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 July 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

Jim Nyland

Jim Nyland
Chair / Editor Transform
University of Southern Queensland

Verity (1)

Verity Firth
Director & Deputy Chair
University of Technology Sydney

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Peter Binks
Director & Company Secretary
Griffith University

Joanne Scott Headshot

Joanne Scott
Director & Treasurer
University of the Sunshine Coast

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Kerry O’Neill
Victoria University

Jess Headshot

Jessica Vanderlelie
La Trobe University

Billy O'Steen

Billy O’Steen
University of Canterbury, NZ


Erin Ruff
Director / Deputy Editor Transform
Flinders University

Julie Wells_Cropped_100x100

Julie Wells
University of Melbourne

Tom Burton_Cropped_100x100

Tom Burton
Charles Sturt University

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Alphia Possamai-Inesedy
Western Sydney University

Karen Daley

Karen Daley
Business Administrator

Meet Our Board Members

Jim Nyland – Chair & Editor Transform

Professor Jim Nyland is Dean (Students) at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ). He has previously served as the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Brisbane) at the Australian Catholic University (ACU). Prior to this 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 holds 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.

“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.”

Verity Firth – Director & Deputy Chair

The Hon. Verity Firth is the Executive Director, Social Justice at the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion, University of Technology Sydney. The Centre acts as a gateway for UTS to respond to community need, building connections for community groups, not-for-profits and government agencies to access the university’s resources and collaborate on social justice issues. It also runs the university’s widening participation programs, focusing on increased access to university for students from equity target groups.  The Centre is responsible for the university’s community engaged student programs and co-edits the Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement with the Swearer Centre at Brown University. Ms Firth has spent fifteen years working to address educational disadvantage in Australia, as Minister for Education and Training from 2008-2011 and as the Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation from 2011-2015.

As Minister for Education and Training she focussed on equity in education, and how to best address educational disadvantage in low socio economic communities, including rural and remote Indigenous communities.  As CEO of the Public Education Foundation she led the Foundation’s transformation from a fledgling organisation into a major provider of financial and advocacy support to public education.

Ms Firth co-leads the Australian pilot of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification.

“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.”

Peter Binks – Director & Company Secretary

Dr Peter Binks joins Griffith University as Vice-President Industry & External Engagement in November 2020. 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
Joanne Scott – Director & Treasurer
Joanne Scott Headshot

One of the longest-serving staff members at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Professor Joanne Scott is the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Engagement). Her portfolio includes community engagement, partnerships, philanthropy and advancement, marketing, and the University’s Caboolture, Fraser Coast, Gympie and SouthBank campuses. She also chairs USC’s Equity and Diversity Committee. Joanne was previously the Executive Dean of Arts, Business and Law. Her research focus is Queensland and Australian history with an emphasis on communities, organisations and work. She is passionate about the capacity of higher education to transform the lives of individuals and their communities and recognises that her university’s success is entwined with and dependent on those communities.

“To truly make a difference, for our universities to be the best they can be, engagement must be at the heart of what we do. Working in partnership with and for our communities for mutual benefit is what makes me optimistic about our shared futures.”

Jessica Vanderlelie – Director

Jessica is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students) at La Trobe University leading the university to develop and implement a sustainable, and integrated strategy to improve the La Trobe student experience. A key focus of this work is to facilitate the successful student transition across the student lifecycle and prepare graduates ready for the changing world of work. Previously, Jessica was the inaugural Innovative Research Universities Vice Chancellors’ Fellow, where she led a collaborative approach to research, design, innovate and disseminate scalable, practices to improve student outcomes across all demographics. Jessica is a passionate academic that has demonstrated sustained leadership in learning and teaching in Australian Higher Education with a key focus on supporting student and graduate success. At Griffith University Jessica was responsible for the embedding of authentic employability-based curriculum across the Faculty of Health. Jessica’s achievements in the development and implementation of practice-based curriculum have been recognised nationally through a series of prestigious awards, including the Australian Award for Excellence in Teaching (early career) in 2012 and an OLT citation for her work in innovative assessment design in Biochemistry. Jessica is a current Australian Office of Learning and Teaching Fellow and leads a national program entitled ‘Engaging alumni for graduate success’.

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.”

Kerry O’Neill – Director

Kerry is Director Precincts Strategy and Development at Victoria University.  She has a leading role in the development of VU’s precincts strategies in Melbourne’s west and leads the VU in the Community and Footscray University Town programs.  She is responsible for fostering engagement and collaborations across the University and with local government, industry and community organisations, extending Victoria University’s outward focus and engagement in Melbourne’s west.  Kerry has extensive experience related to community and stakeholder engagement, and urban and strategic planning, across state and local government, university and community sectors.

“Engagement is the critical bridge to understanding and connectedness between universities and their communities.  It is a key means of fostering knowledge exchange, collaboration, relevance and mutual benefit.”

Erin Ruff – Director & Deputy Editor Transform

Erin has been a part of the Higher Education sector for over a decade, with experience in both public and private tertiary education providers. With a strong belief in the power of life-long education, and a commitment to making study both equitable and purposeful, her career has transitioned from student recruitment, through to Widening Participation, and now as External Engagement Coordinator at Flinders University where she is able to champion and support community, industry and government engagement activity across the whole university. Erin has worked in partnership with Indigenous, refugee, and rural and regional communities to increase capacity through leadership development and culturally relevant educational engagement; and focuses on cultivating genuine relationships for lasting impact.

“Engagement is not a tool to achieve the means to an end, but a mindset that consciously seeks to empower and create transformational change. By reflecting the communities they serve, universities have endless opportunity to celebrate their unique strengths and create powerful, meaningful impact.”

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.”

Julie Wells – Director

As Vice President, Strategy and Culture at the University of Melbourne, Julie is responsible for a broad portfolio encompassing government, civic, cultural and community engagement, as well as people, communications and marketing, strategy and planning, policy, and university governance. She has led the development of two emerging innovation nodes anchored by the University – Melbourne Connect, and the new campus at Fishermans Bend – which will enhance opportunities for the University to collaborate and engage with industry, government and the broader community. She also led the University’s recent participation in a global university engagement project in partnership with Kings College London and University of Chicago.

She is currently a member of the Board of Melbourne University Press and the Advisory Board of the Global Institute for Innovation Districts.

Julie has extensive experience in the tertiary education sector as a senior administrator, lobbyist, adviser and policy analyst. She has worked as a teacher, as an academic, as a national trade union official and in government. At RMIT University, Julie was Vice President (Governance and Planning), responsible for the delivery of integrated governance and planning services. She also held the position of University Secretary at RMIT, and was a founding member of the Board of the Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) and Diploma of Education from the University of Western Australia and a PhD in Australian History from Monash University.

‘Engagement anchors universities in place, and is central to their mission as institutions established in the public interest.   Engagement means that academic endeavour  is informed by the values and perspectives  of the communities we serve, and offers avenues for amplifying its impact.’

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.”

Karen Daley – Business Administrator

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.”