The Australia and New Zealand Chapter of the
Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ANZ ACBS)

Who We Are

ANZ ACBS is a registered health promotion charity dedicated to alleviation of human suffering and advancement of human well-being through research and practice grounded in contextual behavioural science.


ANZ ACBS was founded in 2009 and is a community for researchers, educators and practitioners promoting and advancing contextual behavioural science. It is the home of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) in our region.

What We Do

As a chapter of the worldwide Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, ANZ ACBS works to spread contextual behavioural science (CBS) through our region by

  • creating opportunities for members to connect and share research, resources, and practice experience

  • hosting high quality professional development events attracting local and international researchers and trainers

  • working to promote inclusion of contextual behavioural science to the curriculum of psychology, education, medicine, social work, and allied health


Our conferences and training events typically have a strong focus on ACT, RFT, FAP and the emerging field of process-based therapies. Therapeutic approaches including Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) are also frequently featured because of similarity and compatibility with CBS approaches.

Our Guiding Principles and Values

The popular ACBS phrase of “living and leading with our head, heart and hands,” was introduced by Steve Hayes, one of the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy founders, as a model for promoting vital lives and communities. So, what does this phrase mean specifically for us at ANZ ACBS?

The Head. Our Science: What We Do.


The head (or foundation) of our work at ANZ ACBS is cultivated at the intersection of basic science, applied science, and practice. The head is what we do (i.e., promote local CBS research and scholarship, organise our regional conference and practical workshops, etc.) in the service of the heart (the why).

The Heart. Our Purpose: Why We Do it.


The heart is the compass that directs what we do and how we do it. The ANZ ACBS heart is focused on researching, teaching and disseminating powerful, empirically supported, accessible and compassionate ways of alleviating human suffering and connecting people to vitality.

The Hands. Our Community and Values: How We Do It.


Stepping up and committing to our organisation’s values requires the cultivation, nourishment and cooperation of a local and global CBS community - the hands. Our community is made up of local board members and staff, local members across Australia and New Zealand, and international ACBS members. Social change is consciously built into our organisation. As a community, ANZ ACBS is committed to values of accessibility, transparency, pragmatism (doing what works), generous scholarship and practice, and philanthropy.

Meet the ANZ ACBS Board

Melissa Schellekens square.jpg

Melissa Schellekens


Melissa is a research fellow at the Research for Educational Impact centre at Deakin University, with a PhD in educational psychology focusing on socio-educational equity particularly for young Indigneous Australians. Working in Colombia, she used ACT-based art approaches with female adolescents exposed to conflict related sexual violence. In Australia, she is working toward the application of contextual behavioural science and evolutionary science in schools internationally through Prosocial schools and Positive Peace international networks. Melissa is a co-founding member of Prosocial Australia Cooperative which seeks to assist groups of people to work better together to create deliberate futures through collaborative governance and cultural behaviour change. Melissa has over 20 years of experience across a range of organisations from government departments, private consulting, and NGOs, in Australia and in Colombia. Melissa is a past treasurer of ANZ ACBS, has been an active member of the ACBS Chapter and SIG committee committees and has presented at past ACBS World Conferences.


Lisa Mastin-Purcell


​Lisa is a postgraduate psychology student and a Research Assistant with the CBS Lab at La Trobe University. Before studying psychology, Lisa spent 5 years working in corporate Learning and Development – she loved helping people to learn but something was missing. She wanted to help people to live more meaningful lives, to find the things they were passionate about, the things that really matter to them. Lisa first came across ACT in her undergraduate years and it resonated with her immediately. She then had the opportunity in 2019 to undertake her honours thesis under the supervision of Eric Morris looking at the role of Psychological Flexibility in sleep and that’s where her ACT journey really began. Since then she has become interested in both the research and applied sides of ACT, Psychological Flexibility and CBS. In 2021, Lisa began her postgraduate psychology studies, where she looks forward to learning more about the clinical side of ACT.


Justin Doran


​Justin is a Clinical Psychologist working in private practice in Crows Nest, Sydney.  He provides supervision to Intern Clinical Psychologists completing the Master of Clinical Psychology program at Macquarie University.  Justin also consults within the Voice Connection Clinic – a unique multidisciplinary team treating people with voice disorders. Justin has been a member of the ANZ ACBS since 2016 and has attended ANZ ACBS conferences in Melbourne (2016) and Canberra (2020) and the ACBS World Conference in 2021.  Justin will be presenting a workshop titled ‘Working with Suicidal Clients: Rethinking Risk and Working Contextually’ at the ANZ ACBS 2021 conference.  Justin is passionate about applying Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) across a variety of settings, and introducing his supervisees to the house of functional contextualism.


Vin Allen

NZ Representative

Vin is a PhD student at the University of Auckland in the department of Psychological Medicine. He and his team are currently working on a project to develop digital tools to support the delivery of Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (fACT) in New Zealand primary care contexts. He's a big fan of third-wave behavioural therapies such as ACT and fACT, and extending the use of these to solve population health problems is a primary focus of the team's research. Mental health research is one of Vin's passions, and he feels very lucky to be able to make a living out of doing research in this area. He's always been passionate about the philosophy of Behaviourism, and credit's B. F. Skinner’s Radical Behaviourism for initially sparked his interest in Relational Frame Theory, and subsequently Contextual Behavioural Sciences. These approaches underlie all of his research endeavours, and he's keen to be a part of a community of fellow CBS researchers.


Michael Swadling


​Michael is a clinical psychologist and registered supervisor, and currently works as Senior Advisor for Mental Wellbeing Initiatives at RMIT University. He has been the facilitator of the Melbourne Early Career ACT Therapist peer consultation group since 2015. He is one of the organisers of the Melbourne ACT in the Pub event series, and the 2021 ANZ ACBS Conference. He is passionate about community-building and sharing ACT, CBS, and behaviourism. His clinical work has focused on student counselling with areas of special interest in impostor syndrome, identity, and trauma. His past research focused on the wellbeing and burnout of psychologists and other human service professionals, and recently on university staff and student experiences of psychosocial safety climate, as well as role engagement and exhaustion.


Grant Dewar


​Grant is a Work Health and Safety Advisor to the Australian Federal Government department Intellectual Property Australia, assisting in the implementation of  the Australian Public Sector Mental Health Framework.  He first came into contact with ANZ ACBS at its 2010 National Conference in Adelaide. He has presented papers and workshops at numerous national and international conferences He has experience as a health worker, educator, health and safety and welfare adviser and a human resource professional and uses this experience to inform delivery of assistance to the needs of individuals, families and communities. Through this he is able to contribute to improvements in quality of life. He has completed a number of master’s degrees and a PHD which focussed on the benefits of self-forgiveness.  He works collaboratively with a wide range of people in the community to make a contribution to service delivery in business, health and community settings.


Toni Hanna


Toni is an Accredited Clinical Social Worker based in rural SA. She has been a therapist since 1995 and have worked in a wide range of locations and settings. She loves a challenge and innovation, so has worked in rural and remote areas (some with the RFDS), set up new programs such as a Methadone clinic and a training program for workers in brief interventions for the SA Police Drug Diversion program, run a youth homeless centre, as well as being the clinical adviser to SA’s first Drug Court. She attended her first ACT training in 2009 and found its evidence- and values-based approach a natural fit for her as a social worker. Since then she has attended many conferences, workshops, and online trainings in ACT. She also accesses peer and clinical supervision in ACT. She provides ACT therapy for those with anxiety, depression, trauma; as well as couples, and for neurodivergent clients. She has a strong connection to Indigenous Australians and has developed and run workshops with indigenous communities across SA. She currently has a private practice where she provides clinical ACT placements for final year social work students.


Julie Grove

Past President

Julie is a psychologist in private practice in the inner west of Sydney. She is a native West Australian and moved to Sydney after completing her degree at the University of WA in the early 90’s. She has worked in Aboriginal communities, adolescent community health, the drug and alcohol sector and tertiary student counselling. Julie discovered ACT in 2006 and felt like she’d found her professional/spiritual home. Since then she has attended many CBS conferences and thrown herself into contributing to the community in any way she can. She has previously served on the Board as a Member at large, the ACBS Membership Committee, and as Secretary for the ACT SIG of the Australian Psychological Society. Julie is passionate about training and supervising therapists and introducing them to the ACBS family. As well as her clinical work, she regularly runs workshops and supervises teams across a variety of sectors in using CBS approaches. Julie is thrilled to be joining the Board again and working with a team that is dedicated to furthering the work of CBS and making it accessible for all.


Deborah Hart


Deborah has been a professional french horn player since 1985. She held a tenured position in Orchestra Victoria from 1995 to 2011. She has also worked in the Opera Australia Orchestra, the Sydney, Melbourne, West Australian and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras. Deborah has taught all levels of brass players from beginners at country primary schools to The University of Melbourne, but Deborah has always been interested in musical performance anxiety – trying to work out how to play your best during auditions and on the concert platform, when stage fright inevitably shows up. After completing her Master of Counselling in 2016 Deborah began running workshops and has presented at the Australian National Academy of Music, Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland Conservatoria, West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, The University of Western Australia and Monash University as well as secondary schools in Victoria. During COVID Deborah has delivered ACT for performance workshop to Auckland University and University of Melbourne. In 2019 she became an associate practitioner at ACT of Living, Melbourne’s dedicated Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Centre. At ACT of Living, Deborah sees clients who struggle with life direction, relationship issues, stress and worry. She receives supervision from Eric Morris, Tiffany Rochester and Julian McNally.


Bruce Arroll

NZ Representative

Bruce is a Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care at the University of Auckland New Zealand, current Head of Department and a practising GP at Greenstone Family Clinic in Manurewa in South Auckland - an economically deprived suburb. He does regular general practice at that clinic. Also, he does special consultations using Focused Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (FACT) for people who feel stuck in their lives by stress, pain or low energy. He does this work with his patients and those referred from his clinic colleagues and people outside of the clinic. He has many patients with diabetes who get improvements in their HBA1c results by attending to their psychosocial issues. He is also director of the Goodfellow Unit, writes the two weekly GEMs and researches non-drug treatments for mental health issues. He is also the Head of Department. He has over 300 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Board members are volunteers, elected annually by the membership for a term of 2 years for most roles, and 3 years for the role of president (1 year as president-elect, 1 year as president, and 1 year as past president).

The 2021-2022 board was elected by members in November 2021, and where casual vacancies have arisen the board has appointed replacement board members.