Amanda Blair

Amanda Blair

Master of Ceremonies

Amanda Blair has spent 21years talking and writing about things that annoy, inspire or humour her.  She’s served on many boards including The Housing Trust, Adelaide Festival, Social Inclusion Board, Premier’s Council For Women and Nature Play SA.   She’s Ambassador for The Hutt Street Centre and raises money for them via her creation Dulcie’s Bus, Australia’s first travelling op shop.

She received a MO Award for Best Live Show in Australia in 2003 and the St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Award for outstanding contribution to the Media in 2011.  She has a husband, 4 children and most days thinks she likes her dog Eric more than any of them. She spends more time in her Tarago than she does in bed. She writes a monthly column for the iconic Australian Women’s Weekly.

Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O'Brien

Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O’Brien

Mickey Kumatpi Marrutya O`Brien is a Senior Aboriginal Man a descendant of the Kaurna (Adelaide Plains) and Narrunga (York Peninsula) peoples.

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

Mickey enjoys sharing Cultural Knowledge and providing Welcome to Country, with people, not at people and enjoys opportunities to support the Aboriginal Community.

Travelling across Australia, living and working in a number of Aboriginal Communities Mickey has delivered programs, sat on boards and Advisory Panels.

He is a recipient of the Rotary Club Courtesy Award, for Community involvement working with youth. He is also an Australia Day Service Award recipient, and is a Foster Parent of sixteen years, to three beautiful children.

The Honourable John Gardner

The Honourable John Gardner

Minister for Education

John Gardner has represented the seat of Morialta, in Adelaide’s north eastern suburbs and near hills townships, since 2010. He is a member, sponsor or patron of a wide range of local community, sporting and service organisations in his electorate.

John was appointed Minister for Education after the March 2018 state election, having previously served as Shadow Minister in this portfolio since January 2016. He is also the Leader of Government Business in the South Australian House of Assembly.

John and his wife Trudi have recently been joined by their daughter, Emma. He supports the Adelaide Crows, the Norwood Redlegs and the Campbelltown City Red Devils.

Professor John Fischetti

Professor John Fischetti

Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor, The University of Newcastle

“The New Learning Paradigm & Futures-focussed Approach to Schooling”

Professor John Fischetti is the Dean of Education and Head of School at the University of Newcastle. Currently he is Interim Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Education and Arts. He is also currently President of the New South Wales Council of Deans of Education.

John received his doctorate in education in professional development, school reform and educational leadership for change in 1986 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Previously he completed Master’s work in Secondary Education and holds a BA in Economics and American Government from the University of Virginia. John holds his teaching certificate in secondary social studies and has taught high school history, economics and political science.

Prior to coming to Newcastle, John served as Dean and Professor of Educational Leadership at the College of Education and Human Development at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.

John’s key research interests include: School Reform Preparing Leaders for New Roles/Responsibilities Secondary Teacher Education Global Educational Issues Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Technology and Education Research in Teaching and Learning.

His work over the last 30 years focusses on rethinking pedagogy, assessment, schooling and teacher education. John’s equity-driven message is incorporated in his work with undergraduate, post-graduate and PhD students and his leadership of his School and Faculty.

Professor Toby Walsh

Professor Toby Walsh

Toby Walsh is a world-renowned professor on artificial intelligence at the University of South Wales and Data61. He was named by the media as a “rock star” of the digital revolution and included on the list of the 100 most important digital innovators in Australia. Toby is the author of the books ‘IT’S ALIVE’, ‘Android Dreams’ and the soon to be published release ‘Machines That Think’.

Toby is a sought-after keynote speaker on how artificial intelligence influences business, education, warfare, personal development, and finance, among others. His talks were featured at TED, Adobe Pacific Summit, Future Shapers Forum, CEBIT and Quest Future of AI. He has advised a number of leading organizations on their AI strategy such as McKinsey & Co, Bertlesmann, TATA Consulting, SeviceNow, Clayton Utz, the NSW Department of Education, and Penguin Random House.

Prof. Walsh is a passionate advocate for limits to AI to ensure AI is used to improve, not hurt, our lives.
Together with Pope Francis, Toby was voted runner up in the Person of the Year Award by the Arm Control Association, recognizing his work in ensuring safe use of AI in warfare.

Professor Alan Reid AM

Professor Alan Reid AM

Professor Emeritus of Education, University of South Australia

Alan Reid is Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of South Australia. He has been influential in education policy development at the state and national levels, is involved in a range of professional organizations, and is a passionate supporter of public education. His research and publications focus on the broad themes of education policy, curriculum, and the history and politics of public education. In 2018 he wrote the monograph ‘Beyond Certainty’ for the Australian Secondary Principals Association (ASPA), and he  has now turned that into a book: Changing Australian Education: How policy is taking us backward and what can be done about it. The book will be published by Allen and Unwin in October, 2019. Alan’s contributions to education have been recognised through numerous awards, including the national Gold Medal of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders (ACEL) in 2009.  In 2012 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), and he was one of the four finalists for 2017 South Australian of the Year.

Dr Paulo Maestro


Dr Paulo Maestro is an internationally renowned speaker, author, sports psychologist and neuro-scientist.  As a former champion cyclist and now a highly successful business person he can empathize with top level athletes, coaches and leaders. Paulo has had an amazingly colorful career spanning some 25 years. He is revered as a legendary mentor in the field of human potential on and off the sporting arena. He has individually counseled world champions in rugby, athletics, soccer, basketball, cycling as well as been the unnerving inspiration behind World Champion Valentino Rossi, sprinting icon Usain Bolt as well as retired undefeated yet highly volatile US boxing phenomenon, Floyd Mayweather.

Paulo’s powerful messages intertwined with humour, possibility, opportunity, and action have helped create startling as well as powerful changes in individuals, sporting teams and corporations worldwide.

Rick Persse

Rick Persse

The Chief Executive, Department for Education


Rick Persse was appointed to lead the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in June 2016. The department name changed in 2018 to the Department for Education.

Rick joins the department after a successful 4 year period as chief executive of the Attorney-General’s Department where he was central to delivery of the government’s program of criminal, civil and administrative justice reform.

With expertise in policy and strategy development, change management, public sector reform and project delivery, Rick’s knowledge of public administration was gained from an expansive career working at a variety of South Australian central government agencies at an executive level.

Prior to being appointed to the role of Chief Executive, Attorney-General’s Department, Rick worked with government and non-government clients as PricewaterhouseCoopers SA Government and Health Leader.

Rick has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Adelaide and a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management from Griffith University.

Peter Mader

Peter Mader

President of SASPA and Vice President of ASPA


Peter Mader is President of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association and Vice President of the Australian Secondary Principals Association.  He has been a secondary principal in Whyalla at Stuart High School (2001), and at two large Adelaide suburban schools, Salisbury East High School (2002-2006) and Hamilton Secondary College (2008 – 2014).

Peter’s educational interests include leadership for 21st C learning, curriculum innovation, school improvement and accountability, and the “politics” of education.

For much of his 35 years as an educator, Peter has advocated on behalf of his peers. Initially this was as a member of the South Australian English Teachers’ Association board and later, as an office bearer.  He has been a member of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association since 1997, a member of its Board since 2003, a Strategic Directions convenor (2004 – 2010) and Vice President (2011-2014).

Andrew Pierpoint

Andrew Pierpoint

President of ASPA

Andrew Pierpoint is President of the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association – the peak body for School Leaders across Australia. He previously was President of the Queensland Secondary Principals’ Association for four (4) years.

Andrew has had extensive experience, over 35 years, in High Schools as a science teacher, Head of Department Science, Deputy Principal and Principal as well as having several system positions in the support of Principals. Throughout his career, Andrew has worked in complex rural and remote communities through to large regional and metropolitan schools. He has led communities and reference groups at district, regional, state and national levels.

Andrew’s special interests are the provision of professional learning for school leaders, Principal Health and Wellbeing and is highly active in school sport.

Andrew has demonstrated a passion for Public education over many years and possess an excellent understanding of the Principalship from first hand experience. Most importantly, Andrew has a genuine desire to make a real difference for School Leaders in the application of their ever increasing, complex roles in schools and the broader community

Professor Donna Pendergast

Professor Donna Pendergast

Dean and Head of School, School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University

Professor Donna Pendergast is Dean and Head, School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University.  Donna has an international profile in the field of teacher education, particularly in the Junior Secondary years of schooling, which focuses on the unique challenges of teaching and learning in the early adolescent years. She has successfully completed competitive research tenders commissioned by state and federal authorities totalling more than $2.5 million over the last decade. In 2014 Donna led the Development and Delivery of Junior Secondary Professional Development Modules which was delivered to 600 primary teachers and 400 secondary teachers. In addition, she led a team that undertook the development and delivery of The Leading Change Development Project – Year 7 to Secondary, which involved developing capabilities in all school leadership teams in all public schools in Queensland responsible for delivering year 7 in 2015.  Professor Pendergast is one of the editors of the 2017 publication, Teaching Middle Years: Rethinking Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment (Allen & Unwin).

Professor Caroline McMillen

Professor Caroline McMillen

Chief Scientist  for South Australia

Professor Caroline McMillen commenced in the role as Chief Scientist for South Australia in October 2018 after serving as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle for 7 years from 2011.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales and a Bragg Member of the Royal Institution, Australia.  She holds a BA (Honours) and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Oxford, and completed her medical training graduating with an MB, BChir from the University of Cambridge. She has served in academic leadership positions at Monash University, the University of Adelaide and at the University of South Australia where she held the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation prior to her move to Newcastle.

Professor McMillen’s research focusses on the role of the environment in early development in determining the metabolic and cardiovascular health of the offspring in later life. Her research group was funded for two decades by both the ARC and the NHMRC, she was a member of the PMSEIC Working Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focusing on maternal, fetal and post-natal health and she has been a chair and member of international and national research policy, review and assessment panels. She has also served on a range of industry boards including the National Automotive Industry Innovation Council, Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Automotive Technology, Cooperative Research Centre for Rail Innovation, the South Australian Premier’s Climate Change Council, the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council as well as a range of state industry and government leadership groups.

Professor McMillen has been invited to speak in international and national fora on the critical role of STEMM in driving innovation and on the role of universities as national and regional catalysts of economic and social transition. Throughout her career she has been committed to building collaborations between universities, government, industry and communities which deliver a positive impact on the economic, social and cultural health of Australia. She was honoured at the end of her term as Vice-Chancellor to be presented with the Key to the City of Newcastle by the Lord Mayor of Newcastle.

Dr Chris Dolan

Dr Chris Dolan

Research Fellow, School of Education, University of South Australia

Chris Dolan has a long history in educational leadership in the SA state schooling system. Following his recent completion of a PhD examining the constitutive impact of policy on the principalship, Chris is now investigating the experience and management of ambiguity, conflict and tension in the lives and work of principals in a research partnership between the University of South Australia and SAPPA/SASPA.

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