Future Directions Committee Members

Future Directions Committee Members

Caitlin McConnel  Chairperson

Caitlin McConnel

Caitlin is a Brisbane-based lawyer, working at Australian law firm, Clayton Utz. She is also a sixth-generation custodian of and an historical spokesperson for her family property, Cressbrook Station near Toogoolawah. Caitlin maintains a strong passion for the preservation of agricultural history and the advocacy of issues pertaining to Queensland's agricultural future. She has a strong affiliation with her local community and show society, which includes working as a member of the advisory committee for the Somerset Regional Art Gallery, 'The Condensery', as well as permanently sponsoring the Toogoolawah Rural Ambassador Award. Caitlin's family has a strong historical connection with the Royal Exhibition, dating back to its inception in 1876 and spanning five generations. It is this historical connection, as well as the RNA's position as an educator and promoter of agriculture, industry and culture, which has fuelled her desire to commence her own involvement in the RNA.

Conor O'Brien  Senior Deputy Chairperson

Conor joined the Future Directions Committee in 2015 after first becoming involved with the Ekka as a Ring Steward for the horse events. Conor is passionate about regional development and the mission of the RNA "to celebrate and champion the essential role agriculture plays in the everyday lives of Queenslanders". Conor has spent more than 10 years in the energy industry with a focus on projects supporting Queensland's cornerstone sectors of agriculture and mining. Conor has a strong desire to contribute to the fulfilment of the RNA's mission, particularly in creating awareness amongst younger generations of Queenslanders.

Andrea Crothers  Junior Deputy Chair

Andrea is a freelance rural journalist based in southern Queensland. She cut her teeth in media at state-wide rural news masthead Queensland Country Life, affectionately known as the 'Bible of the Bush'. Her time with Fairfax Media saw her work appear nationally across metropolitan news outlets, as well as completing stints at Katherine, NT, and as Acting Editor in Mount Isa.  Andrea regularly writes for News Corp's agricultural masthead, The Weekly Times, and has written for SBS. Andrea understands the importance of family farming in Australia's agricultural landscape, having been raised on a property owned and operated by her family since 1864. She maintains a strong connection with the irrigated cotton, broad-acre cropping, cattle and sheep operation. Andrea has always been deeply enthusiastic about agricultural shows and the vital role associations, such as the RNA, play in communities right across Australia. She is actively involved with the Dirranbandi Show Society, including as a steward and media manager, is the Vice-President of Queensland Ag Shows Next Generation, and has more recently been appointed on the Rural Press Club of Queensland committee.

Sam Warriner

After a 4 year hiatus from the FDC while living in Canada, Sam rejoined the committee in 2016. Having spent his childhood and young adult life on various cattle stations across the top end, and with brothers still in rural north Queensland and the Northern Territory, Sam maintains a strong personal connection to the outback and to agriculture generally. He is currently working in the corporate team of Morgans Financial's Brisbane office across a range of industries, and with his background in the bush and prior experience as a Brisbane lawyer, he is part of the firm's agricultural advisory services team.

Elizabeth Thompson

Libbi grew up in Bonshaw in Northern New South Wales. To this day she is still involved in her family's farming business. She was educated locally and then attended the University of Queensland, graduating in 2006 with a B.App Sci (Animal Production) and a B.App Agribusiness.  She moved to Dubbo in 2007 and worked for Fletcher International Exports for five years.  A move to Brisbane in 2012 followed, where she took on her current role as Northern Operations Manager at Australian Rural Exports (AUSTREX).  She is also Secretary of the Queensland Live Exporters Association. Ms Thompson's family has been heavily involved in the Ashford Show and Texas Show Societies for many generations. They still assist with the running of the annual Ashford Show, along with events the Show Society and Grounds Trust run throughout the year. Ms Thompson joined the Future Directions Committee in 2015 with the desire to be involved with the much loved Ekka. She also has a keen interest in building awareness of the local show movement in Queensland and the importance they hold in rural communities.

Jessica Morel

Jessica started her life on a Dairy Farm at Bunya.  Still living in Bunya Jess is a Classroom Music Teacher and Choral Director at an inner city state primary school. Born at Ekka time Jess has not missed one, all the time attending with her family. Her family's involvement in the RNA and the Ekka is what led her to the Future Directions Committee. Jess believes strongly in the roll the RNA plays in educating people about Agriculture and Farming. Jessica likes to think that her involvement in the committee will help ensure the Royal Queensland Show transitions into the future while maintaining all the agricultural and historical elements that make it the Ekka Brisbane knows and loves.

Tess Camm

Tess is a fifth generation beef producer, who has always had a passion for rural Australia. With grassroots in Central Queensland, she is currently based in Brisbane as the General Manager for vertically integrated beef export company, Signature Beef.  With a family tradition of attending the Ekka since her childhood, Tess joined the Future Directions Committee in 2015.  After competing in local shows in Stock Horse and Show Cattle events, as well as the Regional Miss Showgirl competition, Tess is eager to show the next generation of rural Australians what opportunities are available from the land. She sees involvement with the RNA as the perfect juxtaposition to do so. Tess also holds an industry appointment position on the Cattle Council of Australia.

Carla Roberts

Carla grew up in western Queensland on her family's property 'Victoria Downs', a merino stud which has been in her family since 1906. She attended her first State Sheep Show when she was six weeks old and was involved with showing her family's stud sheep from a young age. She has assisted the Queensland Merino Stud Sheepbreeders Association with the delivery of a number of State Sheep Shows and was the Queensland representative at the inaugural Australian Stud Sheep Breeders Association leadership course. Carla has extensive experience in event and project management and currently works as a Protocol Officer at The University of Queensland. While she no longer lives out west, Carla maintains a passion for the bush and views the Ekka as an event that brings a taste of her upbringing to the city for the people of Queensland to enjoy. Given her family's involvement, Carla recognises the importance of the agricultural industry and the role the Ekka plays in educating the wider community about this valuable industry and hopes her position on the FDC Committee will allow her to contribute in a greater way to the ongoing success of Queensland's largest event. Carla has been a life member of the RNA for nearly 20 years, a steward at the Ekka for over 10 years and her family continues to compete at the Ekka in the wool section and provides rams for display purposes in the Animal Nursery and Stock Pavilion.

Jordan McDowall

Jordan joined the Future Directions Committee in 2016, as a result of her involvement as a competitor, exhibiting horses at the Ekka. From Mackay in Central Queensland, she has a degree in Sports Management and is completing a double degree in Law and Accounting while also working in a local accounting practice. Jordan has travelled extensively and worked for a London based organisation, that runs large events, in Europe in 2015. Jordan is a committee member of Mackay Show Association, Vice President of Mackay Regional Equestrian Group and a delegate for the Show Horse Council of Australasia. Jordan is particularly interested in the future sustainability of the RNA and its facilities, through focusing on the financial viability and development of the grounds into a multi-purpose and highly useable venue for the benefit of the RNA and wider community. While long-term viability is important, it is equally important to Jordan that the Ekka retains its traditions and history for future generations.

Shaun Sandilands

Shaun is a Marketing and Promotions professional currently working for Seven West Media (Channel 7) as a Marketing Executive. Shaun has been involved with the RNA for many years specialising in the Youth in Agriculture section in and amongst the Agricultural Hall. A move into the Future Directions Committee was inevitable for Shaun, as he's a bit of an Ekka junkie and has only missed one Ekka in recent years due to an overseas trip. Shaun has been involved with the Ekka as an exhibitor, performer, volunteer, competitor, steward and judge. When not working on RNA projects, Shaun can be found working with Scout Movement as Branch Commissioner for Youth Involvement. Shaun joined the Future Directions Committee in 2016 and is very excited to be working on such great projects with the RNA.

Stefani Russo

Stef grew up in Brisbane and is currently based in Sydney working as Legal Counsel at a global Financial Technology company, IRESS Limited. Stef has a strong affiliation with the south-east Queensland Polo Association through her family and her involvement in organising several charity polo events supporting Aussie Kidz Charity and Tie Up the Black Dog Committee.  Stef was also a past committee member of the Cause for Cocktails Committee and Secretary of the NSW Young Lawyers Committee. Stef has grown up attending the Ekka with family and friends and is enthusiastic about becoming more involved in the vision of the RNA, through engaging the younger generations about the importance of agriculture and its sustainability in Queensland, for many generations to come.

Ross Leggett

Ross joined the FDC committee in 2017, bringing skills in both primary production, private and public sector agribusiness to the committee. Hailing from a beef cattle operation in the NSW Hunter Valley, Ross completed a B. Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of New England in Armidale and is currently undertaking a Master of Public Administration degree. Ross then undertook an agribusiness graduate program with the Commonwealth Bank, electing to be based in Townsville in order to gain an understanding of the northern beef industry and associated cane and horticulture production in the region. Following a six year stint in Townsville, Ross then joined Ruralco Holdings Ltd as the credit and finance manager for the subsidiary businesses located across Queensland, NSW and the Northern Territory. In January 2017, Ross joined the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (previously known at QRAA) to manage the delivery of Queensland Government concessional loans and grants for drought assistance, natural disaster and productivity improvements. Ross is passionate about educating end-consumers regarding food production and ensuring the ongoing development of a productive and sustainable agricultural sector across Australia.