Conference Keynote Speakers

DAY 1 – FRIDAY 25th MARCH 2022


Professor Veena Sahajwalla is an internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer, and inventor revolutionising recycling science. She is renowned for pioneering the high temperature transformation of waste in the production of a new generation of ‘green materials’ at the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre, where she is Founding Director. Professor Veena is the inventor of polymer injection technology known as ‘Green Steel’, an eco-friendly process for using recycled tyres in steel production. In 2018, Veena launched the world’s first e-waste MICROfactorieTM and in 2019 she launched her plastics and Green Ceramics MICROfactoriesTM, a recycling technology breakthrough. Veena is the director of the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for ‘microrecycling’, a leading national research centre that works in collaboration with industry to ensure new recycling science is translated into real world environmental and economic benefits. Professor Veena has also been appointed hub leader of the national NESP Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub. In 2021, Professor Veena featured in the ABC’s Australian Story.

Learn more about Professor Veena Sahajwalla by visiting her home page at the UNSW below.

Learn more about Professor Veena Sahajwalla’s work as one of Australia’s top engineers, on this Youtube clip.


Dr Norman Swan hosts The Health Report on the ABC’s Radio National, which is the world’s longest running health programme in the English-speaking world. Norman has won many awards for his work including Australia’s top prize for journalism, the Gold Walkley. He was the third person to be awarded the prestigious medal of the Australian Academy of Science and was given an honorary MD by the University of Sydney on its 150th anniversary. Norman trained in medicine in Scotland and paediatrics in London and Sydney before joining the ABC and has hosted many other programmes on radio and television. He has made several Four Corners episodes, the most recent being on out-of-pocket expenses in health care. Norman was the medical host on Channel Ten’s Biggest Loser for six seasons and created, wrote and narrated Invisible Enemies, a four-part series on disease and civilisation for Channel 4 UK and broadcast in 27 countries. He has consulted to the World Health Organisation and co-chaired a global meeting of health ministers in Bamako West Africa focused on evidence-based policy and priorities in health research. He has been the Australian correspondent for both the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Norman is also co-founder of Tonic Health Media, an integrated health television channel and production company which has over 15 million viewers per month.

Dr Norman Swan’s Coronacast is a podcast that answers your questions about coronavirus. It breaks down the latest news and research to help you understand how the world is living through a pandemic. Check it out at the ABC website below.


DAY 2 – SATURDAY 26th MARCH 2022


The Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group (MWRRG) is a Victorian Government statutory body responsible for co-ordinating and facilitating the delivery of waste management and resource recovery across metropolitan Melbourne. Established on 1 August 2014 MWRRG’s planning role is responsible for all waste streams – municipal solid waste, construction and demolition waste and commercial and industrial waste.

Jillian Riseley is a passionate advocate of sustainability and an accomplished executive and non-executive director with more than 20 years’ experience in leadership roles in the corporate and not for profit sector. Jillian’s extensive experience in senior roles includes complex, multi-stakeholder and regulated environments where she has led significant national consumer affairs and recycling initiatives and implemented procurement strategies in complex essential service markets. She is a leader in sustainability and recognised for her work in combating climate change and delivering innovative and sector wide solutions to address environmental issues in local communities.  She is accountable to the Board for leading the strategic and operational functions of MWRRG. Jillian provides strong executive leadership and operational management, while playing a key role in the development and implementation of future strategies in line with MWRRG’s vision and objectives. Jillian leads the executive team to deliver MWRRG’s functions, services and projects.

Learn more about MWRRG and CEO Jillian Riseley at their website below. Also below is a a video of Jillian speaking at a Webinar where she appears at about the 29 minute mark.

Pat McCafferty is Managing Director of Yarra Valley Water, one of Australia’s largest water utilities providing water and sanitation services to 2M people across Melbourne’s eastern and northern suburbs. In a career spanning over 30 years in the water industry, Pat has played a lead role in the water sector in addressing critical challenges such as extreme drought and rapid population growth. He has experience working in the USA water sector and chaired an Expert Group advising the Australian Federal Government as part of the National Water Initiative. He is a signatory to the UN Global Compact and a passionate advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals.


Pat is Chair of the Thriving Communities Partnership (a cross-sector collaboration to support the vulnerable) and past Chair and current Board member of the Water Services Association of Australia (Australia’s peak body for major urban water utilities). He is also on the Board of WaterAid Australia and is a member of the Leadership Oversight Committee for the Women in Water Leadership Program. Pat holds qualifications from RMIT and Monash University, is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a Fellow of the Williamson Community Leadership Program.

‘Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we’re proud to be leading the way in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions with ambitious targets’

Pat McCafferty

Learn more about Yarra Valley Water and its work with the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals by visiting the Sustainability page on their website.


Celeste Mergens is the Founder and CEO of Days for Girls and has led the organization since its beginning in 2008, driven by twenty years of nonprofit and business management experience. Her ‘can do” team-building approach has inspired thousands of volunteers and social enterprises worldwide. Under Celeste’s stewardship, Days for Girls has won the SEED award for gender equity and entrepreneurship; was named as a ‘Next Ten’ Organization poised to change the world in the next decade by the Huffington Post; and is two-time Girl Effect Champion. Celeste is a sought-after speaker who has been featured in Oprah’s O Magazine and Forbes, among other top-tier publications. She was recently named an AARP Purpose Prize Award winner, a Conscious Company Global Impact Entrepreneur of the Year and Women Economic Forum’s Woman of the Decade.

Learn more about Days For Girls by visiting their website.

She loves being with her family when not travelling the globe. She is married to her best friend, Don Mergens. Their family includes 11 phenomenal children (five by marriage), 15 grandchildren, four foster children, and four foreign exchange students – plus many beloved friends who have become family all around the world.

To learn more about Celeste, listen to Episode 16 of The Days for Girls Podcast, “Period Poverty, Gender Equality & Resilience with DfG Founder Celeste Mergens.”

Days for Girls International


Samuel Johnson OAM is a much-loved Australian actor, best known for his work on THE SECRET LIFE OF US, CRACKERJACK, UNDERBELLY II, RUSH and as the star of the hit biopic MOLLY. He won a Gold Logie in 2017 for his work on MOLLY, danced his way to winning the mirrorball trophy on DANCING WITH THE STARS in 2019 and was named the 2018 Victorian of the Year for his charity work to vanquish cancer. In recent times he is more proud of his work as a cancer advocate and determined unicyclist. So far the charity he set up with his sister Connie, Love Your Sister, has raised over $13M for medical research.

Learn more about Sam, Connie and Love Your Sister by watching the short video below.


Victor Perton is the Chief Optimism Officer of The Centre for Optimism.  The Centre for Optimism you ask?  Chief Optimism Officer?  A title you’d like to introduce in 2022 for very optimistic Rotary clubs and Rotary International? The offspring of stateless refugees from the Baltics, Victor’s early working years were spent in the law, politics and public policy culminating in 18 years in the Victorian Parliament. After politics, Victor worked as Commissioner to the Americas working across North and South America on Foreign Direct Investment and Export Promotion.  This was followed by service as Senior Advisor to the Australian G20 Presidency. Returning to Melbourne, Victor was surprised by the negativity around Australian leadership and increasing levels of anxiety and depression on our community.  This led to the founding of The Australian Leadership Project and, after a Eureka moment, the founding of its offspring The Centre for Optimism. Today Victor’s work centres on asking people the question, ‘What makes you Optimistic?’

Learn more about Victor Perton and the Centre for Optimism below.


District Governor Elect KEN MILLER (Emerald & District)

Will launch his 2023 District 9810 Conference


The Chair of the worldwide Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group (ESRAG) will provide a summary of our Conference and guide us in our future ‘Healthy World’ directions as the Family of Rotary and People of Action.

Learn more about Dr Patricia Armstrong and ESRAG below.

MARK BALLA (Box Hill Central)

The Vice-Chair of the worldwide Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group (WASRAG) will provide a summary of our Conference and guide us in our future ‘Healthy People’ directions as the Family of Rotary and People of Action.

Learn more about Mark Balla and WASRAG below. You also might want to check out his ‘Toilet Warrior’ website as well!

District Governor Dr DARYL MORAN (Rowville-Lysterfield)

Our District Governor will close our Conference and remind us all of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us, as we work together as the Family of Rotary to build a ‘Healthy World’ enjoyed by ‘Healthy People.’

Learn more about Dr Daryl Moran at his website below.

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