SPEAKER PROFILES

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS

Lee Cowen
Comms & Engagement Consultant, fmr Public Information Manager CCC

Lee is a Communications practitioner with 20-years experience, who has worked in a range of sectors leading big teams to deliver amazing communications outputs. From local government, to the agri-sector, to health, the IFRC and WHO. Lee has worked in both a corporate and emergency communications space… often simultaneously. She was the Public Information Manager on-call on the 22 Feb Christchurch earthquake, the first PIM in and, two months later, the last PIM out as the response transitioned to recovery.

Dr Erica Kuligowski 
Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow, RMIT University

Dr Erica Kuligowski is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the School of Engineering at RMIT University (Melbourne) with expertise in decision-making and response behaviour of people under imminent threat, emergency communications, and evacuation modelling. With a PhD in Sociology and MS and BS degrees in Fire Engineering, she has led interdisciplinary research studies of human response to hazards and disasters to improve the safety of people in buildings and communities around the world. 

Prior to joining RMIT University, Erica worked for 18 years in the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Engineering Laboratory where she performed research on evacuation and sheltering behaviour and emergency communications in disaster events, including building fire, severe weather, and bushfire. Erica’s work has led to the development of new or improved building codes and community standards, decision-making tools for disaster response such as evacuation models, and emergency alert/warning creation tools and templates.

Dr Norman Swan
Medical consultant and commentator

Dr Norman Swan is a multi-award winning producer, broadcaster and investigative journalist. His career has been highlighted by his desire to keep the Australian public informed of health developments as they happen, combining medical expertise with journalism.

One of the first medically qualified journalists in Australia, Dr Swan was born in Scotland, and graduated in medicine from the University of Aberdeen and later obtained his postgraduate qualifications in Paediatrics.

Joining the ABC in 1982, Dr Swan has won numerous awards for his work as presenter of the Health Report on ABC Radio National.

Dr Swan was named Australian Radio Producer of the Year in 1984 and was awarded a Gold Citation in the United National Media Peace Prizes for his radio work. He has won three Walkley National Awards for Australian journalism including the Gold, and has won Australia’s top prize for Science Journalism, the Michael Daly Award, twice.

Comm Shane Fitzsimmons
Commissioner, Resilience NSW

Shane has over 30 years experience with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) serving as both a volunteer and salaried officer.

In 1998 he was appointed an Assistant Commissioner with the RFS and has held portfolio responsibilities for Operations, Strategic Development and Regional Management.

In 2004 he was appointed the inaugural Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) Visiting Fellow to the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) for a 12 month period.

In September 2007 he was appointed Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) and also the Chair of the NSW RFS Bushfire Co-ordinating Committee and the Rural Fire Service Advisory Council.  

Following 12 years as Commissioner of NSW RFS, he recently accepted the new appointment of Commissioner, Resilience NSW and Deputy Secretary, Emergency Management, in the newly created agency, effective 1 May 2020.  

Joe Buffone
Director-General, Emergency Management Australia 

Joe is the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA). He has been with EMA since December 2016. He is responsible for the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre, Coordination of Australian Government Disaster Assistance, Physical Security for Australian Holders of High Office and Major Events Security.

He was previously the Chief Officer of the Country Fire Authority in Victoria and has more than 25 years’ experience in Emergency/Disaster and Security Management.

Joe Has held a number of key senior positions including:

  • Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner
  • Deputy Chief Officer County Fire Authority
  • Deputy Emergency Services Commissioner
  • State Marine Pollution Controller
  • Emergency & Security Coordinator for Department of Infrastructure.

Joe was the lead for two major national projects
National Project Director for Emergency Alert –National Telephone Warning System Project post Black Saturday. $60m nationally led from concept to operationalization in 7 months.
Development of the road map for the Next Generation National Fire danger Rating System.

Joe has had direct involvement in coordinating and responding to major emergencies in Australia and internationally, at the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels. Some examples are; Cyclone Debbie 2017, Tasmanian Bushfires 2016, Wye River Bushfires 2016, Nepal Earthquake 2015, Somerton Building Waste Fire 2015, Hazelwood Mine Fire 2014. NSW Bushfires 2014, 2011 Victorian Floods, 2009 Black Saturday Fires in Victoria. Joe has also served in the Australian Defence Force.

Academic Qualifications: Master of Business, Graduate Diploma in Disaster Management, Diploma in Security Management.