Julia Gillard

Julia Gillard AC

Chair of beyondblue and former Prime Minister of Australia

The Hon. Julia Gillard AC was appointed Chair of Beyond Blue in December 2014. Ms Gillard, as chair of beyondblue, is driving the campaign to raise awareness of suicide prevention and reduce the stigma around mental health. 

Ms Gillard was the 27th prime minister of Australia (2010–2013) and the 13th deputy prime minister of Australia (3 December 2007– 24 June 2010), becoming the first woman to ever serve in the respective roles. As prime minister Ms Gillard developed Australia’s guiding policy paper, 'Australia in the Asian Century', and delivered nation-changing policies including reforming Australian education at every level from early childhood to university education; improving the provision and sustainability of health care, aged care and dental care; and commencing the nation’s first ever national scheme to care for people with disabilities.

In foreign policy Ms Gillard strengthened Australia’s alliance with the United States, secured stronger architecture for the relationship with China, upgraded Australia’s ties with India, and deepened ties with Japan, Indonesia and South Korea. Ms Gillard represented Australia at the G20, including winning Australia’s right to host the 2014 meeting, the East Asia Summit, APEC, NATO-ISAF and chaired CHOGM. Under her tenure Australia was elected to serve on the United Nations Security Council.

Ms Gillard is Chair of the Global Partnership for Education, a Distinguished Senior Fellow with the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Honorary Professor at the University of Adelaide and patron of Camfed, the Campaign for Female Education, the Layne Beachley Foundation and the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library, Perth.

Gill Hicks

Gill Hicks AM, MBE, FRSA

Survivor of the 2005 London terrorist bombings and founder of M.A.D for Peace

Gill Hicks is globally known as an advocate for sustainable peace and a valuable resource in countering violent extremism. Her devotion to making a personal greater contribution and positive difference to building peace was cemented after she was injured and disabled in the London terrorist bombings on 7 July 2005. But Hicks is much more than a survivor.

Hicks advocates for the growth of a more confident collective / communities, societies and as a nation. As a finalist for Australian of the Year, her focus was on the importance of growing a confident and cohesive Australia. 

Hicks' achievements are inspiring. She had arrived in London as a 19-year-old and became recognised within London's creative and cultural landscape, across UK and internationally – exhibiting work in Milan and New York. She owned and ran a design consultancy in London and turned an architectural publishing company around, increasing its value from one pound to a million pounds. She was one of the first wave of women to be invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, no small achievement in a male-dominated industry.

Hicks' lived experience from survival to rehabilitation as a double amputee created a clear demarcation from all she had known before the bombings, when she had been at the helm of some of the UK’s most prestigious and respected institutions. Her life is now built on what she describes as a series of conscious choices, of mindfulness and being aware of the importance of the moment. Sharing what she has learnt about herself, about humanity and the extraordinary and what she believes is an inherent ability to not only face but to rise in the wake of adversity is not only inspiring, but it is valuable insight into what is possible in life.

Sally Evans

Sally Evans

The New Retirement Enthusiast

Sally Evans has over 30 years' international experience in executive and non-executive roles across the health, aged care and investment management, insurance and superannuation sectors. Evans' roles have included Head of Retirement at AMP, Investment Director, Aged Care at AMP Capital, inaugural member of the Aged Care Financing Authority, Asia-Pacific Head of Healthcare for the FTSE Compass Group and as a Non-Exec Director at Opal Aged Care.

Evans is currently Chair of LifeCircle, a member of the Treasury Industry Reference Group on retirement incomes, a member of the EveryAgeCounts Campaign Steering Group and a speaker on the Longevity Economy and digital disruption of the aged care sector. She holds a Bachelor of Applied Science (Dietetics) from University of Otago, is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees.

Evans is the Telstra Business Women’s Award 2002 Australian Private & Corporate sector winner and Australian Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence 2013 Corporate sector finalist.

Evans’ executive career included working and living in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Hong Kong and subsequent responsibility across the Asia Pacific region, with a focus on China and Japan. When in Sydney, she can be found most days swimming at her local beach at sunrise.

Sonja Braidner

Sonja Braidner CPHR

Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Fire and Rescue NSW

Sonja Braidner is the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW). She began her career as a stage electrician and rigger at the Sydney Opera House before working as a theatrical and theme park lighting designer in the UK and Europe. After being lured into a career change brought about by an interest in industrial negotiation she moved into HR.

Braidner brings experience in organisational development, executive coaching, and inclusion and diversity, having consulted across numerous corporate and business sectors for the past 20 years. Prior to FRNSW, Braidner worked as the Deputy Director Equity & Diversity Strategy for the University of Sydney. She established the inaugural, global inclusion and diversity strategy for Singtel /Optus and worked in various inclusive leadership capacities within the higher education sector.

Her passion for human rights led to her founding a political party in response to societal issues pertaining to social inclusion and equity, and became the 1998 NSW senate candidate for the party.

Vanessa Doake

Vanessa Doake

Co-founder and COO, Code Like a Girl

Vanessa Doake is a co-founder and COO of Code Like a Girl, a highly successful and award-winning organisation that provides girls with the support, tools and knowledge to enter and flourish in the world of coding. Since launching in 2015, Code Like a Girl has provided accessible coding education to thousands of girls around Australia, advancing their vision to close the gap on gender equality in the tech industry.

Louise Azzopardi

Louise Azzopardi

Heavy Vehicle Mechanic, The Tractor Shop

Louise Azzopardi has always had an inquisitive nature and loves to discover how things work. It is how she has got to where she is today, as a national gold medalist at the 2016 WorldSkills Australia National Competition, and a member of the squad team where she is vying for the chance to represent Australia in Heavy Vehicle Mechanics in Abu Dhabi in October 2017.

It was a chance meeting with a Heavy Vehicle Apprentice at an Apprenticeship Expo that set Azzopardi on the path to her ‘dream career’. She went on to study at TAFE NSW South Western Sydney through her employer, the Tractor Shop: “I lived my apprenticeship for four years and finishing it has been my greatest achievement".

Now Azzopardi wants to pay that experience forward, as a role model for women who wish to enter trades, or to just gain some self-sufficiency in undertaking a range of mechanical or automotive tasks. She is holding workshops for Girl Guides on how to change a tyre and running basic car servicing workshops for girls and women who have never held a spanner or inflated a tyre. “I am keen to be an ambassador for women who want to enter trades, and be a role model to grow those numbers exponentially. I want to exemplify that gender doesn’t have to make a difference (to or limit your work opportunities) or hold you back from doing something you love".

Michelle Melbourne

Michelle Melbourne

Co-founder and executive director, Intelledox

Michelle commenced her career as a software trainer in 1990 working on major corporate change and transformation projects in Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canberra. With over 27 years of international business experience, she has a passion for people, technology and change.

As Co-Founder and Executive Director at Intelledox Pty Ltd - a Canberra-based global software vendor that enables the digitalization of complex business processes - Michelle has worked on innovative technology transformation projects in countries all around the world including the US, UK, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, UAE, South Africa and Canada. Michelle is an Executive Director and also a member of the board at Intelledox. This dual role means she shares responsibility for company strategy, channel development, business development, human resource management, professional services, and marketing. Michelle is experienced at dealing with both government and corporate sectors where Intelledox has delivered software solutions to hundreds of blue chip organisations around the world.

Michelle is a past winner in the Telstra and ACT Government’s Businesswoman of the Year Awards, and her business Intelledox is a multiple winner in the Telstra Business Awards, in the AIIA iAwards, in the Australian Exporter of the Year Awards, in both the Deloitte Fast 100 and the BRW’s Fast 100 list, and in the Anthill Cool Company Awards.


Mathew Paine

Mathew Paine CPHR

Director of Human Resources, International Convention Centre Sydney

Mathew Paine CPHR is currently the Director of Human Resources at the newly opened $1.5 billion International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney).

As ICC Sydney's Chief Human Resource Officer, Paine has helped to create a world-class HR department at ICC Sydney, attracting and developing the best talent and building a culture of engagement, diversity, agility and innovation. Under Paine's leadership, ICC Sydney has instituted best practice and industry leading diversity and inclusion practices, including an Australian first, with the addition of gender transition leave in the ICC Sydney Enterprise Agreement.

Paine earned a Master’s Degree in Strategic Human Resource Management from East London University and a Master’s Degree in Labour Law & Relations from Sydney University. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, accredited as a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD, U.K) and a Certified Professional of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI).

Additional speakers to be announced soon.