Why should you attend the Friendship Summit?

Join us for the Friendship Summit, a one-day conference for educators looking for practical and proven strategies to build their students’ friendship skills.

How will you feel after the day is over?

If we’ve done our job you’ll be inspired by thought-provoking discussions and empowered with resources to share with your school.

This sounds awesome!!



Layne Beachley

Surfing Australia, Sydney, NSW

Layne Beachley AO is widely regarded as the most successful female surfer in history. The only surfer, male or female, to claim six consecutive world titles (1998-2003). Layne then went on to win a 7th world title in 2006 before retiring from the ASP World Tour in 2008.

In September 2018, more than a decade after winning her record breaking seventh women’s world surfing crown, Layne returned to the water to win an 8th world title, becoming the first female winner of the WSL World Masters Championship.

In between winning world titles, mentoring Australia’s young women to fulfil their potential and dedicating herself to charitable causes, Layne is focused on transforming lives, expanding consciousness and awakening the human spirit.

Layne is one of Australia’s most trusted and respected brands. As a highly sought after speaker, Layne shares her model for sustainable success, providing life changing tips and tools to turn ideas and intentions into actions, empowering people to become the champion of their life.

We asked Layne a few questions about friendship and below are her responses:

What’s your favorite childhood memory with friends?

Making friends makes life more fun. We savoured the freedom to play, climb trees, surf, skate, explore, bush walk and make up games,  the only rule was to ensure we were home by the time the street lights came on. Surfing with my mates was great fun because we shared in all of the laughter, challenges and excitement together, we cheered each other on, pushed each other and became a strong supportive like-minded tribe. 

What challenges did you face in your friendships as a kid?

Peer group pressure was the biggest challenge so I had to learn to stand firm in my beliefs, based on what I wanted to do and ultimately, how I wanted to feel. As a teenager I refused drugs, smoking, sex and alcohol and gravitated towards friends who never pressured me to do these things or make me feel uncomfortable for not conforming. Knowing who you are and what you stand for empowers you to choose wisely, this allows your tribe to gravitate to you.

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

Outgoing, honest and passionate.

Describe a time you leaned on your friend(s) for support & how they helped you.

Friends have helped me through my darkest most challenging times when I suffered horrendous injuries, chronic fatigue and depression by always being there to listen and support me, without judgment, criticism or blame. Those same friends were also there to celebrate my success and world title victories and support me in business and in life as they recognise the work I invested into being the best I can.

In what ways do friends add value to your life?

They are my honesty barometers, accountability partners and partners in adventure. Experiences are much more enjoyable when you share them with people you love. My friends have consoled me during hard times, celebrated my success and allowed me to to share their accomplishments as well.

David Bott

Geelong Grammar School, Melbourne, VIC

David Bott is the Associate Director of the Institute of Positive Education. David helps lead one of the world’s most experienced teams dedicated to research, development and training in the field of Positive Education. David has been involved in training thousands of teachers from hundreds of schools around the world in designing, implementing and sustaining individual and whole-school approaches to wellbeing. David also consults with some of the world’s leading schools to help guide wellbeing vision and strategy.

David’s current role follows three years as Head of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar where he led the School’s wellbeing programme across four campuses and headed the School’s Psychology Department.

We asked David a few questions about friendships and these were his responses:

1. What’s your favorite childhood memory with friends?

Playing music in a little school rock band

2. What quality do you admire most in your friends?

Loyalty and sense of adventure

3. How has a friend inspired you or made you a better person?

As a young adult, I had (and still have) a dear friend who allowed me to understand that it is possible to grow into the maturity of adulthood without losing a child-like sense of fun and curiosity.

Dana Kerford



Dana Kerford is a Teacher, Friendship Expert, and the Founder of URSTRONG, a social-emotional wellbeing program for kids.

After starting her career as a 4 th grade teacher in Canada, Dana began to recognize the complexity and intensity of childhood friendships. Motivated to create cultures of kindness in schools and eradicate bullying, Dana launched her first skills-based friendship program in 2009. Since then, URSTRONG’s school-wide friendship strategy has been adopted by schools around the world.

Dana has been featured by numerous media and has presented at education conferences across North America, Australia, & Asia.

We asked Dana a few questions about friendship and below are her responses:

What’s your favorite childhood memory with friends?

The best moments are from Junior High & High School in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. Volleyball tournaments, driving around with Woody blasting Matchbox 20, sleepovers with Sophie & April playing Nintendo, coffees with Lisa & Chanlie, and parties…so.many.parties.

Tell us about your dearest friend – what makes you click?

I met my best friend, Sophie, when I was 12. It was love at first sight at a hockey game in Canada, with our matching BUM Equipment sweatshirts & identical Sunice jackets. Sophie was always there for me, stood up for me, and has always accepted me as I am.

What quality do you admire most in your friends?

Kindness. I have friends who have never said a bad word about anyone in their lives. They have hearts of gold!

Tom Harley

Sydney Swans, Sydney, NSW

First drafted to Port Adelaide but best known for his decorated career with Geelong, Tom Harley is a veteran of 198 AFL games. Appointed captain of Geelong in 2007, he led the team to three successive grand finals and two premierships, in 2007 and 2009.

Following his retirement from football, Harley has held numerous roles within the football industry. He worked as a commentator with Channel 7 and an assistant coach to the AFL/AIS Academy, before taking on the role of General Manager of AFL NSW/ACT. Harley joined the Sydney Swans in November 2014 as General Manager – Football, and in 2019 transitioned into the role as the club’s Chief Executive Officer.

Ash Buchanan

Benefit Mindset, Melbourne, VIC

Ash is a collaborator whose passions span the areas of wellbeing, leadership and regeneration. His work is informed by a love for the natural world and for bringing people and place closer together. He is the founder of Cohere, a wellbeing design and innovation agency and an associate of the Thrive Research Hub at the University of Melbourne. His research on Benefit Mindset is available through the International Journal of Wellbeing.

We asked Ash a few questions about friendship and below are his responses:

What’s your favourite childhood memory with friends?

Starting a band with my bro. It was the mid 90’s, he rocked the drums and I played guitar. It was an explosion of creativity and good times. Although, on reflection, I do feel a little sorry for the rest of my family and my neighbours. We made a lot of noise.

What qualities do you admire most in your friends?

Their willingness to contribute. For example a good friend just got married, and half our group of friends arrived the day before to help set up, and make it extra special. It’s really lovely to belong to a giving group of friends.

How has a friend inspired you or made you a better person?

My friends are inspiring me all the time. What most inspires me is when people have the courage to be vulnerable, and try things that stretch them. For example, I have a friend who just went on their first solo walk in nature, and choose to go for 5 days, all by their self. Amazing.

Annabelle Williams

Australia Olympic Committee, Sydney, NSW

Annabelle is the Legal Counsel for the Australian Olympic Committee and a Paralympic Gold Medalist.

She has experience in the Mergers and Acquisitions and Intellectual Property teams at Allens Linklaters in Sydney. In 2016 travelled to Rio as Legal Counsel for the Australian Olympic Team and hosted the Paralympic Games on Network Seven. She has since commentated a number of sporting events, including the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

As well as being a Director of the Australian Paralympic Committee, the Chair of the inaugural Australian Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Commission, the Vice President of the Australian Swimmers’ Association and a member of the IAAF’s Disciplinary Tribunal, she is a regular keynote speaker at corporate events and conferences.

Mark Collard

Playmeo, Melbourne, VIC

Mark is an experiential trainer, speaker & author and the founder of playmeo, a small professional development company that is best known for hosting the largest online database of group games & activities in the world. He is an expert at helping teachers learn how to engage & motivate students to participate & connect with their peers in positive and meaningful ways. He is the author of three top-selling books, including No Props No Problem, Count Me In & Serious Fun, from which his presentation is drawn.

We asked Mark a few questions about friendship and below are his responses:

What challenges did you face in your friendships as a kid?

I was the very reserved, shy quiet one. I found it difficult to mix and honestly, I doubt anyone knew I was there.

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

Loyal, trustworthy and confident.

What quality do you admire most in your friends?


Leonie Abbott

Berry Street, Melbourne, VIC

Leonie Abbott is Senior Manager, Implementation and Quality, co-author and editor of the Berry Street Education Model. She currently supports a diverse range of schools with Trauma Informed Positive Education training, curriculum and strategies to enable school leaders to embed and sustain the science of wellbeing across a whole-school approach.

Leonie is a foundation graduate of the Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Melbourne, has over 20 years of education leadership experience and is a Director of PESA (Positive Education Schools Association). She integrates trauma-informed pedagogy and the science of wellbeing in her interactions with communities and believes Positive Psychology is a powerful road map for continuous growth.

We asked Leonie a few questions about friendship and below are her responses:

What’s your favorite childhood memory with friends?

Singing ABBA songs into my hairbrush with my friends whils trying hard not to scratch the record as we danced around the lounge room.

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

Loving, Dependable, Creative

How has a friend inspired you or made you a better person?

I am so lucky to have friends who challenge me to be and do my best. Sometimes it has been biting my lip and holding back the words circulating in my head because I know those words in that moment are best left unsaid. Then, it’s having the courage to speak those same words at another time, a more appropriate time, so as to be true to myself and the friendship. Again, leading with kindness and understanding of the other person, my friend. The special people in my life have helped me navigate these challenges because they have accepted my apologies and missteps.

Dr. Deb Perich

Perth College, Perth, WA

Dr Debra Perich is the Director of InsideOut at a leading Western Australian girls school, Perth College.

InsideOut is a sequential self-leadership program that provides opportunities for reflecting growth from inner development to outer excellence. InsideOut equips young girls with the ability to lead themselves and help them cope with future challenges, be more resilient, become stronger and more capable, and to make a difference in society. Through Deb’s leadership, Perth College and InsideOut are trailblazers in Positive Education. Perth College regularly host Positive Education Conferences in WA.

Deb has been teaching in the area of Health and Physical Education for over 20 years and is passionate about helping young girls become the best that they can be and empowering them to pursue their dreams. Deb has pursued research in the areas of Leadership and Health and Well-being and her PhD was a multi-disciplinary intervention program in schoolgirl rowers.

We asked Deb a few questions about friendship and below are her responses:

What’s your favorite childhood memory with friends?

I grew up on a vineyard in the Swan Valley, and the memories I savour the most with my friends are simply playing on our properties. We loved being on our bikes, making up games and getting dirty! Life was an adventure.

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

Kind, Honest, Fair

What quality do you admire most in your friends?

Kindness is definitely a quality I look for in all of my friends, but I greatly admire the courage of many! I love it how they put themselves into their challenge zones to pursue their dreams.

Dr. William DeJean

Unleash Learning, Sydney, NSW

Dr. William DeJean is the founder of Unleash Learning

He started his career as a high school teacher, inspiring students to become the first in their families to attend university. He has received numerous recognitions, including ‘Teacher of the Year’ among 26,000 teachers in San Diego County. William holds a Doctorate in Education, has taught at universities in the United States and Australia, is an internationally recognised researcher, and author of “Unleash Learning”.

Consulting across a range of schools, networks and regions throughout Australia and the US, he is a sought-after keynote speaker, including appearances at TEDx, Happiness and It’s Causes.

We asked William a few questions about friendships and these were his responses:

1. What quality do you admire most in your friends?


2. How has a friend inspired you or made you a better person?

My friend Aimee is love in action. The way she treats people, thinks about people and considers where people are coming from, has made me a better person.

3. In what ways do friends add value to your life?

The people I consider my friends are people who truly want the best for me. They are honest, supportive, candid and generous. And…hilarious at the same time!

Samantha Lovegrove

Morningside State School, Brisbane, QLD

Samantha Lovegrove is a Deputy Principal in Brisbane and a Queensland Department of Education Wellbeing Champion.

Samantha has brought about positive change within her school community. She is committed to fostering a positive culture within her school and her staff all speak of her dedication and passion. Samantha has achieved outstanding outcomes for her school from academic achievements to improving physical activity amongst staff and students. Through her leadership, Morningside State School achieved the Lord Mayor’s Brisbane City Council Award for Highest Percent of Active School in a Small School 2017. She has initiated a number of reward and recognition programs to encourage positive interactions among staff and students. Samantha’s positive and enthusiastic nature influences all who attend Morningside. She is an inspirational leader who is well respected and highly valued both in her school and community.

We asked Samantha a few questions about friendship and below are her responses:

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

Creative, energetic and passionate

What quality do you admire most in your friends?


Tell us about your dearest friend – what makes you click?

She makes me laugh constantly! She accepts who I am and the choices I make in life. She listens and is not afraid to give her honest opinions.

Daniel Sandral

Methodists Ladies College, Sydney, NSW

Mr Daniel Sandral is a passionate and dedicated educator, with extensive experience as a P–6 school leader.

Mr Sandral has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Sydney and a Masters Degree of Education from the University of Technology, Sydney. He also has a Diploma of Teaching and a Graduate Certificate in Teaching English as a Second Language. As well as being highly experienced as a P–6 school leader, Mr Sandral possesses solid knowledge of curriculum and pedagogy.

Mr Sandral has held significant roles including as a Curriculum Consultant in the Catholic Education Office, at the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNS), executive roles in several Primary Schools, and Deputy Head of Junior School at Wenona prior to his appointment as Head of Junior School at MLC School in January 2018.

His love of teaching, enthusiasm and dedication is aimed squarely at encouraging  students to reach their full potential. He has a keen interest in evidence-based practice and its use in improving student learning outcomes.

We asked Daniel a few questions about friendship and below are his responses:

What challenges did you face in your friendships as a kid?

Isolation. Sense of being left out. I grew up on a farm and often felt isolated from my peers, particularly as we matured. Friends would often catch up in town and visited one another’s homes and talk about their adventures at school on Monday. I would feel rejected. As an adult I now know if was not the case. However, I did not realise that at the time.

Describe a time you leaned on your friend(s) for support & how they helped you

A significant awaking for me about the value of friendship occurred when I attended boarding school, during my later secondary years. For the first time I was no longer surrounded by family and the need to rely of friendships was significantly amplified. Over time we developed close bonds, supporting each other through our daily challenges; study, the loss of a relative, illness, whatever it may be. Whilst living away from home, my friends had become my extended family and support network.

What quality do you admire most in your friends?

Mutual trust has been, and I think always will be, one of my most admired qualities. Knowing that I have friends that will support me or just check in on me asking ‘how are things going?’ is something that I valued and appreciated. Friends that will challenge me, because they care for me, is sometime that I admire even if I do not always appreciate it! And friends that make be laugh and not take life too seriously are always good to have around.

David Kolpak

St Peter's College, Adelaide SA

David Kolpak, Head of Junior Years at St Peter’s College, Adelaide, is responsible for the Wellbeing of the students and the Positive Education programs delivered to them. David, with his team, have developed the scope and sequence of programs taught between the ages of 3 and 13, ensuring ‘Character Strength’ education is embedded across all curriculum areas. With 28 years’ experience, David has established himself as a quality educator and presenter on Positive Education and Wellbeing initiatives, presenting both locally and nationally. David is passionate about relationships being a core feature of any wellbeing program.

We asked David a few questions about friendship and below are his responses:

What challenges did you face in your friendships as a kid?

It’s funny, because these days they wouldn’t be an issue. But being Eurpoean, and someone who wore glasses, the teasing would happen because of having ‘four-eyes’ or the closeness of my heritage (with the Polish community) being reflected in my daily interactions with kids at school. Eg. type of food, clothing, family rules etc.

What 3 words would a friend use to describe you?

I’d hope they’d be – trustworthy, loyal and kind

Tell us about your dearest friend – what makes you click?

My closest friend knows the good and bad about me and accepts them. They know that I can be weird – but they accept it. They allow me to be serious when I need to be, and to be a goof-ball when the need is there. Somehow, the balance of our friendship keeps us on an even keel – we recognise what each other needs.

What a great lineup of speakers!!



Print Agenda

Registration and breakfast




Dana Kerford (URSTRONG): The Language of Friendship


Panel Discussion: Relationships in Schools - Educator Perspective

Moderator: William Dejean (Unleash Learning)

David Kolpak (St Peter’s College),
Samantha Lovegrove (Morningside State School),
Daniel Sandral (Methodist’s Ladies College)


Morning Tea


Mark Collard (Playmeo): Connection Before Content


Panel Discussion: Relationships in Schools - Student Perspective

Moderator: Dana Kerford

Students from schools across Australia




Leonie Abbott: Berry Street


Ash Buchanan: Benefit Mindset


Afternoon Tea


David Bott: Institute of Positive Education


Panel Discussion: Relationships in Sports

Moderator: Deb Perich, Perth College

Tom Harley (Sydney Swans),
Annabelle Williams (Australian Olympic Committee)
Layne Beachley (Surfing Australia)



Count me in!!


Principal needs convincing?

We’ve made your life easy with a ready-to-send email that highlights all the reasons you should be attending the Friendship Summit.

Let us help

Are you excited about coming to the Friendship Summit but need a little help convincing your school’s decision makers?  Please feel free to use the text below in your request to attend.

Hey [Insert Principal’s Name],

I came across this amazing Professional Development opportunity that I’d love to attend.

The Friendship Summit (Friday 6 September in Sydney, $295 or $245 for URSTRONG Schools) is a full-day conference designed for educators. What’s unique about this event is that it’s entirely focused on relationships; why it’s at the heart of wellbeing and how, when we get relationships right, we create cultures of kindness in schools.

With leading experts in the field the conference aims to provide us teachers with practical strategies (yay!) to improve our teaching practices and foster that sense of community and belonging at our school. I’m hoping to pick up some tips to improve Teacher Wellbeing too. Check out this incredible list of speakers!

In reviewing the line-up, I thought I’d mention that I’m really interested in hearing [insert speaker’s name] because [insert reason why].

If I were to attend this conference, I would happily:

  • Present my key take-aways at our next staff meeting
  • Write an article for our newsletter to share my findings with our parents

Thanks so much for your consideration in allowing me to attend The Friendship Summit. Let me know your thoughts when you have a moment. I’ve got a good feeling about this one!

[Insert your name]