Wednesday 19 and Thursday 20 September 2018

Mercure Hotel, Sydney


Session 1:
Emerging trends in engagement
This session will explore the most pressing and relevant trends for engagement practitioners. Presenters will reflect on the past 12 months and provide observations and examples of where they think the industry is heading in the near future. The session will uncover emerging techniques, as well as look at engagement across industries and delve into how this impacts the way we plan and deliver projects.

Session 2:
Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
Engaging with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities
This session is designed to create better outcomes when we engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and community members from a CALD background. Hear from experienced practitioners who will provide advice based on their experience working with and as part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and CALD communities.

Session 3:
Digital and virtual engagement
Each year we aim to bring you updates on new and emerging technology which can help make engagement fun, interesting and more effective. This year our program offers some very exciting demonstrations of digital engagement, virtual and augmented reality which has been used to great effect. The session will feature
presentations from universities, leading tech companies and organisations who are using these tools to better engage.

Session 4:
Careers in community and stakeholder engagement
Have you ever thought about where a career in community and stakeholder could take you? Our diverse panel of engagement professionals will talk through the many paths and trajectories a career in this industry can take you. We’ll discuss careers in
the government and private sector, consulting and contract work and even working for yourself. The session will also delve into what study and qualifications you should seek, and whether a standardised qualification should be available to professionals in
this sector.

Session 5:
Engaging with regional and remote communities
This session features organisations who work with regional and remote communities on a daily basis,  sharing their stories and successes. Hear real-life examples of how to best engage with regional and  remote communities and how to reach those in geographically challenging locations.

Session 6:
Interactive group learning sessions
Throughout the two days take part in group learning which is designed so that participants can network, share challenges and wins and learn from the wealth of knowledge in the room.


Key benefits of attending

• Actively participate in a mixture of hands on, lecture and workshop based learning lead by subject experts

• Be part of the group that shapes the future of engagement practice across the nation

• Learn about professional development opportunities and how to take the next step as a community engagement leader

• You will meet face to face with leaders, senior engagement professionals and consultants with vast experience in the sector

• Hear from leading academics on the latest research in community engagement and digital tools

• Many opportunities to ask for solutions to challenges you encounter at your organisation

• Learn exciting new techniques to better profile and target your audience

• Become refreshed and inspired to put new ideas into practice for your community

• Meet with like-minded people facing the same challenges as yourself

• A great opportunity for team building and idea sharing

• Learn and interact in a safe, positive and friendly atmosphere


Who should attend?  

• Community and stakeholder engagement practitioners of all levels of experience

• Communications and public relations professionals

• Public affairs and media relations professionals

• Digital, online and social media professionals

• Communications consultants

• Community development professionals of all levels of experience

• People who work regularly on the front line with communities

• Strategic and land use planners

• Anyone wanting to improve how their organisation works with communities and stakeholders!


MERCURE SYDNEY  –  818 – 820 George Street, Chippendale Sydney NSW 2008, Australia

Sydney Engagement Summit


818 – 820 George Street,

Chippendale Sydney NSW 2008, Australia

Exciting program of industry experts for our Sydney Summit

Leah Dymus

MC – 2018 Summit Sydney

Leah Dymus is an experienced and passionate communications and engagement professional, bringing a high EQ and innovation to the mix.

Versatile, flexible and creative, Leah holds almost 20 years’ experience gleaned across global and local roles within the highest pedigree organisations, from S&P/ASX Top 50 listed companies, public service, not-for-profit organisations and small and medium sized enterprises.

Aside from designing and leading engagement programs for some of our most recognisable brands here and overseas, Leah has specialist expertise within the media, public affairs and corporate PR sectors, with career exposure to a diverse range of industries – including engineering, building and construction, mining and resources, transport, infrastructure, energy, environmental services, I.T. and health care.

Leah loves people and with her diverse professional range, breadth and depth of experience, she is also a skilled facilitator and perfectly placed as MC for this event, offering up to our audiences in Sydney her unique style and skill set across communications, media, crisis management, Corporate Social Responsibility and stakeholder engagement.

Dr Naseem Ahmadpour


The University of Sydney

Design for good? This is the underlying premise of Dr Naseem Ahmadpour’s research, which is a blend of design and psychology. She investigates how motivation and self-regulation can affect behaviour, and how emerging technologies contribute to a higher quality of life. She is currently a lecturer in interaction design at the University of Sydney, school of Architecture, Design and Planning.

Councillor Matt Hannan


Berrigan Shire Council

Cr Matthew Hannan is serving his first term as Mayor, Berrigan Shire Council and his third term as a Berrigan Shire Councillor.

Matt’s day job is as a student learning support officer at the local primary school a role that he has enjoyed for the past 15 years.  Since his election as a Councillor, Matt has continued to champion the engagement of Council and local residents in the operation and management of a range of Council facilities and activities.

An active member of Section 355 Committees of Management before and after his election to Council Matt knows first-hand the value rate payers, sporting groups and the Council place on engaging communities in the delivery of range of local services.

Earlier this year Matt not only welcomed junior cricketers to national primary school aged cricket titles held at Barooga, as Mayor he also officiated as an umpire.  When Matt is not umpiring cricket or representing the big V and not NSW in ‘bowls’ he is a Councillor and Mayor committed to working with his community on projects that are sustainable and which will continue to add to the lifestyle and liveability of Berrigan Shire communities.

Peter Whelan

Director, Community Relations

Elton Consulting

Peter is a senior communications and stakeholder engagement executive with over 15 years of experience in the delivery of major infrastructure projects. He has developed and led large high performing stakeholder and community engagement teams.

Prior to joining Elton Consulting, Peter held senior management and executive team positions within Transport for NSW, including Technical Director Project Communications. In this role, Peter was responsible for managing all project related communications, internally and externally, and oversaw the community engagement process to support key project milestones. In addition, he established effective frameworks for stakeholder engagement, issues management, government relations, the coordination of briefing materials and media relations.

Major projects include the South West Rail Link, Transport Access Program, Epping to Chatswood Rail Link, Rail Clearways Program, Northern Sydney Freight Corridor, Waratah PPP, Intercity Fleet, Inner West Light Rail extension and CBD and South East Light Rail.

At Elton Consulting, Peter will lead a team of community relations professionals who are committed to working collaboratively with stakeholders and establishing a genuine relationship with the communities in which they work.

Peter has undertaken a Bachelor of Education from the Australian Catholic University, Foundations of General Management from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and an IAP2 Certificate in Engagement.


Julie Castle

Managing Director


Julie has advised, consulted and fulfilled in-house roles on over 40 major infrastructure projects valued at over $22 billion, including the renowned Gold Coast Light Rail; Gateway Motorway; Bruce Highway; Brisbane busways; Surat, Bowen and Galilee Basin rail corridors; and Crossrail, a new high capacity railway for London. Her gift for negotiating coupled with practical insight and ability to instil energy ensures engagement forms an integral part of a project’s management culture. She offers a unique insight and understanding of stakeholder interfaces, having engaged thousands of stakeholders, and has a passion to ensuring communities form part of the decision making process.

Anna Vinfield
Corporate Services Manager
Byron Shire Council

Anna leads Byron Shire Council’s corporate services team and has 15 years experience across state and local government in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales. Anna enjoys a challenge having worked in high-profile portfolios such as the Queensland Water Commission implementing their Target 140 behavioural change campaign during the mid-2000s drought, Office of Climate Change, Queensland’s Minister for Environment and in WA’s Pilbara at the Town of Port Hedland. Anna’s experience extends across communications, media, stakeholder engagement, corporate planning, governance, customer service and policy development. The review of Byron’s Community Strategic Plan was Anna’s first major project with the Council having joined them in May 2017. She also oversees governance, customer service, risk and business improvement, strategic procurement and grants management. Anna holds a Bachelor of Business (Public Relations, Advertising) from QUT.


Nikki Hammond


Nicky Hammond Life Coaching

Nicky Hammond is currently the director of her own life coaching business Nicky Hammond Life Coaching, working with people who have relocated from overseas. Nicky has an extensive career working with diverse communities throughout her career, both in Australia and overseas. Previously she worked at Willoughby City Council as a Community Development Officer as part of the Multicultural Team and at Randwick City Council as a Community Development Officer. She has experience running youth programs in Redfern, working with migrant and refugees and various international work experiences in the Kingdom of Tonga, France, Gabon, Cook Islands and Republic of South Korea.

She holds a MA International Studies and a double undergraduate degree in Interior Design and International Studies gained at the University of Technology, Sydney. Now Nicky is now a certified life coach, passionately sharing tools with stay at home, expat mums to help them find more purpose and happiness in their lives.

Charles Connell


Social Pinpoint

Enjoying applying technology to solve real world problems, Charles co-founded Social Pinpoint in 2013 to help organizations connect with their communities and stakeholder on planning, infrastructure, transport, parks and rec, and community projects. Social Pinpoint’s interactive mapping tools have been used on hundreds of projects across Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA, with well over 2 million interactions on our platform and user numbers growing every day.

Shelley Jones

Executive Officer

Snowy Valleys Council

Shelley is a passionate advocate for the community voice in local decision making. Teaming up with Straight Talk to deliver the first Community Strategic Plan for the merged Snowy Valleys Council, Shelley and the council team utilised their collective experience in Local Government to engage a diverse range of stakeholders across many communities. Shelley is committed to preserving, promoting and celebrating the uniqueness of the individual communities that comprise the new LGA. Shelley is Council’s Executive Officer working closely with the Mayor and Councillors and the Executive Leadership Team on strategic matters and was previously Coordinator of Communication, Strategy and Engagement. Shelley has a decade of experience in Local Government working in various roles including event management, tourism, marketing, community development, communications, engagement and strategy.

Mila Jones

Corporate Governance Coordinator

Byron Shire Council

Mila Jones is a Corporate Governance Coordinator at Byron Shire Council where Mila coordinates and develops the Council’s strategic planning documents, specifically for their integrated planning and reporting framework.  She is also involved in developing communication and engagement plans and coordinating compliance and policy requirements for the Council.

Mila has worked with Byron Shire Council since 2000 in a number of roles including planning, legal and administrative services and has previously worked with organisations HSBC as a business analyst and Citibank as a process reengineering analyst.  Mila holds a Bachelor Degree in Administrative Leadership and has completed the IAP2 Certificate in Engagement.

Salena Avard

General Manager

Engagement Hub

Salena began her career in the private sector with a focus on marketing, communications and events. She also has fifteen years’ local government experience, specialising in economic and community development, funding attraction, communications and community and stakeholder engagement.

Salena’s formal qualifications are in Marketing, Business Administration and Local Government Management, but her passion is for people.


John Ballantine

Co-founder Lab38

Western Sydney Univeristy

Co-founder John Ballantine of Lab38 group at Western Sydney University and a casual academic in Industrial Design. John’s role in Lab38 is to run internship programs, and complete design projects both within and outside the university. Lab38 has a strong focus on virtual reality and its use as a communication tool within design. The group has worked on numerous projects with our keystone project being the virtual reality walkthrough of WSU Penrith observatory.

Wayne Pearce

Co-founder Lab38

Western Sydney University

Wayne is co-founder of Lab38 group at Western  Sydney University.

Jo Ruffin

Strategic and Social Planning


Berrigan Shire Council

Jo Ruffin has over 30-years’ experience in State and Local Government in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales working in a variety of roles in metropolitan, regional and small communities.  Since moving to New South Wales (2010) Jo has been employed by the Berrigan Shire Council and has been responsible in that role for coordinating the development of the Council’s suite of integrated plans.  Jo is also completing a PhD at Torrens University researching the role of strategic planning and community engagement as a tool for sector and culture change in NSW local government.

Nathan Connors

Product Engagement and Practice Manager

Bang the Table

Currently working at Bang the Table as Product Engagement and Practice Manager, Nathan has extensive experience working in agile development environments and product teams to deliver world-class digital engagement software, training and practice advice.

He has spent many years working across local and state government as well as universities in digitally focussed communications and public relations roles including; Emerging Technology Lead for City of Melbourne and Learning Resource Designer at Deakin University and State Library of Queensland.

His education includes a Master of International Relations from Melbourne University, undergraduate from Queensland University of Technology.

He has a background in journalism and worked extensively in the creative industries.

Don Sharples

Managing Director

Altometer Business Intelligence

Don has worked in communications and engagement for 15years. In case you were wondering how it is that he feels qualified to speak on matters of social science and psychology, he has a bachelors psychology degree from Monash, grad dip in PR and Communications from Deakin and a masters in business from Monash. Public participation has always been a matter of human behaviour for Don and the depth of research available to the engagement profession could be transformative.

Rebecca Hill

Marketing, Visitor Services and Engagement Manager

Harbour Trust

Media, marketing, communications and events specialist with experience including marketing, communications, engagement and stakeholder management and branding for performing arts, sporting and leisure and community and sustainable living products and well as destination management and tourism marketing.

Major projects include
* Vivid Sydney at Chatswood
* The Chatswood Family Festival strategy and development
* Emerge Festival Management and strategy development
* The Concourse launch and opening
* Community engagement and stakeholder management

* Sub Base Platypus – reopening of site to the public

Dr Joel Fredericks


University of Technology, Sydney

Dr Joel Fredericks is an academic researcher, community engagement practitioner and urban planner. He has worked as a consultant on a range of community and infrastructure projects in the road, rail, water and energy sectors. In this role, he has facilitated national, state and local community engagement programs across a diverse range of stakeholders. Joel’s academic research sits across the domains of community engagement, urban planning, digital placemaking, media architecture, smart cities and immersive technologies.

He has worked on a variety of transdisciplinary research projects that adopt digital technologies and participatory design methods to support collaborative approaches in designing and developing immersive technologies. Joel has authored and co-authored many publications in journals, edited books, and conference proceedings.

Geoff Main

Chief Marketing Officer 


With more than 20 years of marketing and commercial experience creating emotional connections between people, brands and businesses, Geoff Main believes that communities are not just a digital opportunity but an emotional necessity for every person.

A passionate leader and marketing consultant, Geoff’s experience within marketing and brand development has led him to successfully create marketing campaigns that connect some of Oceania’s much loved brands with its fans and some of Australia’s smallest businesses with their local communities. Geoff’s involvement with brands like Kit Kat, Maggi, Uncle Tobys, the Cricket World Cup and Luxaflex as well as over 60 SMBs has seen many grow strong communities around their businesses. As digital has expanded over the past decade, the ability to combine physical and digital communities has been at the core of much of his work with Corporate and SMB clients.

In his current role as the Head of Marketing for Nabo, Australia’s largest private network for neighbourhoods with 300,000 members, the task of bringing a digital community to life in the real world is a big opportunity for Australia. He also runs his own Sydney-based marketing firm, Passionberry, which has worked with clients including Luxaflex and TSM, tackling everything from driving growth for small businesses via local marketing to expanding a brand like Nabo onto the Australian stage.

Geoff believes that no matter what business you are in, connection is everything. So how are you doing it?

Ricky Tozer

Service Manager

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council

Ricky Tozer is the Service Manager, Customer and Communication at Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council. Among Ricky’s responsibilities are corporate communications, Integrated Planning and Reporting, customer service, community engagement and……the animal management. The combination of these services ensures some strong touchpoints with the community and also the elected representatives.

The move from sports journalist to local government was daunting and very uncomfortable in the early stages. Gone (for the first few months) were the discussions about footy, racing and other sports, and in came the ad valorem, notice of motion and restructure conversations. Over the past nine years, Ricky has helped enhance Council’s commitment to community engagement, with the biggest challenges coming in the wake of the 2016 merger. A review of Council’s Engagement Framework is currently underway and will drive the future of engagement at QPRC.

Darius Turner

Community Engagement Consultant

Elton Consulting

Darius is an experienced and energetic consultant with a down to earth approach, specialising in community and stakeholder engagement and strategic planning. Darius has extensive project management experience on strategic communications projects across a wide variety of topics and industries and including local government.

Darius uses a fresh and creative approach to community and stakeholder engagement, providing innovative solutions using online and traditional mediums to engage the target audience. Darius is also an engaging and thoughtful facilitator with an ability to read a room and make participants feel at ease.

Darius is experienced in delivering strategic communications on major projects and has worked with organisations to develop practical and accessible strategic plans, policies and frameworks.
Darius holds a Master of Commerce from the University of Sydney and a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) from the University of New South Wales.