2024 Speakers


The Hon Catherine King MP

Member for Ballarat | Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government

Catherine King was born in Melbourne. She holds a Degree in Social Work and a Masters in Public Policy from the Australian National University and has recently completed a law degree from Deakin University.

First elected to Federal Parliament in 2001 to represent the electorate of Ballarat, Catherine has been re-elected as member at each subsequent Federal Election.

Following the 2019 election, Catherine was appointed to the role of Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development in the Shadow Cabinet led by the Hon. Anthony Albanese.

Prior to entering Parliament, Catherine worked in the social welfare sector in Ballarat and later in the public sector in Canberra, as a director for the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and as a senior manager at KPMG’s Health Consulting Practice.


The Hon Peter Dutton MP

Member for Dickson | Leader of the Opposition

Peter Dutton is the Federal Member for Dickson and Leader of the Liberal Party.

For nine years, Peter served his community as a Police Officer. He worked in the National Crime Authority and Drug and Sex Offenders’ Squads, with a focus on protecting women and children.

First elected to Parliament in November 2001, Peter was appointed to the Ministry in 2004. In January 2006, he became Peter Costello’s Assistant Treasurer.

Peter is married to Kirilly and is the proud father of Rebecca, Harry and Tom and lives in Dayboro in the Dickson electorate.


Annabel Crabb

Writer and Presenter

Annabel Crabb is an ABC writer and presenter who has covered Australian politics for nearly 25 years as a news reporter and columnist.She is the creator and presenter of Ms Represented, presenter and writer for the ABC-wide Australia Talks project, and co-host of the initial and 2021 return series of Tomorrow Tonight. She has written and presented the documentary series on life inside parliament, The House, With Annabel Crabb. She created the political interview series Kitchen Cabinet, which she has presented for seven seasons on ABC TV, and for which she received two Logie nominations in 2013 including the Graham Kennedy Award For Most Outstanding New Talent and Most Popular New Female Talent.Annabel is a regular face on ABC TV’s election night and Budget broadcasts and has a long history of appearances on ABC’s Insiders program, including a stint as acting host in 2019. 


Simon Kuestenmacher

Chief of Partnerships and Impact, Resilient Building Council

Simon Kuestenmacher is a Director and Co-founder of The Demographics Group based in Melbourne, Australia. He holds degrees in geography from leading universities in Berlin and Melbourne and worked for several years as a business consultant with KPMG Australia.In 2017 Simon, with Bernard Salt, co-founded The Demographics Group. The group provides specialist advice on demographic, consumer and social trends for business. He has presented to numerous corporate and industry audiences across Australia and overseas on demographic trends, consumer insights and cultural change in Australia. Simon’s presentations and quirky observations are enjoyed by groups from the financial services, property, government, education, technology, retail and professional services industries, among others.He is a columnist for The New Daily newspaper and a contributor to The Australian newspaper and he is a media commentator on demographic and data matters.


Stephen Yarwood


Stephen Yarwood is a renowned Futurist, highly respected Urbanist, former Lord Mayor of Adelaide and an award-winning member of the Planning Institute of Australia. Serving as a catalyst for change for both corporate and community organisations, his passion extends beyond envisioning the future; he actively educates, motivates and empowers people to shape it.With a strong skill set in cross-disciplinary strategic foresight, he is deeply fascinated by the dynamic interplay between people, places, technology, and change. Recognised as an international thought leader on “the future citizen,” Stephen is committed to collaborative leadership that aids corporate and community leaders in navigating the rapidly changing and complex social, environmental, and economic landscape, allowing them to explore possible futures and create preferred outcomes.


Becky Hirst


Becky Hirst is a well-respected leader in community engagement across the world. Beginning her career in the late nineties during the early-Blair years of social inclusion and community development, over two decades, Becky has worked with multiple communities, on multiple topics, across two continents. Her clients include countless local, state and federal Government agencies, as well as non-government organisations and private enterprise. Becky is an energetic consultant, author, public speaker, trainer and mentor for those keen to develop their skills in engaging with people, groups and communities. In October 2021, Becky was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (FRSA), in recognition of her exhaustive work on social inclusion and development in the UK and Australia, her best-selling book on community and participation, and her empowering services toward engagement and bringing people together.


Ingrid Stonhill 

Chief Executive Officer, Katherine Town Council

Ingrid Stonhill is Katherine Town Council’s first female Chief Executive Officer in its 44-year history, previously she was Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation’s first female CEO in its 41-year history, and the inaugural CEO of Neighbourhood Watch Australasia.  Ingrid has advocated for and worked for diverse not-for-profits where she led whole-of-business structural change and redesigned management processes to transform underperforming organisations into high-performing social enterprises that achieved cultural wealth and healthy financial surplus.  Ingrid’s first introduction to local government was as a young mother, elected as a two term city councillor.  Ingrid’s strengths sit within community engagement, community development and campaigns for economic development opportunities to make Katherine a great place to invest, work and live.


Tahlia Azaria 

Executive Director, Young Mayors at The Foundation for Young Australians

As the Executive Director, Young Mayors, Tahlia oversees the pilot and scale-up of the Young Mayors model across the country. Tahlia has worked in the youth, media, arts and not-for-profit sectors for over 15 years in senior leadership roles at institutions including SYN Media, Circus Oz and the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. Tahlia has a Bachelor of Communication (Journalism) from RMIT University and a MBA from Melbourne Business School, and is Chair of the Outer Urban Projects Board of Directors.



The Hon Kristy McBain MP

Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories

Kristy McBain proudly grew up on the NSW Far South Coast, and she is the first woman to represent Eden-Monaro.

Since being elected in 2020, Kristy has built a formidable reputation as a plain spoken, hard-working local member who advocates with all levels of Government and all sides of politics to get results for her constituents.

A former Mayor of the Bega Shire Council, Kristy advocated day and night for people through the darkest days of the Black Summer Bushfires in 2019-20.

Kristy studied law at the University of Canberra and as the first person in her family to go to university, she is passionate that all kids get the chance to go to university or TAFE and have the opportunity to build their careers and lives in the regions as she has done.


Hon Darren Chester MP

Member for Gippsland | Shadow Minister for Regional Development | Shadow Minister for Local Government and Territories | Shadow Minister for Regional Education

Darren Chester was born and educated in Sale.

He was elected to Federal Parliament as the Member for Gippsland on June 26, 2008, in a by-election following the retirement of the Hon Peter McGauran. 

During his time in Parliament, Darren has served in multiple executive positions across both Government and Opposition such as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel, Assistant Minister for Defence and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Roads and Regional Transport.

Prior to entering Parliament, Darren worked as a newspaper and television journalist before becoming Chief of Staff to the Leader of The Nationals in Victoria.

Darren is a keen sportsman who enjoys boating, camping and running marathons. He lives in Lakes Entrance with his wife Julie and their four children.


Ingrid Bishop

Director, Alchemy Corporate Consulting Services

Ingrid Bishop is the Director and founder of Alchemy Consulting (c2010) based in Victoria.  Ingrid is focused on the local government sector and supporting Councils through the evolution of change particularly in regard to business transformation, regional and community impact and the demands placed upon the sector to be dynamic, efficient and contemporary in a highly regulated and ever-constrained financial environment.Ingrid’s experience and skills is gained from over 20 years in general management positions in large multi-national companies (ASX listed), local and state government. Utilising change leadership skills, business fundamentals and authentic engagement, Ingrid’s focus is to achieve desired outcomes and results collaboratively and efficiently whilst acknowledging political drivers and sector demands.Ingrid operates as an agile, ethical, business advisor and strategic decision maker. Acknowledgment of Ingrid’s capability is evidence by her Board appointments at national and state level (by the Governor General of SA), and the appointment of Alchemy Consulting to develop and deliver the West Australian State Government’s Metropolitan Council Amalgamation and Reform Strategy.


Nicki Hutley


Nicki Hutley is a highly experienced economist, with broad-based expertise in both macroeconomics and microeconomic policy gained over more than three decades in financial and investment markets and in economic consulting.  She is particularly interested in the intersection of economy, society and environment.After many years in the corporate world of banking, investment and consulting, Nicki is now an independent economist and keynote speaker. Nicki helps her clients top measure the impact of policies, programs and projects using triple bottom line Cost Benefit Analysis. Nicki is also the Chief Economic Adviser to the Customer-Owned Banking Association and a member of JANA’s sustainability advisory committee.Nicki is also a highly sought-after keynote speaker on long and short term economic issues, with a lens on social and environmental influences. She is also a frequent commentator in the media, and a regular guest on both The Drum and The Project.


Morven Cameron

Chief Executive Officer, Lake Macquarie City Council

As CEO of Lake Macquarie City Council, Morven Cameron leads an organisation of more than 1300 employees servicing a community of 220,000 people.

With a strong belief in the power of collaboration, Morven has fostered the development of successful partnerships between Council and leading regional organisations, including the University of Newcastle.  Morven has successfully introduced a proactive approach to driving the diversification of coal-reliant local economies.

Morven is an innovative and progressive leader driven by a passion for local government. She was named Hunter Business Person of the Year in 2019 and is a recipient of the Minister’s Award for Women in Local Government.


Linda Nieuwenhuizen

Chief Executive Officer, Committee for Greater Shepparton

Linda is CEO of the Committee for Greater Shepparton (C4GS) an apolitical, not-for-profit member-based and member-funded organisation. C4GS brings together more than 100 business, public and community organisations in the LGAs of Greater Shepparton, Campaspe and Moira with the shared ambition to achieve a positive, inclusive and prosperous future for the region and its community.  Since commencing as CEO in 2022, Linda has been working with members and stakeholders to progress the challenges of housing, workforce attraction and retention, and energy transition.

Starting her career with the Australian Wheat Board, Linda relocated to the UK working in financial services. Linda returned to Australia working with South East Water Ltd and CPA Australia before relocating to Shepparton for roles with Goulburn Murray Water and Moira Shire Council, and then with Apple and Pear Australia. Linda is also deputy chair of Goulburn Valley Water, and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Hume Region Advisory Forum.

Linda holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics) from the University of Melbourne and Graduate Diplomas in Agribusiness and Corporations and Securities Law, she is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Fairley Leadership Program (2014).


Cr Bob Turner

Councillor for Melton City Council

Bob is passionate about the health and wellbeing of young people, and strongly advocates for enhanced program delivery, more primary and secondary schools, and local TAFE and university. 

Also a strong advocate for improving our transport system and roads, he campaigns for the electrification of the Melton Railway Line, improved local bus connections, and an upgrade of the Western Highway.

Bob immigrated to Australia from Dundee, Scotland, in 1989 with his wife and three sons and settled in Melton in 1990. Since then, his sons have married and Bob is now proud grandad to six beautiful grandchildren.

A toolmaker by trade, Bob was a founding member of the Melton Street Surfer Bus, Melton Idol and The Gap on Graham Inc Youth Centre initiatives. He is an active member of The Gap on Graham Inc, local community radio station 979fm, the Lions Club of Melton, the Red Cross, and is an L2P driving instructor.


Michael Patterson  

Regional General Manager for Tasmania and South Australia, Telstra

Michael Patterson is Telstra’s Regional General Manager for Tasmania and South Australia within Telstra’s Regional Australia team.  Michael has 23 years experience in the telecommunications sector working in many different roles for Telstra across New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia.  Michael has extensive experience across corporate, retail, small business, enterprise, infrastructure and customer service focussed roles.  

During his tenure at Telstra, Michael has been at the forefront of working across the three levels of government to deliver over $50M of co-investment infrastructure projects for regional and remote communities.  

Michael currently leads Local Government Connectivity Planning on behalf of Telstra nationally.  Prior to Telstra, Michael represented the interests of small business nationally in a government relations and public affairs role. Michael holds a Masters in Finance, Masters in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) degree.  


Jim Nolan  

Chief Executive Officer, Pyrenees Shire Council

Jim was appointed Chief Executive Officer with Pyrenees Shire Council in December 2014. He has 25 years’ experience in local government at Glenelg, Southern Grampians and Northern Grampians. Jim has experience across infrastructure, project delivery, community and economic development.

As CEO, Jim is responsible for the day to day operations of Council, the delivery of the Council Plan and the implementation of Council decisions. Jim also has direct responsibility for economic development and communications.



Justin Hancock  

Chief Executive Officer, Quilpie Shire

During Year 11 & 12 at high school Justin undertook a 12-month school-based traineeship with Centrelink completing a Certificate II in Business.  He commenced working at Mount Isa City Council in March 2009 as a Trainee and moved into a Cadet Finance Officer role while he completed his Bachelor of Business (Accounting/Business Law).  On completion of his studies, he commenced as a Finance Officer.

In December 2015 Justin commenced as Finance Manager at Mornington Shire Council, prior to restructuring into Executive Manager Financial Services in 2016.  In September 2017 he commenced as Manager of Financial Services at Carpentaria Shire Council, elevating to the role of Director of Corporate Services/ Deputy CEO in December 2018.

Justin commenced as Chief Executive Officer at Quilpie Shire Council in January 2021 and is the youngest CEO in the Queensland Local Government sector.



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