The Advance Cairns Board comprises of the Executive Chair, Deputy Chair, Chair of Finance
& Risk Mitigation Committee, and seven Non-Executive Directors.
Since moving from Victoria to Tropical North Queensland in 2001, Nick has played an active role as a senior business leader as well as in the wider community.
Having joined Advance Cairns in 2018, after two years as CEO he accepted the role of Executive Chairman, a combined role of both Chief Executive and Chairman. He previously served six years on the Advance Cairns Board (2009-2012
Prior to Advance Cairns he had a 34-year career in media, initially as a journalist and editor and then moving into commercial management. He was General Manager of Cairns’ oldest business, the Cairns Post Pty Ltd, for 11 years before promotion into more senior roles at News Corp Australia – ultimately heading all of its regional divisions from Hobart to Darwin (while still based in Cairns).
Nick has been a passionate advocate for the region serving on a variety of voluntary boards including Advance Cairns (two terms), the Far North Queensland Amateur Turf Club, AFL Cairns, the Salvation Army Red Shield Business Appeal and Events Cairns. He and his family also run a stud beef cattle business on the Atherton Tablelands.
Director & Deputy Chair
Richard Barker was appointed as NQA’s Chief Executive Officer in December 2020, after joining the NQA Board of Directors in 2015. Richard has extensive experience in the Airports, Retail and Energy sectors. His previous role was General Manager of Retail & Commercial at Auckland International Airport.
Richard has more than 30 years of global experience having worked and lived in New Zealand, UK, USA and Australia. Richard holds a BMS (Marketing/Finance) and a KMI from Kellogg Business School – Chicago and is a member NZ Institute of Directors. In NZ he was the former Chairman of his tribe’s Trading Company and a Trustee of the Attitude Trust – an organisation that celebrates the achievements of people with disabilities. He is currently a Director of TTNQ – Tourism Tropical North Queensland.
Director & Immediate Past Chair
Trent is a pharmacist and a partner in the Alive Pharmacy Warehouse Group.
He is National President of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, Vice-President of the World Pharmacy Council and a Professor at the School of Medicine & Dentistry of James Cook University.
Locally Trent is the Chairman of Anglicare Northern Queensland and the Deputy Chairman of Trinity Anglican School.
Trent holds Fellowships of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the Australian Institute of Managers & Leaders and the Australasian College of Pharmacy.
Trent and his wife Georgina have two children.
Professor Simon Biggs
Professor Simon Biggs commenced his appointment as Vice Chancellor and President of James Cook University Australia in February 2022. He is responsible for ensuring clear and effective leadership and management of the University across all operating sites, including campuses in Cairns, Townsville and Singapore.
Professor Biggs’ former appointments include: Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Western Australia, Executive Dean for the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology at the University of Queensland and Royal Academy of Engineering/National Nuclear Laboratory Chair in Particle Science and Engineering at the University of Leeds in the UK. His first academic appointment was at the University of Newcastle (Australia).
Educated at the University of Bristol in the UK, Professor Biggs holds a PhD in Colloid Science. He developed his research through post-doctoral positions at the Institute Charles Sadron in Strasbourg, France and the University of Melbourne, Australia.
Professor Biggs is a Council Member of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Director, Advance Cairns. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011 and in 2016, as a Fellow of the Australian Academy for Technological Sciences and Engineering.
Chris has been Chief Executive Officer of the Far North Queensland Ports Corporation (Ports North) since 2009.
Ports North is responsible for the management and operation of the Ports of Cairns, Karumba, Thursday Island, Mourilyan, Skardon River, Cape Flattery, Quintell Beach, Cooktown and Burketown as well as the Cityport project in Cairns.
As well as sitting on the Advance Cairns Board, he is also Director of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Member of the Queensland Ports Association and Director of Ports Australia.
Jodie Duignan-George is an Associate Vice President of CQUniversity. The primary focus of this role is to set the strategic direction for CQUniversity’s Cairns and Far North Region and lead activity in pursuit of the University’s engagement agenda.
Jodie has a strong background in corporate and commercial service management and business development within the higher education sector. She has experience leading teams and setting strategic direction, for social and economic impact, in collaboration with industry and community. In addition to her directorship on Advance Cairns, Jodie serves as a committee member for Regional Development Australia (Tropical North) and Study Cairns, and is also the Chair of the Region Jobs Committee.
Jodie is a firm believer that the Cairns region has enormous potential yet to be unlocked. As a Cairns local of 28 years, she is passionate about the region’s development and is dedicated to strengthening opportunities for its longer term sustainability and prosperity.
Phil Growden is General Manager Queensland for Austal Australia. Austal is a global defence prime contractor and world leader in the design, construction and support of high performance defence and commercial ships.
Joining Austal in 1991 as an Interior Fitout Apprentice, Mr Growden quickly progressed through the ranks following the completion of his Apprenticeship and was promoted to Fitout Department Manager within a couple of years.
Over the last 10 years, Mr Growden has held a number of senior management positions including Head of Production Austal Australia and Class Construction Manager, playing an integral role in the development of the company’s productivity improvement programs and delivery of major defence and commercial shipbuilding programs.
Mr Growden was recently moved to Vietnam as Head of Production where he was instrumental in the development of the new shipbuilding facility from green field to full operation, the launch of their first 94m High Speed Ferry in a 2.5 year period and the building a workforce of nearly 400 skilled staff.
Phil was then appointed as Head of Shipyards Queensland, overseeing the Shipyards in Brisbane and Cairns and carried out this role from December 2020 until his appointment as General Manager in August 2021.
Sharon Dawson is Chief Executive Officer of Dawsons Group, one of Queensland’s largest privately held multi-disciplinary industrial services companies.
When starting to learn the ropes in the family business in 1999, Sharon’s introduction to Dawsons was via the Labour Hire Department (having successfully convinced her father that she didn’t need to complete a Diesel Fitting apprenticeship). She still gets a kick out of getting exactly the right person for the role, but these days she is responsible for all client facing activities and loves the challenge of working out custom solutions for Dawsons clients.
Passionate about regional development, she has enjoyed varying roles with Advance Cairns, Cairns Chamber of Commerce, Ports North and Racing Queensland.