Speakers and Presenters


WEB-Hugh MackayHugh Mackay

Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and author. His 18 books include the 2013 bestseller, The Good Life. His most recent book is Selling the Dream, a satirical novel.

Hugh has had a 60-year career in social research, and was also a weekly newspaper columnist for over 25 years. He is currently a patron of the Asylum Seekers Centre and an honorary professor at the University of Wollongong. Among other honorary appointments, he has been deputy chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts, chairman of trustees of Sydney Grammar School, and the inaugural chairman of the ACT Government’s Community Inclusion Board.

In recognition of his pioneering work in social research, Hugh has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and awarded honorary doctorates by Charles Sturt, Macquarie, NSW, Western Sydney and Wollongong universities. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015.

Verity Firth

WEB-Verity Firth

Verity Firth is the Executive Director, Social Justice at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has over ten years’ experience at the highest levels of government and the not-for-profit sector in Australia. Over the last eight years, she has been working in the Australian education sector, first as Minister for Education and Training in New South Wales (2008-2011) and then as the Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation.

As Minister for Education and Training she focussed on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage in low socio-economic communities, including rural and remote Indigenous communities. As NSW Minister for Women (2007-2009) she implemented sector wide strategies to improve women’s recruitment, development and employment in the NSW public sector.

As Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation (2011-2014), she led the Foundation’s transformation from a fledgling organisation into a major provider of scholarships and support to public education. She also helped the sector negotiate $5 million in seed funding for a new charity for disadvantaged schools. She was the Member for the state seat of Balmain from 2007 - 2011. Before her parliamentary career, she worked as a lawyer and was Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney.

Tanya Hosch
WEB-Tanya Hosch

Tanya Hosch is the General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy at the AFL. Tanya has a long and distinguished history in Indigenous policy, advocacy, governance and fundraising. Before joining the AFL as the first ever Indigenous person and second woman in their Executive ranks in August this year, Tanya was the Joint Campaign director of the Recognise movement for constitutional reform. At the AFL Tanya is tasked with the implementation of the AFL’s enhanced Indigenous strategy, advising the AFL Indigenous Advisory Council, reviewing the Respect and Responsibility Policy and implementing the AFL’s Gender Action Plan.

Tanya was recently appointed to the Indigenous Advisory Group of the NAB and is a Board Director of the Indigenous Land Corporation, the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute and a member of the Referendum Council. In addition, Tanya is the Independent Chair of Price Waterhouse Coopers Indigenous Consulting.

Mark Nixon

WEB-Mark Nixon

Mark Nixon is a Partner at Ernst and Young with advisory practices and is the Human Services Leader for Oceania. He has been consulting to the sector for 15 years. Mark has provided advice to both Commonwealth and State governments on Disability, Foster Care, Aged Care and Social Housing Services. 

He is a specialist in public sector reforms encompassing policy analysis, market stewardship, procurement, evaluation, performance improvement, corporate governance, pricing strategies, and risk management.

Mark has been an Assistant Secretary (SES) within the Australian Commonwealth Government. His passion for the Human Services comes from his early life experiences as a NSW Police Officer. He has over 30 years of Public Sector experience.

Nick Ryan

WEB-Nick Ryan

Nick Ryan is the CEO of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency. Appointed in April 2014, he is responsible for accreditation and quality in Commonwealth funded residential and home care as well as industry education.

He was the CEO (2010-2013) of Aged Care Queensland (later LASA). From 1998 to 2010 he was a senior executive in a range of Queensland Government agencies including the Department of the Premier and Cabinet responsible for regional engagement and coordination. Whilst in the Department of Communities he served in a range of roles including General Manager Children and Families and Regional Executive Director Gold Coast overseeing human services including child protection and child care regulation.

He has sat on a number of governance bodies including the Brisbane Catholic Education Council (2002-2005), the Council of the Institute of Public Administration Qld (2003-2005) and the Board of the Leukaemia Foundation of Queensland (2010-2012). He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and a Board Member of the Australian Children’s Education and Care Quality Authority (ACECQA).

Karin Sowada

Dr Karin Sowada 2016

Karin Sowada has a background in politics, public policy, Christian ministry and academia. In addition to serving in other church roles for many years, she is currently Chair of the Social Issues Committee of the Anglican Church Sydney Diocese. Karin is also a Director of national Christian charity Mission Australia (since 2008) and Chair of the Australian Racing Christian Chaplaincy, which serves the needs of people working in the horse racing industry. In June 2017, she was made an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at Macquarie University.

Previously she was inaugural CEO of Anglican Deaconess Ministries, Assistant Curator of Sydney University’s Nicholson Museum, and in the early 1990s served as a Senator for NSW in the Commonwealth Parliament, at the time the youngest woman to do so.
Karin worships at St Mark’s Anglican Church Darling Point with her husband of 26 years and two children. She can be often found in the waters of Bondi Beach sitting on a surfboard.

Dr Karin Sowada will present the John Roffey Lecture.