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Program Advisory Committee

Conference Chair

Mr Martin Boyle, CEM – Field Support and Emergency Management Coordinator, Australian Antarctic Division


Martin Boyle manages risk and coordinates crisis management for the Australian Antarctic Division where he has worked for the past 10 years. He has been south on many occasions in various leadership and management positions on Antarctic stations, in the field, and on ice breaking vessels. He has been involved in many challenging and remote search and rescue operations during this time.

Martin has more than twenty years of experience across the emergency management industry in both private and public sector as a consultant, emergency services manager, search and rescue operator, and international delegate. He has previously worked for Australian Customs and Border Protection and the Tasmania State Emergency Service where in 2006 he was involved in the Beaconsfield mine disaster.

He was awarded a Certificate of High Commendation for Search & Rescue operations in 2002, and more recently the Bravo Zulu award in 2015 from the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Martin is an internationally recognised Certified Emergency Manager®, Certified Practicing Project Manager, holds a Masters in Emergency Management, Advanced Diploma in Public Safety, and Diploma of the Business Continuity Institute.

Martin is the Chair of the Australian New Zealand Search and Rescue conference, a member of the Australian Tsunami Advisory Group (ATAG), Editorial Advisory Panel Member and Search and Rescue blog Editor for Crisis Response Journal.

Mr Eddie Bennet, CEO, Little Ripper Lifesaver


Eddie has been involved with search and rescue, disaster and emergency management for over 33 years.  He holds a Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management and Diplomas in Search and Rescue, Public Safety (Policing), Workplace Health and Safety, Security and Risk Management and Government Investigations and Fraud Control.

He is Chief Executive Officer of Little Ripper Lifesaver Unmanned Aircraft and a Director of the Medical Rescue Training Academy.  He has served previously as a member of the Queensland Police Service including working with Water Police, Major Event Management, District Duty Officer and Operations Support.  He has held senior management positions with Government including State Director for Queensland SES and Regional Director for Emergency Management Queensland which included senior operational roles for the devastating 2010/11 South East Queensland floods and Tropical Cyclones Larry and Yasi.

Mr Mark Cattell, Operations Manager, Victoria State Emergency Service

Mark Cattell PhotoOriginally from NSW, Mark began his working career with the Australian Army and completed 20 years of service in Armoured, in Victoria, and Aviation Corps in Queensland.  During his time with Army Aviation, Mark undertook several search and rescue tasks including over sea rescues and airborne searches for lost aircraft in the Queensland hinterland.  After reaching the rank of Warrant Officer, Mark retired from the Army.

Mark then began working as a Manager with Centrelink in Victoria for eight years, it was during this time that Mark decided that the skills he had developed with the Army could be much better utilised with the Victoria State Emergency Service as a volunteer in 2002.  During his 15 years as a volunteer, Mark has have attended numerous road accidents with the Bendigo Unit as well as many other search and rescue operations.  Mark is in qualified Urban Search and Rescue Operator level two, Alpine Search and Rescue in addition to Road, Air, Industrial and Rail Rescue.  In 2008, Mark began an employed career with Victoria State Emergency Service and worked in several roles including IMT’s during the Black Saturday Fires and the 2010/2011 Victorian floods. Mark is an accredited level 3 Incident Controller.

Mark is currently filling a role as an Operations Manager in the North West Region of Victoria and has also filled roles in State Headquarters as the Manager Operational Readiness and performed roles as in the State Control Centre during a number of fire, storm and flood operations.  Mark is the subject matter lead for Victoria State Emergency Service in General and RAIR rescue, and is a qualified trainer and most SES disciplines.  Mark has been in his current role for 4 years and remains an active volunteer with the service.

Mr Rhett Emery, NSSP Coordinator, New Zealand Search and Rescue Council  

Rhett-EmeryNew Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) provides national strategic governance and leadership to New Zealand search and rescue. Rhett is part of the NZSAR Secretariat which provides strategic coordination for SAR in New Zealand through:

  • maintaining NZSAR’s key documentation
  • sustaining strong domestic and international SAR linkages
  • monitoring New Zealand’s domestic and international SAR obligations
  • responding to SAR issues as they arise
  • providing relevant advice.

While the Secretariat does not have an operational SAR role, we help improve the overall co-ordination, cohesion, capability and leadership of search and rescue by working alongside the key organisations and individuals providing search and rescue services throughout New Zealand.

Mr Stephen Leahy, Chief Executive Officer, Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter

stephen-leahy17Steve is the Chief Executive Officer of the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopters in Sydney and southern NSW and is enjoying the challenges this role brings.  During his tenure, the Service has seen a period of success which has included the establishment of a new base on the NSW south coast, the acquisition of additional aircraft, a new government funding agreement, operational support to the NSW Police Force, the NSW State Emergency Service and Fire and Rescue NSW and operations missions have increased by more than 300%.

Steve has lectured extensively around the world on coastal safety, change management, leadership and strategic planning as well as having a number of articles published in peer reviewed journals.   He holds qualifications in Business Management, Leadership, Public Safety and Aviation.   Steve is a member of the Australian Institute of Management and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He sits on numerous emergency management committees and state and regional level and has been appointed to the Commonwealth Government’s Aviation Industry Reference Committee.

Steve is still an active surf lifesaver with Fingal Beach SLSC at Nelson Bay and is the proud recipient of three bravery awards, the Australian Sports Medal and the National Medal with First Clasp.    In 2004, the NSW State Government announced that Steve had been awarded the inaugural NSW Water Safety Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to Water Safety by an Individual.

Assistant Commissioner Steve Smith, Assistant Commissioner, South Western Regional, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services


Steve is the Assistant Commissioner South Western Region, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).  Joining the Service in 1994, he progressed through to his current rank of Assistant Commissioner, serving in various regional and state roles. He has extensive knowledge, skills and experience in the fire, rescue, hazmat and emergency management fields with a particular interest in disaster preparedness and response.

Steve leads a large and diverse region, headquartered in Toowoomba.  The region spans the entire south west corner of Queensland from Toowoomba in the east, to just north of Augathella and across and down to the South Australian and New South Wales borders. Steve’s team, of approximately 600 staff, is responsible for providing the South Western Region community with fire, rescue, hazmat and emergency management services delivered through headquarters functions and 40 fire stations.

Prior to appointment as an Assistant Commissioner, Steve was Director – State Operational Coordination Branch, responsible for the readiness and operation of the QFES State Operations Centre, and the Queensland Government State Disaster Coordination Centre. All of these capabilities delivered state-wide services critical to the conduct of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services operations and whole-of-government coordination.

Steve has an in-depth knowledge and understanding of all aspects of technical rescue and specialised operations, underpinned by many years of developing and delivering training, managing capability development and responding to diverse and challenging operational incidents. He remains the international program manager for Australia Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Taskforce 1 (Queensland).

This work has led to Steve’s involvement in a number of overseas USAR deployments.   He has represented Australia at numerous United Nations, International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) events, is an INSARAG USAR Classification Team Leader and is engaged in USAR Team Mentoring.  He has sat on various INSARAG Working Groups since 2011.

Senior Sergeant Jim Whitehead, Queensland State Search & Rescue Coordinator & Training Officer, Queensland Police Service

Jim WhiteheadSenior Sergeant Jim Whitehead has been the Queensland State Search and Rescue Coordinator & Training Officer (SSARCTO) since 2007.  His dual responsibilities are to ensure that Queensland has a competent and robust SAR capability and to ensure that SAR training is maintained to a ‘World best practice’ level.

He has several Diploma and Advanced Diplomas of SAR Coordination and Management, a Bachelor of Social Science (Emergency Management), a Master of Emergency management and is studying for a Doctorate in Search and Rescue.

He is the primary SAR instructor for the QPS, an instructor on the National Police SAR Manager’s Course and was Director of same several years.  He has also provided SAR instruction to the Royal Solomon Island Police, The Solomon Island Marine Rescue Coordination Centre, and the Australian Federal Police in Canberra, Christmas Island, Cocos Island and Norfolk Island.


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