Speaker Profiles
KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Sally Brown - Research Professor, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences - University of Washington

Sally Brown is a research professor at the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington. She has a BA from Williams College and a MS and PhD from the University of Maryland in Soil Science. Her research focuses on different aspects of the use of biosolids and composts including risks associated with contaminants, in situ restoration of contaminated sites, carbon balance for different end use options, and integration of residuals use in green urban infrastructure.

She is a Fellow and former Board member in the Soil Science Society of America, a former Board member in the US Compost Council, and was a two- term member of the National Academy of Science Standing Committee on Soil Science. She was a member of the NAS committee on the bioavailability of contaminants in soils and sediments. She has co- edited two books on urban agriculture and is a member of the USDA Committee on Urban and Innovative agriculture. She has written a column for Biocycle Connect for close to twenty years.

KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Steve Nicholson - Owner/Operator, Eniver & Agricultural Agronomy Consultant

Agricultural Agronomist, Steve Nicholson operates ‘Eniver’, a mixed farm of about 4000 hectares between Forbes and Grenfell in New South Wales.

Over the 22 years he has been farming ‘Eniver’, Steve has adopted minimum-tillage practices and ensured constant ground cover to build carbon. He has experimented with various soil amendments to boost soil health and through regular soil testing, Steve has seen an increase in organic carbon content every year.

Steve was awarded Conservation Farmer of the Year for Lachlan Valley in 2010 and has participated in numerous boards and committees including: Ooma Creek Land Care, the Grains Research Development Corporation Advisory Committee and Australian Woolgrowers Association.

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Cate McQuillen - Head Smarty Pants, mememe Productions

Cate McQuillen is a producer and writer, known for Dirtgirlworld (2009) and Get Grubby TV (2014).

From her home base in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW, Cate is one half of mememe productions, creating ‘out there’ children’s programming for a new generation of content seekers. With a myriad of skills and interests, her greatest assets are her approach and attitude and ability to generate ideas, motivate, inspire and see the ‘big picture’.

Mary Addae – PhD Candidate, University of Queensland

Mary Addae is a second year PhD candidate. Her research focuses on “Economic Analysis and Environmental Impact Assessment of Composting Food and Green Organic Waste. Collaborating with the Fight Food Waste CRC, she aims to analyse Benefit and Cost of transforming the unavoidable food waste into compost to support crop production. Mary has an MPhil. in Agribusiness Management and extensive experience as an Independent Research Consultant and Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist.

Asela Atapattu - Director of Policy & Strategy, NSW Environment Protection Authority

A trained biochemist, Mr Atapattu has been with the NSW EPA for over 7 years. A Director, he has led numerous teams from Hazardous Materials, Chemicals and Radiation, to Major Projects and Initiatives and now, Circular Economy Policy. Prior to joining EPA he was with the New Zealand EPA in Wellington leading a team that prepared risk assessments for chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and plant and animal imports. Mr Atapattu’s passion for protecting the environment and the importance he places on science based solutions is a core driver in the work that he does.

Prof Andy Ball - Centre Director, RMIT University
Mark Bannister - Manager - Waste and Contaminated Land Policy, EPA Victoria
Nick Behrens - Director, Queensland Economics Advocacy Solutions

Nick Behrens has significant experience representing and researching issues impacting on Queensland’s and Australia’s small businesses and the not-for-profit sector across a range of areas including taxation, regulatory environment, workers compensation, employment legislation and infrastructure issues.

Joshua Bennett-Jones - PhD Student / Senior Research Assistant, University of Queensland

Before studying sustainable agriculture at the University of Queensland, Joshua Bennett-Jones worked as geotechnician and ran his own market garden. In addition to his undergraduate studies, he also worked as research assistant within the University’s Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients. Today, Joshua is a PhD candidate, aiming to develop a mechanistic model that will explain how phosphorus and carbon are sequestered in soil organic matter. 

Johannes Biala - Director, CROWN, University of Queensland

Equipped with degrees in Agriculture and Environmental Science, Johannes Biala has worked in organics recycling, composting and the use of recycled organics products for well-over over 30 years. He has extensive experience as consultant and researcher in all key areas of the organics recycling supply chain, including the use of recycled organic products in agriculture & horticulture. Since 2017 he is Director of the Centre for Recycling of Organic Waste and Nutrients at the University of Queensland’s School of Agricultural and Food Sustainability.

Virginia Brunton - Principal Consultant – Organics & Community Engagement, MRA Consulting

Virginia has over 30 years’ experience in environmental education, research and development for the agricultural and the wider community of NSW. Virginia is a known expert on the impacts of composts on soil health and performance, having developed numerous programs across a wide range of agricultural systems. Virginia is the author of Using Compost in Agriculture – a farmer’s guide to compost and is undertaking a PhD on political and social drivers for- and constraints to, the use of composts in agriculture.

Prof Chengrong Chen - Group Leader, Griffith University

Professor Chengrong Chen is a world-leading researcher in environmental biogeochemistry with focuses on soil carbon sequestration, soil and compost contamination and remediation, and waste recycling. He has published over 200 refereed journal papers and secured over $20M government and industry funding support in the past 10 years. Prof Chen was a past ARC Future Fellow and is currently on the ARC College of Experts panel. He is the Research Director of the Solving Plastic Waste CRC.

Hugh Christie - Chief Executive Officer, Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Board

Hugh has spent the last twenty-five years in a variety of resource management roles, including a range of senior management and executive roles in Tasmania and Victoria.

His focus with the Tasmanian Waste and Resource Recovery Board is to work with industry and the community to deliver sustainable changes and confidence in the sector to drive continued investment in the resource recovery and waste management sectors.

Charlie Emery – Managing Director, SOILCO

Charlie joined SOILCO in 2001 and over the past 20 years has overseen the growth of the family-led business.   In his current role as Managing Director, Charlie is focused on innovation, strategy, infrastructure development and business growth. He has the foresight to know what an intensive organics operation needs to look like now and in 10 years’ time.  Prior to SOILCO, Charlie achieved tertiary qualifications in science and worked with a range of environmental, landscaping and horticultural businesses. Charlie is also the Chair of the Australian Organics Recycling Association.

Bill Grant – Research Fellow, Federation University

Bill Grant is an agricultural and environmental scientist who has worked with the organics recycling and composting industry for over 25 years.  His career has included diverse roles in State Government, landscape gardening, laboratory assistant, farm hand, university lecturer and co-owner of environmental consulting business, Blue Environment.  Bill has a long-standing fascination with compost and how it can transform soils and is now engaged in in- depth research into how and why composts ‘work’ and how they can be used to cost-effectively boost farm productivity and sustainability.

Frank Harney - Director, Elmore Compost & Organics
Matthew Layton - Operations Manager, Dulverton Waste Management

Matthew has been managing Dulverton compost processes since 2018. As an experienced engineer with a focus on Zero Harm and Lean processing, Matthew has been instrumental in the development of Dulverton’s new In-vessel compost production facility, which will have the capacity to accept almost every organic source currently known.  Having supported industry from poppies to biosolids, tugboats to salmon, sawdust to fishnets, there are few throughout the Island who could boast a better understanding of Tasmania’s waste resources and needs than Matt.

Simon Leake - Director of Science. SESL Australia

With over 40 years of experience, Simon is Australia’s expert in soil science; soil rehabilitation and reconstruction in mine sites and urban renewal projects; field pedology; soil chemistry; soil physics; waste to land application; and environmental contamination. He has published a practical guide titled “Soils for Landscape Development” and has extensive experience in composting and waste resource recycling to land.

Cara McNicol - Policy and Legislation Manager, Office of Circular Economy - Dept of Environment, Science and Innovation (QLD)

Cara McNicol has nearly 30 years’ experience in the Queensland Government, having worked on National and State programs and currently works in the Office of Circular Economy. Cara and her small team have developed and implemented some of the much needed reforms under Queensland’s Waste Management and Resource Recovery Strategy and keenly understand the importance of evidence based research, effective and genuine stakeholder engagement and pragmatic approaches to achieving economic, social and environmental outcomes. Cara’s team continues to work on delivering on Queensland’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan, is about to embark upon developing a built environment waste strategy for Queensland and progressing implementation of the Queensland Organics Strategy and Action Plan.

James O'Connor - PhD Student, University of Western Australia & Soil CRC

James is a PhD candidate studying agriculture at the University of Western Australia. His research disciplines are food waste fertiliser products to increase soil fertility and function. He has published two special issue reviews in the Journal of Environmental Pollution and Journal of Hazardous Materials. He has also published three other reviews in Journal of Process Safety and Environmental protection, Environmental Pollution, Environmental Management, two journal articles in Bioresource Technology and Environmental Pollution and co-authored two articles in Environmental Research and Science of The Total Environment.

Prof Thava Palanisami - Team Leader, Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster, University of Newcastle
Janine Price - Principal Environment and Regulation Consultant, Scolexia

Janine currently works on projects involving environmental management and regulation including the management and use of manures and other organic soil amendments Janine has extensive experience in regulation and policy (having previously worked for an EPA) along with stakeholder consultation with EPAs, agriculture departments and farm industry associations across the country. Janine has a strong focus on sustainable reuse of organic waste products and has undertaken regulatory/legislative reviews on soil amendments and specific feedstocks for the Commonwealth, State EPA’s and business clients.

Dr Zahra Sobhani - Team Leader, Environmental Plastics Innovation Cluster, University of Newcastle

Dr Zahra received her PhD degree in environmental remediation focused on the characterization and fate of micro/nano plastics in wastewater, sludge, and soil, at the University of Newcastle in 2022. Zahra has more than 10 years of experience in contaminant risk assessment and analytical chemistry. Zahra has worked in Iran’s food administration from 2008 to 2017 and contributed to national human health risk assessment projects.  Zahra’s current research is contributing in Risk assessment of environmental microplastics Risk assessment of PFAS contaminants

Prof Susanne Schmidt, School of Agriculture and Food Sustainability, UQ

Susanne is a scientist and educator with over 25-year experience. She leads a vibrant team at The University of Queensland with fundamental and applied research aiming to improve plant nutrition, soil health and the circular nutrient economy.

Dr Kevin Wilkinson - Director and Founder, Frontier Ag & Environment

Kevin is an agricultural scientist with more than 25 years research and consulting experience in organic waste management. His work has touched on many subject areas including soil science, agronomy, food safety and biosecurity. Kevin has been engaged in compost standards development since the mid-90s.

Jessica Wundke - Manager Policy Reform, Green Industries SA

Jessica works to develop and implement policy and programs to support strategic objectives for resource recovery and promoting the circular economy in South Australia. Working across policy areas covering food and organic waste, single-use plastics policy, packaging and events, Jessica led the development of the food waste strategy for South Australia to drive this material away from landfill and circulate it into productive use. 

xperienced in managing programs to support policy implementation and improve resource efficiency, she works with stakeholders to facilitate change in the management of resources and support the transition to a more circular economy.

Olympia Yarger - CEO & Founder, Goterra

Olympia is a leading voice in agricultural sustainability and climate technology innovation.  With her bold vision, Olympia has made a significant impact in the sustainable food industry. Olympia has worked as a consultant for both government and non-profit organizations, in the development of regulation for emerging industries giving her insight into the policy-making process and the regulatory landscape. Olympia’s has earned numerous awards and recognition, including being named Australian of the Year for the Australian Capital Territory and having a species of fly named for her by the CSIRO.

Thank you to our 2024 Conference Supporters

AORA would like to acknowledge our National Sponsors who play an active role in realising our vision: