Program Committee

Mr Tony McBurney, Director, Integrated Design Group (chair)

Tony established Integrated Design Group in 1999 after previous experience in both the public and private sectors, including his role as a Senior Architect at HPA / Mirvac and as an Associate at Stanton Dahl Architects.

Tony has a long-standing dedication to the community and housing design, with the goal of bringing the benefits of good architecture to ‘the common man’.

Ms Susan Benedyka, Managing Director, The Regional Development Company

Susan has a diverse background of government, business and community leadership across rural and regional Australia and specialises in bringing together government, non-government agencies and regional communities for sustainable outcomes.


Susan is passionate about creating positive futures for regional and rural communities. Drawing on high level strategic planning, facilitation and project management skills, she designs, develops and implements strategic plans, community consultation and engagement programs, and leadership development programs.

Current Board positions: A/Chair – Hume Regional Development Australia (Hume RDA), Member – Ovens Murray Regional Partnership, Director – Telstra Foundation, Chair – Telstra Kids Fund

Ms Natalie Egleton, CEO, Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Natalie Egleton, CEO, Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR)

Natalie joined FRRR in 2012 and was appointed CEO in November 2015. As CEO, she is responsible for shaping FRRR’s strategy, designing new programs and developing and nurturing new funding partnerships. In her previous roles with 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.

Ms Nicole Pearson, General Manager, Regional and Dams Policy Branch, Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities

Ms Pearson is currently the General Manager, Regional and Dams Policy Branch, Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities. Ms Pearson leads the design of the long-term, strategic agenda of regional economic policy, the policy design and program delivery of the National Water Infrastructure Fund and National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility and development of policy and processes to enable the Regional Investment Corporation to administer the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility.

Ms Pearson has a diverse background as a senior executive in the Australian public service that crosses strategic policy, program delivery and corporate service delivery. She has successfully delivered in a range of roles within these disciplines. Her career has focused on implementing major reform agendas and working in service related programs to drive outcomes. She has led multi-discipline teams across diverse and remote geographic locations and successfully administered large appropriations and capital budgets.

Ms Narelle Pearse, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance & Planning), CQUniversity

Narelle Pearse commenced in the role of Deputy Vice Chancellor for CQUniversity in February 2014, after serving three years on the CQUniversity Council. Ms Pearse holds a Bachelor of Commerce, Masters of Commerce, Executive MBA, and Graduate Diploma in Economic Development with Distinction, from a range of universities, as well as a Graduate Diploma in Psychology from CQUniversity. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.  She has over 25 years of experience in the private sector within both public and corporate accounting, as well as International Trade. Prior to taking up the position with CQUniversity, Ms Pearse was the CEO of the Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDC), Managing Director of the Mackay Area Industry Network (MAIN), and founding Managing Director of BMA’s Local Buying program.

Sunshine Coast Sub-Committee

Mr Paul Fisher, CEO, Regional Development, RDA Sunshine Coast
Ms Anne Lawrence ,Head of Industry Development, Economic Development Branch, Sunshine Coast Council

Currently Head of Industry Advancement within the Economic Development Branch at Sunshine Coast Council, Anne Lawrence’s role is to help foster and grow Sunshine Coast’s priority industry sectors alongside a range of partners within the business community. Anne has a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship as well as the digital economy, and in 2017 facilitated a multi-stakeholder $1m innovation program for the region.

Anne leads a team of economic development specialists that design and execute programs in partnership with a collaborative network of strategic partners to support the international competitiveness of the region’s 30,000+ businesses.

Anne has nurtured and developed a community-based approach and firmly believes in working for collective benefit, including being true to her core purpose which is to create sustainable business communities (entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems) that drive collective economic prosperity.

Mr Simon Crock CA, Coordinator Commercial Analysis, Commercial Analysis, Business Development, Business Performance, Sunshine Coast Council

Simon has over 20 years of commercial experience in state and local governments working in finance, investment and competition policy. He has a diverse range of project experience covering infrastructure, water reform, and energy.

Currently Simon manages the award winning 15MW Sunshine Coast Solar Farm making Sunshine Coast Council Australia’s first local government to offset its entire electricity consumption across all its facilities and operations from renewable energy. Simon holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Western Australia and is a member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.

Ms Sarah Wetton, Research and Grants Coordinator, Regional Development Australia (RDA) Sunshine Coast Inc.