President's Message

John Laing Professional Development Awards 2016

John Laing is a past Tasmanian School Principal who was a foundation member of Principals Australia Institute (previously known as the Principals Association Professional Development Council) in 1993.

John’s passionate belief and energy was the driving force behind the first cross-sectoral professional learning projects for all school leaders in Australia. The primary goal for John was to encourage school leaders to become involved in quality professional development activities, and to constantly improve outcomes for young people’s learning. 

He endeavoured to take an active role in his schools to empower others to create a growing environment where excellence in all undertakings was valued and pursued.  John would hope that this Award would encourage and support Australian School Principals in their leadership role.

In 2004, when John retired from the profession, the John Laing Professional Development Award was set up in his honour. The award recognises the contribution of principals who have undertaken significant professional development and contributed to the professional learning of other school leaders.

The John Laing Professional Development Award is a non-competitive, peer nominated celebration of school leadership and professional learning across all school systems – Government, Catholic and Independent. The celebration events are organised by Principals Australia Institute in collaboration with the principals’ associations in each state and territory.


This year’s awards were presented at a ceremony held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Friday, November 18th. The awards were presented by Principals Australia Institute Chief Executive Officer, Paul Geyer, and Education Minister, The Hon. Jeremy Rockliff. PAI Programmes Manager, Victoria Ninnes, Project Officer, Adele Daley and John Laing’s daughter Claire Vemey were also in attendance.


Included below are the testimonials for this year’s recipients, Sally Gill and Gill Berriman.

Sally Gill, Principal, Waimea Heights Primary School

As a school principal Sally Gill has consistently demonstrated high levels of commitment to collaborative planning, development, delivery and facilitation of professional learning for her school and the education community more broadly. Sally has led professional learning in her neighbouring cluster of schools including bringing the schools together for a whole day session with Brendan Spillane. This event fostered unity of purpose in the group; contributed to deeper relationships within teaching groups and across schools; and contributed strongly to a sense of shared responsibility for health and well-being. Sally’s leadership in organising and then managing this event modelled the levels of care, concern and interest at the heart of Brendan’s presentation. Sally Gill has worked in the primary sector as a Principal for 11 years. She has focused her leadership on building the capacity of all staff and growing future leaders. She has supported others in developing strong networks and embraced other schools to co-learn by bringing outstanding educational presenters to our island state each year. Her personal network has enabled her to use Tasmanian identities (ex-Premier David Bartlett; MONA Music Curator Brian Ritchie; ex-Vice Chancellor UTAS, Darryl Le Grew; economist Saul Eslake) to inspire and work with staff, focusing on the importance of their role in a child’s educational journey. Her inclusive support to develop future leaders both as a mentor and as enabler of external opportunities has been pivotal in her leadership of 21st Century learning. As part of the New Pedagogies For Deep Learning project led by renowned educator Michael Fullan the building of knowledge across her staff has made Sally’s school a beacon in this context and one whose expertise has been shared across many schools.  She has been a long- time committee member of the Network of Education Associations of Tasmania (NEAT) – a not-for-profit organisation with a history of support to professional associations through dissemination of information, delivery of professional learning programs, advocacy, and response to state and national educational issues. NEAT has a strong commitment to engagement in critically informed dialogue about education.  In her own school Sally embraces the skills and knowledge of the staff to build greater capacity, for instance giving all staff the opportunity to attend all ALEA literacy professional learning workshops, as part of working towards being literate in the Tasmanian context. Her inclusive practice means that all her staff – education facility officers, support and administration staff AND teachers – all receive differentiated opportunities to develop their skills and knowledge as they all play important roles in the educational journey of our children. Sally has also worked closely with a small neighbouring early childhood campus to both mentor first-time principals and to win an innovation grant to support the close work and PL opportunities for teachers to work across campuses to further foster their growth in all areas of the Australian Curriculum, and to develop innovative pedagogy. Under Sally’s leadership the school culture has been transformed into a place of learning for all: a new staff member commented ‘I have never been in such a school, where pedagogy is the main focus of all conversations!” Sally has been commended by her Principal Network Leader for outstanding work in developing the capacity of her school’s leadership team through exemplary systems and processes. She has been closely involved in work in new pedagogies for Twenty-first century schools; and has been outstanding in enabling and supporting the work of other school leaders including through mentoring. Sally’s standing within the profession was recognised through her election to the Principal Advisory Group which designs and coordinates professional learning for all principals at forums held each term, in 2015.


Gill Berriman, Principal, Rokeby High School                    

Gillian Berriman has been principal at Rokeby High School for several years. Rokeby’s ICSEA rating is around 840. The school was facing challenges on a number of fronts – including the prospect of closure. The staff, with Gill’s outstanding leadership, took collective responsibility to make a change to the circumstances of the school. Teams were established and the school began to connect with its community in earnest. Meaningful partnerships were established through the agency of the Beacon Foundation, as well as with an engineering company and from there diversification and personalisation of curriculum gathered momentum. The STEM agenda has been ramped up, the school has been a leading light in the Underwood Centre’s Pathways to Success initiative, and many more students from Rokeby are completing their Tasmanian Certificate of Education – the completion percentages trebling in the last four years. Next year will see the students have access to a wide range of science, design, engineering and ‘industry pathway’ learning opportunities via: 3D design and printing, Laser cutting, Robotics, Coding and Gaming, Virtual Reality systems, Synchronous Delivery opportunities through the new state of the art Video Conferencing classroom, a portable virtual classroom for teaching and learning, practice analysis and digital coaching, industry application of Go pros/Hover cams, as well as a suite of new Surface pro tablets with wireless integrated miracast technology. This will enable students to link the discipline of science and technology to real world applications and to share their learning. Gill’s commitment to her own professional learning and that of her staff has been a cornerstone of the improved outcomes for students. This has included Rokeby staff joining in professional learning communities with the neighbouring schools and secondary college to form a powerful learning alliance offering a range of courses for all students spread across each of the campuses. Gill has been a leader in learning in her own community and beyond, recently delivering the keynote address at the Peter Underwood Centre’s symposium titled “Aspirations Matter”. Gill’s work in leading communities of professional learning is widely respected and impactful and makes her a most worthy recipient of a John Laing Award.







Tasmanian Principals Association
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