Keynote Speakers

Damon Gameau
Director, Writer, Producer, Presenter

Damon Gameau is an Australian actor and director.

Damon’s new film, 2040, is an innovative feature documentary that explores what the future would look like by the year 2040 if we embraced the best solutions already available to us to improve our planet. It was released in April 2019 and is already in the top 5 highest grossing documentaries of all time in Australia at the cinema.

As a director he wrote, directed and performed vocals for the 2011 winning Tropfest short film, ANIMAL BEATBOX, which has now played at over 25 festivals worldwide. He was also a finalist in 2010 with his film, ONE, which he co-directed with Gareth Davies. THAT SUGAR FILM was Damon’s first feature length film as a director and won Best Documentary at the Australian AACTA awards and was a hit at the Australian box office. THAT SUGAR BOOK is his first published book.

He has starred in several feature films, including Rolf De Heer’s critically acclaimed THE TRACKER, Darren Ashton’s THUNDERSTRUCK and RAZZLE DAZZLE, Robert Connolly’s BALIBO opposite Anthony La Paglia, PATRICK with Rachel Griffiths and Charles Dance and SAVE YOUR LEGS! with Stephen Curry and Brendan Cowell. Damon’s performance in BALIBO earned him and AFI Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. His television credits include UNDERBELLY, HOWZAT, LOVE MY WAY, PUBERTY BLUES, SECRETS AND LIES, GALLIPOLI andTHE KETTERING INCIDENT.

Dr Charles Hall

Professor and Ellison Chair International Floriculture, Texas A & M University

Dr. Charlie Hall received a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Tennessee in 1984, a Master's Degree in Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design from the University of Tennessee in 1986, and his Ph.D. from Mississippi State University. He began his academic career at Texas A&M University in 1988, where he spent 13 years on the faculty before joining the faculty at the University of Tennessee in 2002. In August 2007, Dr. Hall returned to Texas A&M University as Professor and Ellison Chair in International Floriculture. Dr. Hall's expertise is in the production and marketing of green industry crops is nationally recognised in academia and among the horticultural clientele he serves.

Dr. Hall currently serves as the Chief Economist for AmericanHort and Co-Chair of the Advisory Council of Seed Your Future. He is former President and Past-President of the board of directors for America in Bloom. He received the Paul Ecke, Jr. award from the Society of American Florists for professional contributions to the floral industry and the Porter Henegar Memorial Award from the Southern Nursery Association for significant contributions to ornamental horticulture research and to the Southern Nursery Association. He is an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association and has received TNLA’s Staff Award for Outstanding Service to the Industry.

Lyn O’Connell
Deputy Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Water & Environment

Lyn O’Connell started as Deputy Secretary in the Department of Agriculture in October 2015 where she is responsible for Australia’s biosecurity system and chairs the National Biosecurity Committee.

Lyn was previously a Deputy Secretary at the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, a position she held for seven years.

Lyn has held a number of senior executive positions in government portfolios and the private sector and holds a number of non-executive directorships.

Lyn has a Bachelor of Science degree (ANU); she is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.She was awarded a Public Service Medal in 2014.

Ben Peacock
Founder, Republic of Everyone

Ben has had the pleasure of working with the nursery industry since 2013, over which time his plant life balance has improved considerably.

Ben and his team of amazing all-stars designs and delivers the nursery levy funded, Greener Spaces Better Places program, formerly known as 202020 Vision as well as other award winning programs that make community, health and environment something that everyone wants to get involved in.

Matt Brand
CEO, Hort Innovation

Matt joined Hort Innovation as CEO in September 2018. He is driven by his passion to achieve the very best for Australia’s horticulture growers and the sector as a whole.

Prior to joining Hort Innovation, Matt was CEO of NSW Farmers – Australia’s largest state farmer organisation. He held this position for nearly eight years, before which he was General Manager of Strategy and Marketing and Head of Corporate Partnerships, Marketing and Licensing at Australian Rugby Union.

Matt has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Systems) Agriculture from Hawkesbury Agricultural College and a Master’s in Business (Marketing) from Monash University.

In his spare time, Matt enjoys spending time with his family chasing waves along Sydney’s beaches.

Gihan Perera
Futurist, Author, Consultant

Gihan Perera is a futurist, author and consultant who gives you a glimpse into what’s ahead – and how you can become fit for the future, in your professional and personal life.

Since 1997, he has worked with business leaders, thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and other change agents – helping them with their strategy for thriving in a fast-changing world. He has clients throughout Australia, as well as in New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Singapore, the USA and Canada.

He is the author of “The Future of Leadership”, “Disruption By Design”, and 10 other books.

His formal background is in science and technology, with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Western Australia. But he’s always been interested in people and the way they communicate.

Dr Craig Challen
2019 Joint Australian of the Year, Veterinary Surgeon, Cave Diver

Craig Challen is an Australian cave explorer and member of the Wet Mules diving group.

After commencing cave diving in the 1990s he was an early adopter of closed-circuit mixed gas rebreathers. Notable explorations include the extension of Cocklebiddy Cave on the Nullarbor Plain of Australia in 2008 and the Pearse Resurgence in New Zealand over the last 10 years. He has additionally explored caves throughout Australia and New Zealand and in China, Thailand, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands. Craig also has an avid interest in shipwreck diving and has explored sites over the last 15 years in the South China Sea, Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

A veterinary surgeon by profession, he founded the Vetwest (later Australian Animal Hospitals) group of veterinary practices in 1993 and ran it until selling his interest and retiring in 2017. Craig is also an enthusiastic helicopter and aeroplane pilot.

In July 2018 Craig participated in the Tham Luang cave rescue of 13 people in Thailand. He has been named as the 2019 Australian of the Year for Western Australia and the joint 2019 Australian of the Year with his dive partner Richard Harris.