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QELi is an innovative not-for-profit organisation committed to delivering excellence in leadership by supporting education leaders to establish a strong vision, improve student outcomes and lead change in their school context and wider school communities. We support educators at every level and also corporate services and school support staff through the provision of high quality professional development programs and learning opportunities. Our leadership programs harness evidence-based research, provide access to nationally and internationally renowned facilitators and coaches, and model the critical skills, knowledge and practical application to support educators to develop leadership capabilities, maximise their potential and reach their leadership goals.

QELi was established in September 2010, as a direct response from a review commissioned by the Queensland government into the state’s 2008 National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) performance. The Queensland Government engaged Professor Geoff Masters AO, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council for Education Research, to review education in Queensland, and his report, A Shared Challenge: Improving Literacy, Numeracy and Science Learning in Queensland Primary Schools contained five key recommendations, among them increased support for school leaders. The organisation was established as the first institution of its kind in Australia, representing a unification of the interest of all three schooling sectors in Queensland – state, Catholic and independent – with the premise to lay the foundations for a new generation of skilled, visionary leaders for 21st century schools.


Chief Executive Officer

Neil McDonald has over 25 years of school and educational leadership experience, as a Queensland state school teacher, principal, and Assistant Regional Director. Before commencing as Chief Executive Officer at QELi, Neil was Executive Director, Organisational Transformation and Capability, Department of Education and was instrumental in leading the Department of Education’s Teaching and School Leadership program. As acting CEO of the Queensland Studies Authority (QSA), Neil transitioned QSA to the Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority (QCAA), and was a key leader in the development of Queensland’s Curriculum Into the Classroom (C2C).

BAppSc, GDip Teaching, MEdu (Hons), PhD
Board Chair

Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean and Head of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University. She has an international profile in the field of teacher education with a particular focus on the middle years. Her work includes teacher and school leadership for middle years reform, along with developing capabilities to enhance teacher efficacy in both initial teacher education and in professional learning. Her journey has included leading and developing the first dedicated teacher education program in Australia in middle years education; influencing state and national policy directions; conducting state and national evaluations; developing a reform model which is currently employed by several Australian states to guide the reform of teaching and learning in early and in middle years; leadership of competitive research tenders commissioned by state and federal authorities; leadership of the Leading Change Program responsible for preparing 258 school leaders to be ready for the shift of Year 7 to secondary schools and the implementation of Junior Secondary; development and delivery of the Junior Secondary online learning modules for 1000 teachers; and more than 100 published publications. In 2016 Donna was awarded the Griffith University Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Higher Degree Research Supervision for her outstanding leadership and supervision of higher degree research students.

Board Director

Kris Isles’ career spans 20 years in consulting with significant experience in the education sector, where he has been involved in extensive transformation and other projects across early childhood, schools, vocational education and universities. Kris brings a broad range of expertise around program and change management blended with a good understanding of financial management and a practical and collaborative approach to making change stick in an organisation. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) and is a Member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia and New Zealand.

BA, Grad Dip Ed, MEd, GAICD
Board Director

Josephine Wise is Director Education Services at Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and leads teams that support teacher and school leader quality and student performance, support for students with disability, and other school services. Josephine commenced her career teaching in Lutheran schools, where she worked for more than 10 years. She was national Manager of Policy and Programs (Professional Learning) at the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and was responsible for a shaping phase in a curriculum project with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). Josephine holds a Masters of Education with a focus on Leadership and Management, is a Director of the Queensland College of Teachers and is a member of faculty advisory boards for Southern Cross University, and Griffith University.

Board Director

Stacie Hansel is currently the Acting Assistant Director-General State Schools – Performance, Queensland Department of Education. She leads teams responsible for the implementation of the Department of Education’s School Improvement Model, including the implementation of the Australian Curriculum, the new QCE System, as well as targeted initiatives to lift outcomes for students across all Queensland State Schools. Her 25-year career has taken her across Queensland as a teacher, Deputy Principal, Head of School, Director, Executive Director and Principal. She has worked with school communities across Queensland in rural and remote locations, distance education, and small and large primary and secondary schools. Stacie was recognised for her educational leadership with an Australia Day Medal for service to State Schools. She received a National AADES Gold Leadership award for her work with distance education leaders across Australia and was recently awarded an ACEL QLD Fellowship. As a leader, Stacie has a focus on building the knowledge and capability of others to guide student and school improvement. A career highlight was working with her school team to win a Queensland State Showcase Award for excellence.

Dip Tch, BEdSt
Board Director

Deborah Dunstone is a leading educator and the inaugural Assistant Director-General, Disability and Inclusion with Department of Education, appointed in April 2017 to lead the reform and implementation of the 17 recommendations of the Queensland Disability Review. As an experienced Regional Director (4 years), Assistant Regional Director (4 years) and School Principal (11 years), Deb has a deep understanding of the work required to lift student improvement to ensure every student is succeeding. With 30 years of educational leadership Deb is a committed to working with Queensland State Schools, to continue to build the capacity of the system and leaders to ensure every student is included and supported to access and achieve against the Australian Curriculum. She is very proud to have led the recently released ‘Inclusive Education policy’ that positions Queensland to ensure that all students are welcomed, engaged in learning and achieving at their local state school.

A highlight in Deb’s career was accepting a United Nations Zero Project award for the DoE: Innovative Policy in Inclusive Education in Vienna (Februray 2020) and receiving a Queensland’s Australia Day Award (1999) – in recognition of outstanding service within Education Queensland. She proudly continues to provide executive leadership to state education.

LLB (Hons), BCom and GCert
Board Director

Yvonne Ries is Director – Education at the Queensland Catholic Education Commission (QCEC). Immediately prior to joining QCEC, Yvonne was National Social Policy Manager for Goodstart Early Learning. Prior to her work with Goodstart, Yvonne was Director, Strategic Policy and Intergovernmental Relations with the Queensland Department of Education. Yvonne has also held various roles in the Queensland Department of Education, including TAFE Queensland, with over twenty years experience in leading strategic policy reforms and successfully negotiating desired outcomes across the education, training and early years portfolios. Yvonne has significant expertise and experience in successfully negotiating national partnership funding agreements, state and federal policy and legislation, and working effectively with diverse stakeholders. Yvonne holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons), Bachelor of Commerce (Public Policy) and Graduate Certificate in Management.

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