Meet our Association Influencers for 2022 

We are excited to announce the selected AuSAE Association Influencers of 2022!

AuSAE's Association Influencers program highlights and recognises the outstanding contributions of individuals in the association community across Australia and New Zealand.

We thank our association community for their contributions, especially our peer-nominated group of fifty-three (53) nominees, for their continued support and commitment to the community over the last 12 months.

It has been our privilege to recognise each of these individuals for their tireless efforts to make a significant and lasting impact within our tribe and set the benchmark for association professionals into the future.

Meet the AuSAE Association Influencers for 2022

The independent judging panel of experienced and passionate association leaders has selected 12 Association Influencers for 2022.

We formally acknowledge their achievements and celebrate them within the tribe as influencers, setting the benchmark within the association's community and our sector.

Recognising outstanding contributors to the sector in Australia and New Zealand

"It is our privilege to recognise outstanding individuals making a significant and lasting impact within our tribe and setting the benchmark for association professionals into the future".

Toni Brearley

Chief Executive Officer

Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

  Association Influencers 2022... The below details are extracted from the nomination submissions.

Alan McDonald
Head of Advocacy & Strategy - Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA)

Alan McDonald is the Head of Advocacy and Strategy for the Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA). EMA is part of a network of business associations. Alan's work has seen the EMA firmly establish itself as the lead voice, working through the Business NZ network.

Alan has been hugely influential within the organisation, as a protector of the values of the EMA and a staunch champion of the ideas they stand for, constantly driving the team to achieve its purpose. More importantly, he takes that passion out to their stakeholders, ensuring that EMA has an influential voice reflecting the interests of its members to the local and central Government.

Alan has ensured their members' interests are heard on various topics, from urban development to transport to supply chains, from education to immigration to transparency, and from employment law to how the covid mitigations such as lockdown impacts businesses and their employees.

Alan has been a highly influential voice for the business community in leading their Association's covid response. The EMA has led or been a critical part of shifting the Government's response to living with covid rather than trying to shut it out. He and his team have led elements such as the Auckland border design, the push for more business support, introducing saliva and rapid antigen testing, pushing to reopen international borders, vaccine and CVC mandates, managing them in the workplace, and helping co-design the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment's (MBIE) risk assessment programme.

During this period, Alan has championed the Resource Management Act redesign. Now, EMA is written into legislation as a mandated consultation partner for fast-track applications - and is part of the working group for ImmigrationNZ's new Work-to-Residence programme. He is also the National Campaign Manager for BusinessNZ's anti-Fair Pay Agreement campaign.

Alan's ethos is "Helping Business Succeed". While carried out on behalf of their members, his influence generally benefits the entire New Zealand business sector.

Bill McKinley
Chief of Staff - Australian Trucking Association

Bill McKinley has made a significant contribution to the trucking industry as a key staff member at the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

The trucking industry is diverse, multifaceted, and highly regulated. Put simply, Bill has supported the trucking community to understand, navigate and respond to these complexities. The advice and guidance Bill has offered the ATA Board, and Council have been critical to the ATA's influence in shaping legislation, industry safety outcomes, and technological advancement.

Bill led the ATA's public policy submissions and advocacy on the Heavy Vehicle National Law review, with significant contribution in internal consultation, managing economic and legal consultancies, and coordinating 11 submissions to the review. These were critical submissions requiring a high level of intelligence, integrity, ethics, and, most importantly, innovation. Bill was also the ATA representative on the Heavy Vehicle National Law Reform Reference Committee, a government/industry committee that refined the options before ministers. 

Bill is an exceptional mentor who has played a significant role in training communications and policy staff; many have gone on to exceptional careers outside the association space.

Bill was also fundamental in designing The Future Leaders Forum content and program. 

Craig Young
Chief Executive Officer - Technology Users Association New Zealand (TUANZ)

Craig Young, CEO of Technology Users Association New Zealand (TUANZ), has excelled over the past 12 months, uniting people and advancing the agendas for technology users across New Zealand.

While at the helm, Craig's advocacy work has inspired the technology users of New Zealand and increased the level of digital technology use across New Zealand. Craig's strong relationships with Government agencies has made a real difference and has enabled TUANZ to provide significant benefits to its members and broader New Zealand.

A highlight is Craig's significant contribution to the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa, helping implement the Digital Boost Alliance with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The Digital Boost Alliance Aotearoa is a significant work that Craig has been front and centre of. It focuses on inspiring and helping small businesses and individuals across Aotearoa, New Zealand lift their digital technologies. Working with Government agencies and ministers, Craig's advocacy work has been pivotal in bridging the digital divide, and helping individuals and businesses boost their business and abilities while learning new skills.

Craig is hugely passionate about the association sector and supports the AuSAE New Zealand LINC conference. He is always available to assist other associations if they need advice and help.

Craig is an authentic association leader. He connects people, inspires people, and works hard for his own Association. He never stops at the world of associations; he advocates for everyone.

Damian McCrohan
President – Rail Trails Australia

Damian McCrohan has had an enormous influence and impact on Rail Trails Australia (RTA) for many years, especially in the past 12 months.

Damian has represented Rail Trails Australia, and indirectly all those local community groups in discussions with local, State, and Federal Governments. Through Damian's lobby work, local rural and regional community members have been inspired to redevelop Rail Trails instead of a local derelict railway alignment for the benefit of their communities

A recent highlight is his work with NSW based lobby group to successfully overcome the restrictions on the development of rail-trails in NSW; and to influence State Govt policy on the conversion of derelict rail alignments to community use for walking, bicycle riding, and horses. As a direct consequence of this work, there is now an open trail at Tumbarumba and three others under active development. Other local community groups are also working with local Government and State Members of Parliament to develop proposals for trails for the benefit of their communities.

Without Damian making and keeping contact with local communities and the Government it's unlikely that things would have progressed so quickly in NSW. The development of new trails and expansion of existing trails in the other States, particularly Queensland, is a testament to the representational work that Damian has undertaken.

Damian has driven regional communities' economic growth, business initiation, and community pride and cohesion. New trails bring funds into the community for the construction work and allow community groups to carry out their own activities: bushwalking, horse riding, cycling groups, groups carrying out activities for the disabled, men's sheds, school excursions, and women's support groups.  

Dante De Gori
Former CEO, Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA)

Dante De Gori, led the Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) through the most challenging period ever seen in financial planning. Through his advocacy, Dante has been able to support, grow, improve and sustain the profession, FPA members and the Australian public.

As an integral part of the development of the FPA’s five-year Affordable Advice, Sustainable Profession policy platform, Dante has chalked up some impressive achievements this year, headlined by the temporary ASIC levy relief. 

Throughout the year, Dante, along with his team, worked with ASIC to improve the guidance and support that it provides to financial planners. Dante’s persistent advocacy efforts were effective in ensuring the impact of the policy issues are clearly understood by Government leading to improved legislation and moves by regulators to clarify a number of regulatory issues.

One of the most outstanding outcomes with Dante at the helm of the FPA, has been his ability to bring the associations together to work on many different issues. Many associations are now lobbying government together with greater results and are working more closer with CHOICE to ensure consumers are at the forefront of everything FPA do, Dante has extremely strong connections with other CEOs.

Dante and the FPA also worked closely with ASIC on COVID-19 relief measures, including where ROAs could be provided instead of an SOA, as well as preparing for the new regulatory changes about ongoing fee arrangements and fee disclosure statement obligations commencing in July 2021

Dante is also an extraordinary leader. He inspires those around him to not only do the best they can, but to be the best they can be, to exceed their self-imposed limitations and most importantly to work for what is right - not for how they may personally benefit.

Dante has always put the financial planning profession and the FPA members first. Dante will leave a lasting positive legacy at the FPA.

Dr Kate Dempsey
Executive Officer - Australian New Zealand and Asian Creative Arts Therapists Association (ANZACATA)

Dr Kate Dempsey is the Executive Officer at the Australian New Zealand and Asian Creative Arts Therapists Association (ANZACATA). Under significant constraints and challenges, Kate's work has achieved outcomes that have improved the lives of many practitioners and consumers alike.

Kate has played a significant and influential role in attaining recognition for the arts and music therapy professions and inclusion in the Aged Care Royal Commission's recommendations and the Victorian Government Schools Mental Health Program and Fund.

She has been a strong advocate for ANZACATA as an organisation and individual art therapists to ensure that they are recognised as a meaningful part of the allied health community. Kate has built strong and meaningful relationships with key stakeholders at state and federal government levels, in the allied health field, academia and in associated and aligned organisations.

Under Kate's leadership, ANZACATA has put forward responses to government reports, several consultations with NDIS, Primary Care, Mental Health, Palliative Care, aged care consultations, and initiatives for the first time ever.

Thanks to Kate's interventions and commitment to serving both the arts therapists and their clients, ANZACATA has been invited to be a member of the Commonwealth Government Stakeholder Engagement Group (SEG). On this non-statutory committee, Kate provides views and input about evaluating the Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners through the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) (Better Access) initiative.

Kate's initiatives to advance the profession have been impressive. Her dedication to professionalising ANZACATA as the "go-to" peak industry body has been highly admirable.

Kate is a consummate association professional and portrays high integrity, ethics, and inclusion levels.

Dr Rosalind Bullock
RND Board Member and Former Chair - NSW Rural Doctors Network

Dr Ros Bullock is a General Practitioner and a leader of the NSW's rural health system. Dr Bullock is renowned for tireless local practice and a fierce commitment to her local community in Canowindra (Central West NSW). Beyond local contributions, Dr Bullock has positively impacted the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN).

Dr Bullock has adopted a deliberate team-based care approach for patients with chronic health conditions in the Western NSW township of Canowindra. The multidisciplinary team involves professionals representing general practice, specialists, pharmacy, paramedicine, nursing, allied health, and aged care. Their commitment to the local community and each other has been the key to success. The initiative is part of the NSW Rural Doctors Network Collaborative Care Program in Western NSW.

Across 2020/21, in addition to being actively involved in Western NSW's COVID-19 clinical response, Dr Bullock has also been instrumental in the development and delivery of rural medical practitioner self-care and wellbeing support offered by RDN in response to NSW's recent natural disaster and emergency crisis including drought, fire, flood, mice infestation and of course, COVID.

Throughout 2021, RDN has strived to enhance the capabilities of individuals and organisations servicing rural communities. As Director, Dr Bullock has been at the forefront of many initiatives and encouraged social leadership thinking whereby all participants and stakeholders of public health participate and contribute to the wellbeing of people and the sector.

Ros was instrumental in the development of a new model of health care for the Canowindra District, the "Canola Fields Project", to improve access to local health care and provide better continuity of care for rural patients.  This initiative has received Federal Government funding, promising to inspire further diverse and sustainable health care models in an increasingly underserviced rural area. This was developed in consultation with many local health professionals, eschewing conventional practices that have failed to meet numerous rural communities' escalating health care needs.

Dr Bullock's strong personal and professional commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health is noted. 

Emma Watson
Program Team Leader - Scouts Australia

Emma Watson is the Program Team Leader at Scouts Australia. Her involvement in community organisations and associations is connected by a common thread of education, leadership and sport. As a volunteer and employee in service and leadership-oriented associations and organisations, Emma strives to improve outcomes, opportunities and offerings for others, often not as the person-in-charge, but rather in a supportive leadership role.

Emma’s contributions to Scouting in Australia benefits over 70,000 members and their families. Her volunteer contributions to the national review, development and implementation of the Scouts Australia youth program were so significant that she was subsequently employed. Emma's passion has not only inspired others but resulted in her becoming the go-to person in both her employment and volunteer roles.

Emma has been instrumental in designing and implementing the youth program that aligns with the Australian Curriculum, the national school curriculum. This skill has since been used to align Scouting outcomes to the Sustainable Development Goals and other relevant frameworks.

During COVID-19, Emma supported the new "Scouting at home" online program. This initiative was successful as it provided engaging and relevant information to locked down members. Emma has also maintained her passion and commitment in isolation during COVID-19.

Emma's international contributions and resources engaged with and adopted by other National Scouting Organisations benefit the global community of over 57 million Scouting members worldwide.

Lyn Brodie
Chief Executive Officer - Optometry Australia

After her early career in the corporate world Lyn is currently CEO of Optometry Australia (OA). This follows many years in the not-for-profit sector and a stint as a Federal Ministerial Adviser.

Under her visionary leadership, Lyn has implemented successful policies and programs; one of the most significant was the subsidised fees for Divisions following the COVID-19 crisis. It ultimately resulted in a very positive outcome. OA has strengthened nationally delivered member services, reversing a five-year membership decline with membership up 5% in 2021. The organisation has the highest engagement and membership statistics in over five years.

With strong relationships with key government health officials and the Australian Health Professionals Regulation Agency, Lyn raised the profile of optometry within health care and contributed to the historic September 2021 decision to include optometrists in the COVID-19 response surge workforce. This granted optometrists permission to administer vaccinations, firmly acknowledging them as an essential primary health workforce. 

Through effective advocacy, Lyn secured a Federal Government grant to support and extend OA's Good vision for life campaign and assist delivery of eye health messages seen by millions of Australians. This concerted effort potentially influenced 3.45 million eye examinations to July 2021.

Lyn's championed the Optometry 2040 project, an ambitious futures project challenging the status quo of the current model of optometry in Australia. By engaging a wide range of professionals, an innovative and aspiration model of practice was created, with universal support. This has become a backbone to strategic planning and advocacy going forward. Its recommendations shaped OA's 2021 policy platform Working Together for Better Eye Care and the 2022 Federal Government election pitch.

Recognising the impact of climate change on health care, Lyn is exploring initiatives to ensure that Australian optometry plays its part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions in the future.

Paul Nicolaou
Executive Director – Business Sydney

Paul has been instrumental in building the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI) Business Leaders Council and connecting political leaders with the business leader's council members.

Paul exercises powerful soft influence in the public policy space through his thoughtful contributions to public discourse and private conversations. He consistently demonstrates impact through the relationships he builds and the connections he facilitates.

His ability to build a profile through events has enabled the establishment of the ACCI Business Leaders Council, which has provided a powerful platform for the debate of policy for the business community.

He has demonstrated a genuine passion for membership associations and assisting members to connect with each other for mutual benefit. He actively connects association executives to politicians and decision-makers. This work has led to significant growth in ACCI's association membership and increased engagement amongst and with ACCI members.

Paul's endless enthusiasm and energy are quite simply to be revered. He is tireless in his work, attentive in his relationships and communications and has a genuine authenticity that is greatly admired by people who know him. Paul is a great influencer of his own staff and colleagues, leading by example in his work ethic, integrity, and commitment to members.

Paul Zahra
Chief Executive Officer - Australian Retailers Association (ARA)

When Paul stepped into the CEO role mid-pandemic in 2020, the ARA and the Australian retailer sector had many challenges. The ARA was in a financial crisis, and retail lacked a unified voice. Individual retailers often dominated media and government conversations.

Through Paul’s efforts to elevate the voice and status of the sector and the ARA, the ARA is now the unified voice and authority of the sector, and the Australian retail sector has never been more visible.

Paul adapted and COVID crisis to super-charge the ARA's efforts to innovate and transform.

Paul is a visionary leader who creates a very high benchmark for achievement. Working with Deloitte, the ARA team and Council came together to create an inspiring, globally benchmarked 5-year vision with supremely trackable performance milestones, which the ARA are on the path to achieving.

Paul breathed new life into their registered training arm, the ARA Retail Institute, including the development of a significant new slate of training programs and performing a vital role throughout the pandemic delivering virtual programs.

Paul has strengthened the ARA’s data and insights capacity creating exclusive partnerships with leading research companies and experts and forming a unique industry-wide Consumer Research panel.

Paul has made a significant impact. His work has made positive advances for its members to help future-proof the industry and the organisation. Paul advocates strongly for members and government, workplace relations improvements and greater agility and resilience amongst retail leaders and their teams.

Sophia Rose
General Manager - Brand, Strategy and Engagement - Institute of Directors in New Zealand

Sophia Rose (aka Sophi) is a passionate brand advocate and drives a strong future for the Institute of Directors in New Zealand (IoD) and its stakeholders.

Sophi has had a significant influence and impact on the IoD externally and internally. Externally, she has led the implementation of a new brand and has successfully repositioned IoD with a strong voice, reflected in the IoD's standing and presence in the governance community and media.

Under Sophi's leadership, the IoD has undergone a significant digital transformation. She continually drives improvements and efficiencies in how the organisation performs, including new CRM, website, and digital strategy. The organisation is now more modern, accessible, impactful, and is recognised as a market-leading industry association and membership body.

Sophi epitomises innovation. She has a growth mindset and continuously pushes the organisation to ensure they are ready for the "Netflixing" of membership. She is the Chief Metaverse Officer for the IoD, diving into this emerging technology area, so the IoD and, more importantly, their members are prepared and leading the way.

Sophi encourages the IoD team to innovate and try new things to look beyond the horizon. In 2021, Sophi led Small feet's sustainability initiative to reduce the IoD's organisational carbon footprint.

She inspires the next generation of Association leaders to make the changes needed to influence the future for us all.

Nominees for 2022...

    • Alison Fallon, Conference and Events Manager - Australian Orthopaedic Association -
    • Allison Delaney, Operations Manager, New Zealand Joinery Manufacturers Federation – Registered Master Joiners,
    • Angela White, Executive Officer, Adolescent Success,
    • Anna Yerondais, Chief Executive Officer, Myotherapy Association Australia,
    • Anthony Tassone, President, Victoria and National Vice President of Health Economics and Policy, The Pharmacy Guild of Australia,
    • Ashley Baker, Executive Director - NiUG AP - 
    • Bec Smith, Vice President (ACT LC) - Australian Literacy Educators’ Association ACT Local Council -
    • Belinda Clarke, Chief Operating Officer - Restaurant & Catering Association -
    • Braden Hon, Digital Content Coordinator - Australian College of Nursing
    • Brendon Ward, Chief Executive Officer - Australian Swim Coaches & Teachers Association -
    • Captain Andrew Ridling, President - NZ Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) -
    • Christina Macleod, Legal Advisor - Rental Vehicle Association -
    • Claire West, Conference Coordinator - The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of
    • David Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer - Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia -
    • David Price, Chief Executive Officer - The Law Society Of Western Australia  -
    • Dawn Handforth, General Manager - NZ Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) -
    • Dr Don Perlgut, Chief Executive Officer - Community Colleges Australia -
    • Dr Julie Strous, Executive Director - Australasian Veterinary Boards Council -
    • Dr Matthew Hopcraft, Chief Executive Officer - Australian Dental Association Victorian Branch -
    • Dr Susie O'Neill, Founder and Chief Executive Officer - KIDS Foundation -
    • Erin Faehrmann, Chief Executive - Youth Opportunities - 
    • Fiona Nield, Executive Director Victoria - Housing Industry Association -
    • Gareth Phillips, Chief Executive Officer - Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators -
    • Gary Toner, Executive Officer - Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA)
    • Jeffrey Lehrer, National RTO Compliance Manager - Scouts Australia -
    • Jemma Still, Executive Officer - Cancer Nurses Society of Australia -
    • Jennie Wallace, Leadership Development Course Director - Girls Brigade Australia - 
    • Joanna Matthew, Head of Education & Professionalism - Financial Planning Association of Australia (FPA) 
    • Kay York, Past President - Home Economics Institute of Australia -
    • Leanne Fecser, Operation and Education Manager - New Zealand Veterinary Association -
    • Leigh Clarke, Chief Executive Officer - Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association (AOPA) -
    • Louise Schaper, Chief Executive Officer - Australasian Institute of Digital Health -
    • Matthew Monaghan, Chief Executive Officer - Chiropractic Australia
    • Melissa Ekberg, Director Industry Engagement - Civil Contractors Federation SA -
    • Michael Kilgariff, Chief Executive Officer - Roads Australia -
    • Philip Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer - The Australian Counselling
    • Professor Shan Kumar, Immediate Past President (National) - Concrete Institute of Australia -
    • Sofie Arhontoulis, President - Music Teachers' Association South Australia -
    • Tamara Vermeend, Heads of Events - SMSF Association - 
    • Tim McKibbin, Chief Executive Officer - Real Estate Institute of New South Wales (REINSW) -
    • Trent Twomey, President - The Pharmacy Guild of

Well done to all of this years 2022 peer nominees!

For further information about Association Influencers Awards program or to make an enquiry, contact: 

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

Australian Office:
Address: Unit 6, 26 Navigator Place, Hendra QLD 4011 Australia
Free Call: +61 1300 764 576
Phone: +61 7 3268 7955

New Zealand Office:
Address: 159 Otonga Rd, Rotorua 3015 New Zealand
Phone: +64 27 249 8677


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software