (HALT) Accreditation in NSW, an outstanding milestone demonstrating her leadership and commitment to excellence in teaching.

Jenny Hind

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

As an experienced Director and Educational Leader in community-based preschools, Jenny has provided training for educators, management committees and early childhood educators in community services from Port Moresby to Sydney’s Sutherland Shire.  

In her role as a facilitator for CELA she primarily teaches management opics, helping leaders to achieve proficiency across a wide range of areas. Jenny is a career-long member of CELA, and understands first-hand the value of having a dedicated ‘go to’ team of early childhood experts to provide interesting and up to date information to support educators at all stages of their career.

Karthika Viknarasah

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Karthika had a successful career as an accountant before following her passion to the early childhood sector. She has worked as an educator, early childhood teacher and director in long day care and OOSH services. She holds a Master of Teaching degree and a Master of Educational Leadership degree and is a NESA Early Childhood Teacher Accreditation Supervisor.
Karthika is the recipient of the national “New Voice in Educational Leadership” award from ACECQA and the Australian Council of Educational Leaders. She is also the recipient of the Elizabeth Brennan Scholarship from the University of Sydney. In her work with CELA she uses her specialist qualifications and experience to undertake compliance audits for services as well as facilitating training to support sector professionals pursuing continuous improvement. Karthika is passionate about the performing arts as a conduit for holistic development with a particular emphasis on early literacy and speech development. 
As an advocate for children, families, educators and providers, Karthika has served on the board of a number of committees, peak bodies, community organisations and government advisory panels.

Louise Murfet

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Driven by her belief that quality early childhood educators set the path for a lifetime of learning, Louise supports and mentors educators, centre owners and services to deliver their best. 

As a former administrator, educator, teacher and director, she brings a wealth of sector experience to her work as a facilitator and trainer for CELA. She holds a Bachelor of Education (EC) and Advanced Diploma in Community Sector Management and Diploma of Management, Cert IV. 

Penny Birdsall

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Penny has been a member of CELA’s Learning and Development team since 2015, and is a valued part of our customised inservice training team. Penny’s specialist areas of knowledge include child protection, how neuroscience affets early childhood development and behaviour, and wellbeing for educators with an emphasis on mindfulness and yoga.  She is also a qualified RTO assessor and trainer facilitating and marking child protection training courses for our RTO. 

Penny has considerable experience planning and implementing curriculums for 3 to 5 year olds and has a wide range of expertise gained as a former preschool director and early childhood teacher.  She is also a qualified adult and children's yoga teacher and a passionate advocate for incorporating kindness and gratitude into daily life.

Michelle Urquhart

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Michelle is an early education and care professional with particular expertise in special and inclusive education, as well as child protection, assessment and rating, and supervision. She facilitates professional learning webinar sessions for early and middle childhood educators, to support assessment and rating and compliance.  She holds a Master of Special and Inclusive Education and Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood).

During more than 25 years in the ECEC sector, Michelle has worked in a variety of roles, including Centre Director, Family Day Care Educator and in management positions in private and community-based services.  Her work has also included establishing new centres, identifying new business opportunities and drafting the Child-Safe Organisation framework, policy and procedures for a large not-for-profit. 

Mimi Wellisch

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

A qualified Psychologist and Director of Clever Kids Consultancy, Mimi’s particular field of expertise is young gifted children. She holds a PhD in psychology, Graduate and Post Graduate Diplomas of Psychology, Master, Bachelor Degree and Diploma qualifications in early childhood education. 

Mimi is also an expert on the Early Years Learning Framework and regulations, and has additonal experience gained over 15 years working with the Department of Child Services and Department of Education. She is a much-respected casual member of CELA’s learning and development team.

Suellen Bingham

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Suellen is the Manager of Children’s Services Community Management (CSCM) and a Centre Director overseeing operations at three preschool centres in the NSW Hunter region. She is also the Nominated Supervisor for Thornton long day care and preschool.  CSCM takes on the management of education and care services partnering with communities to provide specialist management expertise for their education and care service. She holds a Diploma In Teaching (Early Childhood Education) with distinction from The University of Newcastle and faciliates some of CELA's training sessions. 

Michelle Cuthbertson

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Michelle has over 40 years of continuous service in early education and welfare, and is highly regarded as a course facilitator by both professionals and families. She is passionate about supporting and empowering educators and families to enrich and strengthen their relationships with children. Michelle’s areas of expertise include emotion coaching, secure attachment, behaviour guidance, educator/family partnerships and child protection.

Michelle has qualifications in early childhood education, adult education, management and Circle of Security™ facilitation. She has worked as a centre manager, family and children’s services manager, senior preschool advisor (DET), resource developer (ACECQA), TAFE teacher, early education consultant and parenting facilitator. She is also the author of two publications: Commonsense Discipline and Do & Learn.

Jennifer Barker

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Jennifer has recently joined CELA following a 42-year career in Early Childhood Education. Her most recent role was as joint educational leader and provider of a music program. 

Jennifer strongly believes in the power of shared experience and the responsibility to pay back to the education and care sector that she so loves. She has a strong interest in the arts—especially music and movement. Jennifer believes that building confident and secure relationships, learning through play, spontaneous teaching and flexible routines are the backbone of a quality early childhood program. 

Ella de la Motte

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Ella has worked in the early childhood education sector for many years and holds an abundance of knowledge and experience gained in a diverse range of early education and care settings. Her qualifications include a Diploma in Early Childhood and a Bachelor of Teaching (Birth to 5 years).

Ella is currently the director/nominated wupervisor of a vibrant service located in the Hunter region of NSW. She views the opportunity to support and guide others as a privilege and is driven by a desire to influence the growth of high-quality education and care, leading to better outcomes for children. During her career, she has spent time as a trainer and assessor for Certificate III and Diploma level qualifications in early childhood education and care.

Meg Anastasi

Training Facilitator

Meg is a passionate advocate for early childhood, with a particular focus on inclusion, wellbeing, and teamwork. She is an early education specialist with broad sector experience. Over the past ten years Meg has provided parenting support programs for vulnerable families in playgroup settings, worked in long day care and as a teacher in a sessional kindergarten in Melbourne. Meg also mentors pre-service teachers who are on placement as part of their tertiary studies at university.  

Meg holds a Bachelor in Early Childhood Education and is currently undergoing postgraduate study in adult education at Deakin University. As a lover of robust discussion and deep reflective practice, Meg aims to help, guide and mentor many educators in the development of their practice and pedagogy. 

Dipendra Banjade

Digital Marketing and Website Executive

Dipendra is CELA’s digital marketing and website executive. With a passion for data and marketing, he helps organisations to maximise their marketing activity and online presence. In his role at CELA, Dipendra brings expertise to create and execute effective digital marketing campaigns that enhance CELA's online presence. Dipendra is currently pursuing a Bachelor of IT, majoring in data infrastructure engineering, which allows him to stay up to date with the latest technological advancements and digital marketing trends.

Eva Bowers

RTO Trainer and Assessor

Eva is a trainer and assessor for CELA’s RTO child protection training course. She is a social worker and educator with an extensive practice background in child protection. Eva spent a decade working as a case worker, case work specialist and training with the NSW Department of Communities and Justice.

She currently works with the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia as a Regulation 7 Family Consultant/Child Expert and has worked as a teacher, trainer and consultant in the community services education sector for the past 15 years.  

Eva has a passion and commitment to providing education in the VET sector in community services including supporting early childhood educators in a complex and challenging area when responding to child protection concerns. 

Narelle Myers

Regional Early Education Specialist

As CELA’s Regional Early Education Specialist, Narelle plays a vital role liaising with early education and care services located in our remote and rural communities. With a focus on achieving high quality early education and care for all children regardless of where they are located, she supports services to deliver best practice standards. A key part of her role is ensuring members in regional areas feel supported and understand the wide range of resources available to them via CELA’s support, advocacy, training opportunities and professional consultancy.

Kirsty Simmonds

Kirsty combines commercial acumen with an executive’s and communicator’s perspective to build and shape strategy, transform businesses, support leaders and teams, for change and growth. ​ 

An accomplished leader, she has experience in London, San Francisco and Sydney working on complex, world-class, globally recognised projects and award-winning initiatives, with excellent teams. She has led teams through major, difficult corporate changes. ​ 

With career foundations in market growth and marketing strategy grounded in audience insights, she understands the implications and value of data-driven innovation and its applications. Kirsty is experienced in developing strategy, planning, product and experience design, positioning, engagement, marketing, and communications, operationalising across an organisation. ​ 

She brings a deep understanding of financial services plus experience in consulting in technology, data and analytics, consumer and market research, early childhood and tertiary education, MedTech, environmental-sustainable fashion, arts and culture, other government services, tourism and the arts, and NFP. ​ 

A leader, strategist, and doer, she brings a profitable combination of experience, adaptability, resilience, a capacity and appetite for rapid learning and problem solving.

Tracey Sharp

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Tracey has been involved in the early childhood sector for the last twenty years in a variety of roles including teacher, director, area manager and consultant. Tracey has a Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching (Early Childhood Education), a Bachelor of Interior Architecture with Honours, an Associate Diploma in Social Science (Child Studies) and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

She is incredibly passionate about children’s rights, the experiences they have and their emotional well-being. She believes that the physical environment that is presented to children can impact on the experiences they have and their learning outcomes.

Rod Soper

Facilitator and Early Education Specialist

Rod Soper is a highly regarded ECEC author, leader, wellbeing researcher and visionary co-founder of Thinkers.inq preschool and early years school.

 He is founder of Playing with Gratitude Project—an international wellbeing action research project now with over 4,000 participants including children, families and educators. His vision is also expressed through consulting work within the education sector, partnering with workplaces to inspire and support building wellbeing in communities through organisational change. In his work as a training facilitator with CELA, Rod aims to help educators thrive in their professional practices. He holds a Diploma of Leadership and Management, Graduate Diploma Counselling, Master of Teaching (Hons and Special Education) and Bachelor of Arts. 

Meet us!

CELA Facilitators

CELA’s Learning and Development facilitators come from a wide range of early education backgrounds, equipping them with practical sector based experience which is second to none. All our facilitators have a common passion for meaningful growth in every educators practice, resulting in better outcomes for children.

Guild Insurance

CELA’s insurer of choice. Protecting Australian businesses and individuals with tailored insurance products and caring personal service.