Keynote Speakers

Dr Katie Dafforn

Katie Dafforn is an environmental scientist and her research aims to understand and manage human impacts on aquatic communities. To do this Katie has developed novel monitoring tools to measure aquatic health. She has also been involved in the ecologically-friendly design of marine seawalls and infrastructure.

Katie is a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, Deputy Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and the Aquatic Sciences Cluster Representative for the STA Board.

Professor Lars Coenen

Lars Coenen joined Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute in January 2017 as the inaugural ‘City of Melbourne Chair of Resilient Cities’, an initiative between the City of Melbourne and University of Melbourne aimed at improving the city’s resilience to sustainability challenges. Working closely with the city’s chief resilience officer, Lars seeks to strengthen Melbourne’s role as a leader in knowledge based urban resilience, leverage opportunities to attract research funding and provide a new model for collaborative research.

Lars is an interdisciplinary scholar cross-cutting the fields of innovation studies, economic geography and science and technology studies. His research interests converge around the geography of innovation: Why is it that some regions and cities in the world stand out in their ability to foster and diffuse novelty? What explains this spatial concentration of innovation in an era of globalization? How can regions and cities improve their capacity to innovate? In particular he is interested in addressing this broad set of questions on innovations related to pressing societal challenges such as climate change.

Professor Kate Auty

Professor Kate Auty is the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment and a Professorial Fellow with the University of Melbourne. Other recent roles included Vice Chancellor’s Fellow (University of Melbourne), Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability (2009-2014), Chair of the Ministerial Reference Council on Climate Change Adaptation (Victoria 2008-2010), member of the Victorian Premier’s Climate Change Advisory Council (2009-2010), and a City of Melbourne Climate Change Ambassador developing the Future Melbourne Plan 2026. She is presently a member of the advisory committees and boards of ACSEES (MDBA), AWiA, MSRF, and Board Chair for the Banksia Foundation.


Dr Cathy Oke

Dr Cathy Oke has over 20 years’ experience in the sustainability sector. A Councillor at the Melbourne City Council since 2008, she is Chair of the Environment Portfolio and Deputy Chair of the Transport and Finance & Governance Portfolios. She chairs the Global board of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and holds the biodiversity portfolio on ICLEI’s Global Executive Committee. With an interest in the intersection of arts and science disciplines as a response to the environmental and climate challenges facing cities, she’s a founding director of Tipping Point Australia. Dr Oke also works as the Knowledge Broker at the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Research Hub, based at the University of Melbourne. This role that stakeholder engagement and coordination of the Hub’s Indigenous Engagement and Participation Strategy.

Jirra Harvey

Jirra Lulla Harvey is a brand and communications strategist who promotes Indigenous knowledge and entrepreneurship. She founded
Kalinya Communications to shift the narrative away from negative news and promote Indigenous knowledge through stories of connection and beauty. In Jirra’s language, Yorta Yorta, Kalinya means good, beautiful and honest. These are her guiding business principles. Through Kalinya Communications she collaborates
with entrepreneurs from across Australia, develops marketing strategies for Aboriginal organisations, and assists companies deliver impactful Reconciliation Action Plans. She was the inaugural Indigenous arts leadership fellow at the National Gallery of Australia, and is Industry Fellow of Indigenous enterprise and
innovation at RMIT University.

Dr Mark Garkaklis

Dr Mark Garkaklis is a Principal Ecologist at ArborCarbon, and has 30 years of experience ‘adaptively’ managing ecosystems in Australia. His work in urban biodiversity conservation includes understanding and managing the roaming habits of domestic cats, working with orchardists to better protect endangered cockatoo species, satellite, aerial and UAV remote sensing to monitor the condition of urban forests and the management of plant pathogens that threaten high-value green infrastructure. He was lead author on Western Australia’s first Biodiversity Conservation Management Effectiveness framework. He has used this IUCN-based approach in developing the sustainability Key Performance Indicators in 2014 to 2023 WA Forest Management Plan and for Emergency Environmental Response preparedness plans for World Heritage protected areas. Dr Garkaklis is currently involved in a range of biodiversity-management projects with local governments in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.

Dr Sally Box

Dr Sally Box has been appointed as Australia’s new Threatened Species Commissioner. The Threatened Species Commissioner champions the implementation of the Threatened Species Strategy and practical conservation actions to recover our most threatened plants and animals. Using the principles of science, action and partnership, the Commissioner works with conservation organisations, governments, community and the private sector to improve the trajectory of our threatened species.
“Dr Box will continue the excellent work already underway, develop new initiatives and approaches and increase momentum for threatened species conservation,” said Minister for the Environment and Energy, the Hon Josh Frydenberg MP.
Dr Box has a PhD in Plant Sciences and began her career in the Department of the Environment and Energy working on threatened species assessments. Since, she has worked with the community to design and deliver programs focused on threatened species conservation, including through her leadership of the Green Army.
Dr Box has also worked in partnership with scientists and landholders to deliver the Emissions Reduction Fund and most recently worked on the Paris Agreement in the Department’s international climate change area. Dr Box began the position of Threatened Species Commissioner in late January 2018.

Kate Lynch

Kate Lynch has worked in the public sector for the Commonwealth and Queensland governments for almost two decades in a range of policy and implementation roles. She currently heads the City Deals and Engagement branch in the Commonwealth’s Government’s Cities Division. In this role, Kate leads the development of a number of City Deals including Australia’s first ever City Deal in Townsville – involving complex coordination, engagement and negotiation across three levels of government. Kate holds a Masters in Environmental Education and degrees in Science and Arts. She is mother of two and a passionate advocate for sustainable and functional design.