Board
Pete McConnell
Executive Chairman

Prior to founding Commtract, Pete was Director of Corporate and Public Affairs for Woolworths Limited. His role included media relations, corporate communications, internal communications, government and industry relations and corporate social responsibility for the Woolworths Limited Group and its trading divisions. He was also a member of its Management Board.

Prior to founding Commtract, Pete was Director of Corporate and Public Affairs for Woolworths Limited. His role included media relations, corporate communications, internal communications, government and industry relations and corporate social responsibility for the Woolworths Limited Group and its trading divisions. He was also a member of its Management Board.

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Rebecca Tabakoff
Director

Rebecca is a founding Director of Temple Executive Search and works with leading organisations to help them structure their corporate affairs teams and find the best people to work within them. She has conducted search for top-tier organisations including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Transurban, AMP, Insurance Australia Group, Crown Limited, Primary Healthcare Limited, Coca-Cola Amatil, The Nationals (NSW Division) and the NSW Government.

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Anna Whitlam
Director

Anna Whitlam is Managing Director of Anna Whitlam People, an executive search and management consulting firm specialising in corporate affairs, communications, investor relations and marketing.

EOs and company Chairmen turn to Anna Whitlam and her team for confidential advice on reputation management and corporate affairs structuring at the most senior levels. As Managing Director of Anna Whitlam People, Anna is the Executive Search consultant of choice for many Top 20 ASX companies and global businesses seeking the best corporate affairs talent in Australia and globally. With over 25 years in the business, Anna has developed a formidable network of corporate affairs professionals working in senior roles in business, government and community organisations.

Commtract is a complementary business to Anna Whitlam People, serving a different market – connecting companies with corporate affairs and communications professionals seeking short-term contract and project opportunities.

Anna’s qualifications include a B.BUS and the AICD Company Directors Course. She is an alumna of Harvard Business School and INSEAD in Singapore. She has held non-executive director positions on not-for-profit boards and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, and the International Association of Communicators.

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Ross Thornton
Director

Ross Thornton is a highly experienced strategic communications adviser with more than 20 years experience working in politics and financial PR. He is a co-founder of two of the most successful corporate/financial agencies in Sydney and has advised on many of the largest and most complex financial transactions in recent Australian history.

Until recently, Ross was a Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting, the company which bought his firm, Third Person. Ross had also led FTI Consulting’s Strategic Communications division in the Asia-Pacific region as well as serving as its global head of Mergers and Acquisitions based in London during 2011 and 2012.

Ross began his working life as a media adviser in NSW Government and had several in-house corporate affairs roles before co-founding both the Cannings and Third Person financial PR agencies. Over the past 16 years he has hired more than 200 corporate affairs specialists to work at his PR firms. He is now a partner at Domestique, a specialist PR agency focussing on financial and corporate PR.

Ross also serves as Chairman of the Michael Clarke Cricket Academy. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Communications) from the University of Technology in Sydney.

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Management
Luke Achterstraat
General Manager, Strategy and Operations

Prior to joining Commtract, Luke was an Adviser to Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Minister for Tourism and International Education in the Turnbull Government. He had previously been an Assistant Adviser to the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, Minister for Trade and Investment whilst historic trade deals were signed with South Korea, Japan and China. Luke worked in a tactical role in the 2013 Federal Election campaign that brought the Coalition to Government.

Prior to joining Commtract, Luke was an Adviser to Senator the Hon. Richard Colbeck, Minister for Tourism and International Education in the Turnbull Government. He had previously been an Assistant Adviser to the Hon. Andrew Robb AO MP, Minister for Trade and Investment whilst historic trade deals were signed with South Korea, Japan and China. Luke worked in a tactical role in the 2013 Federal Election campaign that brought the Coalition to Government.

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Leigh Redman
General Manager, Community

Leigh is a versatile professional with experience across human resources, operations and marketing. Prior to joining Commtract, Leigh was Head of Human Resources for a Telstra partner on the Sunshine Coast. Leigh has also held leadership roles at large Australian companies, global corporates BP and Starwood Hotels, and a number of regional SMEs.

Leigh has lived and worked internationally, across regions including the UK, the US, Asia and the Middle East. She has experience managing large teams, and has held responsibilities encompassing human resources, learning and development, and marketing and communications.

Leigh speaks fluent German, holds dual degrees in Commerce and Arts from The University of Queensland, and is set to complete a Masters in Human Resource Management at Monash University in 2018. She is a certified professional member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.

 Leigh lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and four children.

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Imogen England
Operations Manager

Imogen has a decade of experience in communications, having worked for PR agencies in both Sydney and London on a range of corporate, consumer and government-related projects.

Most recently at Sydney-based communications agency Res Publica, Imogen led communications campaigns for a variety of clients, including Unilever, Lion and Priceline Pharmacy. Imogen’s experience covers all aspects of the communications remit, with a focus on project, event and issues management.

Imogen lives in Sydney with her husband and two small boys.

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Amanda Purdie
Corporate Communications Manager, Victoria

Amanda has over 20 years’ experience in corporate communications. Most recently, Amanda was the Head of Edelman’s Reputation Practice in Melbourne, leading communications, thought leadership and issues management programs. Amanda’s clients at Edelman included Monsanto, Telstra, Aesop, Tetra Pak, Schlumberger, Parks Victoria and Melbourne University.

Amanda spent a large part of her career in London, where she held board-level positions at international agencies Hill and Knowlton, and Grayling. At Hill and Knowlton, Amanda led the communications campaign for BT during the rollout of its broadband network across the UK. At Grayling, she was the Managing Director of its Future Planet specialised sustainability division.

Amanda also co-founded an agency which specialised in reputation management and forecasting, and undertook high-profile assignments for the London Mayor’s office, the Museum of London, and the watchdog appointed to oversee the sustainability performance of the London 2012 games.

In a pro bono capacity, Amanda was Chair of the Myatt’s Fields Food Group, a charity focused on developing community cohesiveness and employment and training opportunities in south London.

Amanda is currently a member of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce’s advisory board.

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Emma Meade
Resource Industry Manager, Queensland

Emma has more than 17 years’ experience in corporate affairs, having held a number of senior roles for major resources companies both in Australia and the United States.

 A resources industry specialist, Emma has front-line media relations experience, having worked for BHP Billiton’s media team for five years. She then moved to Perth from Melbourne to manage external communications for the company’s iron ore division.

In 2011, Emma moved to Houston, joining US oil and gas company Hess Corporation, managing global production communications, with a focus on onshore gas exploration and production.

In 2013, she joined energy major BP, managing communications on post-Deepwater Horizon lessons with host governments and international regulators, before moving to a newly created role, leading operations for the US division’s integrated communications.

In late-2016, Emma returned to Australia and is based in Brisbane with her young family.

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Sheena Ireland
Communications Manager, ACT

Sheena is a communications specialist with a decade of strategic communications experience, spanning the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Sheena formed Specialists in Communications in 2016, delivering unique and targeted communications strategies to organisations of all sizes. Specialists in Communications believes everyone and every business has a unique offering that cannot be replicated, and that every communications strategy needs to be unique.

Sheena has previously held senior positions in the federal public service, including at the Australian Research Council, CSIRO, and in the Immigration and Communications departments; and in the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. She has also worked for a Federal Government Cabinet Minister’s.

As a passionate advocate for local business, Sheena regularly contributes to a variety of media outlets, promoting the power of the consumer dollar and raising awareness of the small business sector, particularly in Canberra.

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Nicole Kelly
Talent Acquisition Manager

Nicole has spent more than 20 years in a variety of media and communications roles, providing her valuable insight into the skills and personality required to work in the industry.

Nicole started her career in Melbourne with News Limited, where she worked her way up to Senior Journalist. She then spent three years in the UK, working in public relations for Mercury Communications, coordinating media relations, press releases and product launches, and also working on internal communications and rebranding during the amalgamation of the company into the operations of Cable & Wireless Communications.

On her return to Australia, Nicole was appointed Head of Corporate Communications at PlesTel – a joint South African/Telstra partnership – where she held responsibilities encompassing media relations, internal communications, CEO and board communications, and change management. Among other projects, Nicole worked on the company’s rebranding to Commander Communications and the IPO process when the company listed on the ASX.

Nicole and her husband have four boys. She wishes that Commtract had been around 14 years ago when she had her first child, as it would have made returning to the workforce a much smoother process!

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