IPAA ACT 2018 Conference | Speakers

The IPAA ACT 2018 Conference speakers are listed below including biographical information.

Kerri Hartland Secretary, Department of Jobs and Small Business

Ms Kerri Hartland, joined the Department of Jobs and Small Business (formerly Employment) in September 2017. Directly prior to this role, Kerri was the Deputy Secretary, Business Enabling Services at the Department of Finance.

Kerri brings extensive experience at senior levels having worked in eight different Commonwealth departments and agencies. Kerri has been: Deputy Director-General of ASIO; Deputy Secretary of the Department of Human Services, where she led amongst other things Service Delivery Reform; and Chief Information Officer of the then Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

Kerri started professional life as a journalist and also spent a year working in the Canadian public service.

David Thodey AO Chair of the APS Review Panel, Former CEO of Telstra

David is a global business leader focused on innovation, technology and telecommunications with more than 30 years of experience creating brand and shareholder value. He is currently Chairman of Australia’s national scientific research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and Chairman of JobsNSW focused on job creation in NSW, as well as an Ambassador for business events in NSW. He is also the Chairman of the NSW Government’s Quantum Computing Fund Advisory Panel.

David is on the Advisory Boards of SquarePeg Capital and Unified Healthcare Group (UHG), is on the Investment Committee of Evans and Partners Global Disruption Fund, and is a non-executive Board director of Ramsay Health Care, a global hospital group. He also had a successful career as CEO of Telstra, Australia’s leading telecommunications and information services company.

David holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and English from Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, attended the Kellogg School of Management postgraduate General Management Program at Northwestern University in Chicago, USA, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science and Technology from Deakin University in 2016.

Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM Member of the APS Review Panel, Former Departmental Secretary

Gordon has over 30 years’ experience in public policy and administration and was Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy from 2013–17. This followed senior positions in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2008-13, including as G20 Sherpa from 2010–13), Treasury (2003–08), Australian National University (as Professor of Economics, 2000–2002) and Reserve Bank (1991–99).

His areas of professional policy expertise include macro, financial and international economics and policy; natural resource and environmental management; climate change and energy policies; international organisations (especially G20); institutional design and governance; and public-sector management and reform. He is a strategic and integrated systems thinker with extensive experience in many areas of public policy, including in Asia and overseas.

Gordon is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia and was President of the ACT Branch from June 2016 to September 2017. He is on the Advisory Council of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, and is an Honorary Professor and Distinguished Fellow at the ANU, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra in the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis. He is a member of the Centre for Strategy and Governance and is a facilitator for the Jeff Whalan Leaning Group for mentoring and developing senior public servants in Australia and New Zealand.

Gordon received a Public Service Medal in 2011 for his work on the G20, and was made a Knight in France’s Legion of Honour in 2013 for G20 and public service. He has a doctorate in economics from the Australian National University.

Renée Leon Secretary, Department of Human Services

Ms Renée Leon joined the Department of Human Services as Secretary on 18 September 2017. Prior to her current appointment, Renée was the Secretary of the Department of Employment, from 2013 to 2017, with responsibility for workplace relations policy and employment services. 

Renée served as Deputy Secretary in the Attorney-General’s Department and in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet from May 2009 to September 2013. From 2006 to 2009, Renée held the position of Chief Executive of the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety.

Renée was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2013 for outstanding public service to public administration and law in leadership roles in the Australian Capital Territory and the Commonwealth. Renée is qualified in Arts and Law and holds a Masters in Law from Cambridge University. She has served on the Boards of the Australian Institute of Criminology, the National Australia Day Council, and the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency, and was a member of the Council of the Order of Australia.

Kathy Leigh Director-General and Head of Service of the ACT Government

Kathy Leigh is the Head of Service for the ACT Government and Director-General of the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate. Before taking up her position as ACT Head of Service, Ms Leigh was Director-General of the ACT Justice and Community Safety Directorate from October 2009.

Ms Leigh previously served for a number of years with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department overseeing policy development and national programs that improve access to justice.
Ms Leigh has a Bachelor of Arts (Griffith University), Bachelor of Laws (with Honours, from Australian National University), and a Master of International Law (Australian National University).

HE Chris Seed High Commissioner to Australia, New Zealand High Commission

Chris Seed commenced duties as the New Zealand High Commissioner to Australia in November 2013. Prior to taking up this position he was a Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and previously worked in the Ministry of Defence. His earlier career included assignments in Tehran, Canberra, London and Papua New Guinea, where he was High Commissioner.

In addition to a number of roles in Wellington, he also served with the International Peace Monitoring Team in the Solomon Islands, the New Zealand delegation to the UN General Assembly and was seconded to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

HE Kwok Fook Seng High Commissioner for Singapore, High Commission of the Republic of Singapore

Mr Kwok Fook Seng is currently Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1995, Mr Kwok has served in portfolios related to South Asia and Latin America, the United Nations, and Southeast Asia, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He was Special Assistant to then-Foreign Minister Professor S Jayakumar in 2001, and Director-General of Singapore’s ASEAN National Secretariat from 2009 to 2010.

From 2011 to 2014, he was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation and the World Intellectual Property Organisation in Geneva. As Ambassador for Climate Change from 2014 to 2016, he led the team which negotiated and concluded the Paris Agreement at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December 2015.

Mr Kwok has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies (Honours) from Murdoch University, Western Australia, and a Master of Public Management (MPM) from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

HE Erica Schouten Ambassador to Australia, The Kingdom of the Netherlands

Erica Schouten was appointed Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Australia in 2016. She started her career at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1994, after having obtained a MA in political science and several years at the Ministry of Employment. After several positions at the MFA in The Hague with a focus on EU-affairs, and a posting at the Dutch delegation to the United Nations in New York, she worked as Head of the Security and Defence Policy department in the Hague, Deputy Head of Mission in Warsaw and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to NATO. Erica’s career has shown a strong focus on political, security and defense issue, mainly in multilateral settings.
As a first time ambassador in a bilateral setting, Erica enjoys the width and depth of the relationship with Australia. The Netherlands and Australia share a long history, from the first European contact with Australia in the early 17th century through military cooperation during WWII and mass migration in the post-war years.  As like minded countries, the Netherlands and Australia work closely both bilaterally and in multilateral fora.

Hannah Wandel CEO Country To Canberra

Hannah Wandel is a social entrepreneur, gender equality advocate, public speaker and the Founder and CEO of Country to Canberra. Under her leadership, Country to Canberra is successfully delivering education and career opportunities to young women across rural Australia. Hannah has a passion for ambitious ideas and innovative problem solving, which led her to being named one of Australia’s ‘100 Women of Influence’ by the Australian Financial Review/Westpac in 2015.

She was also a 2015 ACT Young Woman of the Year Finalist, a 2015 Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation Scholarship winner, a 2014 Great Ideas winner and won the 2017 Edna Ryan Award for her outstanding efforts in the field of Education. She has been a speaker at TEDxYouth, and recently won the prestigious 2017 National Emerging Leader Award from the Institute of Managers and Leaders.

Hannah’s vision and motivation for empowering rural girls stems from her upbringing in South Australia. Although she loved her local community, Hannah recognised that distance, time and funding barriers often isolated rural students from education and career opportunities. Pairing this with gender inequalities, Hannah was determined to build an organisation that creates more opportunities for young women. At 24, Hannah founded Country to Canberra to promote gender equality and to empower rural girls to reach their leadership potential.

Hannah is also a Board Director at YWCA Canberra, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and is the youngest ever Director of the National Rural Women’s Coalition – Australia’s peak body for regional women. She works full time at the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, and prior to that, worked at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Defence, and as a broadcast journalist. She is a media commentator about gender, youth, and rural affairs and presents at events around Australia. Hannah has a double degree in Law (Honours) and Media from the University of Adelaide.

Dion Devow Managing Director- Yerra, Managing Director- Darkies Design

Dion Devow is a Canberra based business man and the Managing Director of Yerra and Darkies Designs. Dion was born and raised in Darwin and is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Dion is a Traditional Owner for the Palm Island Group of Northern Queensland, (Manbarra) and also has heritage that stems from Darnley Island in the Torres Straits. Dion has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Health Education and has supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to health, justice, and education for more than 20 years in Canberra ACT.

Dion worked as a Member of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Consultative Group from 2009 to 2014 and for much of that time was the Deputy Chair, au and has recently been elected to the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body. Dion uses this 20 years of experience to work as a consultant specialising in community engagement within Health, Education, Justice and is now consulting within the Business sector to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reach their dreams and aspirations with respect to business.

Dion is recipient of the 2018 ACT Australian of the Year, winner of the 2014 ACT NAIDOC Business of The Year, and the 2016 ACT NAIDOC Person of The Year. Dion is also the ACT representative for the First Australians Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Dr Steven Kennedy PSM Secretary, Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities 

Dr Steven Kennedy is the Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, a position he has held since 18 September 2017. Prior to that, Steven was a Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he was responsible for Innovation and Transformation and led work on the Cities Agenda, regulatory reform, public data and digital innovation.

Steven was previously a Deputy Secretary at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science; the Department of the Environment; the former Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education; the former Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and the Head of Secretariat of the Garnaut Climate Change Review—Update 2011.

Steven has twice been seconded to the Prime Minister's Office from the Treasury, working as the Director of Cabinet and Government Business and a senior economic adviser. Steven held a number of positions at the Treasury including the General Manager of the Infrastructure, Competition and Consumer Division and the Domestic Economy Division. Steven began his career in the public service as a cadet at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Prior to joining the public service, Steven trained and worked as a nurse.

Steven holds a PhD and a Masters in Economics from the Australian National University and a Bachelor of Economics (First Class Honours) from the University of Sydney.

Peter Woolcott AO Commissioner, Australian Public Service Commission 

Mr Peter Woolcott AO commenced as the Australian Public Service Commissioner on 9 August 2018.  Mr Woolcott has had a distinguished career in the Australian Public Service, serving in senior diplomatic positions around the world. He has served as Australia’s High Commissioner to New Zealand (2016–2017), Ambassador for the Environment (2014–16), Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and Ambassador for Disarmament (2010–2014), Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues (2009), and Ambassador to Italy (2004–2007).

Most recently he has served as the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff. Mr Woolcott was appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in 2017 for his distinguished service to public administration in the field of international relations, and as a lead negotiator in the non-proliferation and arms control fields.

Professor Elanor Huntington Dean, ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science 

Professor Elanor Huntington is the first female Dean of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University. She is committed to raising the profile of Science and Technology in the community and is on mission to encourage young women to get involved in STEM related fields.

‘We stand on the cusp of a rare transformative period in the interaction between technology and society. We live in a highly connected world where technology has been democratized, disrupted and is being distributed in unprecedented ways. The opportunities for individuals and society are huge, as are the risks. Engineers are the people who balance technological opportunity with risk. We need engineers now more than ever.’

Professor Huntington was previously the Head of School for the School of Engineering and Information Technology at UNSW Canberra. Additionally she has served as Chief Investigator on several Australian Research Council projects, Program Manager for the ARC Centre for Excellence in Quantum Computational Communication Technologies and is an Honorary Fellow for The Institution of Engineers Australia. Professor Huntington has a long history of council and board contributions including previous service on the ACT Accreditation and Registration Council as well as currently serving on the Board of Significant Capital Ventures.

Professor Huntington holds a PhD (2000) in experimental quantum optics from the ANU. Her current research includes the control of quantum systems, with a particular interest in the interface between theory and applications.


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IPAA ACT acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Contact IPAA

ABN: 24 656 727 375
Phone: (02) 6154 9800
Unit 4A, 16 National Circuit,
Barton ACT 2600

Postal Address

PO Box 4349
Kingston ACT 2604

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