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Corporate Ladder: your weekly guide to executive appointments


In this week’s executive appointments column, InDaily tracks the movements of those driving South Australia’s public and private sectors in industries including the state government and superannuation. Who’s who on the Corporate Ladder? Read on.

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Jessica Thomas.

After three years as head of communication at defence organisation Naval Group Australia, the designer and builder of Australia’s future submarines project, Jessica Thomas is moving to civil construction company Nova Group, as director of strategic communications.

Across Thomas’s career, she has led communication teams in industries including health care and law.

Prior to her role with Naval Group Australia Thomas was senior communication advisor for multinational defence, security and aerospace company BAE Systems.

In a statement, Thomas said she would continue with Naval Group “for a few weeks” before stepping into her role with Nova Group in early June.

“It was a genuinely difficult decision to leave my amazing team and everything we have built together, but for me, a new decade was deserving of a change,” Thomas said.

“My role will be advertised shortly and I encourage all passionate communication professionals to apply for the opportunity to contribute to the largest and most ambitious defence acquisition program in Australia’s history.”

No small change for super fund

South Australia’s biggest superannuation fund, Statewide Super, has appointed a new chief risk officer, Jason Muir, and a new chief financial officer, Simone Dyda.

The fresh leadership duo comes after an internal investigation into breaches of process by two executives, who were both sacked, in January.

Jason Muir.

A statement released on the fund’s website at the time said: “Our internal processes uncovered a failure to conform with internal controls. Immediate action was taken – appropriate regulators were informed … Internal investigations are ongoing.”

The statement did not name the pair, but the Australian Financial Review noted CFO Grant Eastwood and CRO Kieran Netting ceased employment on January 15.

The new CFO and CRO will begin May 15.

Dyda moves from Ernst & Young where she has spent 15 years working with clients in the financial services industry and for member based organisations, as well as holding various leadership roles.

Muir joins Statewide Super from Deloitte, where he was a director in the firm’s risk advisory practice.

Muir has led risk and compliance teams, including at wealth management company BT Financial Group, where he supported the development of the risk and compliance framework for superannuation products and the removal of grandfathered remuneration from legacy products.

University shakeup

While the University of Adelaide made headlines last week with the sudden departure of its two most senior figures, the university appointed Carl Spandler as associate professor of critical minerals in a bid to “further its research performance in multiple fields that have tangible outputs of global significance.”

Carl Spandler.

Spandler comes to Adelaide from James Cook University where he has focused on the origin and evolution of critical meta orebodies.

A spokesperson for the university said Spandler’s research publications “represent about half of all the literature on Australian rare earth element ore deposits.”

Last week, University of Adelaide vice chancellor Peter Rathjen was placed on indefinite leave less than 24 hours after the sudden resignation of chancellor and former SA governor Kevin Scarce, who quit his position six months earlier than planned.

The state’s anti-corruption commissioner, Bruce Lander, last week that he was investigating “allegations of improper conduct by the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Adelaide.”

Lander said while he would “ordinarily not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation … in light of the intense speculation regarding The University of Adelaide, and the likelihood that that speculation will continue and potentially lead to an unnecessary negative impact on the University’s operations, I have decided to make this public statement.”

Read InDaily’s report into the matter here.

New faces behind the screen

Visual effects specialist and former managing director of Mill Film Adelaide – a subsidiary of the film effect giant Technicolor – Mark Thorley has joined the SAFC as chief operating officer.

Thorley has spent most of his career leading the production teams at Lucasfilm, Singapore and independent animation and visual effects company Animal Logic.

He lands at SAFC having worked on feature films such as Kong: Skull Island, Rogue One and Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

Thorley’s appointment comes as SAFC also announced Beth Neate would remain as the independent film agency’s head of production and development.

Mark Thorley. Picture: David Sievers Photography

Neate acted in the role for five months after first joining the SAFC in 2007 as a project officer before heading to the United Nations to work in communications and advocacy, then joining the ABC as a producer for seven years.

Neate returned to SAFC as a production and development executive in 2017 where she has remained, working across feature films and television drama as well as unscripted programs.

In another part of the arts world, the Adelaide Festival Centre has welcomed freelance actor, writer and broadcaster Annette Shun Wah as artistic director of the 2021 OzAsia Festival and Miranda Starke as a new board member.

Beth Neate

Since 2013 Wah has served as executive producer of non-profit organisation the contemporary Asian Australian Performance, promoting cultural diversity through cross-artform theatrical works. 

Due to the potential risks of hosting the festival amid the global pandemic, OzAsia Festival is not going ahead this year in its usual format.

However, Wah will deliver a series of online discussions and interviews at the end of this year, focussed on the importance of Australia’s continued engagement with Asia and the arts. 

Starke is general manager of Council on the Ageing (COTA) SA.

SA’s coronavirus taskforces

The state government has appointed six senior bureaucrats to help guide South Australia out of the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement from Premier Steven Marshall’s office said the leadership team had been established to examine how and when South Australia’s coronavirus-related restrictions should be eased, and help “return the state’s economy and community way of life to the new normal.”

“The transition committee will ensure that we can capitalise on the efforts made to flatten the COVID-19 curve by lifting restrictions, where appropriate, so we can forge ahead with the difficult task of flattening the unemployment curve,” the statement said.

Jim McDowell. Photo courtesy UniSA

Chairing the transition committee is Premier and Cabinet CE Jim McDowell, a former chief of global defence company BAE Systems.

McDowell is joined by SAPOL commissioner Grant Stevens, who was last month reappointed in top role for an additional three years, and chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier.

Spurrier has held the state’s most senior health position for less than a year, but in that time become the face of South Australia’s coronavirus response.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Also on the committee is Health and Wellbeing CE Dr Chris McGowan, Treasury and Finance CE David Reynolds and Trade and Investment CE Leonie Muldoon.

The committee joins other South Australian task forces in working towards the state’s recovery, including the Premier’s 15 member industry response and recovery council.

The council represents many of the state’s key industries, including business, property and tourism.

Members include: former lord mayor and Business SA CEO Martin Haese, SA Property Council executive director Daniel Gannon, Yarra Ranges Tourism CEO Simon O’Callaghan, SA Builders Association CEO Ian Markos, the SA Hotels Association general manager Ian Horne and SA Housing Industry Association executive director Stephen Knight.

South Australian Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier. Photo: AAP/David Mariuz

Also on the council is Shaun De Bruyn, of the Tourism Industry Council SA, Philip Sutherland, SA’s Civil Contractors Federation CEO, Colin Shearing, the executive spokesperson for the SA Independent Retailers’ Association, Paul Unerkov, Motor Trade Association South Australia CEO, Brian Smedley SA’s Wine Industry Association CE, Catherine Sayers of Food SA, UDIA boss Pat Gerace, Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert and Rob Kerin, Primary Producers SA CE.


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