Keynote Speakers

Bernard Salt – Conference Opening Day

In 2017, Demographer, Bernard Salt graced the AfPA International conference stage. Fast forward to 2023, Bernard will yet again grace us with his presence, addressing the past, the present and the future.

Bernard Salt is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading social commentators by business, the media and the broader community. Bernard heads The Demographics Group which provides advice on demographic, consumer and social trends for business. Prior to that Bernard founded KPMG Demographics.He writes two weekly columns for The Australian newspaper and was an adjunct professor at Curtin University Business School between 2010 and 2020.In conjunction with KPMG Australia he hosted a top-rated podcast called “What Happens Next” which discussed rising trends and important business issues.

Bernard is one of the most in-demand speakers on the Australian corporate speaking circuit. He is well known to the wider community for his penchant for identifying and tagging new tribes and social behaviours such as the ‘Seachange Shift’, the ‘Man Drought’, ‘PUMCINS’ (pronounced pumkins) and the ‘Goats Cheese Curtain’.He is perhaps best known for popularising the phrase “smashed avocado” globally. Bernard was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2017 Australia Day honours.

Mary Coustas – Conference Gala & National Awards MC

Mary Coustas is a writer/performer well known for her performance in Wogs out of Work and for her character Effie developed for the high rating TV sitcom Acropolis Now. She won a Best Comedy Performer Logie Award for performing the character Effie. Back on stage, she then went on to appear in the record breaking theatrical shows Wog A Rama and her one woman show Waiting for Effie, which toured nationally throughout Australia. Mary joined the cast of Sylvia for Sydney Theatre Company, gaining high praise for portraying a dog on stage. Mary’s other TV Credits include Skirts, Wildside, Grass Roots and The Secret Life of Us and recently Rake 2. She also earned herself an AFI Nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Mull and appeared in Nirvana Street Murder and Hercules Returns. Mary has written for, and performed in, her TV show Greeks on The Roof , based on her character Effie’s family home TV Studio. As Effie has so much to say, Mary allowed her to write a book, Effie’s Guide To Being Up Yourself , which has been published and acclaimed for tackling youth self esteem. Most recently Mary’s book All I Know was published by Allen and Unwin and touched the heart’s of the nation after her appearance on 60 Minutes.

After wowing audiences with her show A Date With Effie, the Greek Goddess launched her show Effie The Virgin Bride in 2016 at The Comedy Theatre in Melbourne and went on to tour to Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. In 2017 Mary, embarked on an encore season of Effie The Virgin Bride in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, and premiere seasons in Adelaide and Darwin. Loving being back on stage, Mary joined forces with Nick Giannopoulos and Sooshi Mango to perform a new stage show Star Wogs – touring nationally. In 2019 Mary toured her stage show Effie in Love Me Tinder nationally until covid shut down the country in 2020. Undeterred Mary launched her Effie stage show Better Out Than In in 2021. Mary’s new stage show This Is Personal premiered at the Sydney Opera House in May 2022 to rave reviews and continues to tour the nationally.

Brett Connellan – Conference Opening Function

Turning the worst day of your life into your best is no easy feat, but sometimes there is simply no other option. In Brett Connellan’s case, this day included the moment every surfer’s worst nightmare became his reality when he was attacked by a Great White Shark. As the light was fading at Bombo Beach on the evening of the 30th of March, 2016, Brett was inches from death. He had lost three-quarters of his left quad, and emergency responders on the scene were sure Brett would not make it. Fortunately, the cards fell in Brett’s favour, and he managed to pull through with the help of a brave friend, timely emergency support and a healthy serving of luck.

The events that saved Brett’s life were not lost on him, and that perspective was needed as he faced a long and challenging road to recovery. With a bleak outlook prescribed to him by doctors, it was evident that Brett’s life as he knew it would never be the same. These moments in time are pivotal in any person’s life as they often lead to a questioning of purpose and identity. However, what Brett did not know at this time was that the following months were even more life-changing than just the injury itself. The recovery forced Brett to “climb a new mountain” in his words and develop a different mindset towards resilience, which helped him defy the odds to be able to walk again and eventually get back in the water and do what he loves most, surfing. Although this may sound like the perfect end to Brett’s story, it was only the beginning. Brett soon realised that the lessons he learned through his recovery could be applied to all areas of his life. This has pushed him to be the best version of himself, both personally and professionally. This new version of Brett, fuelled by purpose, drives him to use his unique and powerful story to help others make the most out of their journeys.

Ian Roberts – Diversity & Inclusion

Ian Roberts is an activist, professional sporting identity and actor. He played Rugby League at the club level, in the NSW State of Origin squad, and on the national team, the Kangaroos. In 1995, at the height of his career, he publicly came out as a gay man.Internationally Ian was the second high-profile sportsman in a professional team game to come out while playing, and the first in Australia.

After attending the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, Ian began a second career as an actor. He has appeared in over thirty films and numerous television series. Ian has a specialisation in elite athlete wellbeing management and works across sectors promoting wellbeing, positive masculinity and inclusion. Having lived in Sydney for most of his life, Ian now resides with his partner in Kings Cross. He champions the need for homelessness services, LGBTIQ rights, and raises awareness of mental health issues.

Wayne Schwass – Wednesday Lunch Speaker

In 2006, Wayne started the Sunrise Foundation – a not-for-profit that delivered preventative education programs to more than 5000 secondary school students. Wayne has taken on several important roles in the community including being the lead witness in the 2019 Royal Commission into the Victorian Mental Health System, serving as a panel member for the review of the Victorian Mental Health Act 1986 as well as being a leading voice on mental health and emotional wellbeing. The Sunrise Foundation confirmed that creating awareness and proactively doing something about the mental health and the ongoing suicide crisis Australia faces, is indeed Wayne’s passion. The second iteration of Wayne’s social enterprise was founded in 2017: PukaUp. Through PukaUp, Wayne continues his work of normalising the conversation around mental health, and giving people the opportunity to take control of their own wellbeing, before reaching crisis point. Wayne enjoyed a celebrated 14 year AFL playing career, going on to establish himself as a respected sports media broadcaster – a position he held over a 17 year period until 2019, where his speaking skills were honed.