PO Box 659 Wembley Western Australia 6913
email: admin@spera.asn.au

Executive Team

Contact details for SPERA  Executive and Portfolio(s)

Brian O’Neill

President, AREA

Brian has been a teacher for thirty-three years and all of his experiences have been in rural schools, from as far north as Normanton in Queensland’s Gulf Country to Childers in the south. For the past fifteen years he has been the principal of the Calen District State College, a small rural P-12 school between Mackay and Proserpine.

Having completed a Bachelor of Education from James Cook University and a Master of Learning Management from CQUniversity Australia, he is currently researching for his Doctor of Education with CQUniversity. The focus of his phenomenographic study is the principals’ conceptions of success in rural P-12 schools.He has researched and written A Unique School in the Gulf, Taming the Isis and Education on the Baffle as well as Pathways to Effective Leadership, a training manual for the Australian Junior Chamber, and “Grace Hodge – Distinguished Scholar and Teacher” which is published in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. 

Brian is a past president and life member of the Queensland State P-10/P-12 School Administrators’ Association and is a member of Education Queensland’s Rural and Remote Education Reference Group. Brian is the President of SPERA.

    Sue Ledger

    Vice President, Journal Team

    Dr Sue Ledger, Murdoch University. (Dip Ed –Primary/ECE, B.Ed, Grad Dip, M.Ed, PhD candidate). Associate Dean of Engagement and School Partnership at Murdoch’s School of Education. Sue’s teaching and research interests include: policy, practices and issues related to teaching and learning to teach diverse contexts: International Education, Rural and Remote Education. She is currently exploring the use of mixed reality learning environments to better prepare preservice and teachers for these contexts. Since her PhD she explores convergence and divergence between rural and international schooling.

    She represents Murdoch University on a range of committees associated with Rural and Remote . Teaching and Learning and International Education. Sue has taught and held administrative positions in a wide range of rural and remote schools throughout WA and overseas.

      Charles Bradley

      Public Officer

      Charles is a long-time SPERA supporter and contributor of non-refereed papers to the Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, having written more recently on the topics of political processes and distance learning.

          Jayne Downey

          International Representative, Journal Team

          Dr Jayne Downey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Education at Montana State University and serves as the Director of the Center for Research on Rural Education at Montana State University. She has worked in the field of educator preparation for 20 years and her research agenda aims to strengthen the preparation of prospective teachers and improve the outcomes of P-20 education across rural contexts. A/Professor Downey serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for the Montana Small Schools Alliance working on behalf of 135 of Montana’s smallest rural and remote schools. In addition to serving as an editor for the Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, she is co-leader of the Rural Education International Research Alliance, and recently hosted the International Symposium for Innovation in Rural Education 2018, which convened 125 rural educators and researchers from around the globe to celebrate the importance of rural education and explore how research informs rural practice.

            Chris Reading


            Dr Chris Reading is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of New England (UNE). She has taught mathematics, statistics, mathematics education and ICT education at tertiary level, and mathematics and computing studies at secondary level. Chris was as founding member of the SiMERR National Research Centre at UNE and her research interests include statistics education and ICT education, especially in a rural setting. Chris has published widely in journals, served in editorial roles for both journals and conference proceedings, contributed to the organisation of a number of conferences, and led a number of research projects including the Teaching Teachers for the Future Project (TTF) at UNE.

                Sonal Singh

                Membership & Social Media

                Sonal is the Widening  Participation Manager at Macquarie University. Sonal has tertiary teaching experience in social marketing and consumer behavior at Macquarie University and at University of South Pacific.  Her role  at Macquarie University involves  overseeing the administration and evaluation of  of Higher Education Equity Participation Programs. She has sole and joint publications in peer reviewed journals. Sonal has a passion for research and believes in community engagement for sustainable development.

                    Nina Fotinatos

                    Newsletter Editor

                    Associate Professor (A/P) Nina Fotinatos is currently the Director of the Centre for Learning, Innovation and Professional Practice (CLIPP) within the Academic Portfolio, Federation University Australia. Associate Professor Fotinatos has extensive background in leadership, management, budgets, leading institution projects and implementing institutional change in various areas:  learning and teaching professional development; student support initiatives; leadership initiatives; academic institutional projects relevant to gender equity and diversity accreditation processes. Associate Professor Fotinatos is currently engaged with research practices within a number of areas such as leadership, human resource management, student support initiatives and professional development delivery models in the digital age.

                        Bronwyn Relf

                        Executive team

                        Dr Bronwyn Relf is employed at The University of Newcastle and is responsible for coordinating and teaching the ‘Science for Nursing and Midwifery’ courses in the Open Foundation Program. Bronwyn’s research interests include curriculum design and equity in access to higher education for mature aged students in regional and remote.  She recently lead a Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program grant investigating the role of tertiary preparation programs in increasing access to university for mature aged students in regional and remote areas and an Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching grant investigating curriculum design principles in enabling programs. Prior to her employment at the University of Newcastle, Bronwyn worked at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Western Sydney University, The University of Sydney and CSIRO.

                            James Smith

                            Executive team

                            Professor James Smith is a Father Frank Flynn Fellow at Menzies School of Health Research. Prior to this appointment he worked in the Office of Pro Vice Chancellor – Indigenous Leadership (OPVC-IL) at Charles Darwin University (CDU), where he led a range of projects relating to Indigenous higher education, culminating in the publication of a co-edited book by Springer entitled ‘Indigenous pathways, transitions and participation in higher education’. In 2017, he completed an Equity Fellowship supported by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, where he examined ways to strengthen evaluation in Indigenous higher education contexts in Australia. He has also been the Co-Lead of the Indigenous Leadership Research and Evaluation Network; and the Program Manager for the Whole of Community Engagement initiative at CDU. Two teams James has led have received Australian Rural Education Awards in both 2016 and 2018. James is also a Fellow of the Australian Health Promotion and the current Editor-in-Chief of the Health Promotion Journal of Australia. He also holds honorary appointments at the University of Sydney, Curtin University, CDU and the University of Saskatchewan.

                              Melyssa Fuqua

                              AAAE Representative

                              Melyssa Fuqua is currently a PhD candidate at Monash University, exploring how rural context impacts on careers educators’ professional identity and practice.  Originally from western Massachusetts, USA, Melyssa moved to Australia after completing her Bachelor of Arts in the Classics at Trinity College to earn her Diploma of Education (Secondary) at the University of Melbourne.  She has also completed a Master in School Leadership at Monash University. Melyssa has been a teacher in a rural Victorian P-12 school for 10 years, where her interests and passion for rural education grew.  Melyssa taught across many disciplines and year levels, but was mainly a Humanities, English, and Psychology teacher in the senior school.  She also held a number of leadership positions within her school and was an active participant in the regional careers education association.  Her role as Pathways Coordinator, where she oversaw the delivery of the Victorian Certificate of Education and managed careers education, sparked her doctoral research.

                                  Jaimey Facchin & Sam Avitaia


                                  Jaimey and Sam are managers of the University of Wollongong’s regional campuses in Batemans Bay and Bega. Both raised and educated in their local areas they have returned to work in tertiary education and are passionate about access to higher education for rural students. Jaimey and Sam co-developed the Rural In2Uni outreach program featured in the 2019 HERD Article “Disruptions and bridges in rural Australia: higher education aspiration to expectation of participation”.