Confirmed Featured Speakers

Mr Mark Cully, Chief Economist, Office of the Chief Economist, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australian Government

Mark Cully is Chief Economist for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

Mark has a first-class Honours degree in Economics from the University of Adelaide. From 1992-95 he was a British Council Commonwealth Scholar at the University of Warwick obtaining a Master of Arts in Industrial Relations, while working at the Warwick Business School.

He has had a varied career in applied economic research at the intersection of government and academia.

In 1995 he was appointed head of research on employment relations for the UK Government, where he ran what was the world’s largest survey of working life. He returned to Australia in 1999 as Deputy Director of the National Institute of Labour Studies, and was then General Manager at the National Centre for Vocational Education Research for six years, running its statistical then research operations.

In 2009 he was appointed inaugural Chief Economist at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and in that role chaired the OECD’s Working Party on Migration. He is a member of the CEDA Council on Economic Policy.

Mark Bennett, Head of Agribusiness & Specialised Commercial, ANZ Australia

Mark currently leads ANZ Agribusiness in Australia with a focus on strategy and industry insights that are designed to deliver information and promote positive change for our industry. He also has direct accountability for our portfolio of large or complex commercial businesses in regional Australia that together with Agri make a significant contribution to our regional economy.

Mark has worked in Agribusiness for 25 years with previous senior business management roles at Rabobank that exposed him to agribusiness in Australia and around the world.

His family continue to farm on a dry land cropping property at Waitchie, Northwest Victoria where he was brought up.

Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Trade & Investment Commission (Austrade)

Dr Stephanie Fahey is the Chief Executive Officer of Austrade, the Australian Government agency responsible for promoting trade, investment and international education, and tourism policy, programs and research.

Stephanie has over 30 years’ experience both as an academic and executive working in Australia and overseas.

Previously she was EY’s lead partner for education in the Oceania region, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Global Engagement) at Monash University and Director of the University of Sydney’s Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific. Dr Fahey brings an international perspective to her work and a wealth of experience across business and academia.

Austrade’s first female chief executive, Dr Fahey has also served on the Australia China Business Council, the Australia China Council, the NSW International Education Advisory Board, the European Australian Business Council, the Board of Canberra Institute of Technology, the Foreign Affairs Council and the Australia Korean Foundation.

Stephanie holds a PhD from the Australian National University and BA (Hons) from the University of Sydney. She speaks Melanesian Pidgin. She was inducted as a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in 2012.

Hon Michael Gunner, Chief Minister, Northern Territory Government

Michael Gunner is Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and Member for Fannie Bay in the NT Legislative Assembly.

He is a fourth generation Territorian whose family have lived and worked here since the 1930s.

Michael was born in Alice Springs and did his junior schooling there and in Tennant Creek. He attended high school in Darwin and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Northern Territory University.
His personal values were shaped growing up in a family that earned its living from running small local businesses (including newsagencies and removalists) and on the land (including stock work and mining). His family has worked and lived throughout the Territory.

Michael worked in senior Ministerial adviser roles from 2001 until his election to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in August 2008, replacing mentor and former Chief Minister Clare Martin in the seat of Fannie Bay.

He was elected Leader of the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Labor Party on 23 April 2015 and led the party to a historic election win in August 2016.

As Chief Minister, Michael’s focus is creating jobs, restoring trust in Government, investing in children, empowering the bush and building strong and safe communities.

Like many Territorians Michael loves sport. He has represented the Territory in Rugby Union and at various times has played cricket for PINTS and soccer for the Verdi Club in Alice Springs. Occasionally, as time permits, he still turns out for Waratahs Hockey Club.

The biggest barramundi he has caught (so far) is 78 centimetres long and he is an enthusiastic amateur chef who describes his best dish as Sicilian lemon chicken.

Professor Simon Maddocks, Vice Chancellor, Charles Darwin University

Professor Maddocks has held the position of Vice-Chancellor and President of Charles Darwin University since March 2014. He brought to the position extensive experience at senior levels in academia, government and research.

Previously Professor Maddocks was Director of Science Partnerships at the Department of Primary Industries and Regions in the South Australian Research and Development Institute, Director of the University of Adelaide’s Roseworthy Campus, and Professor of Animal Science at the University of Adelaide. Professor Maddocks has worked in the United Kingdom and the United States.

He holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Hons) and a PhD from the University of Adelaide, and was the first non-medical graduate to receive the prestigious Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in Medicine.

Ms Marie Piccone, Managing Director, Manbulloo Ltd

Manbulloo produces mangoes at 6 locations across NT and North Queensland and is the largest producer of Kensington Pride mangoes in Australia. Manbulloo also produces a significant volume of R2E2 and is a committed exporter into carefully selected global markets. Since purchasing Manbulloo in 2005, Marie and her team have increased yield by 300%, increased fruit packout from premium levels of 20 -30% up to 65 -85% depending on the location.

Marie has more recently been recognized for her achievements and won the 2015 National Telstra Women’s Award for Entrepreneur of the Year. In March 2017, Marie was inducted into the Her Business Australian Hall of Fame 2017. Manbulloo has been the proud recipient of Coles Supplier of the Year 2015 and many export awards (most recently AustKorea Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in Food and Beverage 2017). Manbulloo is recognized for their innovative, collaborative relationship with Coles and their other partners in export markets, an intense focus on consumers and a commitment to innovation.

Prior to purchasing Manbulloo, Marie had a consultancy business operating in Australia, New Zealand and Asia for 18 years. She is grateful that her first job after completing her University degree was as an Extension Officer with Queensland Department of Primary Industries based at Maroochy Research Station with an amazing team and some great mentors.

Mr Troy Setter, CEO, Consolidated Pastoral Company (CPC)

Troy is one of the top agribusiness leaders in Australia and well-renowned for his achievements across the industry. CPC is Australia’s largest private beef producer with 400,000 head of cattle run on a portfolio of 16 stations across Australia’s three Northern States.

CPC’s stations are vertically integrated with its two joint venture feedlots in Indonesia. Throughout his career Troy has been responsible for all aspects of the supply chain; from cereal and fibre cropping, grain and grass fed cattle operations, domestic and international logistics, trading and shipping through to genetic improvement, beef and cattle marketing, broad strategy development, investment and finance.

Along with having a degree in Rural Science from University of New England, he has also completed the Agribusiness program at Harvard Business School, The Australian Rural Leadership Program and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Troy also sits on the Board of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council.

Dr Beth Woods, Director-General, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland

Dr Beth Woods is the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Queensland, where she leads development initiatives to deliver an innovative, productive and sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry sector.

Previously Beth was the Deputy Director-General of Agriculture; and Deputy Director-General, Science in the former Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. She was the foundation Director of UQ’s Rural Extension Centre, and Professor of Agribusiness at UQ from 1997-2004.

Beth Woods completed her DPhil in Agricultural Economics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. Is currently Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. She has served on committees of the Grains R&D Corporation, the Policy Advisory Council of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the CSIRO Board, the Gatton College Council and the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Council. She chaired the RIRDC, ACIAR, and the National Drought Policy Review in 2004, and the International Rice Research Institute from 2008-10, was a Director of the QRAA from 2012-2015, and Chair of WorldFish, headquartered in Penang, until June 2017. She is Queensland “Government Champion” for the Northern Peninsula Area Indigenous Community, on northern Cape York Peninsula.

Mr Mark Coffey, Head – Office of Northern Australia

Mark has lived in the Northern Territory for over 30 years and is passionate about northern Australia development. Mark has contributed significantly to both public and community life and has led a number of initiatives to facilitate economic and social development in remote areas including the Alice Springs Transformation Plan and regional partnership agreements. In his role as NT State Manager in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, he was responsible for the Indigenous programme delivery and coordinated a number of large reform programmes. Prior to this, Mark was a 22-year veteran of the Northern Territory Police Force, working in regional and remote areas across the NT, achieving the rank of Commander.

As Head of the Office of Northern Australia in the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Mark he is responsible for overseeing delivery of the Australian Government’s ‘Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia’. Mark’s collaborative engagement is driving cross-jurisdictional development across the north through innovative and targeted approaches. Under Mark’s leadership, the Office of Northern Australia is securing sustainable benefits by attracting investment, enhancing economic outcomes and driving jobs and growth whilst balancing social impacts. This important work will ensure lasting benefits, not just for the north but also for all of Australia.

Ms Melissa Vernon, Executive Director, Innovation & Development, WA Country Health Service

Melissa Vernon holds the newly created position of Executive Director, Innovation & Development for the WA Country Health Service.

She has an extensive background in health-related leadership and executive positions in country WA with a mix of private, public and university academic and clinical roles.

Melissa is particularly focussed on:

  • Consumer and community driven health service improvement and innovation
  • Addressing inequity of health service access and service improvement through a range of service reforms, particularly telehealth
  • Delivering a values based leadership style, that encourages inspiration and empowerment
  • Implementing an effective chronic conditions and early years strategy for the WA Country Health Service with input from service partners
  • Leading Telehealth and virtual health as a significant enabler of improved service access.

Melissa has led the consolidation of the WA Emergency Telehealth Service that supports 78 country hospitals and delivers 320- 350 consultations per week, a service that country clinicians and consumers have seen as vital. This service won the WA Premiers Award for “Improving Government” in 2014.

In recent years she has received the Health Consumer Council Award for Excellent Service to Consumers, the Director General of Health Award for Community Engagement in Health, the Australian Public Sector Medal and more recently the WA Health Director Generals Award for Tele-diabetes with a strong inter-agency and patient experience and journey focus.

Ms Maria Alejandra Vlek (Alejandra), Minister, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Argentina

Studies: Bachelor of International Relations, Del Salvador University, Buenos Aires, Argentina and joined the Diplomatic Service in 1995.

Languages: Spanish, English, French, German and basic knowledge of Russian and Dutch.

Current role at the Embassy: Minister, Deputy Head of Mission at the Argentine Embassy in Australia. Responsible for Trade and Economic Section. Posted in Canberra since February 2015.

Previous postings:

  • Argentine Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine (1997-1999)
  • Argentine Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands (1999-2003)
  • Argentine Embassy in Quito, Ecuador (2006-2012)
  • In the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, has worked in the Economic Bilateral Relations Division, Mercosur Division, Exports Development Programme and the International Organisations Division.

Dr Alfredo Vara, Head of Coordination, Plan Belgrano Unit, Office of the Chief of Cabinet

Employment experience

Head of Coordination, Plan Belgrano Unit, Office of the Chief of Cabinet (current)
Under-Secretary of Industry, Ministry of Industry, Labour and Commerce, Province of Corrientes (2015-2017)
Government-appointed Trustee, Institute of Rural Development, Province of Corrientes (2013-2015)
Chief Adviser to Minister of Production, Labour and Tourism, Province of Corrientes (2009-2016)
Legal adviser, Ricegrowers’ Association, Province of Corrientes (2006-2009)

Previous: Private legal practice
Academic experience: Assistant Professor, Rural Administration and Legislation, National University of the Northeast, Argentina
Areas of specialisation: Administrative, Rural and Environmental Law

Mr Nigel Browne, CEO, Larrakia Development Corp

Nigel is a Larrakia and Wulna man.  He is the current CEO of the LDC after serving as a Director on the board since 2005 and Chair from 2010 to 2013.  Nigel studied at Northern Territory University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 2001.

Professional roles include Crown Prosecutor (ODPPNT), Legal Officer (RANR), Solicitor Aboriginal Lands (SFNT), and Policy Adviser (Chief Minister’s Office).  Nigel has held positions with the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Law Society (NT), Northern Australia Advisory Council and Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group (Office of Northern Australia), Defence Reserve Support Council (NT/K) and Darwin Harbour Advisory Committee (NTG).

In August 2011 Nigel was announced as the National Indigenous Legal Professional of the Year, in recognition of his advocacy, representation, and contribution to Larrakia people.  He is also a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Other Confirmed Keynotes

(pre recorded message)

Senator the Hon Matt Canavan, Minister for Natural Resources and Northern Australia, Australian Government

Featured Plenary Panel

Mr Mark Coffey, Head – Office of Northern Australia

Mark has lived in the Northern Territory for over 30 years and is passionate about northern Australia development. Mark has contributed significantly to both public and community life and has led a number of initiatives to facilitate economic and social development in remote areas including the Alice Springs Transformation Plan and regional partnership agreements. In his role as NT State Manager in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, he was responsible for the Indigenous programme delivery and coordinated a number of large reform programmes. Prior to this, Mark was a 22-year veteran of the Northern Territory Police Force, working in regional and remote areas across the NT, achieving the rank of Commander.

As Head of the Office of Northern Australia in the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Mark he is responsible for overseeing delivery of the Australian Government’s ‘Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia’. Mark’s collaborative engagement is driving cross-jurisdictional development across the north through innovative and targeted approaches. Under Mark’s leadership, the Office of Northern Australia is securing sustainable benefits by attracting investment, enhancing economic outcomes and driving jobs and growth whilst balancing social impacts. This important work will ensure lasting benefits, not just for the north but also for all of Australia.

John Blaxland, Prof International Security and Intelligence Studies, Director, ANU Southeast Asia Institute. Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, ANU

John Blaxland is Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies, Director of the ANU Southeast Asia Institute and Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at ANU. He is also a member of the ANU Academic Board as well as the Australian Army Journal editorial board and an occasional commentator in the media. His publications and research interests concern intelligence and security, Australian military history, operations and strategy, defence studies, and international relations, notably on South-east Asia, North America. He was a lead author of the three-volume history of ASIO and teaches “Honeypots and Overcoats: Australian Intelligence in the World”.

  • Ms Anne-Maree Weston, Senior Investment Specialist, Agribusiness and Food, Austrade
  • Ms Sheriden Morris, Managing Director, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre

Moderator: Mr Luke Bowen, General Manager, Northern Australia Development & Trade, Northern Territory Government