Our Team

We are committed to the Stronger Smarter Approach and High Expectations Relationships (HER) for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and, beyond them, all Australian students.

The Stronger Smarter Institute doesn’t just teach High Expectations Relationships (HER) to our partner school and community leaders we live, breath and honour the Stronger Smarter Approach every day and in all that we do, from our homes, to our office and training rooms. We work hard and support each other to be the best we can be.  This ensures we are delivering the best training and support to our school communities who are on the ground delivering the Stronger Smarter Approach to our Indigenous students. The Stronger Smarter Institute honours diversity.  This is reflected in the composition of our team. There are both male and female, Indigenous and non-Indigenous team members.   Some with teaching backgrounds and others with other workplace and other community experience.  We are all committed to the Stronger Smarter Approach and share a strong commitment to ensuring successful life outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and beyond them, all Australian students.



Executive Team

Darren Godwell - Chief Executive Officer

07 5499 4135 enquiries@strongersmarter.com.au

Darren has expansive experience in business and indigenous affairs. For 10+ years he served as an adviser on strategy, business development and governance for Indigenous organisations including the Northern Land Council and the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health. As a director of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (Qld) and chair of its Finance and Risk Management committee he has overseen growth from $3million p.a. into a $20million p.a. firm with nearly 200 employees.

Professional highlights include working with Professor Mick Dodson to establish Australia’s first national Indigenous-controlled charitable foundation-the Lumbu Indigenous Community Foundation and serving as acting Chief-of-Staff to The Hon John Ah Kit MP.  For four years Darren advised The World Bank on its global community development initiative. He joined global media conglomerate Bertelsmann AG in 2004, completing assignments in Shanghai, London, New York, Barcelona and Sydney on matters of strategy. Godwell has over twenty years of executive leadership in Indigenous affairs at both the community and public sector level. In 2012 the National Rugby League (NRL) appointed him to its National Indigenous Council and in 2014 he was elected Deputy Chairman.

Darren has a masters degree in sociology and completed executive education at INSEAD Business School (France).

Dr John Davis - Chief Research Officer

John Davis is a proud Murri Ambae man. He is a Traditional Owner of the western sides of Bunya Bunya Mountains, Country we call Boobagarrn Ngumminge. “My people are Cobble Cobble kinnected to Warra and Dalby. We have links directly to the Barunggam and Wakka Wakka people”.

John’s core work roles over the past decade have focused on educational excellence, woven within a team environment. “Wherever I weave, I lay a footprint based on sustaining excellence – a core feature of my work outcomes – growing leadership density and developing cultures of excellence and aspirations”.

John has worked as a lead educator in schools including positions as Principal, Head of Department, and Subject Area Coordinator for Indigenous Education.  He has also held lectureship positions with the University of Queensland and James Cook University, and has worked as a QCAA and ACARA Advisor.

In 2016, John completed his PhD in Indigenous Community Models of Education – Community Durithunga, with the Queensland University of Technology.  Other research interests include Indigenous languages as LOTE, embedding Indigenous Knowledges and Indigenous ways to multimodal literacy.

John is passionate about our people, our languages and culture and working and moving our ways forward as best practice in education and community development.

Dyonne Anderson - Chief Operations Officer

0437 421 341

Dyonne Anderson is a Bundjalung woman from the far North Coast of NSW with over 26 years experience with the NSW Department of Education and Training. Dyonne is the Principal at Cabbage Tree Island Public School since 2004 and has also worked in various roles and locations throughout NSW including; classroom teacher, Curriculum Advisor-Aboriginal Studies P-12, Consultant for Human Society and Its Environment and K-6 Science and Technology.


Dyonne currently represents NATSIPA on the Australian Primary Principals Association National Education Committee, two committees for Australian Institute for Teachers and School Leadership (AITSL), More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teachers Initiative Reference Group (MATSITI), was a member of the Ministerial Aboriginal Education Advisory Group until December 2013 and has been the recipient of a number of education awards.

Nancia Guivarra - Chief Marketing Officer

0447 951 559

Nancia is a Meriam (Magaram), Wuthathi and Bindal Juru woman who was born in Brisbane and raised in Gladstone who loves the sunshine and saltwater.   She works to create better futures for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people via true self-determination/autonomy for Indigenous people, communities, and organisations.

Nancia’s marketing, media, and communications experience were built in Sydney across programs and policy for not-for-profit and the federal government.  As a practitioner she has worked with NITV/SBS, ABC and Vibe Australia and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in diverse roles such as online editor, executive producer, researcher, writer, director, and presenter.  Her community work includes being inaugural General Manager of Gadigal Information Service Aboriginal Corporation (93.7 FM Koori Radio), and founder and inaugural Chair of the Australian Indigenous Communications Association.

Scott Pardey - Chief Financial Officer

Scott is a graduate and member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.  He joined the Stronger Smarter Institute in 2017 following 12 years’ experience with international accounting firm Grant Thornton. Whilst at Grant Thornton, Scott worked across the firm – both within Australia and internationally – to deliver assurance and advisory services to mid-market growth clients of the firm.
Scott undertook an in-country sabbatical project in Siem Reap, Cambodia in 2014, working with Khmer organisations and their partners to deliver quality teacher training and curriculum support and by extension, community development activities and support. This was a life-affirming experience and piqued Scott’s interest in the triggers for community development; education is the key. Other community experience highlights include co-founding the West End Film Festival in Brisbane, Australia.
Scott is excited about the work of the Stronger Smarter Institute, in achieving transformative change through education within and for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”


Team Leaders

Fiona Bobongie - Team Leader Jarjums

Fiona Bobongie is a proud Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman, from the First Nations People of Tanna and Ambrym Island. Prior to joining the Stronger Smarter Institute Fiona worked with Queensland’s Department of Education since 1986 in various roles from Teacher Aide, Teacher & Acting Principal.

Over the past 5 years Fiona has worked as a Principal Project Officer – EATSIPS (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools) in the Central Queensland and North Queensland Region.

Fiona’s highlights have included  presenting at QIECC State Conference , AIATSIS National Conference , National Australian Womens Conference and spoke briefly at The World Indigenous Peoples Education Conference 2014.

Michal Purcell - Team Leader Service Delivery

Michal Purcell is an original member of the Stronger Smarter Institute and is our Team Leader Service Delivery. Descended from the Butchulla people of Fraser Island and the first people of Ambrym Island in Vanuatu, she grew up in Childers, South East Queensland. Michal worked at Cherbourg State School when Professor Chris Sarra was principal. She heard from Elders stories of when Cherbourg was a mission and Aboriginal children rarely attended school beyond Year 4. She witnessed the changes in the community when they began to feel strong again in their identity and ability to succeed. Michal is committed to supporting people’s learning about themselves and others.


Research and Impact

Cathy Jackson - Head of Research

Cathy Jackson has over 20 years experience in the areas of curriculum design, evaluation and impact, and accreditation of educational programs.  Before joining the Stronger Smarter Institute, she worked in the Teaching and Learning area of the Queensland University of Technology, where she gained considerable experience with leading, developing, writing, and implementing teaching and learning policy, in particular relating to curriculum design and assessment.  This included responsibility for developing and implementing a university-wide communication plan for a new assessment policy.   Cathy is a qualified project manager, with extensive experience in managing university-wide projects, including two projects to implement new database systems for the university. 

Cathy brings this wide-ranging experience to the Institute together with a passion for Indigenous education research and an in-depth understanding of the Stronger Smarter Approach in schools. Cathy has a Masters degree in Science and postgraduate qualifications in management and public relations.

Jana Andrade - Research Analyst

Jana is a Brazilian statistician with experience in business intelligence, quality control, statistical model development, research support in biostatistics, electoral research, lecturing at university and survey development and subsequent result analysis for all research purposes. She has worked in the private and public sectors (bank, retail and traffic department) with her role varying as required from supporting independent research studies, assessing government operations/programs to improve efficiency and quality control assessment.

Jana has had assisted research programs at the University of Sunshine Coast (USC), including helping students with their research (from developing questionnaires to analysing data) and a project with a private health insurance to assist the development of future strategies.

At the Stronger Smarter Institute Jana is responsible for data collection and analysis including the HERBI survey and Stronger Smarter alumni database, preparing reports and presentations, providing input to grant proposals, and contributing to product development and projects. She brings with her a high level of analytical, organisational and planning skills with good attention to detail.

Liz Kupsch - Research Fellow

Liz is a proud Waanyi-Ganagalidda and Wankamadla woman.  She comes to the Stronger Smarter Institute with over 25 years of experience working in education. She completed a Bachelor of Education at JCU Townsville and has been a primary school teacher for 19 years gaining lots of hands-on experience working predominantly in schools with low socio-economic status and significant populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Liz has also worked as an Embedding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Perspectives in Schools (EATSIPS) Principal Project Officer for the South East Region and managed a team to embed Indigenous perspectives into the Australian Curriculum through its Queensland element, Curriculum into the Classroom (C2C).  Most recently she held the Senior Coordinator role for CSIRO’s Inquiry into Indigenous Science Students where she co-developed Indigenous science programs to increase the engagement, achievement and attendance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths.
Liz has a strong desire and life-long passion that is focussed on increasing the educational and life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


Leadership Program Team

Cassie Ryan - Facilitator/Coordinator

Cassie Ryan is a Kamilaroi woman, a descendant of the Weatherall family.  She was born in Dirrandbandi Queensland and grew up in Oakey, Queensland.  Cassie has 10 years experience working for the NSW Department of Education.  Prior to joining the Stronger Smarter Institute, she was the Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer in the Lismore area.  She has also been an active full member of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Incorporation for many years.   Cassie is committed to improving educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Cassie now lives on the North Coast of NSW.

Ken Weatherall - Facilitator/Coordinator

Ken is a proud descendant of the Muruwari and Kamilaroi Nations of New South Wales.  Ken has been a passionate advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education for 17 years working in the NSW Department of Education in many different roles.  His most recent position being the Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer (ACLO) for 7 years in the Newcastle region.   Ken has also been involved as an active member of the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) at the Local, Regional and State levels for more than 10 years.  Ken did his foundation Stronger Smarter Leadership Program in 2009 and has been one of our Leadership Program Facilitators since he joined the Institute in 2016.
Have been involved with the Stronger Smarter Institute since completing the leadership program in 2009 and now employed as a Program Facilitator and Coordinator since 2016.