ACWA are thrilled to formally announce our international speaker line-up for the ACWA Conference: Reimagining Our Work with Children, Families and Communities.

Prof. Jonathan Scourfield

Jonathan Scourfield is Professor of Social Work at Cardiff University, where he has worked since 1996. He has been involved with the leadership of CASCADE, the Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre, since it was founded ten years ago. CASCADE is the largest centre of its kind in the UK. He is co-speciality lead for social care research in Wales and a Health and Care Research Wales Senior Research Leader. He is a registered social worker. In a recent analysis of academic impact in the social work field, based on citations in peer-reviewed journals, he was ranked #41 in the world.



Prof. Stephanie Holt

Stephanie Holt is Professor in Social Work in the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin where she has worked since 2000. Prior to that, Stephanie worked as a social worker in both Belfast and Dublin, across Children in Care, Child Protection and Family Support teams. Stephanie has researched and published primarily in the areas of child welfare and gender-based violence (GBV). She has a particular interest in engaging children and young people in research in order to bring new insights into how very young children experience adversity such as GBV.

Stephanie is currently Co-Principal Investigator on the first Irish study to seek the views of care experienced young adults. Commissioned by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, this milestone new study is exploring the experiences and outcomes of young adults who left the Irish care system approximately ten years ago in the aftermath of the Ryan Report. Stephanie is concurrently leading on another innovative research project commissioned by Women’s Aid. This mixed methods study is exploring the experiences of adult and child victims/survivors of GBV as they navigate the Irish Family Law system in custody and access proceedings.

Stephanie is currently Head of School and a registered social worker (CORU).



Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi

Land Acknowledgment

“Toronto is in the ‘Dish With One Spoon Territory’.  The Dish With One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee that bound them to share the territory and protect the land. Subsequent Indigenous Nations and peoples, Europeans and all newcomers have been invited into this treaty in the spirit of peace, friendship and respect”

Dr. Kiaras Gharabaghi is the dean of the Faculty of Community Services at Toronto Metropolitan University.

Previous to this, he was the John C. Eaton Chair of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Director of the School of Child and Youth Care, both at Toronto Metropolitan University as well. Dr. Gharabaghi started his career in the human services in the 1980s, working directly with young people facing adversity, managing not for profit youth serving programs in child welfare, child and youth mental health, and youth homelessness, and providing family support services to newcomer families.

Over the course of the past thirty years, Dr. Gharabaghi has been involved in major child welfare transformations in several provinces across Canada, including a comprehensive review of residential services in Ontario resulting in the report entitled Because Young People Matter. He has contributed to social work projects internationally, particularly in Germany, Austria, India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. Dr. Gharabaghi has published eleven books, including A Hard Place to Call Home: A Canadian Perspective on Residential Care and Treatment (Canadian Scholars Press, 2019), as well as over 300 scholarly, professional, and creative writings.

He is a frequent speaker at scholarly and professional conferences in Canada, the United States, Germany, and South Africa, and maintains an active professional engagement with NGOs and government departments focused on issues of child welfare and child protection.  His own background is marked by both forced and voluntary migrations spanning three continents, multiple languages, and engagement with multiple faith groups.


Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Emily Keddell

Emily Keddell is an Associate Professor and head of programme in Social and Community Work at the University of Otago – Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka. Her research focusses on the intersecting social inequities affecting the child protection system. Beneath this broad umbrella, she examines disparities for specific groups, decision-making variability, knowledge interpretation in practice, and the politics of state intervention in family life. She has a particular interest in the ethical implications of algorithmic tools used in child protection decision-making. Current projects include developing strategies to prevent babies entering care at the time of birth; examining reporting decisions made by community professionals to statutory child protection; and a study of collaborative decision-making between iwi (Māori tribal organisations) and Oranga Tamariki (state child protection agency). Her work includes a focus on whānau (extended family) and practitioner voices and experiences. She was an invited witness to the Waitangi Tribunal hearing (WAI2915) (investigating inequities for Māori in the Aotearoa New Zealand child protection system), and the Royal Inquiry into Abuse in State Care. She is a founding member of the Reimagining Social Work blog, an associate editor of Qualitative Social Work, and an editorial collective member for the journal Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work. Her work highlights issues of rights, equity and justice within child protection systems and how to address them.


Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Catherine Liddle

Catherine Liddle – Chief Executive Officer, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children

An Arrernte/Luritja woman from Central Australia, Catherine has been a leading advocate in upholding the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on a national, regional and local level. Catherine has held senior management positions in First Nations organisations including First Nations Media and Jawun Indigenous Corporate Partnerships, as well as within the Northern Territory Education Department, the ABC and NITV/SBS.

A journalist by trade, Catherine’s motivation has always been to drive change that leads to positive outcomes and options for First Nations people. Over the past 10 years she has led multidisciplinary teams, overseen workplace transformations, and advocated for policy reform. Catherine is the CEO for SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the national non-governmental peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children that works for the fulfilment of the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, in particular to ensure their safety, development and wellbeing.


Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Dr. Darcey Merritt

Professor Darcey Merritt, University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice US

Darcey Merritt’s research centers on child maltreatment prevention, specifically neglect, and parenting in socio-economic context, considering and parental participation in decision-making. She is dedicated to elevating the voices of systems-impacted parents and children in the discussion of prevention methods and service delivery in the context of racialized poverty. Her works primarily focus on child welfare service-impacted families and their perceived experiences while receiving services, and ways in which systemic racism manifests within child welfare system service delivery. Darcy is co editor of the international journal Children and Youth Services Review.

Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Nat Kendall-Taylor

Nat Kendall-Taylor, PhD, is chief executive officer at the FrameWorks Institute, a research think tank in Washington, DC. Nat is a psychological anthropologist and leads a multi-disciplinary team in conducting research on public understanding and framing of social issues. Nat has led work across the FrameWorks portfolio, with a special focus on issues related to early childhood, youth mental health, criminal legal reform, and health equity. Prior to joining FrameWorks, Nat’s research focused on understanding the social and cultural factors that create health disparities. He has led framing research in Australia since 2010 with a focus on designing effective ways of reframing issues related to early childhood and parenting. He lectures regularly in the US and abroad with recent presentations at the Nobel Prize Summit and the White House Youth Policy Conference. Nat is a senior fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and a visiting professor at the Child Study Center at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr Kiaras Gharabaghi

Brenda Matthews

Brenda Matthews is a proud Wiradjuri woman living with her husband, Mark, in Bundjalung country, Queensland.

Brenda co-directed the feature documentary The Last Daughter, which was released in Australian cinemas and on Netflix in mid-2023 to excellent reviews and critical acclaim. The film is based on her beautifully penned book of the same title, and was also released in 2023 to excellent reviews.

Brenda’s journey from being part of the stolen generation to becoming a Mother, Grandmother, Author, Speaker, Film Director, Storyteller and Co-Founder/Director of Learning Circle is an inspiring testament to the power of healing and reconciliation.

Her remarkable story, as eloquently portrayed in her debut book and Netflix documentary feature film, “The Last Daughter,” encapsulates heartbreak, love, forgiveness, hope and bringing the Country together.