Keynote Speakers

Dr Chris Chilcott has more than 20 years’ experience in the agricultural sector, research and development. He currently leads CSIRO’s Land and Water business unit based in Darwin and leads and develops research into northern Australian Development.

He is part of the team managing the North Australia Water Resource Assessment, an $18M assessment of water resources across three catchments. His career has spanned across ecology and animal industries, pastoral production and management, and policy.

Prior to joining CSIRO, Chris led a policy group providing strategic leadership on industry development activity and policy related to animal industries within Queensland.

Ms Cissy Gore-Birch is a Jaru /Kija woman with connection to Balanggarra, , Nyikina and Bunuba country. She holds a Graduate Diploma in Natural Resource Management and has worked in the Aboriginal land management and community development sectors for the past twenty years.
Currently, Ms Gore-Birch is employed as the National Aboriginal Engagement Manager at Bush Heritage Australia.

With a strong leadership background in the Kimberley and Australia, Ms Gore Birch’s current appointments include; Chairperson, Arrnja Pty Ltd, Chairperson of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management (NAILSMA), recently appointed member of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Committee member of the Northern Environment Scientific Programme (NESP) – Northern & Threatened Species Recovery Hub – Indigenous Reference Group and former appointments; Chairperson, Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation (2010-2014) Director, Kimberley Land Council and Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley – Councillor.

Ms Gore-Birch has been and continues to advocate for the social, cultural , environmental and economic advancement and wellbeing of Aboriginal people through a fair & equitable process.

My name is Blaze Kwaymullina and I am Palyku Traditional Owner from the inland Pilbara region of Western Australia.

I originally started my career as an academic working at the University of Western Australia as a historian and criminologist.

I became a writer and author, working with communities to record their stories as well publish my own creative works, mainly for children. More recently, the last ten years I have been a businessman and focused on economic development.

Peter is a professional engineer and environmental scientist and has been the Mayor of the City of Karratha since 2014.

He has lived and worked overseas in various roles around the world but for over 30 years has been a resident of Karratha, where he started the Astron Group, providing engineering, environmental and other services across northern WA.

A graduate of the AIDC, Peter holds directorships on a number of organisations and has worked in design, development and management roles on many large Pilbara resource projects.

As Mayor, he is currently concentrating on diversifying the Karratha economy beyond the resources industry by enabling a range of sustainable, new-technology industries.

Sue Middleton is recognized as an entrepreneur, skilled advocate and as a highly influential leader within regional and rural Australia. Sue has worked for 3 decades holding successive and extensive Board and leadership roles across all levels of industry and government.

Sue and her husband Michael have developed a greenfields orchard project Moora Citrus in a new horticulture area in the Wheatbelt of WA. They have done this whilst managing a diversified farm in the district growing grains, oaten hay and pork.
Sue has wide reaching and deep change management experience across agricultural businesses, commodity groups and sectors, and regional and rural local communities. Sue is passionate about the future of rural and regional Australia, and has worked for their progress for her 30 year professional career.

For her work, Sue has been awarded the Centenary Medal for Service to Regional Australia in 2002, awarded the 2010 RIRDC Rural Woman of the Year for Australia and Western Australia and in 2018 was inducted into the Western Australia Women’s Hall of Fame.

Professor Stanley is currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at CQUniversity, having arrived in 2010 as Dean of Medical and Applied Sciences. Grant holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of Melbourne and has a background in Microbiology/Biochemical Engineering, with research expertise in biofuel production. He has experience in researching and teaching microbial metabolism, biochemical engineering and bioremediation.

His research has been widely published and well-funded from both government and industry sources. Grant has supervised 15 PhD students to completion. He has been on a number of national and international conference organising committees, company boards and journal editorial boards.

Ivan Vella is the managing director Supply Chain and Services for the iron ore business at Rio Tinto. He has accountability for the end to end supply chain moving iron ore from 16 mines across the Pilbara through the rail network and on to customers via four ports terminals at Dampier and Cape Lambert.

Ivan is also responsible for the Core Services function which provides the support infrastructure, utilities and associated services across the iron ore operations.
Prior to this role, Ivan was chief operating officer — Coal, with accountability for Rio Tinto’s five coal operations in New South Wales, Queensland and South Africa.
Before this, Ivan worked at the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia – a $6bn start-up copper and gold operation and one of the top three copper mines in the world.
Since joining Rio in 2003 Ivan has led a number of large business improvement and transformation projects across various areas of the business. He previously worked with Deloitte Consulting.

Ivan holds a Bachelor of Business, a Master of Business in Operations and Quality Management from Queensland University of Technology and a Master of Business Administration from University of Edinburgh.

Ms Sally-Ann Watts, General Manager ASEAN, and Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner, Jakarta, Australian Trade and Investment Commission.

Sally-Ann commenced in January 2017 as Minister Commercial and Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner Jakarta. In this role she leads a team in Jakarta and Surabaya, promoting Trade, Education and Investment between Australia and Indonesia.

Sally-Ann has held a number of senior roles with Austrade in Australia, in addition to a number of roles with Austrade in Tokyo, Toronto and Los Angeles.

Sally-Ann also has considerable experience in the private sector prior to joining Austrade, as an Associate Director with KPMG Consulting in Melbourne, where she led a practice focused on cross-border trade and investment, assisting Australian and North American organisations with their investments and other business across Asia.

Peter Yu is a Yawuru man from Broome in the Kimberley region in North West Australia with over 35 years’ experience in Indigenous development and advocacy in the Kimberley and at the state, national and international level. Peter was a key negotiator on behalf of the Yawuru Native Title Holders with the Western Australian State Government over the 2010 Yawuru Native Title Agreement and is the current Chief Executive Officer of the Yawuru Corporate Group.

He has been an advocate for the social, cultural and economic advancement and well-being of Kimberley and other Aboriginal communities for his entire career. He has been instrumental in the development of many community-based organisations and initiatives which have had an enduring influence on the Kimberley region. He was Executive Director of the Kimberley Land Council during the 1990s and had a national leadership role negotiating the Federal Government’s response to the 1992 Mabo High Court judgement on Native Title.

He is currently the Chair for the Indigenous Reference Group (IRG) to the Northern Ministerial Forum, Chair of the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA), Deputy Chair of the AFL Aboriginal Advisory Committee, Deputy Chair of Broome Futures Alliance Ltd, Council Member of the Governing Board of the Australian National University and Committee Member for the Western Australian Aboriginal Water and Environment Advisory Group.

Other Confirmed

  • Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food; Ports, Minister Assisting the Minister for State Development, Jobs and Trade, Member for the North Metropolitan Region
  • Ms Annette Tilbrook, Executive Director, Australia-ASEAN Chamber of Commerce (AustChaem ASEAN)


  • Hon Matt Canavan, Minister for Natural Resources and Northern Australia
  • Mr Jason Clare, Shadow Minister for Resources and Northern Australia
  • Dr Heather Smith, Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science