Jo Pearson (MC)

Corporate film-maker and former broadcaster, Jo Pearson, returns to facilitate the Australian Furniture Association’s Furnishing Futures Conference this July. Jo is a strong supporter of establishing a sustainable and distinctively Australian furniture industry in this country and believes that Australian design is some of the best in the world. Jo has worked as an MC and communications specialist with industry organisations and businesses for more years than she cares to admit, and has experience in hosting televised and live interviews and discussions.

Carlo Gosatti – Inglewood Products Group

Carlo has a Commerce degree with a double major in Economics and Marketing from Curtin University. After graduating in 1992, he began working in the family business Inglewood Products Group. Inglewood Products Group started in 1957 and continues to be a family owned and operated business employing over 20 people. The company operates a sawmill, timber processing and manufacturing facility in Oldbury, WA, with kilns, four siders, and CNC equipment. Products include Custom Outdoor Furniture, Joinery, Indoor Furniture Components and Building Materials. In 1997, Carlo became the group’s Operations Director. He won the 2004 Reginald Muir Memorial Scholarship, undertaking a study tour in Europe focused on training and technology in the furniture industry. Carlo was Vice President of FIAA WA until its move to the national AFA. He continues to sit on the board of the Food, Fibre and Timber Industries Training Council (WA) Inc as Vice Chair. Since being a representative of the WA Technical Advisory Group for the National Furnishing Training Package in 2002. Carlo is aware of the current issues facing industry including thin markets, workforce development and VET in schools. His keen interest is to see all participants of the furnishing sector to remain focused and well trained through innovation in order for industry to successfully compete in the global furnishing arena.

Senator Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for South Australia

Nick first became involved in politics in the 1997 South Australian election, where he campaigned on a ‘No Pokies’ platform. Over the next eight years, Nick worked to fight the spread of poker machines. He also campaigned on issues where individuals and communities weren’t getting a fair go, including asbestos victims, victims of crime and land tax. He was re-elected to the State’s Upper House in 2006 with just over 20.5 percent of the state’s vote. Nick made the decision to leave state politics and run in the November 2007 Federal Election because he believes that he can do more for South Australians in the Senate on key issues such as gambling regulation and water. Nick was elected to the Senate with just under fifteen per cent of the vote. He is the first Independent to be elected to the Senate in a generation. Since assuming his role in the Senate in July 2008, Nick has continued to push for changes in the key areas of gambling reform, the water crisis, consumer law and food labelling. In the 2013 Federal Election where Nick was up for re-election in the Senate, the Nick Xenophon Group polled 24.9% of the overall vote in South Australia, on par with the major parties – an unprecedented result for an independent. In December 2014 Nick announced his intention to launch the Nick Xenophon Team. NXT is about creating a common sense approach to politics.

Dianne Tipping – CHAIR Export Council of Australia / Managing Director Excon International Pty. Ltd.

Dianne has had a long and varied career in international trade promotion and facilitation. Dianne Tipping is the founder and Managing Director of Excon International Pty Ltd. a Global Management Consultancy business that focuses on the teaching/training and management of Exports/Imports and International Projects on behalf of International Businesses. Dianne has spent over 38 years handling export/import transactions and during the early years worked for 2 large multi-nationals and later after opening her own company in 1982 worked with the same multi-nationals and others handling their global matters. Companies that she has dealt with since 1982 are still valued as part of her client base. During the past 20 years Dianne has spent a great deal of time working with the Export Council of Australia/ Australian Institute of Export and various other non-government and government agencies to teach and encourage international businesses to achieve their global ambitions in a smart and secure way. Dianne is Chair of the ECA (Export Council of Australia). Dianne is also Chair of the Education Committee of the AIEx. As senior lecturer for the AIEx a great deal of her time has been utilized working with businesses and Government Agencies to promote globalization.

Andrew Clarke        

Andrew Clarke is the marketing manager at Aitken Partners and also has experience conducting trade overseas, particularly in arranging production in China. He provides advice on branding and marketing communications and also assist clients in understanding that overseas trade is more about culture than language. In addition to Aitken Partners, Andrew is a book author and publisher blending his love of sport and automobiles with a passion for business and change.  He has written more than 18 books and has contributed articles to a range of magazines and publications on topics as wide spread as business and politics to all forms of sport. He holds an Advanced Diploma in Business. His many years’ of ‘ghost writing’ has given him the ability to understand both a target audience and the subject matter, and he is adept at writing and editing to suit the end medium. He understands business and people and the needs and requirements of stakeholders in any project. Andrew traveled to China with the Australian Furniture Assocation last year to assist its members at the Furniture China exhibition.

Alec Blacklaw

Alec Blacklaw has a passion for working with business owners to make their business more profitable, valuable and enjoyable. He has a deep desire to deliver results and obtain client delight across the businesses he works with. Alec is a Strategic Business Improvement Specialist and has a broad business background gained from working in Commerce and from working with thousands of  businesses at  different phases of their business cycle. In addition, Alec has sat on many Boards, and has been a Business Owner, Mentor, and a Business Advisor in Practice consulting for over the last 28 years to a broad range of industry segments -mostly in the SME space, who are the engine room of the economy. A passionate and enthusiastic speaker, Alec is a commercial business guy who truly cares about people and is seriously focused on getting great results for business owners, often challenging the traditional thinking to find a better or smarter way to tackle an opportunity or challenge. Alec is serious about implementation and moving your business forward. As a strategist at heart and with an entrepreneurial spirit, Alec has worked across most industries and is focussed on leveraging the core values and success implemented by the very best CEO’s & businesses to drive and enhance individual & business performance. Alec has a Bachelor of Economics, a member of CPA Australia for 25 years, and is a lifelong learner of what the best businesses do to be successful over the longer term. Alec is a Director at Blacklaw Advisory,  one of the leading Strategic Business Improvement &Advisory firms in Australia, based in Melbourne, with clients in loads of diverse industries. They range in size however all have a  similar purpose or objective >  to make their business more profitable, valuable & enjoyable. Alec is currently the Area Representative (Asia Pacific) for MSI Global Alliance – one of the world’s leading Accounting & Legal Alliances. Alec loves to get great results for his clients – he loves people, business, his family, football, eating good food, drinking good wine and single malts and travelling … not necessarily in that order!

Brett Hansen 

Brett joined Hansens in 1998 after 7 years helping Channel 7 manage their production and sport programs, and by 2002 he had become a partner. He has a Bachelor of Business (Accounting), is an accredited SMSF Specialist Advisor™, and also specialises in the various areas of Accounting and Taxation.  Hansens were the first Accounting Firm in Australia to take the challenge of online accounting and continue to work closely with clients in helping manage and grow their business.

John Sheridan -CEO Digital Business Insights

Founder partner of Digital Business insights ( – established in 2001 to help small to medium sized businesses and non-profits maximise the potential benefits offered by the digital revolution.

 From more than 50,000 surveys, Digital Business insights has mapped the uptake and use of ICT across all industry sectors over the last fourteen years, asking respondents to rate the products and services they use.

 Results show which ICT products and services are delivering value to each business category – lawyers, designers, cane farmers, carpenters, florists, finance brokers etc and which are not.

 DBi has created a variety of web-based services and tools – that use this analysis to help individual businesses, sectors and regions map their journey forwards productively – for example see and Results of surveys provide granular market intelligence for vendors – showing what the “best of breed” ICT solution mix is for individual business categories, their sources of advice and information and their future ICT plans.

Michael Siddons -Senior Business Development Manager NSW (AEC Specialist)

Mihael is the Senior Business Development Manager at A2K Technologies. A2K is an industry-leading solutions, training, consulting and management firm specialising in design technology. Their highly knowledgeable and industry-experienced staff from the infrastructure, building, mining and manufacturing sectors enhance their customers’ organisational capabilities, to deliver on project outcomes and differentiate from the competition.

Simona Jobbagy, Head of Department, Design, Media and ICT, Swinburne University
Simona Jobbagy, a dedicated professional who has worked in Vocational Education and Training (VET) for 20 years, is currently Head of the Department of Design, Media and ICT at Swinburne University of Technology, and has worked closely with other VET practitioners and industry specialists developing and implementing courses at Swinburne. Trained in Arts, Industrial Design, Education and Leadership, Simona will contribute her ability to lead and mentor people, her passion for Design education and training, and her talent for maintaining successful business operations, as well as her skill in building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders while ensuring strict compliance with regulatory requirements.

Gary Dunshea – Industry Liaison Officer Manufacturing Skills Australia (MSA)

Gary has worked at the coal face of the Furniture industry for approximately 27 years before becoming involved in the educational side of the profession. He served his apprenticeship as a wood machinist with a large furniture manufacturer in Arncliffe NSW that produced high quality traditional furniture as well as high volume affordable furniture. The company in its day had the latest fully automated equipment which at its peak could produce 100’s of bedroom, dining and lounge room furniture pieces to the Australian market weekly. HIs next role was as a factory supervisor, working with a company that produced decorative plywoods, solid core doors and cut to size cabinetry components for large and small furniture and joinery manufacturers nationally and internationally. Gary spent 18 years with this company establishing production system and processes that would see the company grow from a small family business to a large company employing approximately 70- 80 staff. Due to health reasons Gary had a career change wanting to give back to the industry, moved into education where he has spent the last 15 years working for private and Government providers delivering training institutionally and on-site across Qld, NSW and Vic in furniture and timber related qualifications. He currently works for MSA the ISC responsible for all manufacturing qualification nationally and under his portfolio gary is responsible for the development and continual improvement of the current MSF training package and will continue in this role until the Government makes a decision about how the future for VET will look for the furniture industry.

Stephan Pesch – Vice General Manager in TUV Rheinland Greater China

Mr. Stephan Pesch is a German national with over 10 years’ experience abroad. After an apprenticeship as industrial mechanic he studied mechanical engineering (production technology) at the RWTH Aachen and received a diploma. He started his career in the research and development team of an automotive supplier. In 2004 he moved to China as a testing engineer at TUV Rheinland in Guangzhou. He established a furniture lab in 2005 and took over responsibilities for the operations and building up of the testing services surrounding furniture testing, not only for domestic but also for international clients. With the merger of TUV Rheinland with LGA, the leading furniture testing institute in Germany, furniture testing solutions were offered for European retail customers. From 2008 Stephan developed the furniture testing services for US customers. In 2010 he set-up the first ISTA packaging testing laboratory in TUV Rheinland. He has offered testing for Australian customers since 2011. Since December 2011 Stephan is Vice General Manager in TUV Rheinland Greater China for Furniture. He is in charge of the furniture laboratories in Shanghai and Guangzhou and he leads a team, which is offering Green Services for the furniture industry (FSC, legal timber).

Barbara Geens, Chair of the National Retail Association’s Technical Standards Committee

Barbara Geens is a highly experienced Quality Assurance, Technical Design and Product Safety Manager with extensive knowledge in fashion apparel, office supplies and office furniture across Australasia, Europe and the USA. Barbara has full understanding of the development and production process from design concept and technical approval through to delivery and an exceptional understanding of compliance issues nationally and internationally. Barbara has a strong background in sourcing out of Asia, having lived in Hong Kong and China, and worked out of numerous Asian countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Over the years Barbara developed a special interest in sustainability and product safety from sourcing through to after care solutions, supporting organisations such as GreenEarth, the Council for Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia. In addition, she is an active industry volunteer in support of standards review and development, product safety, and compliance. Since March 2015 Barbara chairs the National Retail Association’s Technical Standards Committee.


Ian Burton – Technical Manager Furntech-AFRDI

For more than 10 years Ian has been the technical manager at Furntech-AFRDI, Australia’s only specialist furniture testing laboratory. His job principally involves directing the testing and designing new furniture testing equipment, but he’s also actively engaged in standards writing (AFRDI’s own internal standards as well as via membership of two Standards Australia furniture committees). He also regularly represents Australia at international ISO meetings.

Michael Corigliano, Director, Click Compare Connect

Michael Corigliano is a director of Click Compare Connect, Global Enablement Outsourcing and White Label Hire.  After completing a University degree in applied finance Michael spent 8 years with ANZ Bank in various capacities, including Banking, Commercial Banking and Property Specialisation.  It was here that he developed a fundamental understanding of business and the ever increasing need to manage business operational expenses.  Driven by a passion to help businesses be profitable and efficient, Michael left the banking sector to create his own enterprises that would aim to help business in all sectors and markets be successful by allowing them to focus on their core competency.

Melinda Di Vita – Relationship Manager – Employer Super, IOOF

Mel joined IOOF in 2015 as Relationship Manager, Employer Super, bringing with her 20 years experience in the general insurance and the financial services industry. Most of her career has been focused on partnering with associations and developing solutions to assist their members. Mel has a Master of Business Administration with a specialisation in strategy and planning, has recently completed her Master of Insurance and Risk Management and has a Diploma in Financial Services. In 2014 Mel was a state finalist for the Australian Institute of Management – Manager of the Year Award. She is the president of the Deakin MBA Alumni and is also involved in a management and fundraising capacity for charity organisations. Outside of work and study, Mel enjoys travelling to all corners of world and experiencing different cultures having recently spent time in the Everest region of Nepal.  She also enjoys working on her family’s olive grove in regional Victoria. 

Bernardo Moyano, Senior Financial Planner, AB Phillips

Bernardo joined the ABPhillips group in 2012 as a senior Financial Planner, prior to that he ran his own financial planning practise and also worked for a number of Banking & Financial institutions. Since joining ABPhillips he has worked closely with a number of Associations and provided financial planning services & solutions for their members. Bernardo’s areas of expertise include retirement planning strategies, self- managed superannuation, corporate superannuation, managed investments, age care advice & placement and personal & business insurance.  Bernardo blends high level technical knowledge with an easy to understand communication style. He has been successfully assisting personal and corporate clients to achieve their financial goals for over 20 years. Bernardo’s interest outside work include travelling with his young family in and outside Australia, watching his kids participate in junior sports and currently coaching a men’s under 20’s soccer team in the NPL competition in Victoria.

Lynn Hill, Business Development Manager, Graphic Publishing

With a varied background in finance, entertainment, marketing and also the experience of running a successful fashion/design business for over 12 years, Lynn returned to the corporate world and achieved great accolades in the radio industry, eventually being inducted into the CEO’s club for radio powerhouse  ARN.  After this Lynn  migrated into the magazine publishing world, working for the past 16 years for Graphic Publishing, in particular on Queensland Homes and Holidays for Couples magazines as Business Development Manager,  working on key accounts and events. Lynn has a great empathy for small to medium business and likes nothing better than sharing  marketing ideas to help grow business.  A particular love is connecting people with the right contacts and a belief  that networking is one of the most important and integral parts of business today.  With the huge changes to the way people shop for products and services Lynn is currently doing a diploma in digital marketing, so that she can advise her clients with a great depth of understanding.

Marie Kinsella – CEO International Exhibition & Conference Group

Marie Kinsella is the CEO of newly formed International Exhibition & Conference Group Pty Ltd which specialises in trade fairs, conferences and event management. But her experience in this area is extensive. In 1997 she founded her former company Australian Exhibitions & Conferences Pty Ltd developing it to become the largest Australian owned and operated company in the trade fair and exhibition sector before selling in 2010 to a UK-based multi-national.

Joseph Bruzzaniti, CEO, Connect Furniture

Joseph is one of the founders behind  The company was established in 2008 with the dedicated vision to help furniture retailers and manufacturers promote, connect and sell their products to buyers nationally.  Since its formation in 2008, the site has grown to have over 40,000 products and a network of 1,200 retailers. Prior to ConnectFurniture, Joseph was a founder and one of the driving forces behind Learning Seat, an exceptionally successful online eLearning company that was acquired by News Corporation. Joseph holds a bachelor of engineering degree and master of business administration, and has over 20 years industry experience in Australia and internationally, with senior leadership experience.

Jonathan Keyse – Lead Producer of AR Projects Plattar

Jonathan Keyse is lead producer of Augmented Reality (AR) projects for Plattar. Jonathan lives somewhere in between the real and the virtual as he is always looking at how the latest AR technologies can be applied to solve business problems and create amazing digital experiences for clients and their customers.

Craig Cock – Quality Assurance, Australian Furniture Association

Craig is a highly experienced furniture industry executive with over 30 years of experience and knowledge in and of the furniture industry. Having worked extensively in the Australian and International furniture marketplaces he is experienced in the manufacturing, import / export, wholesale and retail sectors. Having worked with leading Australian and International manufacturers and suppliers, developing and selling product ranges for domestic, international and commercial customers. This has enabled Craig to develop and deliver QA and QC processes while gaining a comprehensive knowledge of product (development / production), supplier and customer networks. As a result of a successful sales, management and QA/QC roles Craig has established respected long term relationships in the industry. Craig’s knowledge of product, production processes, materials, standards, warranty requirements and understanding of related requirements to Australian consumer law make him a most welcome member to the AFA team and a valuable resource for our members

Darren Prior – Co-founder The Leather Doctor Company
Darren Prior co-founded The Leather Doctor Company which is now the largest mobile furniture repair franchise network in Australia, NZ and the Dubai (UAE). He also Co-founded Carecover which is now one of the largest suppliers of leather and upholstery care kits and protection plans to retailers in Australia and NZ. darren spent 12 years as a leather repair technician and is presently Director and Founder of UPcare which provides retail sales training to the furniture industry as well as care products.

Alex Milne, President, Kitchen and Bathroom Designers Institute (KBDi), (QLD, Australia)

Alex Milne has over 20 years’ experience in vocational training including development and delivery of training packages, CEO of a private registered training organisation, and serving on several national and state training bodies. He is currently the president of the Kitchen and Bathroom Designers Institute of Australia (KBDi) having recently stepped down from the role of Executive Director which he held for eight years. Alex’s earlier work life involved successful trade and business careers. Alex holds many tertiary and trade qualifications including: adult education; management; building and construction; carpentry and joinery.

Leigh Hill, Senior Educator, Furniture Joinery Manufacturing, Building Construction and Architectural Design, Holmesglen Institute

Leigh Hill is Senior Educator of Furniture Joinery Manufacturing & Furniture Design, Faculty of Building Construction and Engineering at Holmesglen Institute of Tafe, (Victoria, Australia). The main area of focus is to engage young school leavers into our many “thin market” trades thereby ensuring that these trade skills do not become obsolete, never to be used again. Lynn is passionate about this industry and will do all she can to ensure that Australia remains in the forefront of training for the furnishing industry

Peter Nolle, Treadstone, Austrade Approved Consultant

Peter is a director of Treadstone and is a registered R&D Tax Practitioner.  He has extensive business and financial management experience gained from a career of over seventeen years in engineering, finance and information technology industries. He has worked in Australia and the UK.   From 2007 to 2008 he ran a technology spin-off business developing a prototype mobile phone/email platform for international markets. He has extensive experience across a wide range of Government Grants from R&D to Export. He completed his MBA at Melbourne Business School in 2006 and is well connected in Melbourne’s entrepreneurial  and venture capital communities.  Peter is a member of the Australian Export Consultants Group, Australian Information Industry Association and The Tax Institute.

Diana Karambalis, Treadstone, Austrade Approved Consultant

Diana is an EMDG consultant at Treadstone, a leading independent grants consulting business based in Melbourne, Australia. 2016 will mark her third year assisting over 100 clients successfully access the EMDG scheme. She has worked with a range of industries including manufacturers, IT, primary producers, musicians, professional service providers, textile and production companies.”

Steven Dowling, Treadstone, Austrade Approved Consultant

Steve is an experienced strategist, marketer, facilitator and business advisor assisting an array of innovative and up‐coming Australian businesses. His passion is to inspire and guide high growth businesses on a path to success Steve’s mature approach will add‐value to any business owner or board. His application of analysis, evaluation and critical thinking will enhance your organisations growth and profitability prospects. Steve has held board roles with the Australian Chamber of International Trade and Family Business Australia. Victorian Executive Council, and is a felow with the Australian Institute of Marketing. Steve’s corporate background includes domestic and international sales and marketing roles with Rinnai, Grand Hall and GWA. Steve has international commodity trade exposure with Mitsui & Co Ltd and speaks fluent Japanese.     Outside of work Steve enjoys hiking in the outdoors, cooking and time with family and friends

Adam Fisher, Engineering Design Manager, MBD, 2015 AFA Master of the Year

Adam has over 27 years’ experience in the fixed seating commercial market, having commenced with Camatic Pty Ltd in July 1988. As a Mechanical Engineer with a passion for Product Design and Architecture, Adam quickly became involved in Product Development within Camatic and has since headed many of the Company’s design initiatives.

Dylan Falecki – Falecki Furniture & Channel 10’s The Living Room

Dylan Falecki is a creative and passionate builder and furniture designer most recognised for his on-air project management role on the Channel 10 shows The Living Room (Fri 730pm) and Renovation King (Sat 330pm). Along side his TV commitments, Dylan runs Falecki Furniture, a successful construction firm and multidisciplinary furniture workshop with the design mantra of “the luxury of less.

Mary Maksemos – Mary Maksemos Design

Working from in her design consultancy Mary Maksemos Design, Mary specializes in joinery, furniture, home addition and improvement, outdoor kitchens and lifestyle furniture and hard material specification. Mary is a lecturer in Industrial design, interior design and interior architecture. She is matriculates in her design critiques, and always imparts knowledge about sustainability, design thinking and innovation with passion.