Meet AERO's Board and senior managers.

The AERO team

We employ staff from all over Australia. With staff based in every state and territory, our team brings together a wealth of experience and diversity of backgrounds. Our staff include many past and practising teachers and educators from schools and early childhood education and care.

We work online, enabling us to bring together the very best talent, no matter their location.


Our Board

AERO is a ministerial-owned company. An independent Board governs AERO. 


Dr Lisa O’Brien AM, Chair

Lisa O'Brien, Chair

Dr O’Brien has worked in leadership roles across the public, not-for-profit and commercial sectors. She is a non-executive director of Bupa, Australia and New Zealand, a Council Member of the University of Technology Sydney and a member of Chief Executive Women. In 2021, Lisa stepped down after 10 years as Chief Executive Officer of The Smith Family. During that time, she has led significant growth in both the reach and the effectiveness of The Smith Family’s education-oriented programs to support more disadvantaged children and young people.

Lisa chaired the Expert Panel to Inform a Better and Fairer Education System, which advised Education Ministers on the key targets and specific reforms that should be tied to funding in the National School Reform Agreement in 2023. In 2022, she was recognised as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia. A Medical Practitioner registered in New South Wales and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators, Lisa also holds a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Human Resource Management and Coaching and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


Emeritus Professor Colleen Hayward AM, Deputy chair

Emeritus Professor Colleen Hayward AM, Deputy chair

Colleen Hayward is a senior Noongar woman with extensive family links throughout the south-west of Western Australia. For more than 35 years, Colleen has provided significant input to policies and programs on a wide range of issues, reflecting the needs of minority groups at community, state and national levels. Among her many achievements, she has been recognised for her long-standing work for and on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia by winning the 2008 National NAIDOC Aboriginal Person of the Year Award. Colleen is also an inductee into the WA Department of Education’s Hall of Fame for Achievement in Aboriginal Education. In 2012, she was recognised as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia, and 2015 saw Colleen awarded one of Murdoch University’s Distinguished Alumni for her work in the areas of Equity and Social Justice.


Dr Emma Burns

Head shot of Dr Emma Burns

Dr Emma Burns is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellow and Senior Lecturer of educational psychology at the Macquarie School of Education.

Emma’s research focuses on the socio-motivational factors and processes that impact adolescents’ adaptive engagement, achievement and development, especially in STEM. Specifically, Emma examines how high school students' relationships with their teachers impact their academic beliefs, values and attitudes and the diverse processes by which these factors impact their engagement and achievement over time.

Emma’s research is conducted through the lenses of social cognitive theory, stage-environment fit theory and goal-setting theory, and uses advanced quantitative research methodology, such as latent growth modelling and multi-level structural equation modelling.


Belinda Giudice

Head shot of Belinda Giudice

Belinda Giudice is an outstanding school leader who is passionate about equity and excellence in public education. She began her career at Merrylands High School before moving to Canterbury Boys High School, and subsequently, to Prairiewood High School, where she is currently the principal. Belinda led school improvement in all 3 schools.

Belinda’s leadership, achievements and service in the field of education have been recognised over the course of her career. Her accolades include a NSW Quality Teaching Award in 2007, a NSW Secondary Deputy Principals’ Association Fellowship in 2012, a NSW Australian College of Educational Leadership Award in 2014 and the Public Education Foundation Secretary’s Award for Excellent Service in 2015.

In 2022, Belinda received a prestigious Teachers Mutual Bank Principals Scholarship, which provided her with the opportunity to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education to progress her leadership skills. In 2023, Belinda was awarded a Certificate in Advanced Education Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Dr Anne Kennedy

A black and white portrait of Dr Anne Kennedy. She wears a black top and glasses and is smiling with her eyes.

Dr Anne Kennedy is a highly respected and experienced early childhood education researcher, academic and consultant. She has worked as an early childhood teacher in primary schools and early childhood education and care settings, and as an academic in teacher education programs in Australia, Sweden, Singapore and the USA. Anne is an honorary fellow of the Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, and is a life member of FKA Children’s Services and Community Child Care Association, Victoria.

Anne is an Executive Director of the Parkville Institute and a non-executive director of the Board of The Front Project. Anne was appointed to the Australian Government’s Preschool Outcomes Measure, Ministerial Expert Advisory Group in 2021, the Early Learning Teaching Tool Expert Advisory Group in 2022 and the Victorian government’s Best Start Best Life Taskforce Advisory Group in 2022. She is also a trustee of the Creswick Foundation.

Anne was the early childhood curriculum and pedagogy advisor and clinician in a University of Melbourne multi-disciplinary research team that evaluated an intensive early childhood education and care model for babies and toddlers living with significant adversity. The research showed remarkable learning and developmental outcomes for children who participated in the trial compared with children in the control group.


Leslie Loble AM

A close-up portrait of Leslie Loble. She wears glasses, has curly hair and is smiling with her eyes.

Leslie Loble is Industry Professor at University of Technology Sydney, a Fellow of the Paul Ramsay Foundation and chairs the Australian Network for Quality Digital Education and  a national council on early childhood development, among other appointments. Leslie previously served as Deputy Secretary in NSW Education, leading strategy, reform and innovative delivery across schooling, early childhood and tertiary education. She established the influential Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation and the award-winning Centre for Learning Innovation and Catalyst Lab. Nationally, Leslie was long-term chair of the Schooling Policy Group, which supports the education Ministerial Council in funding, curriculum, assessment, teaching quality and other central education policy reforms. She was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2022, named one of Australia’s top 50 school education innovators in 2019, awarded the Australian Financial Review Top 100 Women of Influence in 2013 for her impact on Australian public affairs and holds degrees from Harvard University and Cornell University.


Dr Robyn Mildon

Head shot of Dr Robyn Mildon

Dr Robyn Mildon, PhD, is an internationally recognised figure in the field of research translation and implementation science, and in program and policy evaluations. Robyn’s work has helped to advance the implementation of better evidence in policy and practice settings, improving the quality and effectiveness of health, education and human services. 

Robyn is the Founding CEO of the Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI), a global social purpose organisation, whose work now spans across 15 countries.

Robyn is a Visiting Associate Professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS), where she helped establish the Centre for Holistic Initiatives for Learning and Development (CHILD) and the Behavioural and Implementation Science Interventions (BISI). Robyn is also an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University and served as the Chair of the Evidence and Implementation Summit 2023. Robyn has authored or co-authored multiple peer-reviewed publications, commissioned evidence reviews, book chapters and the book Implementation Science 3.0.

In 2022, Robyn was awarded the John Westbrook Award for Contributions to Knowledge Translation by the Campbell Collaboration. This international award recognises outstanding contributions to knowledge translation and the dissemination and implementation of evidence.


Barry Sandison

Heads shot of Barry Sandison

Barry Sandison has held a long interest in the better use of data to respond to key social issues. He is known across the Australian Public Service (APS) and state and territory agencies for his interest and leadership in data and information management. His recent focus is on supporting the not-for-profit sector in enhancing its data capabilities.

Barry’s previous roles have included CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and Deputy Secretary within the Australian Government Department of Human Services, among other senior executive roles.

Barry is currently a Research Fellow with the Australian National University’s College of Health and Medicine. He also recently concluded a 2-year Research Fellowship with the Paul Ramsay Foundation. His Fellowship with the Foundation was focused on building data capability in the not-for-profit sector, with a particular focus on those delivering community services.

Barry is on the Boards of Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) and Raw Potential, a small Canberra-based not-for-profit providing support to vulnerable youth. He is also a member of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Advisory Council. Barry also consults on the better use of ‘people data’, as well as general organisational governance.


Our senior managers


Dr Jenny Donovan, Chief Executive Officer

Jenny Donovan

Dr Jenny Donovan is the CEO of the Australian Education Research Organisation and has driven AERO’s establishment and growth since its inception. Prior to this role, she established and led the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) as Executive Director for 8 years.

Dr Donovan began her career as a high school teacher in Sydney’s western suburbs. She has worked in a number of education roles in operational and policy areas, including several years as Deputy Director of a not-for-profit education assessment agency at the University of New South Wales. She was Managing Director of the National Learning Progressions and Online Formative Assessment Initiative – a national priority project for Australian Education Ministers.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts with a Diploma of Education from Macquarie University, MA (Hons) from UNSW and a PhD in history from the University of Sydney.


Dr Zid Mancenido, Senior Manager, Research and Evaluation

Zid Mancenid

Dr Zid Mancenido is the Australian Education Research Organisation's Senior Manager of Research and Evaluation. Since AERO’s establishment, he has led the generation and translation of high-quality evidence aimed at improving educational outcomes.

Having started his career as a high school social sciences teacher in Canberra, Zid has experience working across education policy, practice and research with organisations around the world, including Teach for Australia, the Australian Government, the National Institute of Education (Singapore), and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Zid holds a Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) degree from the Australian National University and a Master of Teaching (Secondary) from the University of Melbourne. He also holds a Masters degree in Education Policy and Management and a PhD in Education Policy from Harvard. He also concurrently holds an appointment as a Lecturer on Education at Harvard, teaching courses in education policy and general pedagogy.


Rowena Finnane, Senior Manager, Strategy and Operations, and Company Secretary

Rowena Finnane

Rowena Finnane is the Australian Education Research Organisation’s Strategy and Operations Manager and Company Secretary. She has led the establishment of strategic and operational functions that enable AERO to operate effectively, including finance, procurement, legal, people and culture, communications, research governance and ethics, and project delivery. She is also responsible for overseeing reporting and governance, as well as managing AERO’s Board.

She began her career as a lawyer, providing legal, policy and strategic advice to a number of organisations and government departments. Rowena played a leading role in establishing the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) and has led senior policy and strategic planning projects across the education sector. She is experienced in establishing new organisations and leading significant strategic change in the education sector.

Rowena holds a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Master of Arts by research from the University of Sydney. She has a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, was admitted as a Solicitor of Supreme Court of NSW and has a current Practising Certificate.


David Boyd, Chief of Staff/Senior Manager, Intergovernmental Relations

David Boyd

David Boyd is the Australian Education Research Organisation’s Chief of Staff/Senior Manager, Intergovernmental Relations. He has led AERO’s external relationship management since the initial consultation with all education stakeholders about the priorities for the new evidence institute. He leads AERO’s engagement, policy, implementation, and outcomes and impact measurement functions.

Prior to joining AERO, he worked as a senior education specialist and head of education policy for a large non-government organisation in Brazil, where he oversaw national projects on curriculum implementation and teacher workforce development. He has also worked as an advisor to Education Ministers in the NSW and Australian Governments, with a particular focus on programs to address educational disadvantage.

David holds a Master of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts (Social Policy) (Hons) from the University of Sydney.


Dr Lucy Lu, Senior Manager, Analytics and Strategic Projects

Dr Lucy Lu, Senior Manager, Analytics and Strategic Projects

Dr Lucy Lu is the Australian Education Research Organisation's Senior Manager of Analytics and Strategic Projects. She leads a team of experts who design and undertake bespoke projects, provide statistical and psychometric advice, and conduct quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Lucy worked in the NSW Department of Education for 20 years, most recently as the Director of Education Statistics and Measurement. She has led multidisciplinary teams responsible for large-scale data collections, data standards, policy and reporting, and statistical and psychometric analysis to enhance policy analysis and decision-making. Lucy has also led projects in areas of practice, measurement and funding modelling, including expanding the evidence base to support the department’s resource allocation model and School Excellence Framework.

Lucy holds a Bachelor’s degree in computer science with her honour’s thesis focusing on artificial intelligence, a Master’s degree in information systems from Macquarie University and a PhD focusing on education measurement from the University of Wollongong.