Program Committee

Mr Christopher Austin, Director, Chatham Inquiries & Investigations

With over 20 years of experience in corporate management and having built and managed his own business enterprises, Chris has developed a broad range of skills and experience. He has had extensive experience in management, sales, and marketing roles primarily within manufacturing and distribution organisations within the Building and Construction Industry.

In recent years, Chris has provided Management Consultancy services specialising in strategic planning, emergency and disaster management planning, investigations and inquiries and process improvement. He is a member of a number of Boards including Crime Stopper Queensland and the Veterans Review Board and is the Vice Chair of the Queensland Advisory Committee for the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary. Chris is a serving officer in the Army Reserve holding the rank of Colonel and is now posted as Deputy Commander of the 11th Brigade – Queensland’s Army Reserve brigade. Chris has represented the ADF on  Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief working groups and exercises throughout Asia over the past four years. He has operational service in East Timor, the Middle East and the Queensland Flood Recovery. Chris is an Honorary Aide de Camp to the Governor General of Australia.

Chris provides his experience as an Independent Company director specialising in SME’s in the private sector.

Ms Kate Fitzgerald, Director Relief and Recovery, Emergency Management Victoria

Kate Fitzgerald is the Director Relief and Recovery within Emergency Management Victoria (EMV). Kate is responsible for leading the Relief and Recovery Directorate to develop and deliver relief and recovery reform across the sector through the Resilient Recovery Strategy and to lead relief and recovery emergency coordination across Government.

Kate was previously a Director of the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre and Relief and Recovery Directorate in Emergency Management Australia. Volunteering has been a critical part of Kate’s career over the last fifteen years including with the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service and Australian Red Cross, including operational deployments in the Blue Mountains and Canberra Bushfires, Queensland Floods, Cyclone Yasi and Hurricane Sandy.

Kate holds a Masters and Bachelor Degree in Emergency Management from Charles Sturt University and has studied as an International Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.



Associate Professor Brett Aimers, James Cook University. Director, Australian Institute of Emergency Services

Brett is an Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University where he provides expert advice and Masters level education on disaster and emergency management systems and concepts. Brett holds other adjunct appointments including with the Torrens Resilience Institute where he has a role in promoting the importance of disaster resilient communities.

Through James Cook University, Brett was recently involved in a multi-national project, led by the World Health Organisation, exploring global best practice associated with operating public health Emergency Operations Centres.

He has an extensive disaster management background coupled with experience at the State and National level which includes performing senior operational roles during the Victorian heatwave emergency, the H1N1 pandemic and the 2011 Queensland floods. Brett also performed a significant role throughout the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires in Australia and was awarded the National Emergency Medal for his efforts in helping to lead the whole-of-health response.

Professor Aimers is the immediate past Chief Professional Officer for St John Ambulance Australia which has a collective membership and workforce of more than 14,000 people nationally.  Whilst in this significant national leadership role for three years he was responsible for patient safety, clinical governance and the provision of influential and expert advice in relation to disaster management and training and development.

From 2013 to 2015 he was an Assistant Director with Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department with responsibility for the development of sophisticated disaster management educational and exercising programs and the provision of complex and novel advice associated with the redesign of the Australian Emergency Management Institute.

Brett is also a National Director for the Australian Institute of Emergency Services.

Former Senior Sergeant Steve Jenkins, National President, Australian Institute of Emergency Services (AIES), Councillor, Bellingen Shire Council

Steve Jenkins is the National President of The Australian Institute of Emergency Services (AIES) having formerly held the positions of President and Vice-President of the Queensland Division and is the Institute’s representative on the Australian Emergency Management Volunteers Forum facilitated by the Commonwealth Government’s Attorney-General’s Department.  Steve is a volunteer fire-fighter with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (Megan Brigade).  In September 2016, he was elected as a Councillor on the Bellingen Shire Council in New South Wales and is now Chair of the Dorrigo Saleyard Committee and the Council’s Councillor representative on the Mid North Coast Bush Fire Management Committee.

Steve recently retired from the Queensland Police Service (QPS) following a distinguished 34 year 5 month career.  During his career he served in numerous locations throughout Queensland including: Brisbane and suburban areas; Ipswich; Townsville: Cairns; Cooktown; and Mt Isa where he spent a substantial period of time in remote areas, particularly around the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Indigenous communities of Doomadgee and Mornington Island.  Steve experienced many facets of policing including: general duties; criminal investigations, he received appointment as a Detective; forensic crash investigations (advanced level); education and training; complaint investigations and disciplinary hearings; police communications centre operations and management; search and rescue mission coordination; project and program management (information and communications technology in particular); and extensive managerial experience which he gained as the officer-in-charge of varying sized stations and sections including a district police communications centre, 24-hour district headquarters station, and a 24-hour watchhouse. He also relieved at commissioned rank as a district inspector, district audit inspector, and regional professional practices manager.

Mr Martin Boyle, Planning, Projects and Risk Manager, Australian Antarctic Division

Martin Boyle manages risk and coordinates crisis management for the Australian Antarctic Division where he has worked for the past 10 years. He has been south on many occasions in various leadership and management positions on Antarctic stations, in the field, and on ice breaking vessels. He has been involved in many challenging and remote search and rescue operations during this time.

Martin has more than twenty years of experience across the emergency management industry in both private and public sector as a consultant, emergency services manager, search and rescue operator, and international delegate. He has previously worked for Australian Customs and Border Protection and the Tasmania State Emergency Service where in 2006 he was involved in the Beaconsfield mine disaster.
He was awarded a Certificate of High Commendation for Search & Rescue operations in 2002, and more recently the Bravo Zulu award in 2015 from the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Martin is an internationally recognised Certified Emergency Manager, Certified Practicing Project Manager, holds a Masters in Emergency Management, Advanced Diploma in Public Safety, and Diploma of the Business Continuity Institute.

Martin is also the Chair of the Australian New Zealand Search and Rescue conference, a member of the Australian Tsunami Advisory Group (ATAG), a member of the Editorial Advisory Panel, and Search and Rescue blog Editor for Crisis Response Journal.

Associate Professor Akhilesh Surjan, Theme Leader – Humanitarian Emergency & Disaster Management Studies, Charles Darwin University

Akhilesh Surjan is an Associate Professor / Research & Theme Leader of Humanitarian, Emergency and Disaster Management Studies at the Charles Darwin University. He has successfully engaged with issues of climate and disaster risk reduction and urban sustainability for about two decades.

Akhilesh has served as a Lead Author for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has also served as Contributing Author for the UN’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction published in May 2011. He has successfully worked in the United Nations, academic, non-governmental and government institutions in Asia-Pacific region.

He lived in Japan for 10 years and worked with the United Nations University (Tokyo) and Kyoto University, where his contributions were directed towards postgraduate teaching and research, capacity building and productively collaborating and networking with multi-tiered stakeholders. He is also a trained architect-planner – an interest zone that keeps him enthused when free.







Dr John Bates, Research Director, Bushfire & Natural Disaster CRC

Dr Bates joined the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC as Research Director In 2017, where he Is responsible for managing the CRC’s research and utilisation program. Prior to joining the CRC, he was the founding Director of the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience.

Dr Bates has formal qualifications in health and life sciences from the University of Melbourne and has worked extensively in the development, translation and commercialisation of research in industry, and in the research sector. He has significant experience in the development and delivery of undergraduate and graduate education in Australia and overseas and has taught at universities in Australia and Asia.

John has worked in complex environments in areas including defence, public health, animal health, transport, higher education and food.

John is an active volunteer in the Victorian State Emergency Service and Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.

Graham M Sunderland QPM, MA, Grad. Dipl. (Cambs), Grad. Cert. (Dundee), BA (Hons), Coordinator for Professional Development & International Police Training/ Senior Lecturer, Australian Graduate School of Policing & Security, Charles Sturt University. Program Director for Mid-Career Training for Senior Police Officers with the Indian Police Service.

Specialising in Leadership & Command for Emergency Management, Disaster Victim Identification and Major Investigations, both operationally and training, Graham is currently the coordinator for post-graduate qualifications in operational command and multi-agency investigations with Charles Sturt University.

He was a police officer for over 30 years and a former Assistant Chief & Acting Deputy Chief Constable in Cumbria, UK (AC-Crime & Ops). He has chaired numerous UK emergency management committees such as Regional (NW) Emergency & Operational Planning, Resilience Forums and the Nuclear Emergency Planning & Resilience Committee.

Prior to that he was a Divisional Commander and a Senior Investigating Officer in West Yorkshire Police, one of UK’s largest police forces. He led various Process Improvement Projects including crime investigation and intelligence and headed many high profile homicide and other major investigations.

Graham was the Lead for Public Protection and an International Hostage Negotiator Co-ordinator, working in Sierra Leone during the civil war alongside the British High Commission, United Nations and Special Forces. Graham has attended the Crisis Negotiation Course at the FBI College in Quantico, USA and was the Vice Chair of the National Negotiator Committee.

Graham was the Strategic Commander of widespread floods in Cumbria, UK in 2005. He was also the Director and author of one of the largest counter terrorist exercises ever held in the UK with over 3000 players.

In 2009 Graham was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal and received the National Emergency Planning Society award for ‘the greatest contribution to the development of an emergency response capability within the Resilience Capabilities Programme’.