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Political Commentator

Karen Middleton is a journalist with 30 years’ experience, reporting on national and international politics for print and broadcast media. The Chief Political Correspondent for Schwartz Media’s weekly long-form newspaper,The Saturday Paper, Karen also appears on ABC TV’s political talk shows Insiders, The Drum and Q and A and on Network Ten's The Project.

She is a regular contributor on ABC local radio and Radio National, Radio New Zealand and Monocle24 radio in the UK and an occasional correspondent for BBC TV and radio and TRT World TV, Istanbul. Previously the Chief Political Correspondent for SBS Television, Karen joined the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1987 and served as its president for four years from 2004.

A Churchill fellowship recipient, she is the author of two books: Albanese - Telling it Straight, a 2016 biography of Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese; and An Unwinnable War - Australia in Afghanistan, the political backstory to Australia’s longest military commitment, published in 2011. As a television correspondent, Karen made three visits to Afghanistan during the conflict, embedded with the Australian Defence Force. She lives in Canberra.


Paralympic Champion

Kurt Fearnley OAM is one of Australia's most well known and respected athletes.

Winner of some of the worlds most prestigious marathons, in London, Paris, Rome, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The latter two, 5 times. He won the Paralympic men's wheelchair marathon in Athens in 2004 and retained his title in Beijing in 2008. In Athens he also won gold over the 5000m on the track.

In London in 2012 he picked up a bronze medal in the marathon and a silver on the track over 5000m. In Rio 2016 Kurt successfully made the podium for the fourth consecutive time in both the 5000m and Marathon, winning Bronze and Silver, while serving as the Captain of the Australian Paralympic Team. In total Kurt has Thirteen Paralympic medals spanning across 5 games. He's also a 6 times world champion from 800m to the marathon. His marathon personal best is 1hour 18minutes and 51seconds set in Boston in 2011.

Off the racing circuit Kurt has been a winning crew member of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, taking line honours in 2011 on board the yacht Loyal. However he is most well known for his amazing feat of crawling the 96km Kokoda track.

Kurt is actively involved in various charities as a board member, patron and ambassador. In 2016 Kurt was elected by his peers to be one of six Summer Paralympic Athletes to serve on the International Paralympic Committee's Athletes Commission.

He was the flag bearer at the closing ceremony and as usual made every Australian proud of not only his achievements but by the way he conducted himself.

On the 22nd of January 2013 he was given the annual Australian honour of giving the 2013 Australia Day Address.


Community Engagement Specialist

Kylie Cochrane is Presiding Member of IAP2 International, on the Board of IAP2 Australasia and is Aurecon’s Global Lead for Communication and Stakeholder Engagement.

With a career spanning over 25 years, Kylie brings vast experience in community and stakeholder engagement, strategic communication and issues management in the resources, energy, and community development sectors.

She is passionate about engagement and committed to promoting the professionalism of engagement practice. She enjoys working on challenging engagement projects and brings proven understanding and experience on key infrastructure projects with significant community concern.

Kylie is the international chair of the International Association of Public Participation Australasia (IAP2), and an Australasian IAP2 board member. Previously, Kylie was an Institute of Public Administration Australia board member and the engagement representative on the NSW Government Independent Water Advisory Panel. Kylie is the founder of Women in Transport – a series of networking events across Sydney and Melbourne for women working in the infrastructure industry and the men who support them.


Australian Futurist, Author, Technologist and Speaker

Steve wrote his first lines of computer code at age 10, and is one of Australia’s most respected futurists.

A media commentator, Steve is the technology reporter for ABC Radio National and the in house futurist for 3AW providing expert assessment on the rapidly evolving technology sector. His breadth of experience gives him an uncanny ability to make sense of how technology is shaping society and the economy. Steve is currently working with the Australian Government on designing future proof transport and education infrastructure. Steve has delivered to audiences in stadiums in excess of 10,000, as well as intimate board room settings for the Fortune 500.

Steve likes to work with companies who require an unbiased view of impending technological shifts, startups reinventing industries and Government bodies, focussing on hard economics of the future, exploring changes in business systems, capital flows and consumer behaviour.

Steve will deliver an energising keynote which explores a future where the way forward is about handing over the technology tools of design and production to those who populate our communities. A future where we work together as an eco-system. This Technology Revolution has taught us that co-creation, crowd design and crowd funding aren’t just ways to expedite innovation, but a wonderful way to do more with less. An engaged community is one that participates in building a world they want to live in.


TV Personality

Gretel started her career after dropping out of law studies and accidentally performing comedy while reading a serious poem. Since then she’s written several best-selling novels, been a leading voice artist, hosted Logie award winning TV, directed a documentary on AIDS orphans in Zambia and won a Mo Award for her TV presenting. Gretel writes regularly as a journalist and is seen weekly on TV as a social/political commentator. She is currently in development for a movie adaptation of her novel The Zebra Who Lots its Spots and has just launched the ground-breaking podcast, Handsome and Gretel.


Andrew beer

Dean of Research and Innovation, UniSA Business School

Andrew Beer is Dean of Research and Innovation at the UniSA Business School. He is the Chair of the London-based Regional Studies Association, a Fellow of the Regional Australia Institute and a member of the UK’s Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Beer has a long history of research on ageing, housing and regional issues, including work in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan Australia.

Major publications include Housing affordability, tenure and mental health in Australia and the United Kingdom: a comparative panel analysis (Taylor & Francis Online 2015); Neoliberalism, economic restructuring and policy change: Precarious housing and precarious employment in Australia (Sage Publications 2015); Regions and Structural Adjustment in Australia (Sage Publications 2015); Regional variation in social isolation amongst older Australians (Taylor & Francis Online 2016) and Governance, Agency and Place Leadership: Lessons from a Cross-National Analysis (Taylor & Francis Online 2016).


CEO - Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal

Natalie Egleton is passionate about facilitating effective responses to issues facing rural communities.

She joined FRRR in 2012 was appointed CEO in November 2015. She is responsible for shaping FRRR’s strategy, designing new programs and developing and nurturing new funding partnerships. In her previous roles at FRRR, she was responsible for managing natural disaster recovery and preparedness programs, as well as those addressing social innovation.

Before joining FRRR, Natalie consulted with Matrix on Board, working with numerous not-for-profit organisations in program evaluation, undertaking research analysis and developing business plans. She also worked with clients to develop financial policies and procedures, strategic plans, organisation reviews, service mapping, feasibility studies and governance models.

Natalie has also held in-house roles at Evolve (Typo Station) and at ANZ Banking Group, implementing projects that made a tangible difference to the lives of people living in rural, regional and remote Australia.

She lives in the small rural town of Maldon in central Victoria.


Drug Prevention in Iceland

Jón Sigfússon is the Director of Planet Youth, an evidence based drug prevention program, as well as the Director of the Icelandic Centre of Social research and Analysis, ISCRA. Jon leads work with local governments in developing capacity within local communities to reduce the impact of alcohol and other drugs focusing on youth. Planet Youth is now running in 23 countries around the world.

The research output produced by the Centre continues to be at the forefront of international research efforts, which is evidenced with publications in peer-reviewed journals covering a wide spectrum of health and social issues concerning adolescents. Furthermore, Jón Sigfússon has published and lectured extensively in “Evidence based policymaking in the field of drug prevention” and “Adolescence Substance Abuse prevention. He holds a Master of Public Health and Education from the University of Reykjavik, Iceland. 


CEO - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Dr. Erin Lalor was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation in November 2017.

Erin has over 20 years of leadership experience in the health sector, working in clinical, academic and executive roles, and was most recently the CEO of the National Stroke Foundation and a Director of the World Stroke Organisation.

She sits on a number of advisory committees in relation to public health, clinical improvements and evidence-based approaches to healthcare delivery. Erin is currently Deputy Chair of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and member of AIHW’s Primary Health Care Advisory Committee, a Board member of VincentCare, and a member of the Liquor Control Advisory Council, VicHealth Alcohol Taskforce and the National Alliance for Action on Alcohol. Erin has a strong track record in developing and strengthening organisations and brings a vast range of skills and experience to the ADF.

Erin has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech and Hearing Science) and completed her PhD in 1997.


Chief Executive, Institute of Managers and Leaders ANZ

As the first national Chief Executive of the Institute of Managers and Leaders Australia and New Zealand (formerly the Australian Institute of Management), one of Australia's oldest, largest and most pre-eminent Membership-based organisations, David advocates for sound management and leadership practise in the workplace and beyond.

He began his career in a senior HR role at Hewlett-Packard, and followed this in executive roles in Marketing, PR and Consulting at PwC and Computer Associates. His first CEO appointment was at a medical research start-up at a major teaching hospital in Sydney.

David is a graduate of Cambridge University and Western Sydney University. He sits on the Board of the Intensive Care Foundation of Australian & New Zealand and lives in Brisbane with his wife and two daughters. He has a passion for long distance running, although the sub-3-hour marathon continues to elude him.


CEO, Infrastructure Australia

Romilly Madew commences as Chief Executive of Infrastructure Australia in April 2019. Recently awarded an Order of Australia in acknowledgment of her contribution to Australia’s sustainable building movement, Romilly is recognised around the world as a leader and advocate for change in the property and construction sector.  She led the Green Building Council of Australia for 13 years, representing over 650 companies with a collective annual turnover of $40 billion, and presiding over the Green Star rating system which has seen more than 2,250 projects certified across the country. Romilly holds Board positions with Sydney Olympic Park Authority and Chief Executive Women, and has sat on numerous ministerial panels including the Cities Reference Group, National Urban Policy Forum and the China/Australia Services Sector Forum.  Her achievements have previously been recognised with national and international awards, including the 2015 International Leadership Award from the US Green Building Council and the 2017 World Green Building Council Chairman’s Award. An honorary fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia, Romilly has been named one of the ‘100 Women of Influence’ by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac, and is a National and NSW winner of the Telstra Business Women’s Award.