Public Sector Unearthed – EP#5: Connected beginnings with Lesley Richardson and Terese Christoff-Smith

In episode 5 of the Public Sector Unearthed podcast, we go behind the scenes of the Connected Beginnings program and talk to two public servants dedicated to giving First Nations children the best start in life.   

Lesley Richardson, director of Connected Beginnings Angurugu at the Department of Education, Northern Territory Government, shares how her career led her to playing a key role in the Connected Beginnings program in Angurugu. She highlights the program’s comprehensive approach, combining health, education, and family support to nurture early childhood development in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across over 40 sites in Australia.

Joining Lesley is Terese Christoff-Smith, who until recently was an assistant director for the Connected Beginnings program at the Australian Government Department of Education. From her position in Canberra, Terese gives an overview of the program’s impact, focusing on the strides made in community-led initiatives and the significance of incorporating data-driven policies.

This episode’s unearthed wisdom: Truly successful policies and programs will involve and draw on First Nations communities’ wisdom and strengths.

Try to introduce variety into your copy by not using the same words that we used in the previous episode.


Lesley Richardson

Lesley Richardson currently serves as the director of Connected Beginnings – Groote Eylandt for the Department of Education, Northern Territory Government. Identifying as Anmatyere and Jaru, she has specialised in early years education, child protection, and family support for over two decades. Lesley has made significant contributions to Aboriginal service delivery across Australia, with a focus on urban, rural, and remote communities.

Terese Christoff-Smith

Terese Christoff-Smith was until recently an assistant director for the Connected Beginnings program and is passionate about early childhood development and community led, place-based change. She joined the program in 2015 when it was being designed and has seen it expand to over 40 sites nationwide. Prior to joining the Department of Education, Terese spent several years in the Department of Health and Social Services upskilling the local workforce in First Nations communities. 

Terese is driven to self-determination and empowering First Nation communities to be supported to make the decisions that impact their children and families.