Public Sector Executive Assistant Congress agenda

Conference day one Wednesday 28th October


 9.00     Opening remarks from the chair


9.10     Keynote address: Taking ownership of your work and exerting influence

  • Developing leadership skills and leading from within
  • Dealing with management and leadership tasks
  • Making strategic decisions and taking control of the situation

Georgeina Whelan, Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Agency


9.50     Keynote address: Realising your full potential to unleash the power of women

  • Were women promised to have it all?
  • What are the barriers and obstacles preventing you from progression?
  • Translating gender equality to action

Virginia Haussegger, 2019 ACT Australian of the year; Director 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, University of Canberra; Chief Editor, BroadAgenda


  • Morning coffee


11.00   Advancing your communication skills to influence others

  • Engaging and influencing executives and colleagues
  • Adapting your communication style to different situations
  • Being assertive and supportive at the same time 
  • Managing misunderstandings and conflicts
  • Influencing people in meetings

Ross Judd, Director, Team Focus


  • Panel discussion: Supporting your executives during challenging times as a strategic business partner
  • Showing initiatives and understanding your business during tumultuous times
  • Developing your skills and positioning yourself as a strategic partner
  • Understanding and prioritising your executives’ needs
  • Breaking out of “I’m just an EA” and stepping out of the ‘EA’ box
  • Being the voice of your executives during challenging times

María Rivarola, Executive Assistant to UK Defence & Military Adviser, British High Commission

Jo Hillas, Executive Assistant to CEO, VicHealth

Leanne Cotton, Executive Assistant to Executive Director, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Anita Grassos, Executive Assistant to Chief Executive Clinical Excellence Commission, NSW Health

Elizabeth Borst, Personal Assistant to General Manager, Wollongong City Council


  • Uncovering the myths of emotional intelligence
  • Why do we need to use emotional intelligence at work?
  • Reading people’s body language and emotional cues
  • Making emotions work for you instead of against you
  • How do you develop emotional intelligence?

Rita Joyan, Career and Emotional Intelligence Trainer, Australian Delegate G20 YEA 2019


13.00    Lunch


14.00    Exploring the opportunities of being a virtual assistant

  • What is a virtual assistant?
  • Working remotely to support your executives
  • Using the ever-evolving technologies effectively for daily operations
  • Overcoming challenges for virtual assistance

Ursula Kohler, Managing Director, Capital EA


  • Applying project management skills at work
  • Working effectively in dynamic project environments
  • Creating and supporting high performing teams and work environments
  • Effective project communication and influence
  • Achieving great results using project resources and tools

Chris Nightingale, Founder and Director, Chris Nightingale Consulting


  • Afternoon tea


  • Panel discussion: Taking control of your own career progression
  • Mastering a range of skills to advance your career as a professional executive assistant
  • Leveraging your experience to win a new role outside of the EA space
  • Communicating openly with your executives to gain support
  • Choosing the right career path

Fiona Gaffney, Executive Coordinator to the Secretary, Transport NSW

Liz Grimmett, Executive Assistant to Chief Data Officer & Assistant Secretary, Geospatial & Information Analytics, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

Kerri Clarke, A/g Executive Officer to Commissioner, ACT Emergency Services Agency

Elise Blair, Executive Assistant to the Chief Information Officer, Department of Health and Human Services VIC

Diana Plenderleith, Senior Executive Assistant, Court Services Victoria (tentative)


  • Building a positive workplace culture as a trustworthy executive assistant
  • Handling confidential information with caution and respect
  • Providing diplomatic responses to sensitive information
  • Responding to gossips professionally
  • Dealing with office politics and conflicts between other staff members

Maria Larzabal, Executive Assistant to National Manager Corporate Shared Services, Services Australia


17.10    Closing remarks from the chair and end of conference day one


17.15   Networking drinks


Conference day two Thursday 29th October


9.00   Opening remarks from the chair


9.10   Building resilience and raising mental health awareness

  • Dealing with and recovering from work-related stress
  • Handling sudden changes at the workplace
  • Exploring approaches and tips to avoid burnout
  • Developing self-awareness and self-care plans

Sue Read, Founder and Director, Registered Psychologist, Life Unlimited Psychology


  • Using your position to build and leverage a lifelong network
  • Developing strategies to create a strong and supportive network – where do we start?
  • Understanding the value and importance of your network
  • Exploring the different types of networks, and how each can help you achieve big things

Carly Hartas, Executive Assistant to British Consul-General & Deputy Trade Commissioner APAC, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office


  • Morning coffee


11.10   Using technology to build a paperless work environment

  • Supporting a paperless workplace in a digital world
  • Using technology to view, edit and distribute documents electronically
  • Understand how OneNote and Teams work together to provide a seamless paperless environment
  • What are the technologies best suited to assist your work flow?

Mario Halouvas, National Learning & Development Manager, Priority Management Australia


12.10   Panel discussion: Managing up to become the “boss” of your boss

  • Anticipating your executives’ needs and exercising judgements accordingly
  • Exploring practical strategies of people management
  • Interacting with employees at every level
  • Setting up objectives, goals and deadlines
  • Dealing with uncooperative people on behalf of your executives
  • Remaining firm with your executives in certain situations

Robbie Eason, Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary, People Policy and Employment Conditions, Department of Defence

Jessica Zdanowicz, Executive Assistant to General Counsel, Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Catherine Allen, Executive Assistant to Executive General Manager, Clean Energy Regulator

Casey-Marie De Veau, Executive Assistant to Deputy CEO, AUSTRAC

Naomi Linning, EA to the Inspector-General and Deputy Inspector-General, Office of Inspector-General of Taxation & Taxation Ombudsman (tentative)


  • Lunch


13.55   Building your personal brand and your online influence

  • What makes a great first impression?
  • How do you establish credibility both in person and online?
  • The Roadmap Plan for clarifying and confidently communication your personal and professional brand online
  • Practical and actionable steps that can be applied straight away using LinkedIn

Kirryn Zerna, Author, The Stand Out Effect


14.40   Senior executives’ panel discussion: What makes a successful executive assistant?

  • What’s your vision of a great executive assistant?
  • What are the top-notch skills you appreciate the most?
  • Building a strategic business relationship with your executive assistants
  • Getting advice from the top – what do your executives really want?

Bridget Brill, Executive Director, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Chris Collett, Deputy CEO, Intelligence, AUSTRAC

Sara Goldsworthy, Executive Director, Partnerships and Engagement, Department of Premier and Cabinet NSW (tentative)

Tony Krizan, Executive Director Corporate Operations & Information, National Health & Medical Research Council

Kylie Galway, Chief Data Officer & Assistant Secretary, Geospatial & Information Analytics, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (tentative)


15.30   Closing remarks from the chair and end of conference