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Board Level – June 2020

Board Level – June 2020

The tradition of the president writing about the work of the ANZ ACBS Board was started by Eric Morris and continued by Tiffany Rochester. In addition to providing members with transparency around the Board’s work, the focus has been on helping communicate all the incredible achievements of our organisation and its members. That I am finally getting to this (in June!) is testament to just how busy the organisation has been. So, following a hiatus, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to step into the (very big) shoes of Eric and Tiff to highlight the incredible work of ANZ ACBS.

Since taking on the President role in November 2019, two major events have shaped both the work of our Board and our communities more broadly: the tragic bushfires which ravaged Australia in summer and the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been humbled to be part of a community which has demonstrated such flexibility, compassion and wisdom in response to these events.

The recent death of George Floyd and subsequent increased recognition of racism across the world has also resulted in the ANZ ACBS Board considering how we can best contribute to this conversation, while continuing to support our members and stand in solitary with those affected by racism.

Despite these tough and important times, the sheer length of this blog is testament to the incredible work of our community. There has been so much activity, both alongside the challenges faced and in direct response to them.

If, while reading, you note an area in which you would like to support ANZ ACBS, please feel free to get in touch with me directly.

Board Changes

Our AGM was held in November 2019 and with that, a change in the make up of the ANZ ACBS Board. Shelley Viskovich (Member-at-Large), Karen Hielkema (New Zealand Representative) and Farah Gulamoydeen (treasurer) have all settled into their roles very well (as you will see from the incredible work each of them have been doing below). A big thank you to everyone who put their hand up for these roles, we hope to see each of you closely involved with ANZ ACBS in the future.

Sadly, a change in Board also means we also need to say goodbye to those Board members rotating off. Linda Nicholson finished up in her role as member-at-large. Linda has been an invaluable member of the ANZACBS board (her second stint in the role), in particular for her tiresome work as program chair for the highly successful Canberra conference in 2019. Her leadership, wisdom and support has been greatly missed on the Board.

Sara Boucher finished up in her role as New Zealand representative. Sara has been an outstanding representative of New Zealanders and also the research component of our community. In particular, her efforts on the Dunedin skills intensive (see below) and on getting the webinars up and running (again, see below) have been greatly appreciated.

Melissa Schellekens unfortunately had to step down from her role as treasurer to face the ever-present PhD thesis head on. Melissa has been a tireless treasurer, working in the background to dramatically improve our financial processes. I have been enormously lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Melissa. The work she has done for ANZ ACBS will continue to have an impact well into the future.

We also had to say goodbye to Eric Morris. Eric had been on the ANZ ACBS Board for five years and I suspect if I had 10 pages I could still not do justice to the contribution he has made. Eric has devoted countless volunteer hours to a variety of roles including mentoring, program chairing the Melbourne conference, working continuously to help move our community forward and leading ANZACBS as President. I have no doubt that Eric will continue to serve our community in a variety of ways, but he is sorely missed on the Board. On a personal note, thank you Eric for your kindness, mentorship, support and generosity. I would not have been able to step into this role without your guidance.

Early in 2020, the Board unfortunately had to say goodbye to our president-elect Lisa Soares, who needed to step down for personal reasons. We were delighted to have the excellent Julie Grove step into this role. Julie is well-known within the ANZ ACBS community as a skilled and compassionate leader and has already proven to be an asset to our team.

Julie Grove

Finally, writing about changes to Board would be incomplete without acknowledgement of the incredible work which Tiffany Rochester has done in her role as President of ANZ ACBS. Anyone who attended the president’s address which Tiff gave at the 2019 ANZ ACBS Canberra Conference will be aware of the extraordinary leadership which Tiff brought to ANZ ACBS as President. Her vision continues to inform the Board and her countless achievements, including overseeing significant organisation reform (including actioning longstanding efforts to introduce paid membership), will leave a legacy for many years to come. Thank you Tiff for all the time and dedication you have given (and continue to give) to this community. ANZ ACBS is infinitely better for having you a part of it. On a personal note, thank you Tiff for your all your support as I transitioned into this role. If ever there was a leader that I want to model myself on, you are that leader.

Tiff Rochester

Finances during COVID-19

The COVID-19 Pandemic has seen the Board work to ensure ANZ ACBS remains financially viable. As an organisation which predominately draws its revenue from face-to-face training, this has required a significant re-think of our strategy for 2020 (which originally was built around a large-scale conference which became unfeasible for 2020 – see below). Put simply, ANZ ACBS needed to continue to generate income to remain solvent and be able to pay for the basic expenses of running a registered Australian charity.

Ultimately, we have been very lucky to have been eligible for the Australian Government JobKeeper program (resulting in almost zero expenditure on wages) and the Cashboost program. This has seen ANZ ACBS placed in an excellent financial position moving into 2021, an essential aspect of being able to manage the risk of putting on a large-scale conference. A big thank you to our excellent treasurer Farah Gulamoydeen, in partnership with our executive officer, Kali Madden, who have navigated the complex bureaucracy to ensure we are in the good position that we are in.

Bushfire Response

During and post the 2020 bushfires, ANZ ACBS Board looked for ways we could support our battered community. We sent a call out for volunteers to help support those in our community working with people affected by the bushfires. We had an incredible uptake, with 21 of our generous members putting their hand up to provide support.

If you are interested in accessing this support, please contact me directly.

Conference 2021

Our Auckland conference team, led by conference chair Karen Hielkema, have been working hard in the background to lock in everything needed to put on a world class conference for ANZ ACBS. On the program team side, Giselle Bahr unfortunately had to step down from the role of program co-chair. In her place, Dr Geetanjali Basarkod (pictured on the right) has agreed to step up and co-chair our program team with Elizabeth Maher.

Due to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the Board, in consultation with the conference team, took the hard decision to postpone the planned November 2020 conference for 12 months. This decision was made to allow for us to be in the best position to put on a conference in which we are able to offer relative certainty around travel and international speakers. The Auckland 2021 conference promises to be unmissable, with invited speakers Dr Avigail Lev, Dr Janina Scarlet,Dr Kenneth Pakenham, Dr Patti Robinson and Dr Kirk Stroshal all confirmed for the new dates.

ANZ ACBS Conference 2021

A massive thank you to our three chairs for the great work they have put in so far. We are thrilled that they will be staying on for the 2021 event.


Last year saw the introduction of paid membership. This decision, years in the making, was to ensure that ANZ ACBS was able to grow and better meet the needs of members.

This introduction has been a significant success with 162 members joining since the inception last year. As we move forward we will be looking at expanding member benefits across a variety of different areas, including community, support, discounts and resources. This project is being led by our excellent secretary, Andrew Duirs, with support from our Executive Officer Kali Madden as well as Michael Swadling, who has kindly agreed to oversee our membership activities.

As a part of the joining process, we ask members for their values. You can see an excellent visual representation, created by our EO Kali Madden, of these values.

2019 ANZ ACBS Members Values


A priority for the modernisation of ANZ ACBS has been to introduce a new website. Recently, our website committee including Kali Madden, Tiffany Rochester and Farah Gulamoydeen have been working hard at putting together a new website. You can check it out now at (where you will be reading this blog!). Over the coming months, we will be adding further content as well as a ‘members-only’ section where we can easily share resources. Thank you to Nathan Phillips and ShelleyViskovich for your support in testing and reviewing the website.

Skills Intensives

The end of November saw the second ANZ ACBS skills intensive, this time in Dunedin, New Zealand. By all accounts, this event was a smashing success, with 25 people spending two days with three awesome trainers, Ben Sedley, Giselle Bahr and Kathryn Whitehead. A massive thank you to Sara Boucher, who championed this event from the start and to Claire Turner, for all the behind the scenes work.

In February, we hosted another skills intensive, this time led by Julie Grove (now president-elect), Julian McNally, Matthew Smout and Rachel Collis. I was lucky enough to be at this event, which saw over 50 members of our community come together for an awesome weekend of intermediate/ advanced training. In addition to a massive thank you to our awesome trainers (who came from across Australia), thank you to Jodi Thiessen whose behind the scenes work made this event possible.

Mindfulness Sessions

As part of the ANZ ACBS response to the COVID19 pandemic, Claire Turner and Hayley Quinn have partnered to run free weekly mindfulness sessions. These sessions have been an amazing hit, with ANZ ACBS community members from across Australia and New Zealand coming together for 30 minutes of focused reflection. If you are keen to join, sessions run Wednesday 6pm AEST and you can contact Claire directly or join the Facebook group.


For some time now, ANZ ACBS has been reflecting on how to best showcase awesome ACT and CBS work from around our region and the world in an accessible way. The answer: webinars!

Spring 2019 saw the launch of the ANZ ACBS webinar series with Dr Joe Oliver presenting on RFT made Simple. This was followed up with Dr Koa Whittingham presenting on ACT, Evolution and Parenting and then Ross McIntosh speaking on ACT in workplace settings. You can still access the recordings for these events here.

Thank you to Eric Morris and Sara Boucher for your background work on getting these off the ground. We are thrilled that our team has been joined by Shelley Viskovich and Jennifer Kemp.

Our next webinar will see Drs Hayley Quinn, Kiera Buchanan and Stan Steindl come together for a fantastic panel discussion on compassion in the COVID era. This event has been postponed in the context of supporting the important discussion on racial discrimination, and will now be held on Monday 6/07/2020 at 630pm AEST. Thank you to Shelley Viskovich for her behind the scenes work in getting this off the ground.

Local Events

2020 has seen an expansion of the ANZ ACBS local events program.

On the Victorian front, I have been joined by Michael Swadling and Deborah Hart in continuing to put on the ANZ ACBS local ‘ACT in the Pub’ events which had Julian McNally,Lisa Soares and Eric Morris speaking on RFT, ACT in Public Mental Health and ACT and Cinema respectively to ever-increasing crowds. In response to COVID, the team has had to temporarily move these events online with Deborah Hart delivering an excellent talk on ACT for Music Performance Anxiety.

This year also saw the launch of Sydney local events (which has been temporarily paused during the restrictions on gatherings). For their first event Louise Shepherd spoke about ACT in the Climate Crisis. Thank you to Melissa Schellekens and Geetanjali Basarkod for putting this event together. We look forward to seeing these events recommence in the (not too distant) future!

And, as always, our Western Australian colleagues continue to do great work with their excellent local support and planning. We look forward to seeing what events they put together in the future. Rumour has it they have some great plans in formation to support ACBS WorldCon. Thank you as always to the entire WA ANZ ACBS Community Planning Team!

If you are interested in putting on a local event in your Australia or New Zealand community, please feel free to get in touch.


In recent times, the ANZ ACBS Board has been approached by members looking for support to advocate for evidence-based contextual approaches being included in relevant guidelines. The absence of contextual approaches (particularly ACT) was noted in the Beyond Blue guidelines for the treatment of anxiety and depression and the Phoenix guidelines for the treatment of trauma-related disorders. In both cases, Adrian Querzoli stepped up and drafted letters to both these organisations on behalf of ANZ ACBS. The Board, particularly Andrew Duirs and Jennifer Kemp were able to support Adrian in this excellent work before providing submissions to both these organisations.

Social Work Event

ANZ ACBS was excited to be represented at last year’s AASW Conference, with member Carolyn Minchin putting together a great networking event for social workers around this event. Thank you to Amanda Shields, from the local ACT interest group, for her support as well.


Earlier this year, we were thrilled to have Amy Campbell step into the role of communications manager. Unfortunately, she had to step down a short time after for personal reasons. However, in her brief time in the role, she was able support ANZ ACBS increase our effectiveness in communicating with our members, highlighting the critical importance of such a role. If you are interested in supporting ANZ ACBS with its communications, please feel free to get in contact with me. We are particularly looking for someone with basic competencies (or willingness to learn) with Mailchimp and social media posting.

PVT Training

And finally, I would like to acknowledge the incredible generosity of Maarten Aalberse. Based in France, Maarten reached out following the Australian bushfires looking to support our community. He has been able to offer to our volunteer supervisors an online polyvagal theory training. While still running, the feedback has been very positive. Thank you Maarten for this generous and timely support.

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