Dr. Eva Balan-Vnuk

Executive Director, ICT and Digital Government Department of Premier and Cabinet, Government of South Australia.

“The changing landscape of work and building a future-ready workforce”

Eva is responsible for providing strategic leadership for the delivery of cyber security, digital strategy, digital government and ICT services across South Australia Government. With her team, Eva drives the implementation of SA Government’s strategic priorities for security and risk assurance, digital strategy and exploration of new technologies to benefit citizens, businesses and public servants.

Prior to this role, Eva was State Director for Microsoft South Australia, as well as the inaugural National Skills Program Lead to create and develop Microsoft Australia’s future-ready workforce initiatives. Eva has a PhD in innovation and entrepreneurship from the University of Adelaide, and is a Director for Novita, St Peter’s Girls’ College and the History Trust of South Australia. She is also founder of HerTechPath, a community of women working in the technology sector in South Australia who deliver briefings to high schools to inspire girls to consider careers in this disruptive, exciting and important sector.

Katrina Karlapina Power

Welcome to Country

A proud Kaurna woman; Mother & Grandmother.

Journalist; Cross Cultural broker; Narrative Healer & artist

Jo Mason

Master of Ceremonies

Photo & Bio coming soon!

Ben Walden

Founder and Artistic Director of Contender Charlie

Ben Walden

“Julius Caesar – The Influential Leader”

Ben’s work with staff and students has received major acclaim at education conferences around the world. He has given main keynote addresses for groups such as the ICP Convention in Australia, the ESF Principals in Hong Kong, ESSARP schools in Buenos Aires, the Latin America Headteachers Conference and the 3 International Baccalareate conferences for Europe, Asia and the Americas, as well as the IB World student Conference. He has also been a regular speaker at the New Heads Conference for the National College of School Leadership in the UK.

He is an actor and presenter who has played a number of leading roles on television and for the Donmar and Almeida theatre companies as well as at Shakespeare`s Globe. Having run many masterclasses for the Shakespeare`s Globe Education Centre he has worked in close collaboration with Mark Rylance and Richard Olivier in the development of an experiential theatre learning technique called Mythodrama.

As a Senior Associate at Olivier Mythodrama, Ben is now running sessions bringing this work at Leadership level into a broad range of organisations across the world. He has also run projects at a number of leading business schools including Columbia, OSBS, the London Business School and Insead.

“Contender Charlie” is the company he has formed to take this, and other theatre techniques, into education. Its courses have now become a regular fixture at Headteacher conferences as well as at staff and student events all over Britain. As well as his leadership and creativity courses for teaching staff, Ben runs sessions for students of many different abilities and backgrounds looking at themes of leadership and calling in their own lives.

His chief passion is using Shakespeare and mythic stories to inspire meaning and purpose in the lives of young people and their mentors.

Professor Peter Rathjen

Vice Chancellor and President - University of Adelaide

Professor Peter Rathjen commenced as the University of Adelaide’s 22nd Vice-Chancellor and President on 8 January 2018.
He is an Australian scientist and medical researcher internationally recognised in stem cell science.
Professor Rathjen studied as an undergraduate in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Adelaide. As a 1985 Rhodes Scholar Professor Rathjen undertook a DPhil at Oxford University.
Professor Rathjen returned to South Australia and the University of Adelaide, where he worked as a Lecturer in Biochemistry from 1990 to 1995, then became Head of the Department of Molecular Biosciences in 2000, and Foundation Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences in 2002, a role he held until 2006.
Professor Rathjen was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Melbourne in 2006; and from 2008 to 2011 he served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research). In 2011, he was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Tasmania, a role he held until October 2017.

Rick Persse

The Chief Executive, Department for Education


Rick Persse was appointed to lead the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) in June 2016. The department name changed in 2018 to the Department for Education.

Rick joins the department after a successful 4 year period as chief executive of the Attorney-General’s Department where he was central to delivery of the government’s program of criminal, civil and administrative justice reform.

With expertise in policy and strategy development, change management, public sector reform and project delivery, Rick’s knowledge of public administration was gained from an expansive career working at a variety of South Australian central government agencies at an executive level.

Prior to being appointed to the role of Chief Executive, Attorney-General’s Department, Rick worked with government and non-government clients as PricewaterhouseCoopers SA Government and Health Leader.

Rick has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Adelaide and a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management from Griffith University.

Professor Pasi Sahlberg

Gonski Institute for Education, School of Education, University of NSW.

“What Next for Australian Schools: From the outside looking in”

Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is a Finnish educator and author who has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland and has studied education systems, analysed education policies, and advised education reforms around the world.
He has written and spoken widely about transforming education. His book Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for an idea that has potential to change the world. He is also a recipient of the 2012 Education Award in Finland, the 2014 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, the 2016 Lego Prize, and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident Fellowship in 2017. He chairs the Open Society Foundations’ Global Education Board and the International Council of Education Advisors (ICEA) for the Scottish First Minister.
Professor Sahlberg is an inspirational speaker, lecturer and trainer. His passion is to advice and work with schools, communities, and nations to reimagining teaching and learning, school education, and system-wide efforts to improve equity and quality of education. He has gained working knowledge in over 60 countries around the world. He is a former senior specialist at the World Bank in Washington, DC, director general of the Ministry of Education in Finland, and a visiting professor at Harvard University.

Jane Caro

Author, novelist, journalist, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and social commentator.

“The Importance of Public Secondary Schooling”

Jane Caro is an author, novelist, journalist, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and social commentator.

She has published nine books, including two novels “Just a Girl” and “Just a Queen” about Elizabeth Tudor and a memoir ‘Plain Speaking Jane’. ‘Just Flesh & Blood’ the third and final book in the Elizabeth Tudor trilogy will be published in 2018. She has just launched ‘Unbreakable, women share stories of hope and resilience’ an anthology of the stories women find hardest to tell. She is currently working on a book about women over 50.

She appears regularly in the media including Q&A, The Drum, Sunrise & Weekend Sunrise. In 2013 she co-created, co-produced (with Amanda Armstrong) and presented a 6 part radio series for ABC Life Matters – ‘For Better, For Worse’. The series was so successful it is now a 5 part TV series for ABC Compass. She produced another special series for Compass in 2016 “Fathers & Daughters, Mothers & Sons” and her third series with Compass “The Staffroom” went to air in August 2017. She writes regular columns for ‘Sunday Life’ and ‘Leadership Matters’.

Jane and her husband Ralph have two adult daughters and a grandson. Together they are also beef producers and timber growers.

Peter Mader

President of SASPA and Vice President of ASPA


Peter Mader is President of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association and Vice President of the Australian Secondary Principals Association.  He has been a secondary principal in Whyalla at Stuart High School (2001), and at two large Adelaide suburban schools, Salisbury East High School (2002-2006) and Hamilton Secondary College (2008 – 2014).

Peter’s educational interests include leadership for 21st C learning, curriculum innovation, school improvement and accountability, and the “politics” of education.

For much of his 35 years as an educator, Peter has advocated on behalf of his peers. Initially this was as a member of the South Australian English Teachers’ Association board and later, as an office bearer.  He has been a member of the South Australian Secondary Principals’ Association since 1997, a member of its Board since 2003, a Strategic Directions convenor (2004 – 2010) and Vice President (2011-2014).