Keynote Speakers

Keynotes 2017


Dr Peggy Brown

CEO, National Mental Health Commission

Dr Peggy Brown commenced as Chief Executive Officer of the National Mental Health Commission in October 2016.

Involved in mental health leadership and advocacy roles for 30 years, Peggy has a deep understanding of the many challenges of meeting the social and health needs of people with mental health and substance use issues.

“While I have seen many improvements in service delivery over the years – including reorientation to community based care, an emphasis on human rights and increasing focus on consumer and carer participation as well as recovery based approaches – much remains to be done.

“I see my work at the Commission as a vital opportunity to continue to advocate for improvements in service delivery and for the other supports necessary to enable people living with mental illness to lead contributing lives in socially and economically thriving communities,” she says.

Prior to her appointment with the Commission, Peggy was Chief Psychiatrist with the Northern Territory Department of Health. In addition to multiple roles with professional bodies such as the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, she has held executive level positions in the public service for more than 20 years, including a five year term as the Director-General of ACT Health.

Peggy is also a past chair of the Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council, AHMAC, and has previously been a board member of Health Workforce Australia and a board director of the National E-Health Transition Authority, NEHTA.

While CEO, she will continue to work part time as a psychiatrist and serve on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee and the Agency Management Committee of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, AHPRA.

Professor James Bennett-Levy

Professor of Mental Health and Psychological Wellbeing, University Centre for Rural Health (North Coast), University of Sydney

Since 2008, James has been rural Mental Health Academic at the Sydney University’s University Centre for Rural Health based in Lismore. The poor access to mental health services for rural and remote communities, and the need for accessible services sparked James’ interest in low intensity interventions. This took him on a pathway leading to publication of the key textbook in the area, the Oxford Guide to Low Intensity CBT Interventions (Bennett-Levy et al., 2010), pilot low intensity projects with beyondblue (2009-2012), positions on various government and health service advisory committees, and active involvement (2013-present) with the Mindspot Clinic and the Federal Government’s e-Mental Health in Practice initiative.  James’ keynote focuses on the history, development, successes and concerns with the rollout of low intensity interventions in Australia.

In other contexts, James leads national and international workshops in CBT and compassion focused therapy (see, and is a highly published researcher on therapist training. He has also co-written 3 other widely cited books for therapists: Experiencing CBT from the Inside Out: A Self-Practice/Self-Reflection Workbook for Therapists (2015), the Oxford Guide to Imagery in Cognitive Therapy (2011)  and the Oxford Guide to Behavioural Experiments in Cognitive Therapy (2004). His new book, Experiencing Compassion-Focused Therapy from the Inside Out will be published in 2018. ​

Professor Mark Dadds

Professor of Clinical Psychology, The University of Sydney & Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

Mark Dadds is a Principal Research Fellow of the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, and Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney Australia. He is Director of the Child Behaviour Research Clinic which develops state-of-the-art treatments for children and adolescents with behavioural and emotional problems, and has developed and directed several national intervention programs for children, youth, and their families, at risk for mental health problems. He has been National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy, Director of Research for the Abused Child Trust of Queensland, Professor of Parenting Research at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London and a recipient of several awards including an Early Career Award from the Division of Scientific Affairs of the Australian Psychological Society, the Ian Matthew Campbell Award for Excellence in Clinical Psychology, and Distinguished Career Award of the Australian Association of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapy. He has authored 4 books and over 240 papers on child and family psychology, and has given invited keynote addresses to international audiences throughout the world. He also practices as a clinical child psychologist and his treatment methods were the subject of the 2014 ABC TV documentary Kids on Speed? for which he was awarded the Inaugural APS Award for Media Engagement with Science.

Ms Georgie Harman

CEO, beyondblue

Ms Harman was appointed as the CEO of beyondblue in May 2014. She has significant and broad-ranging policy and service delivery experience in the community, public and private sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom.

From 2006-2012, Ms Harman worked at the Commonwealth Department of Health where she had national responsibility for Australian mental health, suicide prevention and substance misuse policy and programs, including those targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  She was one of the architects of the 2011 cross-portfolio National Mental Health Reform Budget package.  At the same time, she was responsible for the early strategy and development of legislation to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia – a world first.

Ms Harman has also worked in the community sector and in private enterprise. She came to Australia in 1999 to be the inaugural Executive Director for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation in Sydney – Australia’s first and largest independent HIV/AIDS charity. She has also worked extensively overseas, particularly in non-government organisations in London.

Dr Sue Hodgkin

Senior Research Fellow, John Richards Initiative, Australian Institute for Primary Care & Ageing, La Trobe University

Suzanne Hodgkin is a Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the John Richard’s Initiative: Research into Ageing in Rural Communities. Prior to working as an academic, she was a senior manager in the Department of Human Services, Hume Region.  Suzanne graduated with a PhD in 2006. Her principal research interests lie in the area of Health and Aged Care Workforce, Aged Care and Ageing in Place. The common theme is the provision of services and supports to older people living in rural communities. Suzanne, considered an expert in mixed methods research, has had her research design work published in the Journal of Mixed Method Research and in mixed methods research texts. She has published her work in several international and national   journals. She has also disseminated findings from her research to international and national conferences. At this conference she is presenting findings from an ARC Linkages Project that explores the relationship between rural living and wellness for older people.

Mr Frank Quinlan

CEO, Mental Health Australia

Frank Quinlan is the CEO of Mental Health Australia, the peak body representing mental health organisations in Australia. Frank is responsible for implementing Mental Health Australia’s vision of “better mental health for all Australians”.

Frank has a long history of working in the not-for-profit sector, having previously worked at Grassmere Youth Services, Tranmere Street Youth Refuge and the Australian Drug Foundation. He has also held senior positions with the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, the Australian Medical Association and Catholic Social Services Australia.

Frank has represented the interests of both his members and the sector on numerous government consultative panels and committees, including appointment to the Australian National Alcohol and Drug Advisory Committee.

Frank completed tertiary studies at both Monash University and Melbourne University and has previously been a guest lecturer in public policy programs at the Australian National University.

Dr Russell Roberts

Associate Professor in Leadership and Management, Charles Sturt University and Symposium Chair

Dr Russell Roberts is Associate Professor of Leadership at Charles Sturt University, Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Sydney, Department of Rural Health and the Director of Mental Health Consulting Australia. Living in Orange, NSW has previously served as Director of Mental Health in Western NSW (encompassing an area of over 550,000 square kilometres with over 1,000 staff), on the NSW Mental Health Commission Advisory Council, as Director of Clinical Training at Griffith University, Queensland, as Head of School Health at Flinders University and as a Clinical Psychologist in rural South Australia. He has an Executive Masters of Public Administration, a PhD in research and a Masters of Clinical Psychology. He is a board member of the Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association, the Chair of the National Alliance for Rural and Remote Mental Health and incoming Editor in Chief of the Australian Journal of Rural Health. His current research interests are mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, models of primary mental health care, integration and leadership.

Between 2005 and 2012 he led the commissioning of $71 million of mental health capital development, including the workforce planning, recruitment and training of over 400 health staff in rural NSW. He has also led the development of a number of innovative, award winning initiatives such as the Mental Health Emergency Care Rural Access Program, the Mental Health Rural Outreach Service, and the Aboriginal Workforce Development Program. At the national level, Russell has conducted projects for the National Mental Health Commission and the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Primary Health Network Panel

Mr James Lamerton


CEO, Murrumbidgee PHN

James Lamerton joined the Murrumbidgee PHN team in March 2016, coming from Ngaanyatjarra Health Service, the most remote Aboriginal health service in the country, where he was the CEO, responsible for all primary health services to 12 communities in the Gibson and Great Victoria Desert regions of Western Australia.

James has a long history of successful leadership of Aboriginal health organisations and mainstream health organisations across the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland and has also undertaken extended study tours of the New Zealand and English primary health systems.

James has also conducted evaluations of health programs for the school of public health, Flinders University, from which he holds post-graduate qualifications in public health: his research interests lie in social systems and the social determinants of health.

Mr Stuart Gordon

CEO, Western Queensland PHN
BSC Land Science (UC), MPH (USYD), Grad Dip Bus Mgmt (UNE), FACHSM, MAICD, MPHAA

Stuart is currently the CEO of the Western Queensland Primary Health Network and was also a member of the consortia which was awarded the Western NSW PHN.  Previously he was CEO of the Far West Medicare Local, having successfully lead the formation of this new organisation. In previous roles he has been CEO of the NSW Outback Division of General Practice (2005 – 2012), COO and CEO Aga Khan Health Services Tanzania (2003 – 2004), General Manager Far West Area Health Service (1996 – 2003) and Regional Manager of the Murdi Paaki Region Aboriginal Council (ATSIC 1993 – 1996).  He has also held other senior appointments in the Qld Agricultural sector (1990- 1993).

Stuart is the nominated QPHN representative on the Queensland Aboriginal health Partnership and a strong advocate for improving engagement and innovation within the PHN – ACCHO sector. He has served on a number of Commonwealth and NSW Ministerial Advisory Committee’s including the Health services for small country towns which presided over the establishment of 38 MPS facilities throughout rural NSW and more recently on the DoHA Establishing effective collaboration across local health economies supported by the McKinsey Group.

Stuart was a member of the Western NSW Integrated Care Demonstration site and served for a number of years on the LHD sponsored governance where he contributed to the design and implementation of the WNSWLHD Integrated Care Strategy. He has been responsible for the development and delivery of a large number of capital works projects, delivery of innovative programs in Aboriginal health, allied health clinical workforce development, and the delivery of community development initiatives targeting social reforms and improved social determinants of health in remote communities.

Stuart is also an active Director on the NSW Outback Division of General Practice where he has been working to create more robust workforce solutions and better position rural and remote practices to diversify current business models, capability and multi-disciplinary team based approaches through collaboration and innovation with Government and nongovernment sectors.

Married with 3 teenage children and portrayed as having a long love affair with rural and remote communities, Stuart is currently living in Queensland and working across the WQ catchment He is part of a third generation farming family with his home a small vineyard on the banks of the Darling River in Bourke.

Mr Matt Jones

CEO, Murray PHN

Matt Jones has a long and extensive health management career in primary health care, acute public health and Aboriginal health settings in Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia. These experiences have shown Matt that the opportunities to improve health for patients in regional areas lies in collaboration and effective community and provider engagement. Matt Jones is the CEO of Murray PHN. Previously Matt was the CEO of Loddon Mallee Murray Medical Local and two Divisions of General Practice.

Dr Vahid Saberi

CEO, North Coast PHN
Adjunct Professor, School of Health & Human Science, Southern Cross University & Senior Research Fellow, Sydney University

Prior to his current role (since 2012), Vahid worked in NSW Health senior positions for 19 years.  Vahid has managed a wide range of services from acute specialist hospitals, to all aspects of primary and community health care. Vahid has a long career in Strategic Development, Planning and Population Health and Capital Infrastructure (building of hospitals, community health centers and other facilities). Vahid is extensively involved in research and his postgraduate qualifications include: Doctorate in Business Administration; Master of Business Administration; and Master of Public Health.

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