A First Nations elder from Kulpitjara, Ernabella, Armata and Mutitjulu in Central Australia, Rene Kulitja is an internationally acclaimed artist whose designs have travelled the world on canvas and other media, including the exterior of a Qantas aeroplane. She is passionate about the wellbeing and cultural inheritance of young people in the communities in which she lives and she travels frequently as an ambassador for Anangu culture from central Australia. Like many Aboriginal Australians, her extended family has been affected by government policies and institutions that removed children from loving parents “in their best interests” and that continue to result in a large number of children being in “out-of-home care”.
A family court judge in Belgium since 2003, and Juvenile Court judge since 2007, Marie-France Carlier is passionate about creating quicker, more effective responses by the judicial system to the issue of parental separation. Following her initiative to introduce and adapt more urgent, conciliatory family law practices from Cochem, Germany, this new “Consensus Model” was officially adopted in Belgium in 2012. Herself a mother of two, Marie-France is one of the founders of the Interdisciplinary Family-Youth Commission, meeting monthly to build bridges between family-related stakeholders, and has taken a lead role in a number of subsequent conferences, as well as training opportunities for judges and prosecutors, in Belgium and other countries with a view to expanding this proven, successful approach further.
Zhonglan Xia, manager of our office in China’s largest city, Shanghai, grew up in the city during the Cultural Revolution. She has travelled widely throughout China as a professional dancer, performing at the prestigious Shanghai Performance Theatre and venues in many provinces. She was a visiting scholar at the USA’s Ohio State University and has taught dance for many years at a teachers’ college in Shanghai. A founder of the popular “Tree of Unity” podcast platform, she has dedicated her time and resources, for the past decade, to mentoring young people and to community service, adult education and youth empowerment.
Silvia Danowski-Reetz is based in Dresden, married, and has three children. Born in East Berlin, where she witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall as a young teenager, she has travelled the globe, living for some time in the USA and in India as a volunteer in a blind children’s orphanage. She studied Psychology, Communication Science and Sociology in Dresden and Bremen before graduating as a psychologist. She has many years’ experience as a Guardian ad Litem and Expert Psychologist in family courts throughout Germany and gained accreditation as a Solution Oriented Psychological Expert to the Family Court in 2016. She actively promotes professional collaboration within existing legal systems to support families through difficult times.
Philip Marcus is part of a large, happy family, with children and grandchildren, in Israel. After completing his law degree at University College, London, he moved to Jerusalem in 1978 and was admitted as an Advocate at the Israel Bar in 1979. In 1995, Philip was appointed a Judge of the Jerusalem Magistrates Court and served as a Judge of the Family Court from its inception in 1997 until 2012, during which time he obtained his Master’s degree in Law from Haifa University. He has lectured on five continents and is a consultant to organisations and governments around the world (including the Israeli Knesset) on family court system reform, interdisciplinary collaboration, prevention of harm to children and legislation involving children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Born and raised north of Nairobi, Kenya, George Munene is a father to two children and passionate about children’s wellbeing. A qualified engineer, and currently working as a trainee nurse, he has travelled widely in Kenya and further afield and has a broad experience of families and family life on three continents.
Radio Malta producer/presenter and writer for Torca, one of Malta’s most-read newspapers, Mary Gauci has worked for the wellbeing of children and families for much of her career. Currently, president of Happy Parenting – Malta (For Happier Children), juvenile court expert on social care, and principal at the Foundation for Social Welfare Services, she was head of administration at the Ministry for Health; senior manager at the EU Affairs Directorate and EU Certifying Authority; Stagiaire at the European Commission in Brussels; and head of the Dar Emmaus shelter for the homeless. Mary has a distinction in social care from the University of Malta, a BA in Sociology and Philosophy, and MA in International Relations & Environment.
New Zealand: Toni
Born and raised on the South Island of New Zealand, Toni Leahy is an award-winning technical producer with a career in radio at both New Zealand’s and Australia’s national broadcasters. Having undertaken courses in life coaching, explored family therapy practices, and volunteered as a Counsellor with Youthline in New Zealand, she brings a wealth of practical experiences and ideas to the work of Two Wishes. She has two sons and is passionate about ensuring that all children get the best possible start in life. She has been a Board Member of For Kids Sake in Australia since 2018.
With strong, positive personal experiences of family life – now, often, in the role of loving grandfather – Dariusz Baran trained and qualified as a psychologist and systemic family therapist, graduating from the Catholic University of Lublin in 1989. He works with children, parents, couples and families within Poland’s mental health service, helping children and adults explore their needs, connect better with each other, and work out better outcomes for themselves. Over the past decade, he has been involved in European partnership projects on family education, community mental health service development, and social inclusion of people with mental health problems.
Jane Jackson is the founder of the Bristol Grandparents Support Group, a well-respected UK organisation helping grandparents and other relatives experiencing family breakdown. A full-time carer to her own mum for many years and with two sons herself, she was a School Teaching Assistant for 15 years, supporting Special Needs children and children with low self-esteem. She is qualified to teach PHSE (Personal, Health, Social Education), was a Union Learning Representative for a number of years, and spent four years as the chair of governors at one of south-west England’s primary schools.
Born and raised in Wenzhou, Xiaojie Zheng is an artist with two decades’ experience in creating, teaching, exhibiting and curating fine art, as well as in management and consultancy in art businesses. Having studied art education, fine arts and art gallery management in China, the Netherlands and the USA, she has built an extensive network of contacts throughout the global arts community. A member of non-profit Boards for the past five years, she has successfully used arts and crafts to raise funds and community awareness for social issues and worked as a volunteer helping children and families in crisis. Fluent in English and Mandarin, and a mother of two children, her work has taken her around the globe, from China, to Europe and the USA.