Shannon Willoughby
Opening Speaker

Shannon Willoughby is the Chief Executive Officer and Committee Secretary of Study Gold Coast, the peak industry and city marketing body for the Gold Coast’s education and training sector.

Holding a Bachelor of Communication from Bond University, Shannon is a former senior journalist at the Gold Coast Bulletin. Also the former long-term president of Young Professionals Gold Coast, Shannon is infinitely passionate about the Gold Coast and has been a leader in drawing attention to the city’s issues and potential. Shannon is currently Councillor for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland’s (CCIQ) Gold Coast Regional Policy Council and board member of Ohana for Youth, Gen-Z Employment and Regional Development Australia.

Professor Lily Kong
Keynote Speaker

Professor Lily Kong is Provost and Lee Kong Chian Chair Professor of Social Sciences at the Singapore Management University (SMU).

A graduate of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and University College London, Professor Kong was a faculty member in the NUS Department of Geography from 1991 to 2015.  She took on numerous administrative positions from 1995, often concurrently, including Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (2000 – 2003); Dean of the University Scholars Programme (2002 – 2003); Vice Provost (Education) (2004 – 2007); Vice-President (University and Global Relations) (2007 – 2014); Acting Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs), Yale-NUS College (2011 – 2012); and Vice-Provost (Academic Personnel) (2012-2015).  She was a key force in shaping and establishing Singapore’s first liberal arts college.  She moved to SMU in late 2015.

Professor Kong is well-known for her research on religion, cultural policy and creative economy, urban heritage and conservation, and national identity.  She remains actively engaged in research.  Recent publications includeReligion and Space: Competition, Conflict and Violence in the Contemporary World” (2016), “Food, Foodways and Foodscapes: Culture, Community and Consumption in Post-Colonial Singapore” (2015) and “Arts, Culture and the Making of Global Cities: Creating New Urban Landscapes in Asia” (2015).

Professor Karen Nelson
Keynote Speaker

Karen is responsible for developing the USC student experience the range of innovative curricular and co-curricular initiatives to enhance the student experience, retention and success.  For 17 years, her research and practice have focused on student engagement in higher education.  In addition to her work at USC and prior to that at QUT, she has led a series of large national projects, which have produced transferrable resources for the sector. These include a maturity model for student engagement and a social justice framework for higher education.  In 2016, she led an eight-institution national project ‘Shaping the 21st century student experience in regional universities’ and in 2017 produced a research report for the NCSEHE ‘Understanding the completion patterns of equity students in regional universities’.  Karen is the Editor of the Student Success Journal and Co-Chair of the annual STARS Conference.  Her service and contributions to the sector have been recognized by three Australian Awards for University Teaching.  In 2016 she was made Principal Fellow of the UK-based Higher Education Academy for her sustained record of strategic impact at institutional, national and international level and her commitment to leadership in teaching.

Tony Dreise
Keynote Speaker

Tony Dreise is a proud descendent of the Guumilroi and Euahlayi peoples of north-west New South Wales and south-west Queensland.

Tony is an independent consultant who undertakes research; policy analysis; curriculum and resource development; change management; and community planning for government, community, philanthropic and education bodies. He is also an Indigenous Scholar at the Australian National University, where he is finalising his PhD study into the role of Australian philanthropy in Indigenous education. He holds both a Bachelor of Teaching degree and a Masters of Public Administration.

Over the past twenty-five years, Tony has served in a number of professional capacities including as a senior executive in government, a regional director in Indigenous education, and a national executive in Indigenous adult education and youth training connected to the then Australian National Training Authority. In more recent years, he served as the former Hub Leader and Principal Research Fellow for Indigenous Education at the Australian Council for Educational Research.

Tony is a passionate advocate of both lifelong learning and regional development. At a national level, he is a former Board Member of Adult Learning Australia and a former Member of the National Vocational Training Equity Advisory Council. At a regional level, Tony has volunteered in a number of capacities including as both President of the Northern Rivers Social Development Council and Deputy Chair of the Northern Rivers Board of Regional Development Australia.

Tony’s work in Indigenous education has appeared in both Australian and international publications and conferences. His work at a national level has included analysis of how Indigenous children and young people are faring in Australian education. Tony is a firm believer that Indigenous education results will only improve through sustained and continuous improvement within education institutions and within the wider community environments in which children and young people live. As such, he has been keen to advance theories and programs in ‘whole child’ development, ‘place-based’ investment, and de-institutionalised equity.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.