About The AGECS

The Association of Graduates in Early Childhood Studies (AGECS) is a membership-based, not-for-profit organisation providing professional development and networking opportunities for its members working in early childhood services. AGECS members work, or have worked, in the field of Early Childhood education and care and have significantly contributed to the field in other ways. The Association has a history of over 90 years of philanthropic work, which continues through its establishment of the Foundation of Graduates of Early Childhood Studies.

Our Aim


To provide specialized development opportunities that meet the needs of Early Childhood professionals and extend their knowledge, practices and expertise.

To provide networking opportunities to facilitate dialogue and fellowship.

To provide a well governed, well managed and sustainable key association to Early Childhood professionals.

Community Development

To advocate for Early Childhood Educators by providing leadership, excellence and respect for our profession.

To work in partnership with other stakeholders; to promote professional standards to ensure excellence and innovation in the development of Early Childhood Education and Care.

To provide a respectful place in the Early Childhood community for provocative and critically challenging dialogue.

Processes for Collaboration

How we intend to work together internally as a team, work with the people who use our services and other services.

To establish alliances with other organisations to leverage our vision.

To foster fellowship amongst graduates of Early Childhood and between different generations of graduates.

The AGECS Council will build a working relationship that promotes informed and up to date knowledge and opinion on Early Childhood development.

Our Principles

AGECS supports the Early Childhood profession through a number of professional learning opportunities to further understanding and knowledge of child development and learning so that all children have access to high standards of care and education in Early Childhood settings.

AGECS leads the provision of innovative and challenging learning to Early Childhood professionals to develop quality early childhood settings. These settings enhance learning and developmental achievements for all children with the most significant impact being on the outcome of children experiencing vulnerability.

Our Objectives

  • To maintain effective administration and delivery of services
  • To ensure funds through strong financial management
  • To provide well managed succession strategies for council members
  • To provide well managed resources to perform administration tasks
  • To provide information in different formats to promote excellence in Early Childhood
  • To promote outcomes that recognise connections and dynamics in the Early Childhood profession
  • To provide well managed resources to perform and implement strategies
  • Council to be open and transparent to membership and stakeholders
  • To establish contact with government departments and other stakeholders
  • Accessibility to all Early Childhood Educators to resources and information

Our Council Members

Behind the scenes here at AGECS there are a number of very busy volunteers staying up to date about the best ways to support early childhood and to add value to becoming a member.

As a member there are opportunities to join our Council, or to volunteer to help organise events or institute programs. If you have any suggestions or ideas on how the Association can serve you change to the ECEC field, please either email us directly or comment on one of our social media channels. Alternatively as a member, you are invited to attend meetings and the AGM and talk to any current Council members directly.

The Council meets quarterly. As well as addressing official business, discussion surrounds what programs and events the Association can become involved in or organise. The best way we can institute this is to hear from you. What are your greatest needs at study, at work, or at play with children?

President Alannah Dore


Master of Early Childhood (Macquarie University); Graduate Certificate Education Tertiary Teaching (Federation University); Bachelor of Education (Melbourne State College); Diploma of Teaching (Institute of Early Childhood Development)


Alannah’s professional background includes preschool teaching in rural and urban settings, professional development (PD) for teachers; preschool to secondary, TAFE teaching for trainee Parent Facilitators, Certification for pre-service early childhood educators, co-facilitator for Aboriginal childcare studies in Wodonga, inclusion support for KU Children’s Services, casual consultant to FKA multicultural resource centre, a lecturer at Federation University and two decades operating a personal development business with a focus on holistic wellbeing. Alannah is also a trained family therapist and counsellor with additional certification in developmental psychiatry.

Alannah was a recipient of an AGECS Fellowship for Leadership and Change grant in 2016 creating two videos designed for Assistant Educators who reported experiencing limited opportunities for Professional Development (PD) despite often spending the most time with the children. Designed to promote early stages of cultural competence, two short informative, enjoyable, easy to access, videos were created. Aimed to inform directly through transmission of information with interviews, original music and visuals were also used to subliminally promote the viewer’s emotional engagement with cultural inclusion concepts.

Cultural inclusion is one aspect of the heart of Alannah’s work which centres on promoting family wellbeing in innovative ways. She currently enjoys researching the link between teacher/educator wellbeing and the families they support. While vice-president of AGECS Alannah also actively encourages rural PD opportunities and self determination projects promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives in early childhood.

Vice-President Sarah O'Donnell


Post Graduate Diploma in Early Childhood, Certified Practitioner EFT, Certificate III in Meditation Teaching, Tuning into Kids and Teens facilitator.


After graduating from Melbourne University, Sarah spent a year living and teaching in London before settling into the city of Knox as a preschool teacher. Since this initial teaching role, Sarah has worked as a PSFO coordinator, been Team Leader of Specialist Children’s Service for the Department of Education and overseen the build and establishment of an integrated children’s service which included early learning programs, MCH, and a toy library. For the last few years Sarah has worked in senior leadership positions managing Children’s Services Clusters and managing the trial of the Short Term Kindergarten Inclusion Support Program. Currently Sarah works at Uniting part time while establishing her own business Empowered Living working with Educators and families to reduce their stress as a Certified EFT (Tapping) Practitioner and meditation teacher.

Honourary Treasurer Avril McHugh - AGECS Director


Diploma of Teaching (Melbourne Kindergarten Teachers College)


After graduation Avril’s first kindergarten was at Lalor in the Shire of Whittlesea. It was a new kindergarten in a new housing development. She taught there for five years before moving to Bendigo where she taught at the Maldon Preschool. After a break to have children, Avril did some emergency relief teaching in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. With her family she then moved to North –West Tasmania, where she worked for the Tasmania Education Department. Initially she worked as a kindergarten teacher at Moriarty Primary School and then in a literacy recovery program at the Ulverstone Primary School.

Upon returning to Melbourne Avril taught a three year old Group at Vista Valley Pre-school, Bulleen. In 1997 she accepted a position at Yarralea Children’s Centre teaching the three year old group and today she is still happily working there. During her time at Yarralea she taught with some wonderful directors. At Yarralea, Avril worked under the Educational Charter: Story- Spring board for Learning, Literacy and Life. Under this governance, she greatly expanded her knowledge and teaching experience.

In 2015 Avril retired from Yarralea Children’s Centre and did relief teaching there until 2020. Avril is now fully retired but continues her interest in Early Childhood Education by being on The AGECS Council.

Assistant Honorary Treasurer Sophia Patitsas - AGECS Director


Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood), Graduate Diploma Special Education, Master of Education (University of Melbourne), Certificate IV in Assessment and Training, Recipient Women and Leadership Australia Executive Ready Program.


As a seasoned early childhood teacher, Sophia taught in several kindergartens in the West before joining as an Early Intervention Teacher at Uncle Bob’s Child Development Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital.

Teaching in the various settings allowed for Sophia to be granted a Scholarship for 10 months, exploring Early Intervention using the Medical Model in Greece.

Other roles Sophia has undertaken include working as Community Development Officer for a Communities for Children project, Statewide Early Childhood Consultant  at Playworks, After School Care Coordinator, Family Day Care Field Worker and Preschool Field Officer.

Sophia is currently working as Early Years Coordinator which is giving her the opportunity to work with Teams, and guide the process of Social Policy Reform by the funding of 3 year olds in kindergartens within the municipality of Moreland. 

Honorary Secretary Sandra McCarthy-Wilson

General Member Dorothy Connop


MEd, Grad Dip Special Ed, Grad Dip Ed. Admin, Grad Dip Movement and Dance, Grad. Dip Special Ed. (Visual Impairment), Bachelor of Early Childhood, Diploma Teaching Early Childhood


Dorothy initially trained as a Kindergarten Teacher at the Institute of Early Childhood Development in Victoria. After completing her B. Ed, working in Kindergartens and Long Day Care Centres, Dorothy moved to Special Education working in Day Training Centres, before being appointed as Supervisor of the Broad Insight Group, an Early Intervention Programme in Broadmeadows. Dorothy has also worked for the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind (now Vision Australia), as a Home Advisor and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (in the UK), as Deputy Head Teacher and then Acting Head Teacher of a specialist school, prior to returning to Australia.

Dorothy then worked at Holmesglen TAFE as a teacher on the Diploma of Children’s Services and Certificate III in Child Care courses.  Following this, she returned to mainstream education and worked as a Literacy Support Teacher and then as a Reading Recovery Teacher in Primary Schools. For the past 7 years Dorothy has worked in the Nationwide Inclusion Support Programme as an Inclusion Professional.

Dorothy has completed a Masters Degree and 4 Post Graduate Diplomas, two of which are in Special Education.

General Member Maree Wiggins


Bachelor of Education (La Trobe University); Diploma in Special Education (Melbourne State College); Diploma of Teaching (Melbourne Kindergarten Teachers College)


Maree’s first teaching position was in Dunkeld in 1979 then on to St Josephs Kindergarten Fitzroy from 1980 -1992. St Josephs’ ran an extended hour’s program working closely with family services, protective services, Aboriginal community and refugees.

At this time Maree worked as a research assistant with the Education Department on a longitudinal study following secondary school leavers from two Frankston Secondary colleges. Ex-students were interviewed about their current positions of employment or study.

Maree underwent further studies specialising in Social Emotional Development in Early Childhood and graduated with a Diploma in Special Education from Melbourne State College. Maree strongly believes that to be an effective educator of children, training in early childhood development and special education are a good union and provide excellent teaching strategies to support children’s growth.

Maree completed her Bachelor of Education at La Trobe University, studying theories of girls/women in Education and social emotional development. Maree followed on from here in 1987 to do research coursework at La Trobe on ‘The role of Teacher Intervention on Children’s Resolutions’.

Maree then worked as a kindergarten teacher at Yappera Thornbury from 1993 – 97. Maree met so many beautiful families and her respect for the Aboriginal community was nurtured by listening and learning to their stories. Maree is eternally grateful for this unique opportunity.

In 1996, Maree worked part time as a research assistant at La Trobe University on an Intergenerational Literacy study.

In 1997, Maree began working as a Preschool Field Officer. In this role she sought to strengthen the child’s place in their community, resourcing Kindergarten Teachers to promote their relationships with the children, their families and the community. Maree established strong rapport with families so that they could make the demands to access the services and resources that would assist their child’s participation in the community.

Maree enjoys networking and building bridges between services to better support families and children.

Now retired, Maree plays lawn bowls, goes for long walks and reads.

General Member Sue Emmett




Dr Sue Emmett has been extensively involved in early childhood education and the translation of research into the practical environment for over thirty years. Her professional experience includes early childhood teaching in a range of settings, work as an early childhood educational consultant and teaching and researching within TAFE and Higher Education sectors.

Sue is currently working as Senior Lecturer in Education at Federation University Australia where she coordinates and teaches in Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Programs and manages partnerships with external organisations both  in rural Australian and international contexts.

Prior to this, Sue worked as a Research Fellow within the School of Social and Policy Research at Charles Darwin University where early childhood literacy was central to her research, particularly in relation to rural and remote indigenous education.

Her research interests also include the well-being of children and educators including trauma informed practice in early childhood contexts. Sue has recently published journal articles, reports and a book chapter in these areas. She completed her PhD in 2011 entitled ‘Preparing Professional Caregivers as Young Children’s Attachment Partners: A longitudinal study of a new Australian pre-service program’ which centred upon relationship focused theory and practice in early childhood contexts as well as learning and teaching at tertiary level.

General Member Wendy Grenfell (AUDAX Editor)

Wendy Grenfell completed the Diploma in Early Childhood Development at the Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD) from 1974 -1976. She completed the Bachelor of Special Education at Monash University in 1986.

Wendy has worked extensively in Victorian local government,  as an EC Teacher  for the City of Keilor,  for the City of Knox in sessional kindergartens,  and for the city of Boroondara as a PSFO.

Over time, Wendy has also worked as a Toddler group Teacher, Playgroup Field Officer, Preschool Field Officer, Validation Officer, Early Intervention Teacher and Kindergarten Team Leader.

While overseas, Wendy worked for the University of New Brunswick as an Early Years facilitator supporting families of  children with additional needs.

Wendy has volunteered with the Knox Kindergarten Teachers Association (6 years),  PSFO Association (9 years) and currently with AGECS (10 years).

Wendy is presently working part time as a Team Leader in Integrated Kindergartens.

General Member Nichola Marriott


Master of Education (Early Childhood),, Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood)


Early childhood has afforded Nichola with the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, from an international school in Singapore to a remote Aboriginal community in the Kimberleys.  She has taught in rural settings and in suburban Melbourne.  Nichola has been a PSFO in City of Casey and City of Yarra as well as working for Yooralla in the KIS programme.  She is currently the Pedagogical Leader for Children’s Services in City of Yarra, a job she enjoys as she gets to talk about her early childhood passions of inclusion and inclusive environments and the importance of providing a high quality programme to increase the positive outcomes for children and families.

General Member Gillian Shelley

General Member Bridie Raban

Administration Officer Liz Potter

Liz is Founder and Director of Business Answers & Support and brings a wealth of experience from many years’ work supporting a wide range of businesses, organisations and not-for-profits. Liz has a Bachelor of Arts from University of Melbourne, is registered with the Tax Practitioners Board as a BAS Agent, and is a Member in Practice of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. Liz is a skilled project manager who combines high level communications with proven leadership to get the job done. She brings a calm and positive presence to each workplace she serves.

Events Coordinator Alex Heard

Alex graduated from her Master of Teaching degree in 2016 and immediately started working in sessional kindergartens in the northern suburbs of
Melbourne. Alex also worked as a casual relief teacher around inner city and western Melbourne part time for one year, which was an invaluable
resource for reflective practice. She currently works as a teacher at Fawkner Kindergarten.
In 2017, Alex became a member of the Moreland Early Years Network where she volunteers with other teachers to organise an annual conference
for early childhood professionals in the area.