Dr Kylie Austin
Associate Director, Student Equity and Success
University of Wollongong
President, EPHEA

Dr Kylie Austin has over fifteen years experience in Australian higher education and is currently the Associate Director, Student Equity and Success. During this time, Kylie has led institution wide initiatives aimed to increase the representation and participation of underrepresented cohorts at university. In addition to this Kylie has led institution wide initiatives related to academic support, peer mentoring and co-curricular engagement. She is also the current President for Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia, providing sector-wide advocacy and professional development to student and staff equity practitioners. Kylie’s research interests are in partnerships and equity, and has led national research projects to investigate the experiences of underrepresented cohorts with higher education.

The Hon. Prof. Verity Firth AM
Pro Vice-Chancellor (Social Justice & Inclusion)
and Executive Director,

Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion
University of Technology Sydney

The Hon. Prof. Verity Firth AM is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Social Justice & Inclusion) and Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at the University of Technology Sydney. Prof. Firth is responsible for institution-wide areas of focus that maximise the university’s capacity as a public purpose institution, and the Centre tracks university-wide performance of its social justice goals through the UTS Social Impact Framework, a first of its kind for the Australian university sector.

Prof. Firth has over 15 years’ experience working in government and the not for profit sectors in Australia. As NSW Minister for Education and Training Prof. Firth focussed on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage in low socio-economic communities, including rural and remote indigenous communities and as CEO of the Public Education Foundation, Prof. Firth led the Foundation’s transition from a fledgling organisation into a major provider of scholarships and support to public education.

Professor Andrew Harvey
Director of Pathways in Place
Academic Director of Equity and Diversity
Griffith University

Andrew is Director of Pathways in Place at Griffith University, a program focussed on the empowerment of Indigenous, Māori, and Pasifika communities in Logan. He is also Academic Director of Equity and Diversity at Griffith, and has written extensively on student equity in higher education. In the past decade Andrew has received 30 external research grants on issues including transparency in university admissions, the implications of performance-based funding, and the experiences of marginalised groups such as people from out-of-home care backgrounds, new migrants, and military veterans. He is the lead editor of Student Equity in Australian Higher Education (Springer, 2016).

Professor Liz Johnson
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic
Deakin University

Alfred Deakin Professor Liz Johnson is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at Deakin University. She leads Deakin’s ambitious Education and Employability strategy, including the drive to premium digital learning and student experience. Liz steered teaching and learning at Deakin through the COVID pandemic, building from extensive projects on Deakin’s online learning environment, teaching and course innovation and staff capability. During this period, she also sponsored restructure of Deakin’s professional services for students and Faculties, renewal of teaching and learning design and transition to online assessment. Liz’s leadership has been recognised by national and international awards. She was inaugural Director of the Australian Council of Deans of Science Teaching and Learning Centre and is a Principal Fellow of Advance HE.

Professor Sally Kift PFHEA FAAL ALTF

Professor Sally Kift is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law (FAAL), and President of the Australian Learning & Teaching Fellows (ALTF). She has held several university leadership positions, including as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at James Cook University. Sally is a national Teaching Award winner, a national Program Award winner and a national Senior Teaching Fellow on the First Year Experience. In 2010, she was appointed an Australian Discipline Scholar in Law. In 2017, Sally received an Australian University Career Achievement Award for her contribution to Australian higher education. Sally was a member of the Australian Qualifications Framework Review Panel that reported to Government in September 2019. Since 2017, she has been working as an independent higher education consultant.

Darlene McLennan 
Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET)

Darlene McLennan is the Manager of the Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET). ADCET provides national leadership, information and professional development for educators and support staff in the inclusion of people with disability in Australia’s Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector. Darlene completed her Master of Business with the University of Tasmania and has a post-graduate degree in Careers Education through RMIT. Darlene has nearly 35 years of experience working in the disability sector, of which 18 years are within the tertiary disability sector.

Professor Karen Nelson
University of Southern Queensland
Co-Chair, STARS

Karen Nelson, PhD, PFHEA is a professor of higher education and was appointed Provost at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) in January 2022, after serving as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) from 2019.

As Provost at the University of Southern Queensland, Professor Karen Nelson leads the Academic Division and has responsibility for academic strategy, the quality of education and academic services, achieving excellence in student outcomes and enhancing USQ’s reputation and as a leading Australian university.

A recognised authority in the first-year experience, and student engagement and retention, Professor Nelson’s research into the complex nature of the student experience has been instrumental in uncovering the factors influencing attrition and has advanced policy and practice nationally and internationally.

Her contributions to higher education have been recognised by three national awards for university teaching and in 2016 she was made Principal Fellow of the UK based Higher Education Academy. In 2020, she was made Professor Emeritus of the University of the Sunshine Coast in recognition of her contributions.

Professor Mary O’Kane AC 
Higher Education Accord Panel

Mary O’Kane is Chair of the NSW Independent Planning Commission, a company director, and Executive Chairman of O’Kane Associates, a Sydney-based consulting practice specialising in government reviews. She was NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer from 2008-2018; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1996-2001; Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Adelaide from 1994-1996; and Dean of the Faculty of Information Sciences & Engineering at the University of Canberra from 1990-94.

Mary has served on several boards and committees in the public and private sectors, especially related to innovation, education, energy, engineering, health, Antarctica, ICT and research. She is currently Chair of the boards of Aurora Energy Pty Ltd and Sydney Health Partners and is a member of the boards of AEMO Services Ltd and the Silverchain Group.

Professor Sarah O’Shea
Dean Graduate Research / Higher Education Researcher
Charles Sturt University

Professor Sarah O’Shea is an award-winning educator, internationally recognised researcher and equity expert in higher education settings. Institutional and nationally funded projects advance understanding of how under-represented student cohorts enact success within university, navigate transition into and through this environment, manage competing identities and negotiate aspirations for self and others.

A senior academic leader with over 30 years tertiary experience that includes leading a National Centre for Higher Education Research and Policy as well as an Academy of Tertiary Teaching and Learning Excellence, Sarah has led changes across the Australian higher education sector by developing pioneering educational programmes, securing national and international competitive funding and forging collaborations across disciplines and sectors. She has published extensively and has been awarded nearly $AUD4 million in grant funding in the last decade, also managing over $10 million in Federal Government funding. Sarah has also been recognised for her work via numerous awards and is currently an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow (ALTF), a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), and a Churchill Fellow (CF).

Professor Maria Raciti
Director, Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre
School of Business and Creative Industries

Professor Maria Raciti (Kalkadoon-Thaniquith/Bwgcolman) is a social marketer who uses marketing tools and techniques to bring about social justice and behaviour change. Professor Raciti is co-director of the Indigenous and Transcultural Research Centre, co-leader of the education and economies theme in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Indigenous Futures, a member of the executive of the Australian Association of Social Marketing, the 2018 Research Fellow with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education and was part of an Australian Government departmental task force assisting with the 2019 National Regional Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy. Maria is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK), a QUT Centre for Behavioural Economics, Society and Technology Fellow and a member of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education Grants and Fellowships Committee. Dr Raciti is regularly engaged as an expert advisor and has undertaken several large-scale research projects that have produced meaningful and impactful outcomes aligned with the United Nations SDG4 (Quality Education), SDG8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and SDG10 (Reduced Inequalities) and the National Closing the Gap Target 6 (Further Education) and Target 8 (Economic Participation).

Chris Ronan
CEO, Country Universities Centre (CUC)
National President, SPERA

Chris is the CEO of the Country Universities Centre (CUC) and National President of the Society for the Provision of Education in Rural Australia (SPERA). He has worked in the higher education and not-for-profit sectors across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia with a focus on Regional, Rural and Remote higher education policy, student equity, widening participation and rural student transitions.

He holds a master’s degree from the LH Martin Institute for Tertiary Education Leadership and Management at the University of Melbourne with a focus on Regional, Rural and Remote higher education policy and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD). Chris is also an Executive Member of Equity Practitioners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA).

Karen Seary
Associate Dean
Chair, NAEEA

Karen Seary is the Associate Dean, School of Access Education at CQUniversity. The School hosts CQUniversity’s Enabling course, the Skills for Tertiary Education Preparatory Studies (STEPS) and the academic learning support services offered to higher education and vocational education students by the Academic Learning Centre and the Language, Literacy and Numeracy Centre. Karen’s research interests centre on adult education, transformative learning and transition pedagogy.

Karen was recently recognised as a national champion for change by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) and Equity Partners in Higher Education Australasia (EPHEA), as part of the World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED). This award recognises and celebrates the life changing work of student equity practitioners across the world in supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds, into and through higher education. Karen is currently the Chair of the National Association of Enabling Educators Australia (NAEEA), an association of educators and practitioners established as a collective of like-minded professionals and institutions for the purpose of collaborating on issues of common interest and relevance to Enabling education.

Stephanie Taylor
Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association

Stephanie Taylor is the President of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association (ANZSSA) and has served on the ANZSSA Executive since 2019. Stephanie has worked in the tertiary sector for 17 years, most recently as the Executive Director, Student Life and Enrichment at the University of Tasmania with strategic responsibility for the provision of student experience and a wide range of services including counselling, wellbeing and safety, accessibility and disability, retention, learning and language, career development and employability, Indigenous and International student support, first year transition, engagement, sport and recreation and student living. Originally from Western Australia, Stephanie has worked across several industries including family and children crisis interventions and support services, health and disability, youth law and justice, and held executive and management roles in local government, not for profits, education and philanthropic organisations in Perth and Melbourne before settling in Hobart.

Dr Nadine Zacharias
Managing Director and Founder
Equity by Design

Dr Nadine Zacharias is the Managing Director and Founder of Equity by Design, a specialist consulting firm in student equity strategy, program evaluation, and inclusive service design. Nadine leads transformative work in higher education to achieve a more equitable and high-performing sector which can support an increasingly diverse student cohort and leverage the potential of individuals for the common good. Nadine has held senior management roles at Swinburne and Deakin Universities, led ground-breaking research projects and, with Dr Matt Brett and Prof Sally Kift, developed a proposed policy statement for Australian tertiary education in The Best Chance for All.