2016 Northern Australia Food Futures Conference

Monday, 11 April 2016 to Wednesday, 13 April 2016 from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin, Australia



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Position: Master of Ceremonies

Brendon was elected to represent the electorate of Merredin in 2001. He became the Leader of The Nationals WA in 2005 and immediately set about charting a new course for the Party.

Under his leadership The Nationals WA forged a new path as an independent political party. In 2008, the party gained the balance of power in both Houses of Parliament on behalf of regional Western Australians and implemented Royalties for Regions.

Brendon announced his resignation from his second term as Minister for Regional Development and Lands in November 2013. During his tenure of the portfolio he was responsible for the iconic Royalties for Regions funding and remains a passionate advocate for making regional Western Australia a better place to live, work and invest.


Organisation: Northern Territory Government

Position: Minister for Primary Industry and Fisheries; Minister for Land Resource Management

Gary Higgins was elected to the Northern Territory Parliament as the Member for Daly – a rural electorate which extends to the south and west of the Top End, spanning more than 81,000 sq km.

He was an experienced and senior Northern Territory public servant in positions such as Corporate Services Director (Attorney-General’s Department) as well as Chairman of the Private Security Licensing Authority, Controller of Prices and Acting Commissioner for Consumer Affairs.

Minister Higgins owned and developed the Daly River Mango Farm for 14 years prior to being elected to Parliament.

During his time as a primary producer and tourism operator he became involved in various community organizations and activities such as Unit Officer of NT Emergency Services, Chairman of Wangamatty Land Care and a member of the Daly River Management Advisory Committee.

He has sat on various steering committees for the CSIRO, Charles Darwin University, and the NT Horticultural Association and was Chair of the Katherine Regional Tourism Association.

Minister Higgins currently holds the portfolios of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Land Resource Management, the Environment and Arts and Museums. He has previously held the additional portfolio of Sport and Recreation.

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Organisation: Australian Senate

Position: Minister for Northern Australia

Matthew grew up in Logan, just south of Brisbane. After achieving a First Class Honours Degree in Economics at the University of Queensland, Matthew worked at the Productivity Commission and rose to the level of Director.

Increasingly frustrated at the lack of coherent economic policy by the Rudd Government, Matthew went to work for Barnaby Joyce as his Chief-of-Staff ahead of the 2010 election. In that role, he helped develop policies to provide tax concessions for vital infrastructure and to encourage people to move to the regions, worked on a Senate inquiry that recommended stricter environmental controls on coal seam gas developments and developed a Coalition report on the potential to invest in new dams throughout Australia.

At the 2013 election, Matthew was elected to the Senate and took up his position as a Senator in the Nationals party room in July 2014. He is the first Senator to be based in Rockhampton for more than 20 years.

In February 2016, Matthew was appointed Minister for Northern Australia in the Coalition Government. Northern Australia is vital to the success of our nation as a whole, so the government’s agenda is about creating economic prosperity not just in our north but throughout Australia.

Prior to undertaking his Senate duties, Matthew worked for Stanbroke, the largest privately owned vertically integrated beef business in the world, providing him with an invaluable insight into agricultural affairs.

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Organisation: Australian Senate

Position: Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, has been a Senator since September 2012.

In July 2014, Anne was elected Senior Deputy Government Whip in the Senate and chair of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. She was also an active participant in the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee, initiating inquiries into the Australian citrus and wine industries.

Senator Ruston was appointed Assistant Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources in September 2015.

Prior to becoming a Senator, Anne held several senior positions in government and the private sector, including senior policy adviser to the South Australian Minister for Industrial Affairs and Tourism, Recreation, Sport and Racing, and inaugural chief executive of the National Wine Centre.

Born and raised in Renmark—which is situated on the River Murray in South Australia's Riverland region—Anne is a proud member of the community where she still lives and works to this day. She is the only Senator for South Australia based in a regional area.

Anne is a primary producer and an irrigator, producing commercial cut flowers and implementing irrigation efficiencies on her property that reduced water use by more than 60%. She is a passionate advocate for rural and regional communities and for a balanced approach to water reform in the Murray-Darling Basin. Her vision for the Murray-Darling is for it to become the world's best example of an environmentally healthy, sustainable river system supporting efficient irrigation industries and vibrant river communities.

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Organisation: Parliament of Australia

Position: Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; and for Rural Affairs

The Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP was first elected to the House of Representatives in March of 1996.

Over his almost 20 years as the Member for Hunter Mr Fitzgibbon has held a number of shadow ministerial positions including Mining, Energy & Forestry, Defence, Assistant Treasurer, Banking & Financial Services, Small Business & Competition, and Tourism.

In Government, Mr Fitzgibbon served as Minister for Defence and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

He also served as Chief Government Whip and chaired the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence & Trade.

Mr Fitzgibbon is currently the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Rural Affairs and says his main passion is raising his portfolio’s profile in the parliamentary and public debate and ensuring Australia has a sound strategic plan to fully capitalise on growing global demand for our high quality product.

Mr Fitzgibbon is also the founder of, and spokesperson for the Country Caucus, a group of Federal Labor MPs and Senators dedicated to promoting the interests of rural and regional Australia.

Mr Fitzgibbon lives in Cessnock in the Hunter Valley with his wife Dianne. They have three adult children.


Organisation: National Farmers' Federation

Position: President

Brent Finlay has more than 25 years experience in agriculture through his family’s farming business in Queensland. Brent has worked extensively in sheep, wool, cattle, grain and hay production, and now runs ‘Cooinda,’ a sheepmeat, wool and beef property in the Traprock region of south east Queensland, with his three daughters.

Brent’s roles in agricultural representation began in 2000, when he was elected President of the Traprock Wool Association, one of Australia’s premier wool producing groups. During this time, the focus was on marketing, environmental issues and membership growth – issues that remain as relevant for Australian agriculture as a whole today, as they were for Queensland woolgrowers then.

From 2003-2007, Brent ran a manufacturing, importing and retailing business, Wool-Overs, and was elected to the AgForce Queensland Sheep and Wool Board in October 2006. In 2007, Brent was appointed to the board of WoolProducers Australia, and in 2008, was elected Senior Vice President. He was also elected as President of the AgForce Sheep and Wool Board, Chair of the National Wild Dog Management Advisory Group, and in 2009, Chair of the Queensland Dog Offensive Group.

In 2010, Brent was elected President of AgForce Queensland, a position he held for two terms before stepping down in 2012 for family reasons. Brent was at the head of the organisation during a challenging period for Queensland farmers and graziers – floods, cyclones, wild dogs and the live export crisis were some of the many issues Brent tackled.

While President of AgForce, Brent was appointed to the Board of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), and in April 2013, Brent became NFF’s Vice President. Brent was elected as NFF President at the NFF AGM on 18 November 2013, and re-elected as the NFF President at the NFF AGM on 18 November 2014. 

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Organisation: Geoff Raby & Associates

Position: Founder and Chairman

Dr Geoff Raby was Australia’s Ambassador to China from 2007-2011. Following completion of his Ambassadorial term, after 27 years in the public service, mostly with DFAT, he resigned to establish his Beijing-based business advisory company – Geoff Raby and Associates Ltd.

He also holds a number of non-executive, independent director positions with ASX-listed companies, including Fortescue Metal Group (FMG), OceanaGold, Yancoal, and iSentia. He is also Chairman of ASX-listed IT solutions business, SmartTrans.

In China, Dr Raby serves as Co-Chair of Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s China practice and as Vice Chairman of Macquarie Group (Greater China).

Dr Raby is a member of numerous board positions, including: the non-for-profit Advance Global Advisory Board, University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, RMIT University Australian APEC Study Centre and the National Gallery of Victoria Foundation.

In recognition of his contributions to advancing relations between Australia and China, Dr Raby was made Friendship Ambassador to Shandong Province and an honorary citizen of Chengdu City.

Dr Raby was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) from 2002 to 2006. He has held a number of senior positions in DFAT, including First Assistant Secretary, International Organisations and Legal Division (2001-2002), Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organisation, Geneva (1998-2001), First Assistant Secretary, Trade Negotiations Division (1995-1998), and APEC Ambassador from November 2002 to December 2004. He was head of the Trade Policy Issues Division in the OECD, Paris, 1993-95.

He is a Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Asia Society.

He holds an Honours Degree in Economics, a Masters in Economics and a PhD from La Trobe University.

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Organisation: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

Position: Director-General

Completed her DPhil in Agricultural Economics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

Is currently Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

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 and Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Councils, and the QRAA Board.

Chaired the RIRDC, ACIAR, and the National Drought Policy Review in 2004, and the International Rice Research Institute from 2008-10.

Is currently Chair of WorldFish, headquartered in Penang.


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Organisation: Western Australian State Government - Department for Regional Development and for the Department of Water

Position: Director – Major Projects

Works for the Western Australian State Government- Department for Regional Development and for the Department of Water. Leads the expansion of the Ord Irrigation Scheme and lives and works from Kununurra.

Chairman of Kimberley Group Training and not for profit group specialising in the employment of apprentices and trainees, and with over 150 aboriginal apprentice and trainees across the Kimberley making it the largest employer of aboriginal people in the region.

Former CEO of the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley (2005-2009).

Former CEO for the Shire of Moora (2000-2005)

Formerly worked for the Agriculture Protection Board and Department of Agriculture Western Australia. (1984 to 1999)

Married to Suzanne, who runs two local small businesses in Kununurra. Peter and Sue have two adult children one of whom is a high school teacher in Kununurra. 


Organisation: Mitsui & Co. Australia

Position: Director and Executive Vice President

Wendy is Director and Executive Vice President of Mitsui & Co. Australia since June, 2014.

Mitsui & Co. Australia is the wholly owned Australian subsidiary of Mitsui & Co., one of the world's most diversified trading, investment and services enterprises. Its diverse portfolio of businesses in Australia includes iron ore, coal, gas, oil, food, grain, salt, woodchips, power generation, machinery, steel products, chemicals, and financial services.

Wendy is driving the company’s agenda to further diversify into agribusiness, where Mitsui is expanding to meet growing global demand for food. Mitsui coins its new strategic direction: ‘Mining and Dining’.

Wendy has worked extensively in both the public and private sectors. She represented Australia in Japan as Consul-General and Trade & Investment Commissioner. In that role, she successfully attracted foreign investment to benefit Australia’s food services, biotechnology, IT and energy sectors. She was later State Director of Northern Territory/Western Australia/South Australia for the Australian Trade Commission.

She has also held executive positions in Caltex, GHD and Ernst & Young. Wendy is a proponent of innovation as the key to corporate sustainability, and has championed innovation programs in all these organisations.

Wendy has served on government and education institution boards. Her current work on the Maggie Beer Foundation Board aims to improve the quality of food for residents in aged care centres throughout Australia.

Wendy has a Master of Commerce (UNSW), and currently mentors high-achiever students at the UNSW School of Business. Her under-graduate degree is from Sophia University in Tokyo.



Organisation: Opus International Consultants (Australia) Pty Ltd

Position: Technical Principal and Work Group Manager Environmental


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Organisation: Department of Land Resource Management

Position: Chief Executive Officer

Alastair was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Land Resource Management in March 2015. Prior to that, he acted as Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Department of Business during 2014, and was Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Territory Department of the Attorney General and Justice. Alastair was born and educated in Darwin and has more than 35 years of public sector experience in the Northern Territory, most of it at the Northern Territory Department of the Attorney General and Justice and its predecessors. Alastair has been involved in commercial negotiations for major projects in the Northern Territory, such as the North East Gas Interconnector (NEGI) Project, long term lease of the East Arm Port, the AustralAsia Railway, Darwin City Waterfront and the Marine Supply Base. He has qualifications in Law and Accounting and a Masters in Public Administration. He is also the Chair of the AustralAsia Railway Corporation. 

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Organisation: Bell Financial Group

Position: Non-executive director

Mr Brian Wilson is Chairman of the Foreign Investment Review Board, Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney, a non-executive director of Bell Financial Group and a member of the Payments System Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia.

He was a member of the Commonwealth Government Review of Australia’s Superannuation System (the Cooper Review), the Stronger Super Peak Consultative Group and the ATO Superannuation Reform Steering Committee and of the Specialist Reference Group on the Taxation of Multinational Enterprises in Australia.

Mr Wilson’s former investment banking career spanned almost 35 years. He retired in 2009 as a Managing Director of the global investment bank Lazard, after co-founding the firm in Australia in 2004 and was previously a Vice-Chairman of Citigroup Australia and its predecessor companies.


Organisation: Blue Ribbon Group

Position: Managing Director

After founding the Blue Ribbon Group in 2000 as a one-person operation, Stephen Donnelly has led Blue Ribbon to become one of Australia’s leading exporters of pulse and seed products. Blue Ribbon is now an extensive group that includes Blue Ribbon Seeds, Blue Ribbon Grains and Pulses, Blue Ribbon Packaging, Blue Ribbon Roasting, BRSQ & BRNQ.

Stephen is a leader in the industry having built a strong track record in commercialising new technologies. In 2009, Stephen invested in a rice mill in North Queensland having found a way to farm rice in the local climate and soil. This marked the first time rice had been produced in the region for more than twenty years. Under Stephen’s leadership, the Blue Ribbon Group has successfully introduced a new type of grass seed to an area of the Pilbara region which has never been able to hold grass. More recently, Stephen has commercialised technology that removes the beany flavor from pulses. As a result, this company can offer products like nut-free, Mungbean-based “peanut butter”.

Stephen would like to see more sophisticated food development and technology that will protect businesses and growers from the impact of bad seasons and the influence of overseas markets. 

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Organisation: Regional Australia Institute

Position: Chief Executive Officer

Jack Archer has been with the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) since its inception in 2012, and developed the RAI’s policy and research program including major products such as [In]Sight: Australia’s Regional Competitiveness Index and [In]Form: Australia's Online Library of Regional Research. Jack took up the role as Chief Executive Officer on 1 July 2015.

In previous roles as a consultant and public servant, Jack contributed to major regional reforms in water, climate change, indigenous issues and industry.
Jack holds a Bachelor of Natural Resource Management (Hons 1) from the University of New England and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Originally from Paterson in the lower Hunter Valley of NSW, he now lives in the hills west of Canberra.


Organisation: NT Farmer

Kane Younghusband is a farmer growing melons in Mataranka NT, Broome WA and dryland cereals in NSW. Farming experience in the north of nearly 20 years when he began working in Kununurra in 1995. Land was purchased at Mataranka in 2003 and Broome in 2007 and subsequently developed for seedless watermelon. In 2013 Kane was instrumental in the development of a fruit marketing company Select Melons Australia providing marketing services to its 6 shareholders across Australia.


Organisation: University of Queensland

Position: Emeritus Professor

Since retiring in July 1995, John Holmes has pursued an active career as a teacher, researcher, research consultant, policy adviser and president or chair of leading academic bodies, government committees and community organisations.

Professor Holmes continues as an active researcher, with his recent publications capturing wide international attention. He has maintained his research focus on changing resource values in Australia's rangelands and their implications in the re-allocation of property rights attached to pastoral lease tenures and in the recognition of co-existing native title. Since retiring, he has accepted invitations to prepare policy papers on tenure reform for land administrations in the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia as well as the New South Wales Western Division.

Professor Holmes' Australia-wide knowledge of the rangelands and of lease tenures proved of value during the highly charged public debate about the Howard government's 1997 legislative response to the High Court's Wik decision, which recognised the possibility of elements of native title co-existing on pastoral leases. He was invited to discuss outcomes with the Prime Minister's Task Force on native title.

More recently, Professor Holmes has examined the forces driving changes in rural land use and land markets in western societies. He observes that a variable mix of consumption and protection values has emerged, contesting the former dominance of production values, most notably in Australia’s northernmost savanna zone. His research into the forces driving this multifunctional transition is widely cited in leading international publications on rural change. 

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Organisation: CSIRO

Position: Chief Research Scientist

Dr Andrew Ash is a chief research scientist in CSIRO Agriculture. He has 30 years research experience in climatically variable tropical rangelands and agricultural systems in northern Australia and south-east Asia with a particular emphasis on developing management systems to improve profitability and environmental outcomes for rural communities.


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Organisation: National Australia Bank

Position: Head of Institutional Banking, Asia

Patrick Vizzone is Head of Institutional Banking, Asia at National Australia Bank. Patrick was born in Australia and has resided in Asia (HK, China and Japan) since 1994.

Prior to being named Head of Institutional Banking, Asia Patrick served as Regional Head of Food & Agribusiness for NAB Asia.

Throughout his career, Patrick has held numerous senior Corporate and Investment Banking positions including Managing Director / Senior Relationship Banker, Asian Head of Food and Agribusiness Banking, Asian Head of Advisory and Research at Rabobank International. Patrick also served as Head of Strategic Marketing and Product at GE Capital Asia-Pacific.

Before embarking on his banking career Patrick worked in the horticultural industry in Australia and China. In China he co-founded 2 large scale agricultural projects in Shanghai, Heibei and Yunnan provinces.

He is a long-standing member of the Board of Directors of China Agri-Industries, the flagship listed subsidiary of the Fortune-500 COFCO Group, China-s largest food and agribusiness enterprise.

Patrick is a fellow of the Hong Kong Institute of Directors and Member of the Australian Institute of Directors, Vice-Chairman of the Global Development Committee of the Produce Marketing Association (an industry association which represents 38 percent of all food consumption) and Chairman of its Global Strategy Task Force.

Patrick has a BA in history and political science from Monash University and an MBA in finance from Manchester Business School.


Organisation: The Cairns Institute - James Cook University

Position: Professor of Tropical Regional Development

Allan has a strong interest in integrated regional development in northern  Australia and the wider tropics. He has both extensive research and policy expertise in governance systems for development and natural resource management. He is Chair of Regional Development Australia Far North  Queensland and Torres Strait.

His past research helped inform key policy and investment foundations for the nation’s regional natural resource  management system, and he was also responsible for social aspects of  development and natural resource policy in the Queensland Government.

As Professor in Tropical Regional Development at The Cairns Institute, JCU, he now accesses an international network of research expertise in the governance field, with particularly strong linkages throughout Charles Darwin University and CSIRO.


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Organisation: Queensland Government

Position: Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries

Leanne Donaldson was sworn in as Queensland's first female Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries on 8 December, 2015.

She was elected as the Member for Bundaberg in January 2015 after a two-decade career in child protection, both as a senior state public servant and a private consultant.

Leanne brings a regional Queensland perspective to cabinet, following a career with the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services in Bundaberg, Toowoomba, Warwick, Mount Isa and the Sunshine Coast.

Before leaving the department in 2011, Leanne was a director with responsibility for all of central Queensland from Bowen to the South Burnett region and out west to the Northern Territory border.

Upon her election to parliament, Leanne worked as a private human services consultant giving advice to federal and state government departments on child protection, family law and foster care.

She is also a working mum with a degree in applied psychology from the University of Southern Queensland, where she is completing a degree in law.


Organisation: Western Australia Government

Position: Minister for Water; Sport and Recreation; Forestry

Raised on the family farm in Yorkrakine, Mia is passionate about the Wheatbelt, its people and its future.

Mia was first elected to represent the Agricultural Region at the 2008 State election. At the 2013 State election, Mia successfully contested the seat of Central Wheatbelt for The Nationals WA.

In November 2013 Mia made history when she became the first female party member to be appointed Deputy Leader of The Nationals WA. A month later she was appointed to Cabinet as Minister for Water; Forestry and in late 2014 added the Sport and Recreation portfolio to her Ministerial responsibilities.

She has a particular interest in health, aged care and childcare and has been working to improve these services throughout the Wheatbelt region.

Prior to entering Parliament, Mia worked as a policy adviser for the Leader of the Parliamentary National Party, executive officer at the Chamber of Minerals and Energy and as a communications consultant. Mia holds a Bachelor of Marketing and the Media from Murdoch University.

She is a member of the Northam Chamber of Commerce, Avon Tourism Board, Wheatbelt Business Network, Avon Community Development Foundation, Country Women’s Association, Youth Advisory Council, Country Arts WA and the Royal Agricultural Society.


Organisation: Charles Darwin University

Position: Vice-Chancellor

Professor Simon Maddocks is the Vice-Chancellor and President of Charles Darwin University. Professor Maddocks has extensive leadership experience at senior levels of both academia and government. He was formerly with the Department of Primary Industries & Regions, South Australian Research and Development Institute (2003-2014), most recently as Director Science Partnerships. Before that Professor Maddocks worked at the University of Adelaide (1990-2002) where he was Director, Roseworthy Campus and Professor of Animal Science. He grew up in Papua New Guinea, and has worked in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

He is a graduate of the University of Adelaide with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) and a PhD in Reproductive Physiology and Immunology, and was the 1987 recipient of the prestigious Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in Medicine, the first non-medical graduate to receive this award. He has taught in both the TAFE and Higher Education sectors, and has established an international research reputation in agricultural and biomedical science.

Professor Maddocks has a strong record of working closely with industry partners, and has held both senior management and Board positions on a number of national research bodies including Cooperative Research Centres, the national Primary Industries Standing Committee’s (PISC) Research and Development Committee, and with organisations such as the Menzies Foundation and the Menzies School of Health Research.

He has been an elected Alumni member of the University of Adelaide Governing Council, is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, and a Graduate and Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

He is a passionate advocate for the importance of education in assisting people to capitalise on their inherent potential, and for the key contribution that quality research and innovation make to productivity and sustainable economic development.


Organisation: Barradale Farm in the Ord Valley Irrigation Area

Position: Managing Director

David Menzel is the Managing Director of Barradale Farm in the Ord Valley Irrigation Area, since 1996, which produces a range of horticulture and broad acre crops. Since 2010 he has been the Chairman of the Ord Irrigation Co-operative. He was appointed to the Cambridge Gulf Board in November 2010 and the Ord River District Cooperative in 2014. He served on the Ord Stage 2 Expansion Community Reference Group as Chairman of the Working Group; which is the East Kimberley stakeholder body responsible for the provision of local community input into the expansion of the Ord River Irrigation Area and upgrade of the associated community infrastructure. In 2014 he was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Northern Australia Advisory Group.


Organisation: Investment Bank Kidder Williams Ltd

Position: Managing Director

David is Managing Director of the Investment Bank Kidder Williams Ltd, which specialises in Mergers and Capital Raisings in Agriculture and Food.

He has advised many of Australia’s largest aquaculture, dairy, almond, sugar, grain, fruit and fertilizer companies as well as many food multinationals.

He has been the Adviser to farmer groups such as the Victorian Farmers Federation and Queensland Grain Growers Association and various State Governments on the privatisation of Australia’s Statutory Marketing Authorities. He has had wide and recent experience in dairy and is well known for being the long-time corporate advisor to Bega Cheese.

He is not just an Adviser; he is prepared to back himself. He bought the bankrupt salmon producer Tassal for $42m. He refinanced the company and listed it on the ASX turning the business around and merging it with its closest competitor to create Australia’s largest aquaculture company. Tassal is now capitalised at nearly $800 million.

He is also one of the largest owners of water in Tasmania, but he owns no land. When the Tasmanian irrigation system faltered through lack of farmer interest he stepped in and bought all the remaining water to allow the scheme to progress. In the meantime, the price of water has increased more than 50 per cent.

Global Food Forum run by The Australian and VISY provides links of presentations including interesting topics relevant to Northern Australia with David Williams from Kidder Williams, keynote speaker - link 1 & link 2.


Organisation: Rivulis Irrigation

Guy Boyd was instrumental in the adoption and development of drip irrigation throughout Queensland. He joined T-Systems (now Rivulis Irrigation) in 1994 where he pioneered some of the early work in sub-surface drip irrigation in sugarcane, cotton and lucerne along with the transition to drip irrigation in fresh bean crops in Bowen and sweet potatoes in Bundaberg. Throughout the 2000s, Guy assisted growers in the Lockyer Valley who were impacted by drought transition from sprinkler to drip irrigation systems. Guy Boyd has qualifications in Rural Science from the University of New England with honours majoring in soil science and agronomy. Prior to his current role, Guy held various positions at Grow Force Fertilizers and Henderson Seeds. 


Organisation: Piñata Farms Pty Ltd

Position: Managing Director

Piñata Farms Pty Ltd managing director, Gavin Scurr, is a seasoned fresh produce grower and industry representative with experience spanning some 30 years in Australian horticulture.

Under Gavin’s leadership, Queensland-based Piñata Farms is Australia’s largest pineapple grower producing Mareeba Gold pineapples year `round, Piñata strawberries seasonally and specialty Honey Gold mangoes from November to March annually.

Gavin is also chairman of the Australian Mango Industry Association (AMIA), grower representative on the Queensland and Northern Territory governments’ ministerial mango industry reference groups and a member of the Pineapple Advisory Committee’s marketing sub-committee. He is also a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

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Organisation: School of Earth and Environment, University of Western Australia

Hub Leader, NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
Director, Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) consortium

Michael Douglas is a Professor of Environmental Science at the University of Western Australia and a University Professorial Fellow at Charles Darwin University. He is Hub Leader of the Northern Australian Environmental Resources Hub: a 6 year research initiative focussed on supporting the sustainable development in northern Australia, funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program. He also leads the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge Research consortium and has been doing research on northern Australia’s water resources and aquatic biodiversity for the past 25 years.


Organisation: Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries

Position: CEO

As the Chief Executive, Alister’s vision is to see a flourishing Northern Territory economy underpinned by profitable and sustainable primary industries and fisheries.

Alister’s career includes operational management, marketing and strategic development, gained primarily in the international trade and pastoral sectors across Northern Australia, the Middle East and South East Asia.

Alister joined the Northern Territory Government in 2002 in the field of Indigenous economic development before being appointed Director of Pastoral Production focusing on the development of the Northern Pastoral Industry. In 2009 Alister was appointed to the position of Executive Director Minerals and Energy with responsibility for mining approvals and performance and investment attraction in the minerals and energy sectors.

Alister was appointed to the position of Chief Executive of the Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries in 2012 and continues to work closely with industry to lead the growth of the agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors and to strongly contribute to North Australian development.


Organisation: ANL

Position: General Manager for Agencies & Sales

Tom Holyman’s career has been largely based in container shipping and logistics, spanning international and Australian domestic shipping businesses working for Australian-owned and foreign-owned businesses.

He has lived and worked on three continents – Australia, Asia (Japan) and Europe (UK) – and most recently spent 8 years with ANL Container Line based in London with regional responsibility for Europe and the Middle East.

After starting work in TNT’s Bass Strait shipping and logistics business, he moved to ANL in 1987, spending most of his initial 8 years there in ANL’s Australia/North Asia businesses, including 3 years based in Tokyo as Regional Manager, Japan/Korea.

He then joined Mitsui OSK Lines’ (publicly-listed Japanese shipping company) Australian start-up shipping agency company in the mid-90’s, based in Sydney, and later returned to Melbourne to work for Brambles Marine in their Bass Strait multi-modal shipping and logistics business.

In 2002 he returned to ANL, initially in the trans-Tasman trade, and later in ANL’s Tasmanian and domestic (cabotage) business. At the end of 2004 he moved to London to take up the role of ANL’s Regional Manager, Europe & Middle East.

Returning to ANL’s Head Office in Melbourne at the end of 2012, he joined the ANL executive management team in his current role with ANL as General Manager for Agencies & Sales, with primary responsibility for ANL’s sales activities in Australasia.


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Organisation: Northern Australia Development Office

Position: Executive Director

Bridgette joined the Northern Territory Government in 2011 after 15 years’ service with the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services.

Bridgette oversaw the establishment of the Northern Australian Development Office and directed the early Northern Territory Governments response. She has direct oversight of the Department of Chief Minister’s regional network and the policy and operational programs for ‘Developing the North’ and the Regional Development portfolio.

Bridgette has previously held key roles across a number of NTG agencies, including responsibility for Regional Economic Development, Indigenous Economic Development, Out-Station and Homeland Portfolio, Aboriginal Interpreter Service and the Remote Employment Project. Bridgette has sat on a number of Boards most notably the NT Indigenous Economic Development Taskforce.

Across a number of senior roles in the Commonwealth, Bridgette led teams to deliver remote, rural and Indigenous programs for Centrelink managing the Northern Territory, Kimberley and the Anangu, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands areas. A key initiative Bridgette led during that time was the establishment of remote Centrelink offices in 12 remote communities which were predominately staffed by local Indigenous people.

Bridgette was born in the Territory and has lived and worked in many of its regional towns and now resides in Darwin.

Bridgette has qualifications in Public Sector Management, Front Line Management and Project Management and Workplace Training and Assessment. Bridgette is currently completing an Executive Masters in Public Administration. 

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Organisation: Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Developing Northern Australia

Position: Interim Chair

Mr John Wharton AM was first elected to the Richmond Shire Council in 1991 and became Mayor in 1997. On 11 June 2007 he was the recipient of a Member of the Order of Australia Award for his service to the community of North-west Queensland through local government, regional development, natural resource management and primary industry organisations. He also received the Centenary Medal for distinguished service to local government.

Mr Wharton was appointed as Interim Chair of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Developing Northern Australia in November 2015 to lead the establishment of the CRC. The CRC is part of a suite of measures announced in the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and will be supported by funding of $75 million over 10 years. The CRC will assist businesses, governments and researchers to work together to identify opportunities for business and growth in the north and it will have an initial focus on areas where the north has particular strengths including food, agriculture and tropical health. Open consultation with stakeholders in industry, government and research to inform the direction and research agenda for the CRC conclude in March 2016. Following the consultations, a proposal to establish the CRC will be provided to the Australia Government for consideration. Further information on the CRC is available on www.business.gov.au/NorthernAustraliaCRC.

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Organisation: ustralian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR)

Position: General Manager, Corporate

Mr David Shearer is General Manager, Corporate of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). ACIAR, part of Australia's development assistance program, achieves more-productive and sustainable agricultural systems, for the benefit of developing countries and Australia, through international agricultural research partnerships. Prior to this appointment, Mr Shearer was the Research Program Manager, Agribusiness for ACIAR. He has a broad background in agri-food research, development and trade. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Hons, Masters in Science and Masters in Agri-food Management. He was awarded an Australian Davos Leadership award in 2011 and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian New Zealand School of Government. He is currently a member of the Executive Committee of Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI) and the Advisory Board of the Syngenta Asia Rice Bowl Index (RBI). 

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Organisation: Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation

Position: A/g Managing Director

Christine Quick is currently A/g Managing Director ( her usual role is General Manager Corporate) of the Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation. Christine has 13 years of experience in the world of rural research and development and has extensive experience in most facets of operations of the Rural Research and Development Corporations. Her roles have encompassed strategic, financial and business responsibilities. In addition Christine is an independent member of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Audit Committee.

Mrs Quick has a Diploma of Business (Accounting), is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is part way through the Bachelor of Business (Accounting) degree. 

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Organisation: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Queensland Government

Position: Manager Regional Agribusiness Development, Trade and Investment

Gareth Jones is the Manager for Agribusiness Development for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Gareth’s career in primary industries in North Queensland spans 34 years. He has been involved in research into parasites and diseases impacting the northern livestock industry, the histology and pathology of the Giant Clam, and pioneered the Burdekin Rangelands Reef Initiative, which took a holistic triple bottom line approach to sustainable agricultural development. His diverse career within Queensland Government included roles in regional finance, corporate budgeting and systems development, performance management. He managed both Integrated Planning and Business Development teams within Queensland’s Northern Region and coordinated the Queensland Government’s economic recovery response to Cyclone Yasi. His work with Indigenous communities in Cape York and in particular Lockhart River, led to a Highly Commended Premiers Award in the Partnership and Reconciliation category. More recently Gareth has developed and led the Department’s GRADZ initiative. In collaboration with the local shires, producers and investment interests, this initiative looks to maximise the opportunities for agricultural development in the Gulf Rivers catchments of North West Queensland. Effective irrigation development made possible through the government’s release of unallocated water from the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers is a significant Northern Australia opportunity.


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Organisation: Agri-Science Queensland

Position: Executive Director

Wayne Hall started with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in late 2015 as the Executive Director for Agri-Science Queensland where he is responsible for the Departments RD&E investments in cropping, forestry, horticulture, food and animal science. Prior to that Wayne worked with Meat and Livestock Australia for 13 years where he was, at different times, responsible for their northern beef, southern beef, lamb & sheepmeat, feedlot, goat, live export, genetics, southern feedbase and animal health RD&E programs.

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Organisation: Kimberley Agricultural Investment

Position: General Manager

Previous work history has been focused on involvement in agribusiness sector including ; beef cattle, sugar agronomy, managing a fruit and vegetable wholesale business, bank manager until commencing work with KAI. Jim has spent most of his working career based in the Kimberley region. Completed a Bachelor of Science (Agriculture) and hold a MBA.



Organisation: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland

Position: Senior Industry Development Officer

Greg Mason is a Senior Industry Development Officer with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Queensland. Greg has been actively involved with primary producers across Far North Queensland for more than 18 years, in his current role and previously as a Senior Farm Financial Counsellor.

Greg has a Bachelor of Business specialising in Agribusiness and an Associate Diploma of Applied Science which underpin his extensive experience in: agricultural business management planning; business restructuring and diversification; regional investment modelling for investment attraction and; agricultural development modelling.

His recent projects include developing regional agricultural economic profiles, investment and development costing models, and agricultural development scoping studies for the Gregory Downs and Gilbert River districts in North West Queensland. Greg also worked closely with CSIRO on the Agricultural Resource Assessment of the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers Catchments.

Greg is currently part of the Department’s GRADZ (Gulf Rivers Agricultural Development Zone) project looking to develop new agricultural precincts for the Flinders & Gilbert River catchments in North West Queensland. His role includes managing specific regional projects such as: demonstration crop trials; ground water identification and; remote crop monitoring. Greg’s expertise has assisted both large and small business enterprises with property development modelling.

Greg has been actively engaged in investment attraction being the project leader of the inaugural AgInvest Forum held in June 09 with further forums in 2010 and 2011.


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Organisation: Auscott Limited

Position: Chairman

David holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (Syd) Hons.1 and has worked in irrigated cotton, grains and oil-seed production for 38 years. He is the Chairman of Auscott Limited, a vertically integrated corporate cotton company which grows, processes, markets and ships cotton from its substantial farming and ginning operations and its many grower customers in northern, central and southern NSW. Auscott was a pioneering corporate farming company which commenced business in 1963 in the Namoi Valley.

He has held a range of senior cotton industry positions and directorships in addition to his key agronomy, management and CEO roles within Auscott. These industry positions have covered significant input into research & development including Chair of a cotton based CRC, water and irrigation, planting seed production and oil-seed processing.

David is the Chair of the Australian Farm Institute and also Career Harvests and is a director on the Plant Biosecurity CRC. He is also a council member of the NSW Primary Industries Ministerial Advisory Council and chairs that Council’s Biosecurity & Resources Working Group.



Organisation: K&L Gates

Position: Partner

Brian Healey has more than 20 years' experience dedicated almost exclusively to servicing clients in agribusiness and primary industries. Focusing primarily on agricultural property, water rights and investment in agribusiness, he has advised on some of Australia's most prominent rural transactions.

His experience includes all forms of agricultural property transactions, rural and irrigation water transactions, and leading teams in mergers and acquisitions. He also assists inbound investors and domestic agribusinesses with their investment and day to day legal requirements. In 2014, he completed what was reported as possibly the largest farmland sale in the world that year.
Mr Healey acts for local and international agribusinesses, primary producers and investors across their range of legal needs. His in-bound clients are drawn from China, Singapore, Canada and the United States amongst others. He has acted extensively for local and overseas clients investing in Northern Australian agriculture in prominent transactions and practised for a short time in Darwin.

He regularly speaks at legal and industry conferences on legal issues that affect the agribusiness sector and was recognised by his peers as one of Australia’s leading Agriculture & Rural Affairs lawyers in the 2017 Best Lawyers.


Organisation: KPMG

Position: Associate Director

James is a Darwin-based associate director and the leader for KPMG’s government advisory service line in the Northern Territory.

He has specialist expertise in transport economics; benefit assessment; urban economics; and associated strategy and action planning. As a result of this experience, he was appointed director and treasurer of Economic Development Australia, the peak body for economic development professionals in Australia, for the 2010-2011 financial year. Since moving to the Northern Territory in 2014, James has led key engagements around transport investment, prioritisation and policy review. These have included the Northern Territory Freight and Logistics Industry Strategy, Northern Territory Regional Infrastructure Strategy and a series of regional road business cases. James will share his insights and experiences relating to regional transport and freight infrastructure investment in the Northern Territory.


Organisation: WA Department of Water

Position: Project Director - Water for Food

Simon joined the Department of Water as Project Director Water for Food in October 2014. He is an engineer with over 30 years’ experience delivering economic development and infrastructure projects, more than half at a senior executive level, across a number of government departments including Mines and Petroleum, State Development, Industry and Resources, Commerce and Trade and Agriculture and Food.

He successfully delivered a range of high profile and complex projects for government such as the Mine Safety reform and the development of the Mining Rehabilitation Fund, Boddington Gold Mine infrastructure package, the Australian Marine Complex and the Australian Resources Research Centre.

Simon has also been involved in state-wide strategic planning as a member of a number of high level planning committees, including the Sea Freight Council, State Mitigation Committee and the Infrastructure Coordinating Committee under the WA Planning Commission.

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Position: Agricultural economist and market analyst

David Hanlon is an agricultural economist and market analyst operating in Northern Australia for the last 35 years. David has worked for diverse clients including government, indigenous groups, private companies and industry organisations. David has been associated with most northern agricultural developments including cattle, horticulture, cropping and aquaculture including sugar on the Ord, and the successful northern horticultural industry. David brings unparalleled depth of understanding of market and economic forces in developing northern agriculture and a unique breadth of understanding of business management in northern Australia. 



Organisation: Deloitte Northern Territory

Position: Managing Partner

Hendri is the managing partner for Deloitte Northern Territory and has more than 20 years’ professional services experience in business consulting, risk management and assurance.

Hendri is a recognised as a pre-eminent specialist in the design of risk, control and financial management frameworks. He has been involved in a number of significant management consulting engagements and has led major assurance engagements. He is a Chartered Accountant, Certified Internal Auditor and holds a Master of Business Administration.

As NT managing partner, Hendri’s focus is to support the growth of the NT economy through enabling and facilitating conversation between Businesses and Government using Deloitte research and thought leadership.

Recent activities included the Positioning for Prosperity: Developing the North boardroom consultation series jointly facilitated by Deloitte, NAB and the Northern Australia Development Office. This involved facilitating consultation sessions with prominent stakeholders from the private and public sector in the NT to identify potential economic growth areas.


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Organisation: Centrefarm Aboriginal Horticulture Ltd

Position: CEO

From an agri-business background in South Australia, Vin has been involved in the industry for 30 years working in agricultural supplies and technology transfer to horticulture and broad-acre agriculture and pastoralism, along with operational management in horticulture and broad-acre agriculture, viticulture and wine-making. Vin has also established and operated a range of small, medium and large businesses in Australia and Europe. His long-standing experience with traditional remote Aboriginal people gives him an understanding and skills that are utilised daily at Centrefarm.

Most recently Vin has been responsible for the incorporation of the Northern and Central Land Councils’ jointly owned entity, Aboriginal Land and Sea Economic Development Agency (ALSEDA) and worked closely with both land councils to allow for fungible leases out of Aboriginal Land Trusts in the NT. These initiatives have allowed Vin and his team at Centrefarm to complete full financial modelling for the breakthrough Pilot Capital Fund (PCF). Both the leases and the PCF have passed due diligence within the commercial financial sector and will be crucial in developing opportunities on Aboriginal land in the NT.


Organisation: Mt Keplar NT


Organisation: Australian Conservation Foundation

Position: Northern Australia Program Manager

Graham Tupper is the Northern Australia Program Manager for the Australian Conservation Foundation. He holds degrees in science including a major in tropical agricultural systems and a postgraduate diploma in environmental studies. Graham has worked in a variety of roles over his 30 year career including as Government Relations Manager for ACF for 8 years after 20 years in international aid and development including on reafforestation and water supply programs in Africa and 5 years as Executive Director of the Australian Council for International Development. His current work for ACF in northern Australia focuses on protecting the outstanding natural and cultural values of Cape York and the Kimberley including to foster investment in ecologically sustainable jobs and livelihoods for people living in the north.

Organisation: WA Dept Agriculture & Food

Position: Executive Director, Irrigated Agriculture


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Organisation: IFED

Position: Director/Founder

David is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years of broad business experience including; corporate finance, corporate governance, business strategy development and execution, information systems and business development. David commenced his career in 1979 with the audit team of what is now KPMG Brisbane where he specialized in the field of computer audit. In 1994 he established the technology advisory division of BDO one of Queensland’s largest accounting firms. David retired as a Partner from BDO in 2001.

Since 2004 David has been a Director of Brisbane based firm InterFinancial Corporate Finance Limited where he focuses on originating and executing complex transactions and capital solutions in the food and agribusiness sector. David has developed strong relationships over a number of years with key industry participants, industry bodies and the domestic and international capital markets. In 2012 David co-founded Integrated Food and Energy Developments Pty Ltd (IFED) which is the proponent for a large scale, vertically integrated, greenfield agribusiness development project in the Gilbert River region of North Queensland.

David is an experienced Non-executive company Director and has held several private company Directorships and advisory Board positions. David has a Master of Commerce (Information Systems) from the University of Queensland and a Bachelor of Business from Queensland University of Technology. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia.



Organisation: Vanderfield

Position: CEO

Bruce has been the CEO of Vanderfield Pty Ltd since 1991. Vanderfield are the largest John Deere Dealer group in Australia with 10 branches in Southern and Central Queensland as well as two dealerships in the NT and one in Kununurra Western Australia. Vanderfield made the move to Northern Australia in 1999 to bring the supporting infrastructure of a dealership group of scale to the growing pioneering areas of the Kimberley and the Northern Territory. The move to the North was driven by a desire to grow the company at a time when water availability was being capped in the Murray Darling Basin. In addition to this the owners of Vanderfield had a strong desire to be part of the supporting infrastructure for the new developments and agricultural industries being established in the North. Vanderfield remains the only large agricultural equipment dealer located in and servicing the NT and the Kimberley.
Under Bruce’s leadership Vanderfield has developed precision farming services and tools to support industries from sugar, cotton, grains, and horticulture to tree crops. Remote servicing is key to their success with the company operating light aircraft since 1980, one of which is now based in Darwin.



Organisation: NT Cattlemen’s Association

Position: Chief Executive Officer

Tracey Hayes is the CEO of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, a not-for-profit organisation that heads up the billion dollar Northern Territory Cattle Industry.

Tracey has qualifications in Rangeland Management, Agri-Business and Business Management.

She owns a successful equipment hire business and has over 25 years’ experience in beef production and land management.


Organisation: Dessert Farms

Position: Director

Paul has a background in large scale irrigation and horticulture developments, which has given Paul the experience and expertise to develop and operate the successful Desert Springs Farm. Desert Springs Farm is a horticulture development, growing crops on Indigenous Land in Central Australia. Paul has extensive experience in water issues and policies, having farmed in five irrigation areas in three different states. Paul is also vice president of NT Farmers.


Organisation: NT Rural Weekly

Position: Senior journalist

Mark Wilton is the senior journalist for the NT Rural Weekly, based in the Top End.

He has held senior positions with newspapers for more than a decade and has also worked in TV, radio and online for the ABC.
Mark grew up in country Tasmania where he started his professional life as a teacher working in small farming communities.
More than 20 years ago Mark switched to journalism, completing a cadetship at the Examiner Newspaper in Launceston. He left the Apple Isle soon after and moved to Alice to work for the Centralian Advocate.

Mark has a passion for regional NT, and a deep and thorough understanding of the issues that affect industry. His broad professional experience over 20 years has seen him cover many significant events, including holding the position of editor of the Katherine Times when the live cattle export ban was imposed in 2011. He has strong relationships with many key industry stakeholders and works hard to ensure that his readers understand the issues affecting them through comprehensive media coverage. He also loves a good yarn, and loves sharing the colourful stories of NT characters with his audience.

Mark has also worked as a ministerial adviser for both the former Labor Government and the current CLP Government in the Northern Territory.

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Organisation: ABC Rural

Position: Country Hour presenter

Matt Brann is the presenter of the Northern Territory Country Hour on ABC Local Radio.
He grew up on a cattle property in the Hunter Valley surrounded by Herefords, horses and a dog named Spud.
After a brief stint for ABC Rural in Tasmania, Matt moved to Kununurra, home to the Ord Irrigation Scheme, and spent the next five years as the Kimberley rural reporter.
In 2009 he was named ABC’s Rural Reporter of the Year; and in 2011 won a WA Rural Media Association Award for his coverage of the suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia.
He still isn’t a member of the ‘metre-barra’ club which is a serious concern.
Keep it Rural!

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Organisation: ABC News

Position: Reporter

Kristy O’Brien has been involved in the production of factual television as a producer, journalist and presenter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and commercial television networks. She has worked across rural Queensland and the Northern Territory focusing much of her coverage on a love of agriculture and rural content. Her work is regularly broadcast on ABC News, ABC radio, ABC 24, Landline, Lateline and 7.30 NT. She is also the weekend 7pm News presenter. During the past 18 months, Kristy has deployed her journalistic background to branch into independent documentary making and was recognized at the Australian International Documentary Conference as Australia’s emerging young producer. As part of the award, she moved to London in 2014, to work for Jamie Oliver’s Fresh One Productions in order to enhance her production skills. She also recently won a position in Screen Producer Australia’s Ones to Watch program, as one of Australia’s up and coming young filmmakers.