2019 Conference Speakers & Panellists:


Alexandra Ash

Chief Executive Officer, Western Leisure Services

Panel Discussion: Top three priorities identified by the audience on what should the focus be and what peak bodies should prioritise over the next 12 months to support the industry as it evolves its focus.

Alexandra Ash, General Manager Kingswim, a National private learn to swim business owned by YMCA Victoria teaching over 25,000 children yearly how to be safe in and around water.

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Prior to this role, Alex has worked with YMCA Victoria for almost 10 years most recently a General Manager in local government recreation working with Victoria’s largest councils.

As a Graduate of Australia Institute of Company Directors, Alex is the first female Chair of Disability Sport and Recreation, a customer centred movement in Victoria amplifying the voice of those with a disability for better choice, better access and better participation in sport and recreation.

DSR fundraises almost $1M each year through donation and grants to activate opportunities for those with a disability to live a healthy and enriched life. Alex was also recently elected onto the Gymnastics Victoria Board of Directors and is completing Leadership Victoria’s prestigious Williamson Community Leadership Program 2019.

Alison Dixon

Chief Executive Officer, Western Leisure Services

Panel Discussion: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community

With extensive leadership and management experience gained in both the public and private sectors, Alison was a founding member of the Western Leisure Services (WLS) team.

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Prior to joining WLS in 2014 as General Manager Corporate Services, Alison held management positions with Wyndham City Council, Lion Nathan, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals and Orica. She holds post-graduate qualifications in HR/IR and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Beau Newell

National Program Manager, Pride in Sport Australia

Panel Discussion: Top three issues identified by the audience

Beau Newell is the National Program Manager of Pride in Sport Australia, an Australian first sporting inclusion program specifically designed to assist sporting organisations (national, state, regional, elite, academies, foundations, and clubs) with the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) employees, players, volunteers and spectators.

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In a world first, the Pride in Sport Index (PSI) is the first and only benchmarking instrument specifically designed to assess the inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI) people within Australian sport and sporting organisations. Participating in the index allows Australian sporting organisations to not only assess their own practice, but determine that which constitutes good practice, along with the ability to benchmark their own initiatives against an external measure and other sporting organisations.

Beau’s involvement in sport began at a young age as a player, referee, coach, selector and administrator of several sporting codes. He currently holds several positions in the sporting industry including Chairman/Director of a Regional Sporting Organisation, Life Membership of several associations and a consultant for volunteer management. In 2011, Beau founded NSW Sport & Event Management which has since grown into a powerhouse for business operational support of community sporting clubs across NSW. Having previously worked for a State Sporting Organisation and an Advisory Group member for an NSO, his knowledge and understanding of the sporting landscape is extensive. In the years leading into the Marriage Equality debate, Beau and his Partner pioneered LGBTI+ rights advocacy in regional and rural NSW becoming the spokesperson for many outspoken LGBTI+ individuals in country Australia which led to Beau being nationally recognised for his contribution for his LGBTI advocacy at the Australian Honour Awards.

Brett Diprose

Senior AssociateWarren and Mahoney

Presentation Title: Blue sky vision from Australia on what will the next generation of facilities look like for local communities 

Brett has more than 20 years of experience in the development and delivery of Sports Facilities in Australia and New Zealand covering major arena in Melbourne’s famous Olympic Park Precinct, Commonwealth Games and World Swimming Championship Venues through to Regional Sports Facilities and community sport infrastructure.  

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He places emphasis on building strong client relationships at project inception and delivering high quality design outcomes through constant improvement and innovation at all phases of a project.

He is a Senior Associate with Warren and Mahoney and an integral part of establishing and building the Warren and Mahoney brand in Australasia through the development of the Sports Sector.

His previous experience at Peddle Thorp Architects in Melbourne, international exposure to emerging trends and industry contacts gives him a unique perspective into the Australian and New Zealand markets and the possibilities that future holds in terms of design outcomes, changing community expectations around health and wellbeing, government ambitions to develop healthier communities and construction industry procurement strategies and building methodologies.

The future of sport, recreation, health and wellbeing in our region is complex but with a listening ear, a responsive attitude and sound design leadership and guidance, Brett is well positioned to contribute meaningfully to the future of our industry and facilities.

Damian Gorman

General Manager Business Development, Belgravia Leisure

Panel Discussion: Panel Discussion: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community.

Damian’s feasibility and business planning experience from the public health sector, coupled with his business development expertise at Belgravia Leisure, is used to strengthen the connection between primary health providers, local governments and our recreational centres to deliver better health outcomes for local communities.

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Damian’s almost 30-year career includes a former role as Director of Barwon Health and six years’ experience in facility design and master planning.

He is currently a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Dan Kwaczynski


Panel Discussion: Top three issues identified by the audience

Dan Kwaczynski is currently President of ALFAQ, ALFA national board member and Managing Director of Maytronics Australia, Asia, Africa (Robot cleaner and drowning detection manufacturer).

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After completing honours degree in Engineering and Business degree, Dan’s career has taken him to the UK, France, Poland, and throughout Australia, Asia and Africa.

Dan has focused on the Pool industry for the last 14 years – firstly as General Manager of Poolrite Equipment and now in his current role.

In the last 5 years Dan has also represented Australia on ISO 20380 development and on CS34 Australian pool fencing standards. 

Dave Stewart

Manager Sport and Recreation, Auckland Council

Presentation Title: Planning for Future Generations – A whole of government approach exploring how all can work together to develop recreation and leisure facilities to achieve a holistic lifestyle improvement for the community.

David Cashmere

Senior Recreation Contract Manager, Boroondara City Council

Presentation Title: Major redevelopments – By 2022, Boroondara will have invested $110 million on its centres in just 10 years. What can go wrong?

 David Cashmere’s passion and experience in managing diverse community and recreation portfolios has been exemplified over 25 years through his work with a range of organisations across the public and private sector.

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David was previously a successful Business Services Manager in the not-for-profit sector and has extensive experience in the disability and social justice arenas. He has also managed the delivery of diverse commercial recreation programs, services and facilities to the international community in Japan.

As the Senior Recreation Contract Manager with the City of Boroondara, David has the responsibility for planning, managing, developing and promoting leisure facilities and services to the community. Over the past 10 years David has been integral to the successful delivery of the council’s four major aquatic and recreation centre redevelopments.

David Sheils

Manager Parks and RecreationHornsby Shire Council

Presentation Title: What is the contemporary role of local government? The provision of community facilities for the future around health, community wellbeing
/ development, active recreation and sport.

Jim Corbett

Managing Director, Sport and Leisure Solutions

Presentation Title: Overview of models and options in the Australian market.

Jim has in excess of 20 years experience in the aquatic and leisure industry spending the last ten years specialising and aquatic and leisure consulting.

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Jim’s strength is in his understanding of day-to-day operations and his ability to incorporate his practical knowledge into high level strategic plans.

While he focuses on a range of strategic project for Councils and Universities he is still also very much involved in the centre environment through management mentoring projects that have a specific focus on business and operational improvements.

In addition to his consulting experience, Jim has extensive experience as a facility manager with previous roles including the following:

General Manager, Macquarie University Sport and Aquatic Centre

  • Manager, Yarra Leisure Services.
  • Manager Sport and Recreation Programs and Facilities, VRI Incorporated.

Professional qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science, RMIT.
  • Graduate Diploma in Sports and Recreation Management, Victoria University.

Jane Lewis

Acting Group Director – Finance, Corporate & Community Services, Shoalhaven City Council

Panel Discussion: Top three issues identified by the audience.

Jane Lewis has extensive local government leadership experience in the planning, delivery and management of aquatic, recreation, cultural and community facilities and services in both the UK and Australia.

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Jane has been instrumental in the development of new and improved facilities to meet community needs in the Shoalhaven City Council LGA, located on the South Coast of regional NSW. Key to this has been forming strong, effective and enduring partnerships with a range of stakeholders and the community.

Jane is excited about the shift from traditional swimming and recreational facilities to embracing the concepts of health and wellness as part of the local government agenda.  Gone are the days of ‘build it and they will come’, recognising that we need to be listening to our communities, understanding their current and future needs, and tailoring our investment in facilities, services and programs to provide a wholistic approach to our community’s overall well-being. 

Jane has a BSc(Hons) in Physical Education, Sports Science and Recreation Management and a Masters in Management.

Kim Critchley

Aquatic and Leisure Services Contract Manager, Moreland City Council

Panel Discussion: Top three issues identified by the audience.



Lincoln Fitzgerald

Manager, Active & Healthy Lifestyles City of Greater Bendigo

Presentation Title: Design for Regional facilities need to be affordable – Greater Bendigo City Council has developed a culture and process for pragmatically assessing their future needs and then aligning the design of new leisure facilities with their budget, which is substantially lower than metro-counterparts. Exploring if there are secrets or just a pragmatic and logical process.

Matt Griffiths

General Manager, Aquatics Royal Life Saving Society NSW Branch

Presentation Title: How to design safety into buildings – The balance between functionality and architectural design needs to ensure that the operational requirement and safety is also addressed. How can they work together?

Matt Griffiths has more than 15 years in the aquatics industry in leadership roles. Matt is currently the General Manager – Aquatics for Royal Life Saving Society – New South Wales responsible for the operation of the Aquatic Safety Training Academy and aquatics strategies.

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Matt is also a member of the Aquatic and Recreation Institute Board and has had the opportunity of representing the industry on Australian Standards review committees, training package development and has been an active contributor to the development and review of the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations for the last decade.

 Having worked for management agencies and local government prior to joining Royal Life Saving, Matt has been involved in a number of facility redevelopments as an operator and contributed his expertise to countless projects as an advisor to Councils and design teams. Matt has a keen understanding of the very real challenges in realising the benefits of a modern aquatic centre.

Michelle Nolland

Executive Leader Service Delivery, YMCA NSW

Presentation Title: Customer and communication technology – Understanding what the manager wants and what is the type of technology that is available to satisfy those needs to effectively maximise participation and retention.

Michelle is an Executive Leader for YMCA NSW with over 17 years’ experience working within Not for Profit, Local Government and Private sectors.

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With a Bachelor of Exercise Science, Graduate Diploma in Human Nutrition and a background in playing high level sport, Michelle is passionate about getting more people and communities active and living a healthy lifestyle.

Michelle currently oversees operational management of 22 recreation centres, 2 camp sites and 63 Outside School Hours Care sites across NSW and ACT.

Mike King

Director, Otium Planning Group

Presentation Title: Understanding differences between metropolitan, regional, neighbourhood and country needs – Exploring what different components, design and infrastructure are needed to ensure market penetration to get more people active in local communities.

Originally trained as a secondary school Physical Education, Recreation and Health Teacher Michael worked in Local Government Recreation Services at the Shire of Kyneton (1980 to 1982) and the City of South Barwon (1982 to 1991).

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In 1991, he set up Michael King and Associates Leisure Planners before becoming a Founding Director of the SGL Consulting Group Australia and New Zealand from 1993 to 2015. 

In 2015, he became one of four founding Directors of a contemporary new sport and leisure planning company Otium Planning Group Pty Ltd Australasia.

Over his 39 years in the leisure industry he has developed into an experienced leisure and tourism planner who has undertaken an extensive range of projects in all States of Australia, New Zealand, North America, China, the South Pacific and United Arab Emirates.   

Michael has been involved in all areas of leisure, sport and recreation planning with a specialist focus on aquatic and leisure facility development, design, management and viability analysis.

Michael has a reputation for providing “Practical and leading edge solutions for difficult and complex leisure problems”.  

Throughout his planning career Michael has also been involved with planning and development of a large array of successful high use and sustainable major aquatic, leisure, sport and community facilities across Australasia and the South Pacific.

Nick Cox

Chief Executive Officer, Belgravia Leisure

Presentation Title: Future partners in the planning, development and management of facilities – Should this include education sites, commercial developers, and others?

Panel Discussion: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community.

Nick has over 25 years’ experience working in the Aquatics and Recreation industries, and for the past 16 years has held a number of executive management positions.

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He has formal qualifications in Physical Education, Facility Management and Business Administration. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Director of Physical Activity Australia and Chair of the AUSTSWIM licensing committee.

Nick was the former Chief Operating Officer of YMCA Australia and General Manager with Maroondah City Council and in July 2014 he commenced in the role of CEO, Belgravia Leisure.

Nick has a passion for values based leadership and a commitment to continuously improve organisational culture to help achieve growth and improved service outcomes.

Peter Betson

Head, Sport, Recreation and Racing, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions

Presentation Title: Planning for future generations – Federal, State and Local Government objectives and the associated opportunities for community aquatic and leisure facilities.

Philip Saikaly

Director of Community Infrastructure & Place, Sport and Recreation Victoria

Panel Discussion: Top three issues identified by the audience

Sam Taylor

Senior Coordinator, Recreation and Wellbeing – Boroondara City Council

Presentation Title: Major redevelopments – By 2022, Boroondara will have invested $110 million on its centres in just 10 years. What can go wrong?

Sam Taylor has been working in the leisure industry for 20 years.

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The first 13 of these were in the UK where he worked within a large leisure organisation managing large leisure facilities on behalf of Local Governments.

He was involved in the opening of a number of major facilities before moving to Australia in 2011, including the facilities that hosted the 2012 Olympics.

Sam now works on the other side of the fence as Senior Coordinator of Recreation and Wellbeing at the City of Boroondara. This role has a number of responsibilities including ensuring strategies and policies are up-to-date and deliver positive outcomes for the community.

He is also responsible for planning and developing infrastructure priorities that are underpinned by community consultation and engagement.

During the last 7 years at the City of Boroondara Sam has been involved in facility renewal projects ranging from small pavilions to major aquatic centres, with a combined budget well in excess of $100 million.

Through these projects he has seen first hand some of the key mistakes that can be made and has a wealth of learnings to share with the industry.

Shane Dunne

Chief Executive Officer, Aligned Leisure

Panel Discussion: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community.

Shane is an accomplished executive with over 17 years’ experience leading teams in sport and leisure.

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Shane has been responsible for the establishment of Aligned Leisure and operational performance since inception where he is now Chief Executive.

Since 2014, as General Manager – Aligned Leisure & Education of the Richmond Football Club, Shane has supported the clubs crowd, membership and retail strategies. He also now leads the clubs education arm, leading the establishment of the Richmond Institute of Sports Leadership.

As a former Regional Development Manager with the YMCA, Shane was responsible for the operational management of 22 facilities in the north and west of Melbourne, regional Victoria and Adelaide. This portfolio of operations included a management team of 25 who oversaw almost 1,600 staff. He started his sports career at the facility which is now Eagle Stadium in Werribee as a sports coach and basketball referee.

Shane is also a director of Life Saving Victoria supporting LSV to ensure all Victorian communities can safely enjoy aquatic environments.

Shelley Tilbrook

Head of Marketing and Engagement Partnerships, Swimming Australia

Presentation Title: An NSO developed App to enhance the participant experience – The ability to track swimming time and engage with other like-minded people. The launch of this new app has the capability of integrating to Apple and Fitbit smart watches, and users can sync directly to their dashboards to track their fitness goals. Can other sports learn from this?

Simon Duck

Group Manager, Aquatic Services – Inner West Council

Presentation Title: What would a community wellbeing centre look like if we are serious about improving the health of our communities?

Simon originally completed a degree in the field of Sports Studies including study areas in sports management, marketing and exercise science.

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During this time, Simon has worked for private companies managing leisure facilities via contract and directly for local government within Council settings. This includes managing over 20 Aquatics and Leisure Centres as stand-alone sites or multisite operations as part of a region.

Financial modelling, public tendering and operation of aquatics and leisure facilities have been key elements of Simon’s management experience as well having worked on the refurbishment, redevelopment and operational launch of several Aquatics and Leisure Centres.

Simon Currently works as Group Manager Aquatics Services for the Inner West Council and oversees a significant portfolio of Health, Fitness and Aquatics facilities.


Simon Haire

Director, Xypher Consulting

Presentation Title: Schools as community hubs – an overview of opportunities, benefits, key ingredients and challenges from recent projects.

Panel Discussion: Top three priorities identified by the audience on what should the focus be and what peak bodies should prioritise over the next 12 months to support the industry as it evolves its focus.

Simon has over 20 years experience in the sport and leisure industry.

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For the past 5 years this has been as a consultant working with state and local government and peak sporting organisations.

Collaboration is a key component of Simon’s work, bringing together partners and working with all industry stakeholders to achieve outcomes. Simon has had a key role in the planning and implementation of numerous joint use projects between schools and local government. 

With a passion for innovation, Simon has recently collaborated with ActiveXchange on the development of a business intelligence platform known as SportsEye.

In particular, Simon conceived and led the development of SportsEye-Pro which is a unique toolkit for sporting organisations that translates advanced and tailored data modelling into simple solutions. This enables organisations to coordinate their activities and investment.


Steve McDonald

Project Director, Johnstaff

Presentation Title: Cost management designs that can save millions over the life of the building – The importance of understanding the design on the management of a facility at the earliest stages.

Steve is an established Project Manager with over 30-years’ experience in the construction industry specialising in sport and recreation projects. 

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Building on his career in the UK, Steve has cemented his credentials in community through to elite sport in Australia.

Steve has delivered the multi award winning Cockburn ARC and Scarborough Beach Pool aquatic developments and was instrumental in the North Sydney Olympic Pool redesign to ensure viability.  Other developments include the Lakelands Swim School, and the Wembley Golf Course Redevelopment.

Elite projects include the new West Coast Eagles Training Centre, the Dockers Training Centre and the Western Australian Institute of Sport as well as Claremont Football Club. Steve is therefore one of the few people to work concurrently with both the Eagles and Dockers.

Working across State, Local Government and private sectors, Steve understands the need to develop facilities which remain viable for the future but still be delivered within budget. 

The demonstration of success is through the popularity of the projects, the recognition though awards and exceeding Business Case metrics.

Steven Head

General Manager, Hornsby City Council

Presentation Title: What is the contemporary role of local government? The provision of community facilities for the future around health, community wellbeing / development, active recreation and sport.

Steven is currently the general manager/CEO of Hornsby Shire Council, in the northern suburbs of Sydney, which caters to the needs of a diverse population who highly value recreation and sporting opportunities.

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Since his early career, as a sporting turf manager, Steven’s vision has always been to meet the expectations of his customers.

He has been involved in the development, delivery and management of a wide range of sporting infrastructure in Sydney.

With the support of a previous Council, Steven delivered the first truly publicly available synthetic playing surface in Sydney, relying on five delivery partners in a unique funding and business model.

He is a passionate supporter of the role of local government in improving local communities and innovating recreation opportunities.

Susannah Le Bron

Chief Executive Officer, YMCA NSW

Presentation Title: Integration with local government health and wellbeing strategies – Aligning needs with the opportunities facilities bring to more than just sport and recreation. Learnings of how the YMCA collaborated with Broken Hill Council to bring a holistic leisure facility to the community.

Panel Discussion: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community.

Susannah Le Bron has more than 18 years of senior leadership experience including strategy development, operations and customer service delivery and innovation. 

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Prior to joining YMCA NSW, Susannah was Executive Director Customer Service with Sydney Trains, Transport for NSW.

She was responsible for the leadership and accountability of 2,431 frontline customer service representatives across 178 stations and the experiences of more than one million travellers each day.

For almost 15 years she held senior managerial roles at QANTAS including introducing innovations in customer service, relationship management and program transformation.

Susannah believes the customer should always be placed at the centre and she has a strong desire to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of communities, including its most vulnerable members.

Todd McHardy

Chief Executive Officer, BlueFit

Presentation Title: Provider panel, including Council and commercial exploring the innovations they can bring to local government and the community.

Todd’s 20+ years leisure management experience includes involvement in more than 60 aquatic and recreation venues throughout Australia, partnering with 25+ local councils to deliver innovative service to many communities. 

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He founded BlueFit in Sydney 2007 after working in the industry for a decade prior in Melbourne. The ability of the BlueFit team in ‘Inspiring Community Activity’ and success of key Sydney sites at Lane Cove and Hurstville strengthened BlueFit’s reputation in the facility management space and allowed for continual growth.

BlueFit’s largest site is the expanding Hurstville Aquatic Leisure Centre sporting precinct, which will surpass 1.5M annual visitations following the current three-staged expansion.

Today with the financial backing of prominent Melbourne based families and the establishment of a new board chaired by ex-Bunnings CEO and current CSR Chair John Gillam, the BlueFit Group is investing in the industry and expanding it’s footprint. Recent growth will see BlueFit operate 35 facilities in five states, managed from the new Site Support base in Melbourne. 

Todd also serves on the board of ARI NSW and ALFA.

Warren Green

Director, Warren Green Consulting

Presentation Title: Overview of models and options in the Australian market.

Warren Green has been a specialist industry consultant since 2006 and established his own business in 2013.

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Prior to 2006, Warren was a manager of several major community facilities including MSAC up until the Commonwealth Games. 

 Warren’s consulting experience is exceptionally broad and unique and as an example includes:

  • Seven years on the planning of the Western Australia Cockburn ARC development.
  • Support for the planning of the URBNSurf surfing lagoon which is due to open in Melbourne later this year.
  • A client representative for a major leisure and tourism development in Fiji and:
  • Extensive local government support in the planning of community infrastructure projects.

Warren prides himself on adding exceptional value to projects by providing practical, strategic and commercially sound advice from front-end feasibility and business case development through to funding procurement and project establishment.