VOLUME Symposium Speakers

Find out more about the speakers appearing at VOLUME, the national reading symposium by Australia Reads.

Ben Bowen is a Wiradjuri/ Gandagarra man and the CEO of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, with over 15 years of experience in the NFP sector focussed around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities.

Ben has been working in a range of roles for Indigenous organisations around education pathways, opportunities, mentoring, healthy lifestyles for individuals, families and communities, business, culture and innovation. Ben has dedicated his career to advocating for Indigenous literacy, education and health across Australia.

Anna Burkey has a passion for books, reading, and education. Hailing from Scotland, where she was on the founding team of Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature, Anna now lives in Melbourne/Naarm.  After several years with State Library Victoria and the Centre for Youth Literature, Anna’s over the moon to be working with the Australian Publishers Association and BooksCreateAustralia to develop Australia Reads, and build a reading nation.

Mark Chenery is a communications expert and trainer who works with mission driven organisations to incorporate a values-based approach to community engagement.

His background includes advertising and journalism and heading up the community engagement program of an international human rights organisation in Australia. Since establishing Common Cause Australia in 2014, Mark and his colleagues have trained thousands of campaigners, communicators and fundraisers from Australia and beyond in the science of values and framing. His research and training has changed the way many Australian and international mission driven organisations as well as government departments and agencies engage with the public on social justice, health and environmental issues.

Head of Reading Communities at Scottish Book Trust, Philippa Cochrane has over 25 years’ experience of working in the arts. She currently leads the delivery of Book Week Scotland, Scottish Book Trust’s programmes focussing on adult readers and work around stories of lived experience and she chairs the organisation’s Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory group.

She is passionate about the impact that reading and writing for pleasure can have in learning, mental health and wellbeing, and in supporting people's creativity and sense of connection across communities. >Philippa brings her experience in literature programming, schools, adult and community learning, programme design and delivery, and large-scale event management to her role as a member of the Wigtown Festival Company and SpaceArts boards.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Hon FRSL is Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust. Previously he was Head of Policy Development at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, where he also worked as Head of Learning and Access. Prior to that, he was Professional Adviser for Youth and School Libraries at the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. He has also worked as a librarian and in children’s services for Westminster Libraries. Jonathan is on the Advisory Committee of The Booker Prize, a trustee for World Book Day aand a Governor at his local primary school. In 2020 Jonathan was awarded a CBE for services to education and in 2021 he was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Formerly a primary teacher, Robyn Ewing AM is Professor Emerita, Teacher Education and the Arts and Co-Director of the Creativity in Research, Engaging the Arts, Transforming Education, Health and Wellbeing (CREATE) Centre.

Her teaching, research and writing includes a focus on primary curriculum, children's literature, drama-rich pedagogy, early literacy development and innovative teacher education. Robyn is passionate about the role quality arts experiences and processes can and should play in transforming the curriculum at all levels of education. Robyn is an Honorary Associate with Sydney Theatre, Principal Fellow of the Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA), Visiting Scholar at Barking Gecko Children's Theatre, Co-Convenor, Foundation for Learning and Literacy, Co-Director, Big Sky Stories.

Kat Gledhill-Tucker is a Nyungar technologist, writer, and digital rights activist currently living on Whadjuk Noongar boodjar. They write poetry, science fiction, and occasionally essays that explore surveillance, digital colonialism, and our relationship with machines. Kat’s work has appeared in Cordite, Running Dog, Red Room Poetry, and the short story 'Protocols of Transference' can be found in the blak speculative fiction anthology This All Come Back Now, published by UQP in 2022.

Debbie Hicks MBE is a founding member and Creative Director, of The Reading Agency. She has extensive knowledge of public libraries and the reading and literature sector, is a policy and strategy specialist, an experienced researcher, and has experience of high-level project development and delivery. She is a specialist in the field of reading, libraries and health. She has delivered groundbreaking national reading related research and led the development of major national reading programmes such as Reading Well and Reading Friends. Debbie received an MBE in 2019 for services to reading.

Dr Sarah Kneebone is Education Manager at BehaviourWorks Australia, working with a range of audiences to build capacity and support application of behavioural insights approaches for project, policy and program design.

She is Unit Coordinator for Understanding human behaviour to influence change, a multi-award-winning unit within Monash University’s Master of Environment of Sustainability course and runs the professional development program for BWA’s Graduate Research Industry Partnership doctoral program. Sarah also manages the development of bespoke training solutions for BWA partners and clients and is passionate about making behavioural science tools and techniques accessible and usable to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

Kate Larsen (she/her) is a Tarntanya/Adelaide-based reader, writer, arts and cultural consultant with more than 20 years’ experience in the non-profit, government and cultural sectors in Australia, Asia and the United Kingdom.

Her work has been published or commissioned by The Relationship is the Project, Meanjin, Overland, Kill Your Darlings, Voice&Verse and anthologies, magazines and arts organisations in Australia, Asia and the UK. Her debut collection of poetry, Public. Open. Space., was published by Fremantle Press in 2023.

“How the hell is reading, you know, picking up a book and learning new shit, something that’s considered the opposite to toughness. I can assure you there is nothing tough about knowing less about other people than the next guy. That’s why ignorance is considered a weakness.” – Shay Leighton

Shay Leighton is a community organiser that founded the Tough Guy Book Club in 2012, a men's book club organisation that focuses on getting men reading, building camaraderie, and have a damn good time. With a growing network of over 80 book clubs, Tough Guy Book Club has become a noticeable addition to the bars back rooms & beer gardens of many towns and suburbs in Australia, getting books in men’s hands, and putting real conversations back in the pub where they belong.

Scott Ludlam is a writer, activist and former Australian Senator representing the Australian Greens. He served in Parliament from 2008 to 2017, and served as deputy leader of the party from 2015 to 2017.

Now working as a writer, designer and freelance troublemaker, Scott's first book Full Circle was published by Black Inc. in May 2021

The Tandem Collective is a team of passionate freelancers, with a range of skills spanning social media, events, project management, video, podcast, web and graphic design. We partner with content creators to generate a digital activation with high engagement and authenticity to create stand-out campaigns across a number of platforms, from Instagram to TikTok.

Char McCallum is a Social Media Manager at Tandem and has been part of the #Bookstagram community since 2016. She joined Tandem in 2020, finally settling into her dream career after trying her hand as a baker, a waste-management expert and an events manager. She lives in Sheffield, England with her ambivalent cat and hundreds of books.

Elizabeth O'Shea is a lawyer and writer. Her commentary is featured regularly on television programs and radio, usually talking about law, technology, or human rights. Elizabeth is a founder and the current chair of Digital Rights Watch, which advocates for human rights online.

Anita Planchon is Director of Strategy and Engagement at Libraries Tasmania with oversight of Tasmania’s whole-of-community strategy for Adult Literacy and Numeracy, 26TEN and responsibility for continual improvement of Tasmania’s statewide library literacy service. She is currently working on implementation of the recommendations of the Tasmanian Government's Literacy Advisory Panel.

Prior to joining the library world, Anita was an Australian diplomat for close to two decades with postings in Asia and the Pacific. Her experience in the developing world gave her a passion for literacy and language development and the role of libraries in providing access to information to support democratic engagement.

Dr Bronwyn Reddan is a Research Fellow on the Australian Research Council Linkage project ‘Discovering a “Good Read”: Pathways to Reading for Australian Teens’. Her research examines the social and emotional dimensions of literary cultures, with a particular interest in digital social reading practices, book clubs, women’s writing, and fairy tales. She is currently working on a book about the social reading cultures on BookTube, Bookstagram, and BookTok.

Kylie Robertson is an award-winning storyteller and creative director with a passion for new technologies and youth content. As the founder of one of Australia’s first digital production startups and creator of game changing interactive narrative works, Kylie has extensive experience in content and product innovation.

Throughout her career, Kylie has driven creative and strategic initiatives for some of Australia's biggest brands in broadcasting, publishing, and sports, including the Australian Football League, Penguin Random House, and Publicis Mojo. Kylie frequently speaks at digital, innovation, and storytelling conferences. Her pioneering interactive narrative works broke new ground locally and globally and have been showcased around the world, including at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MIP Cannes, and as part of the permanent collection at Australian Centre of the Moving Image in Melbourne. Kylie is interested in the intersection of storytelling and technology and exploring how we can use this to impact future generations.

Jess Scully is an author, city-maker and advocate for the creative economy and the role of cities in a fair future. As Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney from 2019 to 2022 and as a Councillor at the City of Sydney from 2016 to 2023, Jess introduced new models to address the housing crisis and support a more inclusive economy and worked to embed culture in the life of the city and revive Sydney's nightlife.

Previously, Jess founded and directed Vivid Ideas, Australia’s largest creative industries event; supported emerging talent through the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards; transformed public space as an urbanism consultant and public art curator, and served as a policy advisor to the NSW Minister for the Arts. She is currently a World Bank consultant contributing to sustainable urban development in Indonesia and the host of Saturday Afternoons on ABC Radio. Her first book, Glimpses of Utopia: Real Ideas for a Fairer World, was published by Pantera Press and shortlisted in the Australian Book Industry Awards in 2021.

Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay storyteller from the NSW north west freshwater plains and is a musician, composer, performer, and novelist. In 2020 Song of the Crocodile was released with Hachette Australia and went on to win the 2021 ASAL Gold Medal and be long listed for the 2021 Stella Prize and Miles Franklin Awards. Currently working on her second novel Nardi remains heavily involved in the sharing and strengthening of culture and art in both her Sydney and Yuwaalaraay communities.

Nithya Solomon is an innovation executive, strategist and performing artist, renowned for her creativity in shaping unique ventures in philanthropy, social impact, and public health. She is the Director of RMIT’s Health Transformation Lab and Innovation Catalyst, operating at the cutting edge of the technology-human interface in health and social innovation. Nithya’s expertise spans private and public sectors in Australia, USA, and Latin America.

She was Nike Foundation’s Director of Operations through their defining years of shaping game-changing investments for adolescent girls’ economic empowerment. She was instrumental in delivering Nike’s ‘Designed to Move’ shared commitment between 70+ multi-sector organisations to increase worldwide physical activity. As VicHealth’s Executive Lead of Innovation, Nithya led efforts making global thought leadership, citizens’ juries, and digital innovation accessible for corporations and community organisations. She holds an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, and undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Performing Arts from Monash University.

Sandeep Varma is the Founder and CEO of award-winning South Asian Australian media startup SAARI Collective. SAARI works to build the capacity of South Asians to write and build media skills, and was a recent recipient of the Victorian Government's Award for Excellence in Multicultural Media, and was selected for funding by the Google News Equity Fund. Sandeep is an Impact25 award winner for his work in social impact, a former lawyer and political speechwriter, and is an advocate for community, creativity, diversity, mental health and children's rights.

Dr Jan Zwar is a co-researcher with Professor David Throsby and Dr Paul Crosby, Department of Economics on Australia’s book industry and international developments.

Recent projects include a national survey of Australian books authors, released in 2022 led by Professor Throsby; a study of international rights sales and export of Australian-authored books, led by Dr Crosby, released in 2021. Professor Throsby is currently leading the team on research into the economic and cultural value of the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in Indonesia. Dr Zwar was a Postdoctoral Fellow on an ARC project ‘The Australian book industry: Authors, publishers and readers in a time of change’, which included a study of innovative publishers and a national survey of Australian book reading. She has taught undergraduate marketing including units focused on consumer goods and services, and strategies to promote behaviour change.