The Townsville Defence Forum will be a localised policy-driven forum. The event will focus on fostering relationships between government, PRIMEs & SMEs to deliver Australia’s sovereign capability and act as a driver for the region’s economy. It will assess how best SMEs can enter supply chains, look at current and emerging opportunities for contracting with Defence, and analyse the skilling requirements that will enable the region to thrive as a future Defence Industry hub.


Morning Tea Sponsor

Coffee Cart Sponsor



Phillip Thompson OAM MP
Federal Member for Herbert
Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence
Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Industry
Shadow Assistant Minister for Defence Personnel

Erin Kiernan
Manager – Defence Industry Hub – North Queensland, Department of State Development Queensland

Brendan Sowry
General Manager – Defence,
CPB Construction

Raelene Lockhorst
Deputy Director – Professional Development Centre, ASPI





OPENING | Opening remarks from the Chair

Cathy Weis, Senior Proposals and Communications Manager, Cubic Defence Australia


KEYNOTE | What does the Defence Strategic Review mean for Townsville and the broader region?

  • Improving the ADF’s ability to operate from its North and Far North Queensland bases
  • Upgrading fuel storage and logistic capabilities
  • Has the DSR outlined what Defence requires from industry to support its operations

Lieutenant General (Ret’d) John Caligari, AO, DSC, Defence Sector Strategic Advisor, Townsville City Council


KEYNOTE | Coaching high-performing teams to win the first battle of the next war: how Army is doing it

  • The ‘right’ mindset
  • The ‘right’ process
  • The ‘right’ environment

Colonel Ben McLennan, Commander Combat Training Centre, Australian Army


Cairns Marine Precinct

  • Increasing maintenance and repair capability
  • Investment in local marine industry
  • Opportunities arising from the project

Belinda Hutchinson, A/Manager Economic Development – Far North Queensland Regional Office, Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning, Queensland Government


Morning Tea Address

Stuart Blackwell, Interim Director, Queensland Defence Science Alliance


Networking & Refreshment Break


Continuing geo-political challenges and power contestation in the Pacific

  • The evolving landscape of security in the Pacific
  • Major power dynamics and the relationship between China and the US
  • Economic and humanitarian involvement

Dr Anna Hayes, Senior Lecturer Political Science, James Cook University


Regional Force Surveillance Group in Far North Queensland: The role of the 51st Battalion

  • Challenges operating in FNQ
  • Engagement and collaboration with local communities
  • Capability requirements and future needs of the Army

Major Tim Friend, 51st Bn FNQR, Australian Army


Networking Lunch


Recent developments and the outlook for NQ Spark


Professor Mick Reilly, Executive Director, NQ Spark


PANEL | Collaboration between Defence, Industry & Education to ensure an available and adequately skilled workforce

  • What will be the skillset requirements of the future?
  • Creating harmonious relationships that allow employees to move between Industry and Defence
  • Attracting people to move away from capital cities

Mel Ireland, Policy & Project Lead – Queensland, AI Group
Amy Savage, Manager – Defence Industry Hub – Department of State Development, Queensland Government
Professor Maree Dinan-Thompson, Deputy Vice Chancellor Education, James Cook University


How will AI and Machine Learning transform Defence in regional areas?

  • Opportunities for the utilisation of AI to support Defence operations outside major hubs
  • Is industry in a position to supply Defence with what it needs?
  • Ethical challenges posed by AI

Kelvin Ross, Board Member, QLD AI Hub


Afternoon Tea & Networking Break


Improving access for regional businesses to international defence markets

  • Leveraging local defence investment and global primes to access international opportunities.
  • Opportunities for local businesses to expand and reach new defence markets.
  • Implementing the Defence Export Strategy Framework

Michael Riera, Senior Advisor, Defence & Space, Austrade


Supporting and enhancing the operations of Defence in Townsville

  • RGM Maintenance’s story and history of involvement with Defence
  • What can other local businesses learn from RGM Maintenance
  • Highlighting the importance of Defence to the local economy

Mick Ferguson, Defence and Government Relations Executive, RGM Maintenance


PANEL | Opportunities for growth in North & Far North Queensland’s Defence Industry

  • The potential for economic development across Queensland’s Defence sector
  • How can companies best position themselves to access growing supply chains
  • Developments in innovation and technology

Michael Kern, CEO, Townsville Chamber of Commerce
Kate Sullivan, Defence Industry Adviser, Office of Defence Industry Support, Department of Defence

Mick Ferguson, Defence and Government Relations Executive, RGM Maintenance


Closing Remarks from the Chair

Cathy Weis, Senior Proposals and Communications Manager, Cubic Defence Australia


Networking Drinks


ConnectMe • Networking enhanced

All of our events utilise a bespoke dynamic smartphone app, ConnectMe – which guarantees attendees a premium event experience. Logins are sent prior to the conference commencement allowing you to check who’s attending, schedule in meetings and catch ups, participate in live Q+A and interactive polls, and much more. ConnectMe ensures you never miss a beat prior, during and post event.


Early bird rate expires 30 June 2024

Department of Defence/ADF attend for free. Please register for ADF/Dept Defence pass by emailing info@informa.com.au.

*Local SME is defined as organisation with fewer than 50 employees, based in Queensland, not part of a global company.

Packages Early Bird Standard Rate
Prime Contractors and Government $1,195 + GST $1,395 + GST
Local SME Rate $399 + GST $499 + GST


The Ville Resort-Casino
Sir Leslie Thiess Dr, Townsville QLD 4810
(07) 4722 2333


Our Commitment to Sustainability

In Australia, we are committed to running our events in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Across Informa Connect we are focusing on the short and long-term sustainability impacts we have on customers and colleagues alongside the communities we work in.

We recognise that it’s not just about the way we produce our events and products but recognising that we have a role to play in providing a space to work in partnership together with our markets to inspire the sustainable development of the industries we serve.

To read more on our latest sustainability reports and Faster Forward initiatives – click here.