Keynote Speakers

Keynote Speakers 2017

Confirmed Keynotes

Jack Archer, CEO, Regional Australia Institute

Jack Archer has been with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) since its inception in 2012, and developed the RAI’s policy and research program including major products such as [In]Sight: Australia’s Regional Competitiveness Index and [In]Form: Australia’s Online Library of Regional Research. Jack took up the role as Chief Executive Officer on 1 July 2015.

In previous roles as a consultant and public servant, Jack contributed to major regional reforms in water, climate change, indigenous issues and industry.

Jack holds a Bachelor of Natural Resource Management (Hons 1) from the University of New England and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Originally from Paterson in the lower Hunter Valley of NSW, he now lives in the hills west of Canberra.

Professor John Hicks, School of Accounting and Finance and Institute for Land Water & Society, Charles Sturt University

John Hicks is Professor of Economics at Charles Sturt University where, for 16 years, he was Dean of the Faculty of Business. He has published on a range of regional, national and international issues in labour economics, industrial relations and macroeconomics – including regional airline access to KSA, the economics of petrol supply to regional Australia, analysis of labour markets for specific groups (women, nurses in regional Australia, farmers and older workers) and labour market policy.

In addition he has published on China and its economic relationship with Australia. John has been the recipient of internal and external grants for research and an award for research excellence. As a member of the Institute for Land Water and Society and a recipient of several ILWS Research Fellowships, John is now engaged in a number of projects with a regional and sustainability orientation (including issues of flooding in Australia and Bangladesh, regional growth in Australia and China and regional labour market issues in Australia). He has previously been a Regional Development Board member in the Central West of NSW and a director of the Western Research Institute. Prior to joining CSU John taught at Monash University, the University of Melbourne and Massey University, New Zealand and was for several years Senior Economist at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne. John’s primary teaching areas are macroeconomics, microeconomics and labour economics. He is responsible for undergraduate and post graduate subjects and is a doctoral research supervisor.

Ms Suzette Jackson, Executive Director, Bioregional Australia

Suzette joined Bioregional Australia in early 2016 as the executive officer, leading the organization through a transition re-establishing the international One Planet Living framework in Australia, while working closely with Bioregional Development Group in the UK on the international platform.

Suzette brings a wealth of experience in sustainable environments across commercial, residential, governance and community sectors through a number of senior roles in corporate professional services and social enterprises, including the establishment of the Living Future Institute Australia in 2012 as a founding Director and Executive Officer and consulting organization Innate Ecology.

Suzette has provided advisory services across the food system, local governance, academia and built environment at multiple scales, including consulting, teaching and training roles for the Green Building Council of Australia, Bioregional (UK), Innate Ecology, Deakin University and HASSELL.

Melina Morrison, CEO, Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals

Melina Morrison is the inaugural CEO of Australia’s first peak body for co-operatives and mutuals, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals. She is an advocate for all forms of mutually owned enterprise, regularly contributing commentary and appearing as a spokesperson for the sector. Melina has commissioned, edited and co-written the sector’s first national mapping reports.

Melina’s former roles in the co-operative sector include five years as editor of the flagship publication for the global peak body, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). Melina wrote the message platform for the ICA’s global strategy, Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade. Her advocacy work for the sector resulted in Australia minting a coin commemorating the International Year of Co-operatives in 2012.

Melina was also successful in lobbying for a Senate inquiry into the co-operative and mutual business sector, which handed down its report on the 17 March 2016. In August, Melina was named on an eight person advisory group to ensure the implementation of a $14.9 million Federal government programme to provide farmers with knowledge and materials on co-operatives.

Cr Col Murray, Deputy Chair, Regional Capitals Australia & Mayor, Tamworth Regional Council

Cr Murray is in his fourth term on Tamworth Regional Council and his seventh term as Mayor. He served as Deputy Mayor for two years prior to becoming Mayor. He is the Deputy Chair of Regional Capitals Australia – an alliance of local government associations advocating for continued growth and sustainable development of regional capitals around the nation. He was elected to this role in 2015.

For over a decade Cr Murray chaired the Namoi Councils, an organisation which comprises six local government areas – Gunnedah, Liverpool Plains, Narrabri, Walcha, Uralla and Tamworth – and the Namoi Catchment Management Authority. Under his leadership this group championed opportunities for community infrastructure, mining, exploration and energy, economic development and the security of the region’s water supply.

At a local level, Cr Murray is passionate about sports development and is close to fulfilling his vision for the Northern Inland Centre for Sporting Excellence. Recognising that Local Government service provision has moved beyond the traditional narrower focus on “roads, rates and rubbish” towards broader objectives to promote social, economic and environmental wellbeing of its communities, Cr Murray has championed the development of a robust economic development strategy for the Tamworth Region.

Cr Murray owned and operated two businesses for about 35 years in Tamworth before retiring and running for Council. He describes himself as a ‘commercial realist’ and believes that if the Council is without a strong commercial platform, little is achievable for the community. His aim is to `underpin decision-making processes with a strong commercial foundation to enable the Council to deliver the outcomes expected by the community’.

Mr Will Rayner, CFO, Rural Bank

Will has spent his life immersed in Australian rural and regional affairs. He grew up as a fifth generation farmer on his family’s wheat and sheep farm in the mid-north of South Australia. After leaving school Will embarked on a career as a rural journalist with the Rural Press (now Fairfax) agricultural division, before a short period as an agricultural corporate affairs and public relations consultant. In 2007 Will joined one of Australia’s largest regional businesses, the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank group. Will joined Bendigo’s specialist agricultural offering, Rural Bank, in September 2013, and was appointed Chief Financial Officer in October 2015. Will is a non-executive director of Community Insurance Solutions Pty Ltd, and non-executive director of the SA Dairy Industry Fund. In 2016 Will received a Churchill Fellowship to investigate alternative farm finance structures for Australian family farmers. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and holds an MBA from the University of Adelaide.

Professor Wendy J. Umberger, Executive Director, Centre for Global Food & Resources University of Adelaide

Professor Wendy Umberger is the Foundation Executive Director of the Centre for Global Food and Resources (GFAR) at the University of Adelaide. She was the 2016-2017 President of the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES).  She is a Fellow of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, serves on the Governance Board of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics and the editorial board of Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy. Her behavioural economics research uses innovative methods to understand drivers and implications of changing consumer and producer behaviour on food systems.  She is also studying the impact of urbanisation, modern retail transformation and development programs on food consumption patterns, diet quality and longer-run health and livelihood implications across Australasia.  She holds a B.S. in Animal Science (1996) and M.S. in Economics (1998) from South Dakota State University and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (2001) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Wendy was raised on a beef cattle and grain farm, which is still owned and operated by her parents in South Dakota USA.  She is married and has a five year-old daughter.

Other Confirmed Keynotes

  • Ms Kerry Anderson, Director, KA Rural Enterprises
  • Ms Wendy Mason, General Manager, Western Research Institute

Leaders of Regional Australia: disrupting and rethinking our approach to the regions

(Panel Discussion)
  • Mr Matt Linnegar, Chief Executive, Australian Rural Leadership Foundation (Chair)
  • Mr Jack Archer, CEO, Regional Australia Institute
  • Ms Robbie Sefton, Founder & Managing Director, Seftons
  • Dr Scott Davis, Director, Greater Northern Australia Regional Training Nework (GNARTN)

Invited Keynotes

  • Minister John Barilo, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW, Minister for Skills, Minister for Small Business, NSW Government

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