Nathan Barnden

Nathan Barnden has grown up around the NSW RFS. Since the age of 16 he has been actively involved in all aspects of the NSW RFS as a member of the Jellat brigade in the Far South Coast and is currently Senior Deputy Captain.

For the past four years Nathan has been involved in the NSW RFS Young Members Group and is currently in his final term, as Chair of the group. Nathan is a passionate supporter of young people in the NSW Rural Fire Service and both champions and embodies the values and behaviours young people can bring to the service.

“We need to afford our younger members the opportunities to get out into the field, to be part of our brigade leadership and to help train our new firefighters… this is how we build capability for the long term and ensure our brigades are able to continue to serve the community”

Dr. Chris Bearman

Chris Bearman’s research involves conducting industry-focused studies in laboratory and field settings with the aim of creating results that have both a strong theoretical underpinning and a robust application to industry. This involves working closely with industry partners and government organisations around the world. Chris also supervises a number of PhD, Masters & Honours students in the Safety Science and Human Factors areas.

To view the abstract, please click here

Philip Campbell

Phil Campbell is the Manager Media and Communications at the New South Wales State Emergency Service, managing a team of four staff in an environment that is challenging and changeable, particular during operational responses to natural hazard emergencies such as floods and storms.

Phil has developed programs and coordinated events to reach at risk communities affected by floods and storms and other hazards. He works closely with the Service’s Strategic Leadership Team in addressing sensitive and contentious issues, and identifying and developing strategies to enhance the Service’s brand and promote the programs and achievements of the Service and its members. 

Phil has a Master of Science with Honours from the University of Wollongong, Chairs the Australian Council of State Emergency Services Communications Group, and is a 2015 Sir Winston Churchill Fellow and Fellow of Emergency Media and Public Affairs.

Dr. Michael Eburn

Dr Michael Eburn is a Barrister and an Associate Professor in the School of Legal Practice, Australian National University’s College of Law. He is regarded as a leading expert in the law relating to emergency management and the fire and emergency services.  Dr Eburn is the author of the only Australian text in the area, Emergency Law (4th ed, 2013, Federation Press) as well as numerous articles and conference papers.  He was the project leader on the Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC project on Policies, Institutions and Governance in Natural Hazards and is now a chief investigator on the CRC funded project on Catastrophic disasters.

Dr Eburn may be best known for his popular blog Australian Emergency Law that has over 4000 followers and provides regular and up to date commentary on legal issues that apply to the Australian emergency services. Dr Eburn is an affiliate of the Disaster and Development Network at Northumbria University, UK and the Joint Centre for Disaster Research, Massey University and GNS Science, Wellington (NZ).

To view the abstract, please click here

Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons

Shane Fitzsimmons has over 30 years experience with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) serving as both a volunteer and salaried officer.  In 1998 he was appointed an Assistant Commissioner with the RFS and has held portfolio responsibilities for Operations, Strategic Development and Regional Management.  In 2004 he was appointed the inaugural Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) Visiting Fellow to the Australian Institute of Police Management (AIPM) for a period of 12 months.

In September 2007 he was appointed Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) and is also the Chair of the NSW RFS Bushfire Coordinating Committee and the Rural Fire Service Advisory Council.  He was appointed a Director of the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) in March 2008 and was the Chair of the NAFC Board from 2009 to 2013.

He is also a member of the NSW State Emergency Management Committee and the NSW State Rescue Board and was Chairman from 2008 to November 2015. He was a Director on the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre from 2009 to 2014.  In July 2012, he was appointed a Board Member of the NSW Government Telecommunications Authority. In January 2016 he was appointed as a Councillor of the Royal Humane Society of NSW Inc.  In November 2016 he was appointed a Director of AFAC. Shane was awarded the National Medal in 1999 and the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in 2001.

Aimee Gayed

Aimee is a registered psychologist with experience working in the research, professional education and clinical settings across mental health and criminological domains. Aimee joined the Workplace Mental Health Research Team at the University of New South Wales in late 2015 to commence a PhD.

The Workplace Mental Health program was established to develop research focused on the mental health needs of NSW front line emergency workers (police officers, ambulance officers and fire fighters). Emergency workers have increased rates of mental health problems, some of which are related to the nature of their work and the traumas they are exposed to. The program aims to better understand how emergency work can impact mental health and how emergency workers can be helped to remain as mentally healthy as possible.

Through her PhD, Aimee is developing and evaluating the effectiveness of an online integrated manager training program aimed at improving mental health literacy, reducing stigma and enhancing manager’s confidence in discussing mental health matters with their staff. This is part of the Well@Work project funded by beyondblue with donations from Movember and is dedicated to radically improving the mental health of men and women working in male-dominated industries.

Andrew Gissing

Andrew has over 15 years emergency management experience, including in senior executive roles. Andrew is an emergency risk management and resilience expert. He previously held the position of Deputy Chief Officer / Director Emergency Management and Communication with the Victoria State Emergency Service and, before joining Risk Frontiers, was the Director Enterprise Risk Management at the Department of Family and Community Services.

Andrew leads our risk and resilience group and works with Risk Frontiers’ clients to enhance their ability to manage risk and engage effectively with stakeholders. Most recently he has led engagements to assist Government agencies to better understand management practices in relation to catastrophic disasters, develop emergency risk management frameworks and improve community engagement practices. He has recently contributed to World Health Organisation and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Society publications on disaster resilience.

Andrew holds Masters (Hons) of Science and Bachelors of Economics degrees, and is the author of some thirty journal and conference papers. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and a certified business continuity practitioner.


Dr. Tarn Kruger

Dr Tarn Kruger is a geographer and has considerable experience in both government and research spheres. She is a graduate of the Bushfire CRC education program and completed a PhD, which examined the extent to which local knowledge can enhance or jeopardise the work of bushfire firefighters. Since 2010, her research at University of Melbourne and RMIT has focussed on the social dimensions of bushfires/natural disasters and emergency management. Tarn has a particular interest in rural communities and volunteerism and the way knowledge is constructed to build collaborative understanding, skills and practices.

Tarn is currently working with Dr Blythe McLennan at RMIT on a Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC project called ‘Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering’. The research considers ideas about emergency management and the need to shift and draw upon different perspectives to involve different people to broaden approaches and plan for the future in the face of fast-changing and uncertain forces.

To view the abstract, please click here.

Dr. Ginni Mansberg

A  well  respected  GP for more than 20 years and currently working in general practice in Sydney’s San Souci, Ginni is a specialist in the areas of parenting, women’s, children’s and general health, seeing everyone from newborns through to their great grandparents. She is a proud ambassador for Barnardos’ Mother of the Year, sits on the Advisory Board of the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation and is a supervisor in the Medical facility at the University of Notre Dame.

Having completed a Graduate Diploma of Journalism at UTS, she is also an accomplished writer and has worked extensively as a medical journalist, contributing regular feature articles and columns for a range of consumer and trade publications. She has three books under her belt including her best seller, ‘Why am I so Tired?’ and is a recognised speaker, sought after as an authority on everything from sleep to beating stress, wellness, life balance and a range of general health and medical related topics, each delivered with her customary sense of humour.

She is refreshingly real and honest, knowledgeable and engaging, modern and upfront in her thinking. Ginni says being a GP and sharing in the lives of her patients keeps her grounded and it’s her warmth, together with her sane and practical advice and her ability to tackle the sometimes difficult health questions head on, that make her popular with patients and viewers alike. Describing her family as her greatest achievement, Ginni is also a wife and mum in a blended family of eight, a role that she describes as giving her the inspiration, joy and no doubt endless stories to share with everyday Australians.

Dr. Stuart Matthews

Dr Stuart Matthews is a Senior Fire Behaviour Analyst with the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.  Stuart joined the NSW RFS in 2015 after 11 years with the CSIRO Bushfire Dynamics and Applications team.  While at CSIRO Stuart led the development of landscape fuel moisture models to aid in the prediction of fire spread and planning of prescribed burns.  He also contributed to understanding the effect of climate change on fuels and fire risk.  He has a PhD in meteorology completed in 2003. At the RFS Stuart is responsible to developing tools and systems to support fire behaviour predictions, including an ensemble modelling system.  He has also been closely involved in supporting research projects to develop improved fire behaviour models.  Currently Stuart is leading a project to develop the research prototype for a new national fire danger rating system.

Vice President, Brian McDonough

Brian McDonough is a Deputy Group Captain in the Northern Tablelands and a member of Frazers Cutting Brigade for over 13 years. Brian was Chair of Division 9 from April 2011 – June 2011 and, prior to that, was the Alternate Delegate to State Council for Division 9 from 2009 – 2011.

Before moving to ‘just outside’ Tabulam in the Tenterfield Shire, Brian lived in inner Sydney and was employed in the Information Technology industry for over 35 years. During this career he worked for a number of corporations including IBM, Taronga Zoo and ATOS Origin, a Dutch/French based company, where he was responsible for a team of 80 business and IT consultants and grew the business turnover in excess of 200%.

Brian has previous Board Director experience with a PC software distribution company and the Mosman Rowing Club in Sydney. He is a former Deputy Chair of the NSW RFS Regional Services Consultative Committee and has also been active in his role on other committees. Brian has served as Association Director for six years and in June 2017, was re-elected to the Board and to the role of Vice-President (Volunteer).

Michelle McKemey

Michelle McKemey has worked and studied throughout Australia as a cross-cultural ecologist for 20+ years. After marrying a handsome farmer and moving to Guyra (northern NSW) 10 years ago, she established Melaleuca Enterprises Environmental Consultancy Services .

In 2014, she commenced a PhD entitled ‘Cultural Burning: Using Indigenous practice and science to apply fire strategically’. At Wattleridge Indigenous Protected Area in NSW, her research considers the ecological and cultural changes that occur when an ancient cultural tool (fire management) is reintroduced into a long-unburnt landscape.

At South East Arnhem Land Indigenous Protected Area in the Northern Territory, Michelle is working with Indigenous rangers to investigate Indigenous knowledge and its application in Savanna Burning through the Carbon Farming Initiative.

Using ecological and social/cultural research methods, the findings of the research will be applicable across many landscapes and communities across Australia. Michelle is a member of the Guyra Fire Brigade and is passionate about working with Aboriginal communities to manage fire for the conservation of biodiversity, prevention of wildfire and cultural revival. Her PhD project has received support from the RFSA in the form of a project sponsorship. For further information visit:

RFSA President, Ken Middleton

Ken Middleton has been a member of the Middle Dural Rural Fire Brigade since 1995. He is currently Senior Deputy-Captain of the Brigade after serving as Deputy-Captain for 17 years. Previously he served ten years as Brigade President and is a qualified Group Leader. Ken joined the NSW Rural Fire Service after serving as a Volunteer Officer for 14 years with the Air Force.

Since joining the NSW RFS and RFSA, Ken has taken an interest in his fellow members and advocates the benefits the Association can present via collective decisions and the diligent examination of issues that affect fire fighters. He takes an active and diligent role on a number of RFSA and NSW RFS committees, as well as on other National and State Committees. Ken was bestowed the National Medal in 2011 and has also received a Commissioner’s Commendation and NSW RFS Long Service medal.

Mr Middleton has been a member of the RFSA since its inception, becoming involved with The Hills Branch before being elected to State Council and then the State Board. He was elected RFSA Director and Secretary in June 2013. In 2015, Ken was elected Association President. In June 2017, he was re-elected as a Director and a second term as Association President.

Lesley Patterson

Lesley is an elder of the Banbai nation and ranger at Wattleridge and Tarriwa Kurrukun Indigenous Protected Areas. Lesley manages the native plant nursery at Wattleridge and has extensive botanical knowledge. She and husband Merv live at Wattleridge and have intimate knowledge of the country around them which they love to share with their children and grandchildren. Lesley has been instrumental in re-introducing Aboriginal cultural burning at Wattleridge IPA and acts as a mentor for other Aboriginal communities wishing to use fire management on their country.

Harald Ritcher

Harald is a senior research scientist at the Bureau of Meteorology. His main research interest spans a variety of aspects of deep moist convection, primarily in the extra-tropics. His viewpoint on convection has become quite operational in nature, having worked as a thunderstorm and radar trainer at the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia between 2004 and 2009. Focal areas of his work in the past have been convective initiation, the diagnosis of Doppler radar signatures and, more recently, the day 1 convective forecast problem.

More recently, Harald has joined the BNHCRC as lead for the Impact Forecasting project. This work seeks to demonstrate a pilot capability in taking Bureau of Meteorology wind and rain forecasts to assess the damage impact on residential housing, with Geoscience Australia as the partner organisation. Harald has also been working on an ensemble-based calibrated probabilistic thunderstorm prediction methodology. Additionally, he is investigating selected Australian severe thunderstorm case studies with an aim of improving their operational predictability and the quality of the associated warning decisions.

To view the abstract, please click here.

MC, Paul Scott

Paul Scott is the Manager for Mental Health and the Counselling & Support Unit at the NSW Rural Fire Service, and as such, leads and directs their Critical Incident Support Services, Employee Assistance and Member Assistance Programs. He is the principal officer responsible for mental health & wellbeing.

Paul is a Crisis Intervention Mental Health Specialist with around 30 years’ experience in suicide intervention, crisis counselling, trauma response and hostage negotiation. Since 2006 he has undertaken consultancy assignments with World Vision International (Staff Care Program) in Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Recent deployments include Turkey near the Syrian Border and Bangladesh for the Rohingya refugee humanitarian crisis.

Paul is an Executive Member on the Board of Management at Crisis Intervention & Management Australasia and is an Accredited & Approved Instructor with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. He holds tertiary qualifications in Community Organisations Management, Adult Education & Group Work, and Counselling & Psychotherapy. He lives in Sydney, Australia and in his spare time enjoys sailing.

Craig Semple

Craig Semple was a career Detective within the NSW Police Force for 25 years until his retirement, at the rank of Detective Sergeant, in 2013. Much of Craig’s career was invested in `high risk’ environments including drug investigation and the investigation of outlaw motorcycle gangs. It was in these environments that Craig developed lifelong skills in Leadership, Effective Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Resolution and Risk Management.

Craig’s retirement from the Police Force was as a result of a long personal battle with Psychological Injury. From that `lived experience’ he has developed a rare personal insight into the causes, symptoms, treatment and the impact of mental illness and stress in the workplace.

In 2015 Craig joined the Black Dog Institute as an Educational Presenter. Since then he has travelled extensively, sharing his experience and delivering vital education on Mental Health, Wellbeing and Resilience.  More than 4,000 High School Students, Teachers, Farmers, Police and Emergency Services in New South Wales and as far afield as the West Australian Wheatbelt have benefited from Craig’s positive presentations which focus on Psychological Wellbeing and Building Resilience.

In 2016 Craig was selected as an inaugural `Mentor’ for the NSW Police Legacy program `Backup for Life’. Craig has used his unique experience to help develop this program which is providing support to injured Police Officers and their families. He was selected as a Mentor due to his positive message and demonstrated ability to overcome adversity. Craig is considered a `Role Model’ for injured Police transitioning into the next phase of their lives. Craig is a fully accredited Instructor for the delivery of Mental Health First Aid training.

Dr. Jason Sharples

Jason Sharples is Associate Professor in Applied Mathematics at the University of New South Wales, and is a Fellow of the Australia and New Zealand Modelling and Simulation Society. He is part of the Applied and Industrial Mathematics Research Group and the Computational Science Initiative in the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at UNSW Canberra, where he specialises in combustion and bushfire dynamics modelling and simulation.

Jason has lead a number of research projects that consider extreme and dynamic fire behaviour, the development of large conflagrations and bushfire risk management. He is also a volunteer firefighter with the ACT Rural Fire Service.

To view the abstract, please click here.

Leona Tan

Leona joined the Workplace Mental Health Research Team at the University of New South Wales and the Black Dog Institute in 2012 as a research assistant.  The Workplace Mental Health program was established to develop research focused on the mental health needs of NSW front line emergency workers (police officers, ambulance officers and fire fighters). Emergency workers have increased rates of mental health problems, some of which are related to the nature of their work and the traumas they are exposed to. The workplace program aims to better understand how emergency work can impact mental health and how emergency workers can be helped to remain as mentally healthy as possible.
Leona has experience working in research and workplace consulting roles in Australia, the U.S. as well as Malaysia. She is currently working on a range of first responder research including a systematic review of post-incident trauma interventions amongst military and emergency service workers. She is also a certified Yoga for First Responders instructor where she completed her training in the U.S in 2017.

Josh Whittaker

I am a geographer specialising in research on the vulnerability of human communities to bushfire (wildfire) and other natural hazards. I have considerable experience collaborating with social and physical scientists and industry end users to produce research that influences policy and practice.

Specific research interests include:

  • Innovative methods of vulnerability assessment
  • Factors influencing hazard exposure and capacities to respond (short and long term)
  • Cost-benefit analysis of risk reduction
  • Location decisions after disaster (why people stay, why people leave, why newcomers move to disaster affected places)
  • Discourse analysis as a method for understanding environmental issues and problems

Key Dates

EOI Deadline: 23 March 2018
Registered member registration opens: 26 March 2018
EOI acceptance notifications: 20 April 2018
EOI delegate response deadline: 4 May 2018
Conference Dates: Friday 6 – Sunday 8 July 2018

Program at a Glance

To view the RFSA 2018 Program at a Glance in PDF format.

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