Best Start, Best Life 2023 Educational Leaders Conference

Evidence for impact: giving children the best start

Large audience watching a panel discussion at the conference

Hosted by the Department of Education, the Best Start, Best Life 2023 Educational Leaders Conference brought together early childhood Educational Leaders, experts and practitioners from across the state. The conference was held on 15 February 2023 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, Melbourne and online via live streaming.

The conference theme, ‘Evidence for impact: giving children the best start’, encouraged strong, evidence-informed discussion about early childhood education, with world-renowned experts and leading practitioners sharing their thoughts.

The conference, hosted by journalist Ellen Fanning, built on the significant expertise of attendees to enhance their professional development and connect with colleagues.

The conference explored the critical role of quality practice in the $9 billion Best Start, Best Life reform, and supported Educational Leaders to guide the delivery of two years of high-quality play-based learning for Victorian children.

Recordings and resources

Where possible recordings and resources from conference speakers and panellists are available below.

Panel: Evidence and reflective practice

Panellists on stage at the conference


  • Rachel McKay, State Lead Practice Partner Vic/Tas, Goodstart Early Learning
  • Sunil Kumari, Educational Leader, Goodstart Early Learning, Clayton
  • Elfie Taylor, Director of Services, Early Years, Our Place
  • Kristie Dowell, Educational Leader, Gowrie Carlton Learning Precinct

Facilitated by Ellen Fanning, this panel of Educational and Pedagogical Leaders discussed practical ways that the panellists have used evidence and reflective practice to deliver high-quality education in their services. Learn about their journey of improving practice and the approaches they have embraced.

Keynote: International perspectives of pedagogical leadership

Professor Jane Bertrand lecturing on stage at the conference

Speaker: Professor Jane Bertrand, Program Director, Margaret and Wallace McCain Family Foundation

Leading researcher in early childhood practices, Professor Jane Bertrand, explored the latest international evidence on pedagogical leadership. She highlighted the common factors of great leadership and the best ways Educational Leaders can lead effectively.

Keynote: The evidence for educational leadership in improving quality

Speaker: Professor Iram Siraj OBE, Professor of Child Development and Education, Oxford University

Professor Iram Siraj, a world-leading early childhood expert, spoke about the evidence for educational leadership improvement. Although a recording of her conference presentation is not available, her research into how leadership plays a key role in learning and teaching quality is available through the following links:

Presentation: Intentional teaching and play-based learning

Speaker: ARC Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer, Foundation Chair in Early Childhood Education and Development, Monash University

Renowned researcher, ARC Laureate Professor Marilyn Fleer, discussed practical and evidence-based strategies to improve intentional teaching and play-based learning. Marilyn discussed how children embed concepts within a play-based program and the importance of developing a balance of teaching practices to support children’s learning.

Keynote: A call to action for Educational Leaders

Speaker: Sir Kevan Collins, Vice Chairman of the Board, Committee Chair at Learning by Questions, Youth Endowment Fund, Board Member, Goodstart Early Learning and Board Member,

Sir Kevan Collins discussed the important role of the focused and active Educational Leader, drawing on his deep evidence-based knowledge. He spoke passionately about how Educational Leaders can embrace change and enhance children’s learning and development.

Backfill and long-distance travel contributions

Applications for backfill and long-distance travel contributions for the Best Start, Best Life 2023 Educational Leaders Conference closed on 31 March 2023.

General enquiries

Please contact the Events Team if you have any queries about the conference.

Email us