Plenary Speakers

Plenary Speakers

David Karoly is the Leader of the Earth Systems and Climate Change Hub in the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Program, based in CSIRO’s Climate Science Centre. He is an internationally recognised expert in climate variability and climate change. Prior to joining CSIRO, David was Professor of Atmospheric Science in the School of Earth Sciences and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of Melbourne. He continues as an honorary Professor at the University of Melbourne.

Professor Karoly was a member until 30 June 2017 of the Climate Change Authority, which provides advice to the Australian government on responding to climate change, including targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He was involved in the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001, 2007 and 2014 in several different roles. He is also a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists. He was awarded the 2015 Royal Society of Victoria Medal for Scientific Excellence in Earth Sciences.

Professor Karoly joined the School of Earth Sciences in May 2007 as an ARC Federation Fellow funded by the Australian government. From 2003, he held the Williams Chair in the School of Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma.

Holger Maier is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the School of Civil, Environmental and Mining Engineering at the University of Adelaide and an Associate Editor of Environmental Modelling and Software.  His research is focussed on developing improved techniques for the sustainable management of infrastructure and natural resources in an uncertain environment and includes elements of modelling, optimisation and decision support and he is currently the research leader of the Economics and Strategic Decisions research cluster of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, as well as the leader of a project focussed on the development of a decision support system for the assessment of policy and planning investment options for optimal natural hazard mitigation.

He has in excess of 150 journal publications and in excess of 11,800 citations (Google Scholar). He has also received a number of national and international awards for his teaching and research, such as the Australian Award for University Teaching and the Biennial Medal from the International Environmental Modelling and Software Society.

Rade Musulin serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of the American Academy of Actuaries and on the Resources and Environment Working Group for the International Actuarial Association.

Rade is the Chief Executive Officer of FBAlliance Insurance, a US insurer charged with delivering innovative new products to Farm Bureau members in states across the US. Previously, he was Chief Operating Officer of Aon Benfield Analytics Asia Pacific and Vice President Operations, Public Affairs, and Reinsurance for the Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Companies.

He has devoted much of his career to examining public policy issues arising from extreme events. He has served as an editor on academic journals, authored numerous peer reviewed papers, and spoken extensively on issues arising from new development in a rapidly growing world facing uncertain outcomes from global warming.

Robert Whelan is Executive Director & CEO, Insurance Council Australia. He
has guided Australia’s insurance industry through some of the most challenging issues of the past few decades, including 2010-11 season of natural disasters, the National Disaster Insurance Review, the Northern Australia Insurance Premiums Taskforce, Financial System Inquiry and five changes In Prime Minister.

Rob joined the Insurance Council of Australia on March 22, 2010, after a highly successful career in a diverse range of roles within the insurance, banking and healthcare sectors.

He has particularly strong experience in managing the corporate affairs and policy functions in major insurers including AAMI and Suncorp, as well as extensive general business management experience in broader financial services with companies including AMP, Legal & General and Colonial Mutual.

He is highly regarded as a leader in the development of public policy, and has worked extensively with regulatory bodies, government and consumer groups.

Tim Andrews is an Actuary and Principal of Finity Consulting based in the firm’s Sydney office, specialising in general insurance.

Tim has worked in insurance for more than 30 years.  He leads Finity’s Natural Perils and Climate Risk practice areas.  He has led the development of the firm’s finperils address based risk rating products.

Rachel Nibbs is the General Manager of Resilience and Recovery at Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

Originally from Queensland, Rachel brings over twenty years’ experience in government and during the last 12 years has held senior state wide roles in Counter Terrorism, Disaster Welfare, and Disaster Recovery and Resilience. Rachel has led recovery operations in rural, coastal and urban locations in response to Disasters including the 2013 Blue Mountains Bushfires and Mulwala Tornado, the 2012/3/4 NSW State wide Floods and the recent Category 4 - Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie. She also held lead recovery roles in response to the Martin Place Siege, Bankstown Apartment fires and the Rozelle explosion.

Most recently, Rachel has led her team to deliver a new Queensland Recovery Plan that articulates a locally-led approach to Recovery and is now leading the delivery of a state-wide Implementation Plan for the Queensland Disaster Resilience Strategy. Other team achievements include release of Queensland’s largest flood study, the Brisbane River Catchment Flood Study in May 2017 which gained recognition for its innovation at the 2017 Premier’s Awards for Excellence, and implementation of a best practice approach to the management of the flood warning gauge network across Queensland.


Dr. Daniel Smith is a research fellow with the Cyclone Testing Station at James Cook University in Australia and a consultant faculty member at the University of Florida. His current work in the US and Australia covers a wide range of topics including: structural mitigation for hurricanes, post-event damage assessment, field-deployed anemometry for hurricanes, vulnerability and fragility modelling, retrofitting for wind and water ingress, behavioural aspects of community cyclone preparedness and insurance claims analysis. Daniel is also co-founder and developer of ResilientResidence, a software application tool that aims to promote mitigation by enabling homeowners to self-assess the vulnerability of their home to wind-related damages.  

Dr Daniel Smith has also contributed to several research projects delivered by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC.

Andrew Coghlan is National Manager, Emergency Services at the Australian Red Cross. Andrew works to promote resilience and build community capacity both in preparation for, and response to, disasters throughout Australia.

In his current role, Andrew has led the building of Australian Red Cross’ capacity and capability as a key player in emergency management within Australia. The strategic approach taken has seen a shift in emphasis for Australian Red Cross, from an important contributor supporting individuals in the immediate aftermath of disasters, to be recognised as an integral part of Australia’s emergency management arrangements with key roles, responsibilities and partnerships across all levels of government.

Andrew has played a pivotal role in coordinating the Australian Red Cross response to a number of major emergencies and disasters including Cyclone Larry (2006), the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires (2009) and Queensland Floods and Cyclone Yasi (2011).

Prior to joining Australian Red Cross, Andrew was the National Recovery Consultant with Emergency Management Australia, providing advice to both State and Federal governments following a range of emergencies and playing a key role in coordinating recovery assistance to Australians impacted by events such as the Boxing Day Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004).

Dr Richard Thornton is the Chief Executive Officer of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, a position he has held since the start of the CRC in 2013. He is responsible to the Board for the day-to-day management of the centre. He has overall responsibility for the direction and performance of the centre.

He led a team to develop the CRC following the Prime Ministerial announcement in February 2013. Prior to that Richard was Deputy CEO and Research Director of the Bushfire CRC, a role he held since 2004 where his responsibilities included leadership and oversight of the research program.

Richard is a highly experienced Research Management Executive with over 20 years in the field, both with the Bushfire CRC and Telstra previously. Richard has a physics background and has worked in science fields including nuclear and semiconductor physics, computational fluid mechanics, IT and telecommunications engineering, and online services, primarily in the private sector. Richard has expertise in IP management, contract negotiation and development, and commercialisation of research.

Until January 2016 Richard was a member of the Board of the International Association of Wildland Fire and the Chair of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the International Journal of Wildland Fire. Richard is current a Board Member for the CRC Association.

Dr Melissa Parsons is a senior lecturer at the University of New England (Armidale) with broad-ranging and interdisciplinary research interests in social-ecological systems, disaster resilience, resilience assessment, large flood disturbances and river ecology and management.  Melissa works at the interface between theoretical and applied science, examining the ways that concepts such as resilience can be applied to deliver management and policy outcomes.

Melissa currently leads a project within the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to develop an Australian Natural Disaster Resilience Index.  Other projects examine attitudes towards natural hazards, the psychology of flood driving behaviour, social capital in disaster recovery, citizens’ juries for community engagement and emergency management in the University sector.  She also teaches a course in natural hazards.

Scott Reeves

After coming to general insurance via Superannuation and life insurance 20 years ago, Scott landed an actuarial role in a commercial insurance team, which provided the ideal environment for him to understand the value of blending actuarial science with a broader, more commercial outlook. Between 1999 to 2006 Scott expanded into reinsurance, working at St Paul Re, Employers Re and Swiss Re where he moved from actuary to underwriting, becoming the Asia Pacific Casualty Leader.

From 2006, Scott worked in the captive reinsurance operation of IAG, followed by a significant change of direction in 2010 when – as a substitute for a mid-life crisis – Scott joined the Boston Consulting Group to take up the challenge of management consulting. 2012 saw Scott re-join the industry and commence with Munich Re in the role of Underwriting Manager, Casualty, and is now the Head of Underwriting, where he is responsible for all lines of business across Treaty and Facultative for the Australia / New Zealand markets.

Sarah Elsey is Head of Applied Analytics at RACQ. RACQ is the largest personal lines insurer in Queensland and Australia’s sixth biggest insurer. Sarah leads the team responsible for risk cost and behavioural modelling, and the pricing of natural perils. Sarah is also responsible for loss reserving and fraud analytics.

Sarah has fifteen years’ experience in insurance. She started her career as a life insurance actuary with MLC before moving into general insurance with IAG. In 2011 she moved to RACQ.

Professor John McAneney is the Managing Director of Risk Frontiers, a Sydney-based R&D company specialising in natural hazard risk analytics.

John has over 100 peer-reviewed publications on various aspects of weather risk, boundary layer physics and natural catastrophe risks.

John has published two books: Where Wine Flows like Water - A Gastronomic Pilgrimage through Spain and a novel, Shifting Sands, based on corruption in a scientific institution.