2018 Speakers

Lauren Parker

Lauren Parker is an accomplished swimmer, surf lifesaver and triathlete. In April 2017 Lauren was training for the Ironman Australia Triathlon when a freak accident occurred – both tyres on her bike blew. Lauren suffered horrific injuries. 

On April 7, 2018 – less than a year later, she did the unthinkable, winning a Commonwealth bronze medal in the women's para-triathlon on the Gold Coast.

Edward Geshke

Edward is an executive and a significant leader within the Australian automotive industry. He has worked with more than 16 automotive manufacturers in senior leadership roles leading automotive retail dealerships and dealer groups across Australia. 

Edward is currently the divisional head for the Newcastle & Hunter Valley Division of AP Eagers Ltd. the second largest automotive public company in Australia. His passion is organisational vision and strategy, leading and implementing change, family to public company business transition, people development and has a keen interest in digital technologies.

Richard Jones

For more than 21-years, the Chief Executive Officer of Westpac Rescure Helicopter Service, Richard Jones OAM has established himself as one of the most valued members of the Northern NSW community. Richard is highly regarded for his outstanding leadership and skills, helping make it possible to build the service into one of the most reputable and respected emergency service networks in Australia.

At the helm of Westpac Rescue Helicopter Services, Richard has overseen many significant changes that have included several major upgrades to helicopter technology, the establishment of a permanent base at Tamworth to compliment that at Newcastle and catastrophic damage to the Newcastle base during major storms in 2007.

Richard is one of the most recognised and respected citizens in the region. His equally sincere appreciation of a major financial corporate partnership and a small donation from a child is testimony to his understanding of the community in which he lives and works.

DARA's Van friends: Gary and Donna

DARA's Van provides hospitality and friendship to the marginalised in our community - the homeless, socially isolated, financially stressed and all who are vulnerable.

Two of our valued friends, Gary and Donna, from the Nelson Bay site will discuss the importance of DARA's Van and Orange Sky Laundry Services to the context of their lives. The friendship provided by volunteers has been an important anchor in their lives.


2017 Speakers

2017 Speakers

Elizabeth Proust AO 

Elizabeth Proust has held leadership roles in the private and public sectors in Australia for almost 30 years. She has worked in local, State and Federal Government, the oil industry and in banking. She has held senior positions in the Victorian Government and was CEO of the City Of Melbourne. 
Elizabeth is Chairman of Nestle (Australia), Chairman of Bank of Melbourne, and Chairman of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She is also Deputy Chairman of the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council. Elizabeth has a Law degree (University of Melbourne) and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from La Trobe University. 
She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2010 for distinguished service to public administration and to business, through leadership roles in government and private enterprise, as a mentor to women, and to the community through contributions to arts, charitable and educational bodies.

Nicholas Marchesi & Lucas Patchett, Co-founders of Orange Sky Laundry

In October 2014, two best mates had a crazy idea to put two washing machines and two dryers in the back of a van and wash and dry clothes for free. Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, the 2016 Young Australians of the Year, founded Orange Sky Laundry – a world-first, free mobile laundry service for the homeless. On a mission to improve hygiene standards, Nic and Lucas stumbled on something much bigger and more significant – the power of a conversation. Now facilitated by more than 700 volunteers across the country, Orange Sky Australia aims to positively connect the community.

 Tanya RussellTanya Russell

Tanya Russell is a registered psychologist with over 10 years’ experience and is also the manager of the Counselling and Clinical Services team of Access Newcastle and CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning. Tanya completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Newcastle and went on to obtain her Honours degree through the University of New England.



Peter LewisPeter Lewis

Peter will start the year with a visual comment. His work is widely known in the Newcastle area through his 30 year role as the Newcastle Herald’s editorial cartoonist.
Peter was educated in Newcastle and has held a variety of jobs during his career including pizza cook, taxi driver, labourer, commercial artist and support ballet dancer! He has won several awards for painting and cartooning, including 1st prize in the National Rotary Cartoon Awards in 1994 and 2002.

2016 Speakers

StudentsSenior Students, CSO
Accepting a New Reality – The Youth Perspective.

We don’t often get to hear the voice of our youth and they have an important insight. We invited four senior students to submit their views on our theme, Accepting a New Reality. Their speeches will be presented at the October Luncheon.



John ConnorJohn Connor
John has been CEO of the Climate Institute since 2007 and is a leading analyst and commentator on the rollercoaster that has been Australia's domestic and international carbon policy. John has also overseen the Institute's additional focus on institutional investors and climate risk.

LISTEN: Climate Institute CEO John Connor recently paid a visit to Newcastle to speak at the Assembly of Catholic Professionals luncheon. He spoke to Paul Turton beforehand on 1233ABC. 

David ManneDavid Manne

David is a human rights lawyer, and Director of the Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre (RILC).




Phil GlendenningPhil Glendenning 
Phil is the Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and current President of the Refugee Council of Australia.




Listen to May 2016 speakers, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre and President of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), Phil Glendenning, and human rights lawyer, David Manne, on 1233 ABC's morning program, 12 May.

John SandyJohn Sandy
John a local Newcastle refugee and Project Officer at CatholicCare Refugee Service.




Katherine McGrathKatherine McGrath
Former CEO, Hunter Area Health and Deputy Director, NSW Health

Katherine is a widely respected health care executive with more than 30 years experience in public and private health, in management, clinical and academic posts. Her roles have included Deputy Director General of NSW Health, Chief Executive Officer of Hunter Area Health Service, Professor of Pathology at the University of Newcastle, and Group Manager of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at Medibank Private. She was a foundation commissioner on the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare. Her current roles include Board Member of Little Company of Mary Healthcare, Chair of Breastscreen Victoria, and Chair of the Coronial Council of Victoria. Katherine originally trained as a doctor specialising in haematology.

2015 Speakers

David CroftsMr David Crofts
Principal, Strategy Hunter, providing consultancy for strategic urban planning and policy development

David spoke about the Diocese's important and very significant 150th anniversary year redevelopment project, the Restoration of St John's church, Maitland (our original Cathedral) and the adjoining Bishop's House.

David helped the Diocesan team share the details of this significant Diocesan project and outlined the broader and longer term vision for the redevelopment of the Cathedral Street Precinct in Maitland. This development is supported by Maitland Council and is being progressed in harmony with the Council's current CBD revitalisation program.

PaulMr Paul O'Rourke
CEO of Emily's Voice, a fledgling, culture-changing ministry educating about and advocating for the unborn

Paul eduated on Emily's Voice. Through its advertising and advocacy, Emily's Voice is trying to help Australians fall in love with the unborn and also to provide support for women and families dealing with unplanned or crisis pregnancy.

Paul a former newspaper editor and CEO of Compassion Australia, is married, lives at Lake Macquarie, and has 3 children and four grandchildren. Paul has authored five books, completed a Master's Degree in Child Development as well as achieving qualifications in theological studies.

Kevin BaileyMr Kevin Bailey
Retired businessman, philanthropist, mentor and passionate family man

Kevin is a man of energy and passion – energetic to be of service and make a difference and passionate about his family, his Faith (particularly Pope Francis' call to be "missionary disciples") and, therefore, helping others.
Kevin began his working life in the Army and SAS before moving into the field of finance.

Now in his 50's, the Melbourne based ex-financier, after building a successful business, Shadforth Financial Group, writing two books on money matters and finance, and advising radio listeners for over 12yrs, has embarked on a second career helping others to make their lives significant, not just successful. Kevin is a board member of a number of community based organisations as well as being a member of the Prime Ministers Community Business Partnership.