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2018 COAT National Conference
7 - 8 June, 2018I QT Canberra, ACT

Keynote Speakers

The Hon Robert French AC
Former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia

Robert French was appointed Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia on 1 September 2008 and retired from that office on 29 January 2017.

He is a graduate of the University of Western Australia in science and law. He was admitted in 1972 and practised as a barrister and solicitor in Western Australia until 1983 when he went to the Independent Bar. He was appointed a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia in November 1986, an office he held until his appointment as Chief Justice on 1 September 2008. From 1994 to 1998 he was the President of the National Native Title Tribunal.

In 2010, he was made a Companion in the Order of Australia and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. He is a Founding Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, a member of the American Law Institute, and an Honorary Life Member of the Australasian Law Teachers Association, the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration, the Australian Bar Association and the West Australian Bar Association.

Mr French was appointed as a Non-Permanent Justice of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal in May 2017.

Since August 2016 he has been an Adjunct Professor at the Law School at the University of Western Australia, a Distinguished Honorary Professor at the Australian National University since October 2016 and from 2017 an Adjunct Professor at Monash University Law School.

Mr French is a Board member of the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation. He is a member of the Committee on International Freedom of Scientists of the American Physical Society.
Professor Genevieve Bell
Director of the 3A Institute and Professor, Australian National Univeristy


Professor Bell is the Director of the 3A Institute, Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, and a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) as well as a Vice President and Senior Fellow at Intel Corporation. Prof Bell is a cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development.

Prof Bell joined the ANU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science in February 2017, after having spent the past 18 years in Silicon Valley helping guide Intel’s product development by developing the company’s social science and design research capabilities.

Prof Bell now heads the newly established Autonomy, Agency and Assurance (3A) Institute, launched in September 2017 by the ANU in collaboration with CSIRO's Data61, in building a new applied science around the management of artificial intelligence, data, technology and their impact on humanity.

Prof Bell is the inaugural appointee to the Florence Violet McKenzie Chair at the ANU, named in honour Australia’s first female electrical engineer, which promotes the inclusive use of technology in society. Prof Bell also presented the highly acclaimed ABC Boyer Lectures for 2017, in which she interrogated what it means to be human, and Australian, in a digital world.

Prof Bell completed her PhD in cultural anthropology at Stanford University in 1998.

Ms Denise Carlton
Chief Demographer, Australian Bureau of Statistics



Denise Carlton is the Program Manager for Population Statistics at Australian Bureau of Statistics, which includes Demography and the Migration Statistics sections.  Denise has over 25 years experience with ABS, is a previous director of Demography, and has worked in areas such as Labour Statistics, Social Analysis and reporting, the Measures of Australia's Progress project, and Health and Disability Statistics. She was the director responsible for data quality at the 2006 Census.

Denise is passionate about using data to tell the story of our society and how it is changing, and about how good statistical information can help improve the wellbeing of all Australians into the future.

Denise has qualifications in English Literature, History, Media Studies and Applied Statistics.

Mr Tom Howe PSM QC
Chief Counsel, Dispute Resolution, Australian Government Solicitor


Tom Howe QC’s distinguished service to public law and Commonwealth litigation has been recognised in each of two ways: first, by conferral of the distinctive honour of being appointed a Commonwealth Queens Counsel in 2007; secondly, by the award of a Public Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2015 for ‘outstanding public service through Commonwealth litigation’.

The PSM award citation stated that Tom ‘provides the highest level of guidance to the Government and its lawyers on significant and sensitive Commonwealth litigation….[in] precedent-setting cases, spanning various legal disciplines. Mr Howe has shaped substantial areas of public law and practice in areas as diverse as national security, employment law, administrative law and parliamentary privilege.’

Tom has been Chief Counsel of AGS Dispute Resolution Practice since 2002. He specialises in appearance work before courts and tribunals, and advising the Commonwealth government, in sensitive and complex matters of high public importance. He regularly appears for security and law enforcement agencies of the Commonwealth in proceedings involving protection of sensitive information.

Opening Address
Mr Gordon Ramsay MLA
ACT Attorney-General


Born in Sydney in 1964, Gordon originally studied Arts-Law at University of Sydney and went into practice as a commercial and intellectual property solicitor.

He became a Uniting Church Minister in 1993, serving the community of Kingsgrove-Bardwell Park before moving to Canberra in 1997 to lead Kippax Uniting Church.

From 1997–2016, Gordon was the Executive Minister at Kippax in the West Belconnen area, establishing a UnitingCare agency which grew to become one of the largest and most influential community service organisations in the ACT. During this time, Gordon became a major spokesperson and organiser for social justice.

He was significant in the Anti-Poverty Week movement, the ACT Council of Social Services, was a member of the ACT Community Inclusion Board and a Community Inclusion Advocate. He was a Community Champion for the 2020 Time To Talk process, and a member of the ACT Better Services Taskforce. In 2012, he led the ACT Targeted Assistance Strategy.

In 2015, Gordon was recognised as a finalist in the ACT Local Hero category of the Australian the Year awards.

He also served on the board of Uniting, one of Australia’s largest, and not-for-profit, aged care providers, from 2011, including as Chair from 2014–2016.

Gordon was elected to the ACT Assembly in 2016 and holds the portfolios of Attorney-General, Regulatory Services, Arts and Community Events, and Veterans and Seniors.  

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