We are pleased to introduce an exciting line-up of plenary speakers for RDI Conference 2017.

To view the details of the sessions in which these speaker will feature, please view the conference program.

Keynote Address

Helen Clark PhotoThe Right Honorable Helen Clark

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
Former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of the United Nations Development Group

Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in April 2009 and the Chair of the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and departments working on development issues. She was the first women to assume these positions.

Helen Clark’s tenure coincided with a period of increased worldwide volatility, which included the aftermath of the financial crisis, uprisings in the Arab States’ region, increasing extreme weather events and disasters, and a growth in the number of deadly conflicts and the associated forced displacement crises.

Helen Clark is a champion of inclusive and sustainable development. She has ensured that UNDP’s work on poverty eradication is closely linked with its governance and environmental portfolios. She has advocated for the full inclusion and empowerment of women in development – and within UNDP itself where during her tenure the ratio of women to men reached fifty per cent

Helen stepped down from her position at the UN in April 2017 after serving two four-year terms.

Prior to her appointment with UNDP, Helen Clark was the first woman elected as Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three successive terms from 1999 to 2008.  Throughout her tenure as Prime Minister, she engaged widely in policy development and advocacy across the international, economic, social, environmental, and cultural spheres. Under her leadership, New Zealand achieved significant economic growth, low levels of unemployment, and high levels of investment in education, health, and the well-being of families and older citizens. She and her government prioritized reconciliation and the settlement of historical grievances with indigenous people, and the development of an inclusive multicultural and multi-faith society. She advocated strongly for New Zealand’s comprehensive programme on sustainability, including on addressing climate change.

Prior to entering the New Zealand Parliament, Clark taught in the Political Studies Department of the University of Auckland. She graduated with a BA in 1971, and an MA with First Class Honours in 1974. 



Mr Patrick Suckling

Ambassador for the Environment

Mr Suckling is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), most recently serving as Australia’s High Commissioner in New Delhi. He was previously posted overseas as Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Washington.

In Australia, Mr Suckling has served as First Assistant Secretary, Consular Public Diplomacy and Parliamentary Affairs Division, DFAT; First Assistant Secretary, International Division, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Assistant Secretary APEC Branch, DFAT; and Director, Trade Finance Section, DFAT.


Plenary Speakers

Rebekah BrownProfessor Rebekah Brown

Director and Professor
Monash Sustainable Development Institute

Professor Rebekah Brown is Director of Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University, a leading interdisciplinary research and education centre working collaboratively with government, industry and philanthropists and to advance the knowledge, policy and practice of sustainable development.

Since early 2000 Rebekah has pioneered interdisciplinary research across the social and biophysical sciences in sustainable water management. She co-founded the water sensitive cities research platform at Monash University as a sustainable development solution to urban water challenges globally.

Rebekah's research aims to guide and accelerate the realisation of more liveable, resilient and sustainable cities. Her research is particularly focused on understanding the social and institutional transformations required to enable such a transition, in both developed and developing country contexts. Rebekah adopts an interdisciplinary research approach, combining insights from disciplines such as sociology, institutional theory, science and technology studies, innovation studies and complexity theory.

Rebekah's work is used extensively within the water and land development industry across Australia, and by international organisations such as the Asian Development Bank, UN Habitat and the European Union.

On the prestigious Australian WME Leaders List for 2010, Rebekah was named national leader in the category of Urban and Industrial Water and was a finalist in the 2010 Eureka Prize in Water Research and Innovation. Rebekah holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering (Honours) from Monash University and a PhD in Environmental Studies from the University of New South Wales.

helensDr Helen Szoke

Chief Executive
Oxfam Australia

Helen joined Oxfam in 2013. Prior to this appointment, she served as Australia’s Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner and as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner.

Helen is both a Vice-President and a board member of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), and the ACFID Humanitarian Reference Group (HRG) Champion, representing the work of the HRG which provides a mechanism for Australian agencies engaged in humanitarian assistance work to share information, strengthen coordination, and drive policy dialogue and development for the improvement of humanitarian relief work.

Helen was awarded as a Victorian finalist in the 2016 Telstra Business Women’s Awards. She received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Deakin University in October 2015 for her contribution to Human Rights. In 2011, Helen was awarded the ‘Law Institute of Victoria Paul Baker Award’ for her contribution to human rights and in 2014 she received the ‘University of Melbourne Alumni Award’ for leadership. She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a fellow of the Institute of Public Administration.

Rosie WheenRosie Wheen

Chief Executive
WaterAid Australia

Rosie has worked at WaterAid Australia since its inception in 2004. She was Director of International Programs for WaterAid Australia prior to becoming Chief Executive in 2016. Rosie has worked in development for 20 years including six years living and working in Indonesia, working at the Australian Council for International Development, and in a range of education and community development projects in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

purcell bioMarc Purcell

Chief Executive Officer
Australian Council for International Development

Marc Purcell has headed the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) since 2009. ACFID is the peak body for around 140 Australian organisations working in international development. ACFID operates a Code of Conduct for Australian development NGOs.

Marc has 25 years’ experience in the community, international development and human rights sectors in Australia. He worked as Oxfam Australia’s National Advocacy Manager and was Executive Officer for the Catholic Commission for Justice Development and Peace Executive.

He has also worked as Country Program Manager for Africa at Australian Volunteers International; and worked with UNHCR in Nepal assisting Tibetan refugees. He researched China’s global rise and impacts on developing countries for Oxfam Hong Kong and has written about refugee and human rights in Burma.

Marc is a Director of the Community Council for Australia and the Campaign for Australian Aid Executive Committee.

He is married with one son.


joel neginJoel Negin

Master of Ceremonies – Day 1

Joel Negin is the Head of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney as well as Associate Professor of International Health. Prior to joining academia, Joel worked for six years on international development projects with governments, UN agencies, universities and industry mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. He served as technical adviser to National AIDS Councils in Botswana and Kenya and managed large-scale health and agriculture programs. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia Universities, his current research focuses on Australian development policy, health systems development and infectious disease. He is passionate about education in public health and international development. Joel has lived and worked in Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, Australia and the USA.


sam mostynSam Mostyn

Master of Ceremonies – Day 2

Sam Mostyn is non-executive director and sustainability adviser and speaker. Her current board roles include Mirvac, Transurban and Virgin Australia. She is the Chair of Citi Australia

Her corporate roles have encompassed human resources and culture change, corporate and government affairs, community engagement and corporate sustainability. Sam is legally trained, and worked as a policy advisor to then Prime Minister Paul Keating before joining the corporate world.

Her senior executive roles were with Optus Communications, Cable & Wireless plc, and Insurance Australia Group. Sam has served on the boards of Reconciliation Australia, the Australian Museum, the Sydney Theatre Company and now chairs Carriageworks and is President of the Australian Council for International Development. She was an inaugural commissioner with the National Mental Health Commission, and served on the National Sustainability Council. In 2016 Sam was appointed to the Global Business Commission on Sustainable Development, and has been a faculty member of the Cambridge Business Sustainability Program since 2012. She is the Deputy Chair of the Diversity Council of Australia, and in 2005 was the first woman appointed to the AFL Commission, and she continues to advocate for the Respect & Responsibility Policy for the inclusion of women at all levels of the AFL and sports industries.

Patrick Suckling

Mr Patrick Suckling was appointed Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment in January 2016. He is responsible for promoting and protecting Australia’s national interests on global environmental issues, including through leading Australia’s negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Welcome Dinner

baroneMonica Barone

Monica has been the Chief Executive Officer of the City of Sydney since 2006.

In this time she has overseen the development and implementation of the City's long term vision for Central Sydney - Sustainable Sydney 2030.

She manages approximately 2000 staff, an annual Capital expenditure and Operational expenditure budget of approximately $880 million and $11.6 billion dollars of net assets including the Council's commercial property portfolio. The City will be providing for a capital works program of $1.8 Billion over the next 10 years.

In 2016 the City of Sydney processed over five billion dollars of new development. The City's major projects are the CBD Light Rail (initiated and partially funded by City of Sydney but now managed by Transport for NSW) and the $13 billion Green Square Urban Renewal site.

Since her appointment the City has completed hundreds of infrastructure projects including active transport, community facilities and parks - winning over 90 national and international awards.

Monica holds a Masters in Creative Arts, was a 2014 ‘100 Women of Influence’ finalist, is a member the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a member of Chief Executive Women.