Master of Ceremonies 

Leesa Shannon

With an Irish surname and Canadian husband, Leesa Shannon was born in Malaysia to Chinese parents, and moved to Australia when she was just six months old. She has lived in North America, UK, and Asia, and her kids were born in Hong Kong. Now, she resides in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, just 2 streets away from where she grew up, and very much calls Australia home. 

Leesa is a seasoned strategy and leadership facilitator, business performance coach and communications advisor. She is passionate about inspiring people and driving business performance through strategy alignment, strong leadership, effective communication, mindset and behavioural change. Leesa has also been working with national finalists of the Australian of the Year Awards since 2008, coaching them to develop their messages, address the media and make the most of their year with the prestigious award. 


Keynote Speakers 

Anh Do

Anh Do, one of Australia’s most famous comedians, authors and actors, is also one of the most hilarious public speakers in the world. Unlike some with his same skill-set, Anh’s unique life story makes for a poignant, relatable and inspiring story, which he shares easily with audiences of one or one million.

Born in Vietnam in 1977, Anh’s family fled the country in 1980, landing in Australia after a harrowing journey. Since then, Anh has made a name for himself in his new country, starting his career at the age of 14 breeding tropical fish and moving onto comedy and writing later in life. His gut wrenchingly funny presentations and routines have earned him the title of Comedian of the Year and led the way to him writing a book, The Happiest Refugee, based on his experience leaving Vietnam and settling in Australia. 


Vicki Jellie, 2017 Australia's Local Hero 

After her husband Peter died of cancer in 2008, Vicki Jellie found his plans for a local cancer fundraiser. His dream had been to bring radiotherapy services to the South West of Victoria. Peter’s dream became Vicki’s passion.

In 2009, Vicki initiated “Peter’s Project” – a community group dedicated to fighting for improved cancer services. Vicki relentlessly lobbied governments, uniting the community and raising funds. By May 2014, Vicki had secured $30 million combined funding from State and Federal governments and the community and in July 2016 Vicki and her community celebrated the opening of the new South West Regional Cancer Centre, offering radiotherapy treatment for regional patients.

Vicki has selflessly demonstrated why volunteers are the core of our nation’s community and her persistence has proven that ‘nothing is impossible’. Vicki’s legacy will continue to support “all the Peters” facing their cancer battles for generations to come.  



Chris Kirby, National Australia Day Council

Chris Kirby is a not-for-profit board director and is currently CEO of the National Australia Day Council (NADC). He has a personal vision for everyone in Australia to have the opportunity to live a life of value. It’s a vision he brings to life by engaging in collaborations across communities, NGOs, businesses and governments.

Prior to joining NADC, Chris was working on a range of projects that support his vision: using technology to increase access to services and economic opportunities in remote Aboriginal communities; transforming disability organisations to meet the opportunities of the NDIS; a social cohesion program working with recently arrived Australians; and a major initiative to bridge the growing ‘digital-divide’ by utilising low cost technology in primary education.

Chris was formerly the Deputy CEO of Reconciliation Australia, the national peak body for building reconciliation between Australia’s First Peoples and Other Australians. This included leading the hugely successful Reconciliation Action Plan initiative that has over 600 of Australia’s leading corporates, governments and other organisations turning their good intentions into practical actions. 


Darren Kemp, Fiftyfive5

Darren Kemp has more than 25 years’ experience in brand planning and marketing research spread across agency and client side roles. He has contributed to the growth of some of the world's most well-known brands, and has developed a number of best practice brand planning and market research tools that have been adopted by organisations globally.

Darren set up Fiftyfive5 seven years ago and works with a diverse range of organisations both in Australia and globally, spanning social and Government sectors, FMCG, finance, telecos and healthcare in particular. Prior to this he spent three years heading up the Brand and Innovation offer globally for The Leading Edge, a team focused on turning insight into commercial reality for clients. During this time he won the National Australian Marketing Institute Award for best Consumer Insight for communications development work with Bayer Healthcare, and his second entry for Elevit communications development was also a finalist.


Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Race Discrimination Commissioner

Dr Tim Soutphommasane has been Race Discrimination Commissioner since August 2013. Prior to joining the Australian Human Rights Commission, Tim was a political philosopher and held posts at The University of Sydney and Monash University. His thinking on multiculturalism, patriotism and national identity has been influential in shaping debates in Australia and Britain. 

Tim is the author of four books: I’m Not Racist But … (2015), The Virtuous Citizen (2012), Don't Go Back To Where You Came From (2012), and Reclaiming Patriotism (2009). He was co-editor (with Nick Dyrenfurth) of All That's Left (2010). He has been an opinion columnist with The Age and The Weekend Australian newspapers, and presented the documentary series Mongrel Nation on ABC Radio National (2013). Tim is an adjunct professor at the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University and chairs the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity.


Rachel Porter, Author and Australia Day Ambassador

Early in her career Rachel Porter was appointed to a management position on the ‘First Bounce’ project which helped with the marketing of the then named VFL taking it through the transition to the AFL. Rachel now has her own marketing and communications company K.I.S.S Communications & Events which attracts a variety of clients seeking increased public awareness, brand development and premium events. Rachel also works in the not-for-profit sector and resides on various boards.

Last year Rachel released her new book Doin’ Time. The highly successful publication tells the stories of men incarcerated in the juvenile justice system as children who have then turned their lives around as adults. The book, which was officially launched at Parliament House last year, has been exceptionally well received in the public domain. Rachel has written a total of 7 books and is currently working on her 8th book, Girls Behind Bars.


Angelos Frangopoulos, Sky News

Angelos Frangopoulos is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Editor at Australian News Channel Pty Ltd (ANC), the operator of the SKY NEWS services and the leading provider of 24 hour television news services in Australia and New Zealand. ANC is owned by News Corp Australia, a subsidiary of News Corp. 

Angelos joined ANC in July 1996, five months after the channel’s inception. After serving as Chief of Production, he was appointed Managing Editor in 2000 and then Chief Executive Officer in 2004. Angelos previously held positions at British Sky Broadcasting in London, Nine Network Sydney and Prime Television Canberra. Early in his career he also worked at Mid State Television Orange.


Clr Houssam Abiad, Adelaide City Council 

Houssam Abiad is a South Australian serial entrepreneur, a Councillor and the Former Deputy Lord Mayor for the City of Adelaide with a thirst for seeing his community thrive. Though born in Adelaide, Houssam spent most of his life in Lebanon, returning to Australia at age 19 with his family after living through a civil war. Houssam is so appreciative of the opportunities Adelaide has given him; he has spent the last 18 years implementing his remarkable passions for business and community, fostering growth wherever a possibility may lie.

Houssam actively fosters community growth with his involvements over the years in not-for-profit boards as the Acting Chairperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs - Council for Australian Arab Relations, Chairperson of the Australia Day Council, Migrant Resource Centre Board, Australian Refugee Association, United for Peace and Engineers without Borders. 


Paula Masselos, Embrace Society 

Paula Headshot

Paula Masselos is the Managing Director of Embrace Society which is a communications agency specialising in hard to reach audiences including CALD, Indigenous, women, youth, LGBTI, aged and disabled. Embrace Society is an acknowledged leader in values based behaviour change, community engagement, advertising and communications, and creative strategy and development.

Paula has extensive experience in developing highly successful communication strategies and broad experience in running social issues and community engagement campaigns in a diverse range of areas. Paula was Chair of Sydney’s Carnivale Multicultural Arts Festival and served for six years as a Community Relations Commissioner in NSW. She was on the National Women’s Advisory Council and shaped multicultural TV broadcasting as a member of the Ethnic Television Review Panel. 


Stephen Dawkins, Barkley Regional Council 

Stephen has spent many years working for Local Government community services in a management capacity. With key highlights including successful multi-million dollar grant applications, establishment of a major community infrastructure project, innovative directions for a council health plan, re-establishment of a community safety committee, and the financial and facility re-development of daycare, maternal and child health services, Stephen has a wealth of skills and experience in the ongoing management of services for families, children and communities.

A native of Victoria, Stephen is keen to facilitate high quality outcomes for the Barkly Regional Council and the communities and residents of the Barkly. He brings to the role an extensive experience in the community and education sectors and is enthusiastic about working in an environment that encourages creativity, challenges traditional ways of working and welcomes lateral thinkers.


Sarah Rush, Australia Post

Sarah joined Australia Post in 2014 and is now the National Partnerships Manager based in Melbourne. She has extensive experience in the partnerships space after working at several leading organisations including the AFL, Fosters and Treasury Wine Estates.

In her role at Australia Post, Sarah leads the shared value work in social inclusion and has been heavily involved in the Inclusive Australia project since its inception.  Sarah also continues to work closely with the AFL in the multicultural space and organisations such as Social Traders to build capability in the social enterprise sector.


Damian Tunney, National Australia Day Council 

Damian Tunney is a communications professional with experience across the private, government and not-for-profit sectors. He is currently General Manager, Communications and National Network with the National Australia Day Council leading all external communication for the organisation and is also responsible for building a cohesive national network.

Damian started his career in creative agencies working with household brands such as Optus, Virgin and Sony (to name a few) where he developed a sound understanding of the creative process and how to bring an idea to life. From there he transitioned into marketing and brand management with Sony Ericsson and still recalls living through the birth of the iphone which saw a dramatic change in the telecommunications industry.

After starting a family he moved back to his home town of Canberra, where he now resides, and has since worked in a variety of senior communication roles within Federal Government at the Australian Sports Commission and Department of Employment before joining the not-for-profit sector with the National Australia Day Council.


Karen Mundine, Reconciliation Australia 

Karen Mundine is from the Bundjalung Nation of northern NSW. As the Deputy CEO at Reconciliation Australia, Karen brings to the role more than 20 years’ experience in community engagement, public advocacy, communications and social marketing campaigns. Over the course of her career, she has been instrumental in some of Australia’s watershed national events including the Apology to the Stolen Generations, Centenary of Federation commemorations, Corroboree 2000 and the 1997 Australian Reconciliation Convention.

Karen has worked in a number of Federal Government agencies including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, ATSIC, then Department of Communications, IT and the Arts, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Karen has also worked in the private sector as a senior consultant with public relations company CPR Communications, working with a range of corporate clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney, and is on the Board of the Gondwana Children’s Choirs, including the Gondwana Indigenous Children’s Choir.

Chris Spencer, Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance 

Chris was born and raised in Coffs Harbour NSW and is a member of the Gumbaynggirr Aboriginal Nation of the Mid North Coast of NSW. Chris is a proud Aboriginal man that dedicates his time to his continual connections to country through his Elders.

Chris is the General Manager of Saltwater Freshwater Arts Alliance and is responsible for developing and implementing cultural programs and projects to Aboriginal communities of the Mid North Coast and continuing his passion for cultural maintenance, revival and future sustainability.

Saltwater Freshwater has the commitment of hosting an Aboriginal cultural festival on Australia Day each year in various locations of the Mid North Coast and the festival enables Chris to continue to engage with Aboriginal people and communities for new festival content and project designing.

Dr Robert Isaacs AO, Keystart 

Dr Robert Isaacs is a respected Elder of the Bibilmum, Whadjuk, Wardandi, Noongar Language Group. He has, over many years, provided distinguished community leadership both to Aboriginal people and the wider community. For his services, Dr Isaacs was awarded the Order of Australia and is widely respected and recognised for his contributions to Aboriginal housing, Local Government, Aboriginal health, Aboriginal affairs, employment, education and the community. He was also named the Western Australian of the Year 2015 and NAIDOC Male Aboriginal Elder of the Year in 2016.

Dr Isaacs has used his profile to serve his people creating opportunities for their cultural recognition and economic advancement. He is passionate about home ownership and has made a considerable contribution as Executive Manager of Social Lending at Keystart Shared Equity Home Loans for the Department of Housing.


Benson Saulo, Australian Unity

Benson Saulo brings insightful and impactful experience that he has developed throughout his working life from across corporate, not-for-profit and government sectors. Currently Benson is the Group Indigenous Opportunities Manager at Australian Unity where he is leading the implementation of their first Reconciliation Action Plan.

In 2011, Benson was appointed the Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations in which he represented Australian youth at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Benson was also a finalist for Young Australian of the Year (Victoria) for his work as the founding director of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy (NIYLA), which engages Indigenous young Australians to develop and drive youth-led social action campaigns.


Emma Chidlow, Australia Day Council of South Australia 

Emma Chidlow is currently the Interim Executive Officer of the Australia Day Council of South Australia and has been involved with the organisation for over 4 years. Emma is a talented Event Professional with a background in marketing and engagement. Emma works with a diverse range of people in her role with the Australia Day Council of SA, and loves having the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the talent and passion we have here in South Australia, through the Australia Day Councils’ various programs and events.

In her spare time, Emma lends her expertise in event management to the TEDxAdelaide team, the Young ATEC SA Committee and the Social Capital Committee, as well as Tutoring in Event Design at Flinders University. 


John Williams, One Small Step Collective 

John leads the client insights and strategic offering at One Small Step Collective and is the principal manager of Social Insights platform Crimson Hexagon across Australia and New Zealand. In the first 15 years of his career, John had the opportunity and privilege to work client side on some of Australia’s leading brands like Coles, Kraft, Cadbury, Fonterra and Detpak. Post the valuable client side experience he has lead the business at research agency Synovate and other agencies before leaving to help found One Small Step Collective.

Through out his career John has enabled many brands and business to grow based on taking insight and supporting practical application of that insights across the vast brand needs within a contemporary business environment.


James Procter, One Small Step Collective 

James has been involved in the creative advertising industry for over 20 years. During that time, has helped run big multinationals like Clemenger BBDO, Ogilvy and George Patterson Y&R, leading the creative product as the Executive Creative Director.

Throughout his career, James has delivered campaigns on a diverse client list including well known consumer brands like Coca-Cola, adidas, Virgin Atlantic, Clarks, Multiple Sclerosis, Nestle, Stihl. Also included in this time was strong public experience with clients like The Department of Environment, The RTA, NSW Health, The Republic of Singapore Navy, and the TAC.

Along the way, he’s had success at numerous local and international creative award shows from Cannes, D&AD, The Effies and a few Agency of the Year nods. He prides himself on being part of the new breed of creative that actively practices collaborative, agile and data based work processes. 


Yvonne Weldon, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (Sydney)

Yvonne Weldon is a proud Wiradjuri woman and maintains strong ties to her homelands of Cowra and the Riverina areas in New South Wales. From a young age Yvonne has maintained a strong passion and commitment to bringing about positive change for Aboriginal people and communities.

Yvonne is the current elected Chairperson of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. She has a passion for improving the lives of all through health, Aboriginal rights, children’s rights, education, research and evaluation.

Yvonne received an award from the Australasian Evaluation Society for her contribution to the Evaluation of the NSW Aboriginal Child and Family Centres, was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards Unpublished Indigenous Writer – David Unaipon Award and was recently awarded the Faber Writing Academy Scholarship by Allen & Unwin.


Mathew Jones, NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

Mathew Jones has more than twenty years’ experience in media, politics and government, including journalism, working at the most senior levels of state government, and six years as a public affairs consultant.

Mathew has run many successful communication and engagement campaigns, including for State Budgets, major government policy initiatives and nationally significant corporate restructures. He is passionate about using innovative channels to communicate an organisation’s brands story to multiple audiences during times of intense and difficult change.


Peter Rush, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Peter Rush is Assistant Secretary of Parliamentary and Government Branch at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Branch is responsible for diverse matters including national symbols policy. Australia’s national symbols include the Australian National Flag, other official Flags, and the Australian National Anthem. The Branch is also responsible for advice on appropriate use of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms. Peter has managed these policy areas for over 10 years.


Annaliese Battista, City of Perth

In her role for the City of Perth, Annaliese Battista leads the economic, social and cultural growth of the Western Australian Capital City for its workers, visitors and residents. Annaliese’s portfolio encompasses economic development, marketing and communications, major events, arts and culture, heritage, business support, sponsorship and international engagement. In this role, Annaliese acts as Director of the City of Perth Australia Day Skyworks, the largest Australia Day celebration in the nation with around 300,000 attendees each year.

Annaliese has extensive executive experience in both private sector and government roles gained over almost two decades, during which she’s led many ground-breaking projects in areas as diverse as energy efficiency, public infrastructure, international engagement and education. Annaliese has a passion for developing and delivering community-building projects through innovation, teamwork and strong leadership.


Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien

MickeyO, as he is called, is a descendant of the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) and Narrunga (York Peninsula) peoples.

MickeyO has been sharing cultural engagement for a number of years. It is a role handed to him by his father, Uncle Lewis Yerla Burka O’Brien. It is a position, he honours and respects greatly.

MickeyO has travelled across Australia, living and working in a number of Aboriginal Communities, delivering programs and benefits. MickeyO enjoys the opportunity to support the Aboriginal Community and sits on various boards and advisory panels.


The Australia Day National Conference 2017 is proudly supported by