Our Board

Engagement Australia Board

As a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, Engagement Australia is governed by a voluntary Board of Directors that is drawn from its members. At our Annual General meeting, each year in November we receive nominations for 50% of the current Board positions to ensure we maintain corporate knowledge and stability.

The formal structure of Engagement Australia comprises the following subcommittees:

  • Finance, Audit and Risk
  • Excellence Awards
  • Publications

If you are interested in helping to shape Engagement Australia as a Director of the Board, or would like to assist deliver one of our programs and services as part of one of our sub-committees – please get in touch!

Current Board Members

Verity Firth - Director

Verity Firth
Director & Chair

Matthew Pink - Director / Deputy Editor, Transform Australian Catholic University

Matthew Pink
Deputy Chair / Editor Transform
Australian Catholic University

Peter Binks - Director & Company Secretary, Griffith University

Peter Binks
Director & Company Secretary

Catherine Marks - Director & Treasurer, Bond University

Catherine Marks
Director & Treasurer
Bond University

Jess Vanderlelie - Director, La Trobe University

Jessica Vanderlelie
La Trobe University

Billy O’Steen - Director, University of Canterbury, NZ

Billy O’Steen
University of Canterbury, NZ

Alphia Possamai-Inesedy - Director, Western Sydney University

Alphia Possamai-Inesedy
Western Sydney University


Sara Wills
Director / Deputy Editor Transform
University of Melbourne

Tom Burton - Director, Charles Sturt University

Tom Burton
Charles Sturt University


Bruce Watson


Bronwyn Harch
Griffith University

Jim Nyland - Chair / Editor, Transform University of Southern Queensland

Jim Nyland
Executive Director, Corporate Engagement

Karen Daley - Business Administrator

Karen Daley
Business Manager

Meet Our Board Members

Verity Firth – Director & Chair

Professor The Hon. Verity Firth AM is the inaugural Vice-President Societal Impact, Equity and Engagement. Prof. Firth has over twenty years’ experience at the very highest levels of government and education sectors in Australia. She has strong public policy experience and a proven capacity to drive large scale reform across a range of organisations.

Prior to her role at UNSW, Prof. Firth was the Pro Vice-Chancellor Social Justice and Inclusion at the University of Technology Sydney (2015-2022). She developed and delivered the UTS Social Impact Framework, a first of its kind for the Australian university sector and founded the the UTS Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion. She was instrumental in the establishment of the UTS Human Technology Institute.

Prof. Firth was NSW Minister for Education and Training from 2008 – 2011, where she focused on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage in low socio-economic communities, including rural and remote Indigenous communities. As NSW Minister for Women (2007-2009) Prof. Firth implemented sector wide strategies to improve women’s recruitment, development and employment in the NSW public sector, and delivered the NSW Government’s first Domestic Violence Strategy.

As Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation (2011-2014), Prof. Firth led the Foundation’s transformation from a fledgling organisation into a major provider of scholarships and support for teachers and students in public education. Prof. Firth was the Member for the state seat of Balmain from 2007 – 2011. Before her parliamentary career, Prof. Firth worked as a lawyer and was Deputy Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney

“Universities are public purpose institutions. They exist for public good. Engagement, whether that be with staff and students, communities or partners, is vital in ensuring that the work we do contributes to the betterment of society and achieves positive social impact.”

Matthew Pink – Deputy Chair & Editor Transform

Dr Matthew Pink is the Head of ACU Engagement at Australian Catholic University. His research areas of interest include the transformational processes of university-community engagement, sport for positive youth development in developing, and developed nations, higher education, and athlete welfare and development.

Matthew is passionate about harnessing the power of universities and communities to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes that transform society. Matthew was personally transformed by a community engagement experience working with youth and soccer in Timor Leste as a student and has since always made time for community engagement in his higher education career spanning 14 years with Australian Catholic University. He has co-authored 16 publications across the community engagement and service-learning, higher education, sport for development, and sport and exercise psychology fields and was lead academic in developing the 3×3 model of student learning and well-being during international community engagement. Matthew received his doctorate from ACU in 2016 and was co-academic-lead in establishing the ACU and DePaul University (Chicago) Conference on Community Engagement and Service-learning which is now a biennial tradition between the two institutions. Matthew also led ACU’s involvement in the first phase of the Uniservitate Global program for service-learning in Catholic Higher Education. In his teaching career, Matthew has received two citations for the quality of his teaching and in particular for showing empathy and support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

”Universities’ engagement with community, industry, and government is critical to their purposes as institutions for the public good. Through authentic, reciprocal, and assets-based partnerships, universities can be increasingly connected to the broader society and contribute in profound ways”

Peter Binks – Director & Company Secretary

Peter is an experienced CEO with a track record of leading organisations which span the private and public sectors.  He has significant experience working with universities and research organisations. He was most recently CEO of the Business Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) a position held since early 2017. At BHERT he led a small team supporting and advocating for industry-university collaboration in Australia, and drove a major expansion of the BHERT Awards.  For the last 12 months Peter has been Director Partnerships at Skalata Ventures in Melbourne; building university and business partnerships to support high-growth startups.

Peter was trained as a scientist, and gained a PhD in astrophysics at Oxford University while on a Rhodes Scholarship. He worked at McKinsey & Company, BHP Pty Ltd, Telstra Corporation, and was the inaugural CEO of start-up Nanotechnology Victoria. He was CEO at the John Monash Foundation for 5 years. At NanoVic and the John Monash Foundation he developed strong new propositions, secured external funding and led rapid growth of the companies through his management of government, industry and private sector partnerships. He also had short spells leading the Wade Institute for Entrepreneurship, and the Garnett Passe & Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation.

Peter was on the Board of listed technology company CFCL for 5 years, and was Chairman of ANT Energy Solutions in 2017-18.  He served on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Defence laboratories DSTO, and is currently Chair of the Industry Advisory Board for the Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University

He has held a wide portfolio of external activities, which currently include:

  • Director on the Advisory Board of education venture In2science
  • Chairman of medtech startups Smileyscope Pty Ltd and Nucleotrace Ltd
  • Advisor to the Centre for Policy Development, an Australian policy think tank
Catherine Marks – Director & Treasurer
Catherine Marks - Director & Treasurer, Bond University

Catherine Marks joined Bond University as the inaugural Vice President Engagement in September 2018. Catherine brings a wealth of experience to Bond in developing its reputation, profile, and future sustainability.

Catherine leads the Engagement and Advancement portfolio which includes Alumni Relations, Development, Engagement and Philanthropy, Corporate Communications and reputational management, Bond Sport, and Bond Creative Art Connections, Industry Engagement, and the Newsroom.

For over 30 years, Catherine has lead advancement, marketing, and engagement functions, with award-winning campaigns in the UK Higher Education at the University of Edinburgh, the University of South Wales and just before she came to Australia as Director of Global Advancement at Swansea University.  Catherine is a trained Economist and holds a Master’s in International Marketing from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Catherine is a true advocate for Global Higher education, as well as Sport & the Arts. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She has also held positions and board memberships with the Police Force, the Audit Commission and with Welsh Rugby in the UK and is a trustee of the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA), Engagement Australia, Bond Rugby, and AFL Boards.

Catherine is a proud Welsh lady and she and her family have settled in Queensland where they continue their love and enthusiasm for the outdoors, on land and on the water.

“Education is a key driver for engagement opportunities across all sectors.  Engagement is about encouraging individuals to be part of an organisation, cause, or sector to provide productive relationships and outcomes. In this 24/7 digital world, the opportunities for Education engagement are endless which ultimately leads to advancement for all.”

Jessica Vanderlelie – Director

Professor Vanderlelie is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at La Trobe University leading the university to develop and implement a sustainable, and integrated strategies to deliver an outstanding student experience, transform equity outcomes and deliver excellence in learning and teaching. Jessica is co-chair of Universities Australia Women and is a passionate advocate for improving institutional and sector wide approaches to supporting diversity and inclusion. Jessica has demonstrated sustained leadership in learning and teaching in Australian Higher Education, she is an Australian Learning and Teaching Fellow and has been recognised nationally through receipt of an Australian Award for University Teaching and AFR Award.

Innovative, responsive and authentic engagement is fundamental to future proofing higher education.  By facilitating deep and authentic partnership with students, alumni, community and industry, we will unlock the potential to create an engaging university experience and transform the lives of our students and the communities we serve.”

Billy Osteen – Director

Billy is the inaugural Associate Professor of Community Engagement and Director of the UC Community Engagement Hub at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Based on the success of a community engagement course he and Dr Lane Perry created after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, CHCH101: Rebuilding Christchurch, community engagement has become one of four attributes in a new UC Graduate Profile. To create community engagement opportunities for all UC students, he spends a significant amount of time collaborating with a wide variety of community partners. UC is grateful to Engagement Australia for being an influential supporter of these efforts.

“Sometimes we in higher education choose community engagement and sometimes it chooses us through natural disaster, local issues, or the intersection of town and campus. Our role as community engagement professionals is to keep both the inward and outward channels open.”

Tom Burton – Director

Tom Burton is an international education and community engagement executive with 15 years’ experience transforming lives through education. Tom is the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Community & Global Engagement, at Charles Sturt University, and has worked extensively in the K-12, Vocational and Higher Education sectors. Tom specialises in regional education priorities and community impact and his experience spans following domains:

  • strategic stakeholder engagement
  • business development
  • international relations
  • the Higher Education policy and regulatory environment
  • international student experience, community engagement and employability
  • recruitment, admissions and pathways development

A member of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) and Deputy Vice-Chancellors’ International and Community Engagement sector networks, Tom actively contributes to the national discourse regarding education trends and opportunities.

Tom builds high performing teams through a collaborative and inspirational leadership style and lives in Port Macquarie with his wife and young family.

Alphia Possamai-Inesedy – Director

Alphia Possamai-Inesedy is the Pro Vice Chancellor of Engagement and Advancement and a Professor of Sociology at Western Sydney University.  She was the Chair of Academic Senate (2018-2021), President of the Australian Sociological Association (2020-) as well as the inaugural Director of Sydney City Campus WSU. Alphia led the development of the WSU 2021-2026 strategic plan, Sustaining Success. She is the Springer co-editor for the series ‘Religion, Spirituality and Health: A Social Scientific approach’. She has worked as an Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) and was responsible for the co-creation of the Master of Research at WSU (the first centralised degree of the University). She was the editor in chief of the Journal of Sociology (2013- end of 2016) as well as the co-creator of the Risk Societies Thematic Group within the Australian Sociological Association.  Her recent work includes: The Digital Social: Religion and Belief (2019); as well as an upcoming volume on Health sociology (Pearson).  Alphia is currently involved in ongoing research that focuses on higher education, risk society, religion, digital sociology and methodologies.

“Engagement is central to fulfilling the public purpose of Universities, sitting equally aside education and research. The work of engagement ensures that the provision of public goods by Universities is broadened out beyond those who directly participate in them, pointing to the potential of co-produced transformation, both by and for communities and the universities in which they are embedded.”

Bruce Watson – Director

Professor Bruce Watson is Deputy Vice Chancellor Equity Diversity and Inclusion (acting) at UNSW. He commenced as a lecturer at UNSW in 2001 in the Faculty of Built Environment, designing and convening first year design studio experiences, gaining faculty commendations for his teaching.

In 2014 Bruce designed and implemented the first of the Faculty’s alternate entry schemes broadening the entry reach beyond ATAR alone. The entry scheme now accounts for 20% of new students to the School of Built Environment, inspiring similar schemes across the Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture.
From 2014 -2016, Bruce chaired the international association of Interior Architects/Designer Educators Association (IDEA), a peak international body that supports the publication of Journals and Symposia and reviews and ensures design education standards are met. He was a council member of the Australia Council of Deans and Directors of the Creative Arts, (DDCA) a representative body for the creative arts in Australian Universities, providing advocacy and to inform, connect and amplify the voices of people and organisations responsible for scholarly and research leadership of the creative arts in higher education. In 2018-2023 Bruce became Head of School and Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Built Environment, and UNSW’s Faculty of Arts Design & Architecture stewarding the Faculties vision across 2500 students, seven Undergraduate programs and four post-graduate programs.

“Meaningful and inclusive engagement with our communities is the cornerstone of universities’ contributions to society, facilitating impactful positive change. It is our duty to cultivate authentic and contributory relationships that form the foundation for and promote equitable opportunities across all segments of society.”

Bronwyn Harch – Director

Professor Bronwyn Harch is Vice President (Industry and External Engagement) at Griffith University. Bronwyn has executive responsibility for university level partnerships, major industry relationships and consortia-based partnerships engaging industries, government and communities.

Bronwyn is the former Interim Queensland Chief Scientist, and previously Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Innovation), at The University of Queensland. Trained as an agri-environmental data scientist, Bronwyn is a renowned leader in research, innovation and partnership strategy with a passion for brokering (transdisciplinary) collaboration through private-public alliances.

Professor Harch has served on multiple boards and advisory committees, including the Federal Government Future Drought Fund Consultative Committee, Federal Government Industry Innovation and Science Australia, AgResearch New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation Science Advisory Committee, the Federal Government Co-operative Research Centre Advisory Committee, the Queensland Government Innovation Advisory Council, the Queensland Museum Network and Australian Pork Limited.

“Engagement effort in higher education is about making an impact for our students, staff, alumni and collaborators by generating & disseminating knowledge, technology & practices that make our world more sustainable, secure & resilient.”

Sara Wills – Director & Deputy Editor Transform

Professor Sara Wills is currently the Deputy Dean (External Relations) in the Faculty of Arts and Head of Program for the Executive Master of Arts in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Born in the UK, Sara migrated to Australia in her mid-teens and, following an early (and continuing) interest in the history of ideas about nature, for many years she focused her academic teaching and research on migration, multicultural and refugee histories, with particular reference to memory and museum studies.

She taught the undergraduate subject ‘Migrant Nation: History, Culture, Identity’ for over a decade years and supervised many PhD theses to completion in this broad field. More recently Sara has been interested in the idea that an education in the humanities prepares one for the great work that makes a great life. To that end, she has enjoyed teaching ‘The Power of Ideas: 10 Great Books’ and ‘Leaders, Business and Culture in Florence’ as part of the unique Executive Master of Arts degree in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences – a degree that combines critical, creative and ethical thinking with budgeting, project management and how to develop a good comms plan. In addition, for much of the last 10 years, Sara has focused attention on ways in which the University can create greater opportunities for students, research and teaching by working with the broader community. Believing that we are always ‘stronger together’, Sara has worked in partnership with individuals and organisations who share the Faculty’s commitment to excellence, access, equity and diversity in education. Sara is proud of her work with the 110 Scholarship Scheme, I-LEAP (the Indigenous Leadership Excellence and Achievement Program) the Melbourne Humanities Foundation Board, the Being Human Festival, MWF, Melbourne Social Equity Institute, among other collaborations.

Jim Nyland – Executive Director, Corporate Engagement

Professor Jim Nyland is Executive Director, Corporate Engagement and Academic Director, University of Bolton, UK. Professor Nyland also holds a Personal Chair at the University of Bolton which is a top 30 University in the UK as ranked by The Guardian, and is the No.1 University in Greater Manchester for student satisfaction as judged by the Good Universities Guide for the last 6 years. Previously Professor Nyland has served as Dean (Students) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) from July 2022 to January 20224. Prior to this he was Professor and Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). He has held academic appointments at the University of Queensland, where he was the Director of Corporate Education and Director of UQ Business School Downtown. He has also served as Manager and Principal Advisor in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office for Engagement at Griffith University and has held managerial positions in a number of universities in the UK. He has a Doctorate in Education and has published widely in research areas including curriculum change, the nature of learning and the impact of modernity on educational opportunity. Professor Nyland’s work has been international in scope and he has developed programs in the UK and Australia as well as keynote academic papers in Ireland and South Africa. He is particularly interested in extending our knowledge and capacities in ‘new learning’ both in work and professional settings and in communities which are in transition and face challenges.

He has served as Chair of Engagement Australia – the peak body for Australian University Engagement – and represents Australian Universities on the International Consortium of Community Engagement, which is globally linked to the lead academic engagement communities in the USA, the Council of Europe and South America. He has also served as Editor of the Australian journal Transform: Journal of Engaged Scholarship and contributes to current educational debates and issues in regional and national publications.

“Engagement remains the next Big Idea on the horizon in higher education.  Its vitality is at the heart of improved education and research outcomes for universities.”

Karen Daley – Business Manager

Karen has a Certificate IV in Business Administration, with over 20 years admin experience and 18 years of finance experience. Karen also is experienced in small business management and event management. Karen enjoys working with Engagement Australia’s members and stakeholders, as well as organising Engagement Australia events.

“Working alongside engagement professionals has highlighted the positive things that can come from collaboration between communities and universities.”