Conference speakers

Hannah Bent

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hannah Bent completed her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art and Film from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London. She undertook further study in both directing and screenwriting at the Australian Film and Television and Radio School and has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. She was the 2013 recipient of the Ray Koppe Young Writers Award for her novel as a work in progress.

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: The White Girl, Ghost River and Blood. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and three short story collections, Father’s DayThe Promise and Common People.  In 2021 he will release two new books, a poetry book, Whisper Songs and a new short story collection, Dark As Last Night. Both books will be published by University of Queensland Press. His website is:

Emily Bitto

Emily Bitto is a Melbourne-based writer of fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She has a Masters in Literary Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Melbourne. Her debut novel, The Strays, was the winner of the 2015 Stella Prize. Her fiction, poetry and non-fiction has appeared in various publications, including Meanjin, the Age, the Monthly, the Saturday Paper, the Big Issue, and The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2018, she was awarded a six-month Australia Council International Residency in Rome, to work on her second novel and debut poetry collection. She has been teaching creative writing for over a decade, and is currently a tutor at the Faber Writing Academy. She is also the co-owner of Carlton wine bar Heartattack and Vine.

Radhiah Chowdhury

Radhiah Chowdhury is a Muslim Bangladeshi-Australian author and editor living on unceded Bidjigal Land in Sydney's West. She is currently a commissioning editor and senior audiobook producer at PRH Australia, and was the 2019-2020 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellow. Her most recent picture book, The Katha Chest, was published by Allen & Unwin in April 2021.

Claire G Coleman

Claire G. Coleman is a Noongar woman whose family have belonged to the south coast of Western Australia since long before history started being recorded. She writes fiction, essays, poetry and art writing while either living in Naarm (Melbourne) or on the road. During an extended circuit of the continent she wrote a novel, Terra Nullius, which won the black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship and was listed for 8 awards including a shortlisting for The Stella Prize.

Gregg Dreise

Gregg is a gifted artist, storyteller and musician, and he features the didgeridoo and guitar in his performances at schools, libraries and festivals. He is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi people. He is the author and illustrator of Silly BirdsKookoo KookaburraMad Magpie, Cunning Crow, Awesome Emu, My Culture and Me, Hello and Welcome, Today's Sun and Common Wealth. Gregg is also the illustrator of the classic story Tiddalik the Frog, and has poetry with his illustrations in the anthology A Boat of Stars.

He is very proud to be helping the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to bring books, laughter confidence and fun to remote communities around Australia.

Heidi Everett

Heidi Everett is an artist, creative workshop facilitator, mental health recovery advocate, social impact facilitator, and projects and events innovator in Melbourne, Australia. My Friend Fox is her first book.

Leanne Hall

Leanne Hall is an author of young adult and children's fiction. Her debut YA novel, This Is Shyness, won the Text Prize for Children's and Young Adult Writing, and her novel for younger readers, Iris and the Tiger, won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature at the 2017 NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Her latest YA novel is The Gaps. Leanne has worked as a children’s and YA specialist at an independent bookshop for over ten years, and currently focusses on digital content.  

Meryl Halls

Meryl has been Managing Director of the BA of the UK & Ireland since April 2018, having helped to drive all key BA initiatives of the last two decades. A Trustee of World Book Day, Board Member of the European & International Booksellers Federation, the British Retail Consortium, the Independent Retailers Confederation and of, she was awarded the FutureBook Person of the Year Award 2020 in recognition of the work done by the BA Group on behalf of booksellers during the COVID crisis.

Allison K Hill

Allison K Hill is the CEO of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and a recent recipient of an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Management. She began her career in the book industry with Simon & Schuster Publishing and Waterstone’s Booksellers in the U.S., and later began working for independent bookstores; Hill served as the CEO for Book Soup in West Hollywood, California, and Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California, before coming to the ABA.

Ben Hunter

Ben Hunter has worked at Booktopia since 2014 in various roles. As Fiction Category Manager with the online bookseller, Ben champions great Australian writing using the Booktopia platform to promote daring new voices in fiction to a national audience. He’s a frequent contributor to Booktopia’s blog, email newsletter and podcast.

Hella Ibrahim

Hella Ibrahim is an editor with a passion for activism through the Arts. She has almost a decade's worth of experience in the Arts and publishing industry, having worked both in-house at traditional print and digital publishers and in non-mainstream publishing. She currently works in comms for a multicultural advocacy organisation on weekdays, and is the founder and editorial director of Djed Press, an online publication that provides a paid platform for Bla(c)k creatives and other creatives of colour.

Michelle de Kretser

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which won a swag of awards, including the 2008 NSW Premier's Book of the Year Award and the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal. Michelle's fourth novel, Questions of Travel, received 14 honours, including the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Her latest novel, The Life to Come, was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize and won the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

Hannah Kent

Hannah Kent is the author of the bestselling novels Burial Rites and The Good People. Her books have been translated into nearly thirty languages and have received numerous awards and nominations. Her next novel will be published in 2021.

Shalini Kunahlan


Shalini Kunahlan is Head of Marketing at Hardie Grant Books & Travel. She has marketed books for well over a decade—her interests include all things digital and creating diversity outcomes within the publishing industry. She is the inaugural winner of the Australian Book Industry Rising Star Award.

Olivia Lanchester

Olivia Lanchester is the CEO of the Australian Society of Authors. She is an expert on publishing agreements and is passionate about advising authors and illustrators on their rights and optimising their position. Previously, Olivia has worked as an intellectual property lawyer in private practice and as a freelance editor. Olivia advises authors and illustrators on many aspects of the publishing process. She has worked closely with the Office for the Arts, lobbying for the expansion of PLR / ELR payments to digital formats. Olivia runs the ASA's advocacy on copyright and unfair contracts and has worked on industry agreements and protocols with the Australian Publishers Association, Australian Booksellers Association and the Australian Library and Information Association.

Anyez Lindop

Anyez has two decades of experience in the Australian book publishing industry across publicity, communications, marketing, brand strategy and most recently special events and corporate projects. She currently heads up Australia Reads, a not-for-profit joint initiative of the ABA, APA, ASA and ALIA dedicated to championing reading and inspiring more Australians to read more books, more often.

Tamara MacFarlane

Tamara MacFarlane, owner of the multi award winning Tales on Moon Lane Children’s Bookshop, Moon Lane Children’s Books & Toys, Moon Lane Books, Moon Lane Education and Moon Lane Ink CIC. Tamara has over 15 years’ experience working with children and schools, and combines running the three bookshops with writing children’s books. She currently has series with Hachette (Hodder)Simon and SchusterTroika Books and Puffin.

Tamara has judged many high profile book awards and is currently Vice Chair of the World Book Day committee and is part of a diversity steering group for Booktrust. Tamara has contributed to the Booksellers Association’s new diversity guide.


Simon McDonald

Simon McDonald is a Sydney-based bookseller, who has previously worked for Pages & Pages Booksellers in Mosman, online bookstore Boomerang Books, as well as Simon & Schuster Australia, The Reading Room (now Bookstr) in New York, and The Quarto Group. In 2019 he was shortlisted as an ABA Penguin Random House Young Bookseller of the Year in 2019, and was awarded the title in 2020.  Since 2017 he has worked as the senior bookseller at Potts Point Bookshop, where he hosts the monthly crime book club. 

Jane Palfreyman

Jane Palfreyman is a publisher at Allen & Unwin.

Diana Reid

Diana Reid is a Sydney-based writer, who graduated from the University of Sydney last year with a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Hons Philosophy)/Laws. In January 2020, her career in theatre was off to a promising start: the musical she co-wrote and produced, 1984! The Musical!, debuted and she was set to direct and write theatre performances around the country and over to the Edinburgh Fringe. When COVID-19 saw the cancellation of global theatre, she decided she’d spend her time in shutdown writing a manuscript. Love & Virtue is her debut novel.

Andrew Ritchie

Andrew Ritchie is a Digital marketing strategist with 20 years’ experience across bookselling, publishing, not-for-profit and retail strategies focused on growing reach and engagement with customers. Joining the ABA as a board member this year, he’s keen to grow a united voice of booksellers for Australia.

Dan Slevin

Dan Slevin became CEO of Booksellers Aotearoa in October 2019. Before joining Booksellers he worked extensively in the New Zealand creative sector including magazine editing, broadcasting (for RNZ), cinema exhibition and performing arts management. He has been a book lover, buyer and critic for decades and is thoroughly enjoying his experience on this side of the fence.

Christos Tsiolkas

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of six novels, including Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-OnThe Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, as well as being made into a feature film. His fourth novel, the international bestseller The Slap, won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and won the Australian Literary Society Gold, as well as the 2009 Australian Booksellers Association and Australian Book Industry Awards Books of the Year. Christos's fifth novel Barracuda was shortlisted for the ALS Gold Medal and the inaugural Voss Literary Prize. The Slap and Barracuda were both adapted into celebrated television series. His most recent novel, Damascus, was published in 2019 and won Fiction prize at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. He is also a playwright, essayist and screen writer. He lives in Melbourne.

Robert Watkins

Robert Watkins has over 20 years’ experience in the Australian book industry having worked in book retail, sales, marketing, publicity and publishing. His love for a good story well told has led to publishing some of Australia's most acclaimed contemporary authors, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Claire G. Coleman, Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Sarah Schmidt and Peter Polites, to name just a few. His particular passion is progressive, inclusive publishing that speaks to contemporary issues, whether that be in narrative non-fiction or literary and reading group fiction.

Bianca Whiteley

Bianca started her career in publishing at Murdoch Books in 1999, and spent 7 years in various roles including Inventory Management. While her latest role is Territory Manager for Nielsen Book Australia, Bianca joined Nielsen Book in 2006 where for the past 15 years she has helped publishers and retailers make the most of the data across various roles.

Jock Zonvillo

Born in Glasgow to an Italian father and Scottish mother, Jock Zonfrillo’s formative years were heavily influenced by his respective cultures.  Attracted to the dynamic and competitive kitchens of London, he worked alongside top chefs like Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay and David Cavalier.

After a year-long sabbatical in Sydney Jock moved to Adelaide and opened Restaurant Orana in 2013. Orana was a fine-dining experience designed to challenge the way we eat, use and regard Australia’s indigenous ingredients. Jock hosted Nomad Chef on The Discovery Channel and appeared as a guest on MasterChef Australia before being announced as one of the new MasterChef Australia judges in 2019.