Program Committee

Mr Tony McBurney (Chair)

Mr Tony McBurney, Director, Integrated Design Group

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’.

David Spear

Mr David Spear, General Manager Partnerships & Communication, Regional Australia Institute

David is the Regional Australia Institute’s General Manager of Partnerships and Communications. He has extensive practical experience in regional development, having led and managed economic development and tourism organisations in Victoria, Queensland and Canberra.

He has an Honours Degree in Product Design (BdesInd Hon) from the RMIT University, Melbourne; and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Queensland (Mt. Eliza Business School).

Significant awards include winning the National Awards for Local Government overall ‘National Award for Excellence’ and ‘Innovative Infrastructure’ categories in 2012. In 2017, the Regional Australia Institute joined a distinguished group of international experts receiving the Regional Studies Institutional Ambassador Award, in recognition of sustained excellence in the field of regional studies.

Natalie Egleton

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.

Nicole Pearson

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

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.

Narelle Pearse

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.

Kerry Grace

Kerry Grace, CEO, RDA Mid North Coast, NSW

Kerry’s career commenced in the advertising and marketing industries, where she worked in a variety of roles in Sydney, Australia. Simultaneously she launched a start-up events and artist promotion agency which she ran throughout Sydney for over six years.  Kerry returned to the Nambucca Valley with her family in 2003 and established her business Evolve Network, a values based consultancy service.

Kerry was featured as a ‘returner’ (i.e. someone who  in the 2014 Regional Australia Institute Report “there’s no place like home” Kerry is a strong advocate of regional living.  “With the city only a short flight away and access to online work, so many opportunities have been opened up to regional Australians, the quality of life, environment and lifestyle really make it a beautiful place to raise a family.”

She has a strong social conscience and the opportunity to commence working in the education industry, particularly with ‘at risk’ groups in 2000 turned into an ongoing relationship with the not for profit, training and employment sectors. Throughout this period she coordinated eight Work for the Dole programs, working hands on with the participants and has delivered learning experiences for hundreds of people across many communities throughout the East Coast of Australia (with a particular focus on her home region of the Mid North Coast of NSW).

With a commitment to lifelong learning, Kerry holds an undergraduate degree in Business, is a graduate of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (2011) and The Coaching Institute and has attended numerous entrepreneurial development activities including the Eilte 500Mastermind program (Brisbane) and Awesomenessfest (Phuket).

In her role as CEO of RDAMNC, Kerry aims to contribute to the organisation’s vision of a Mid North Coast that embeds a culture of “innovation, opportunity, inclusion and economic prosperity”.  Kerry is a strong advocate of opportunities in economic development for people throughout the region with a particular focus on the region’s priorities of Indigenous communities, youth and the ageing population.

Ms Susan Benedyka

Ms Susan Benedyka, Chair of Hume Regional Development Australia

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

Mail to: PO Box 29, Nerang, 4211
+(61 7) 5502 2068