The HRF Centre's staff are drawn from diverse backgrounds and are responsible for delivering the research and operational functions of the Centre. A number of staff were previously at the Hunter Research Foundation and their skills and experiences contribute to the transition and shaping of the HRF Centre. The Centre is also supported by the University's Faculty of Business and Law. 

  • Prof Will Rifkin

    Director & Centre Chair

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    Professor Will Rifkin was appointed in May 2017 as the HRF Centre's inaugural Chair in Applied Regional Economics. He joins the Centre from the University of Queensland (UQ), where he remains an ‘industry affiliate’ of the Sustainable Minerals Institute.

    For the past five years, Prof. Rifkin has led development of the UQ Boomtown Toolkit and socioeconomic indicators effort, which publishes the Annual Report on Queensland’s Gasfields Communities. He oversaw the $5-million social science research portfolio in UQ’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas, which addressed impacts of natural gas development on agriculture, health, business and trust. These efforts involved extensive interaction with businesses, the oil and gas industry, local, state and Commonwealth governments, and community organisations.

    Prof. Rifkin has completed industry consultancies, received over $2.7 million in grants and produced more than 100 academic publications. He holds degrees from MIT (physics), the University of California-Berkeley (energy and resources) and Stanford University (sociotechnical studies).

    He has worked to improve communication between technical and nontechnical people for more than 20 years. Prof. Rifkin describes his specialty as decision-making and creating or navigating change in organisations, arenas, and regions.

    Professor Rifkin promises to bring business, government and community into closer alignment about the status and potential of the Hunter by building on the HRF Centre’s partnerships.

    Listen to Professor Rifkin's New Professors Talk - 25 Ways to Spot an Expert (12 October 2017) | Download presentation

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  • Dr Anthea Bill

    Lead Economist

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    Anthea is a key member of the HRF Centre's research team and has a particular interest in economic and socio-spatial analysis. She has over 15 years qualitative and quantitative research experience working in academic, commercial consultancy and government contexts and is responsible for delivering the Centre's economic indicators program in the Hunter and Upper Hunter.

    Anthea has authored and co-authored peer-reviewed research papers exploring geo-spatial disadvantage in Australian cities, labour market outcomes, housing affordability, commuting and the social impacts of unemployment. She has also authored and co-authored several research reports for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Australian Fair Pay Commission, World Health Organisation, Centrelink, AMP, NSW Health and the ACT Chief Ministers Department.

    While working in the Queensland Department of Communities, Anthea was active in the development of the evaluation framework for the Queensland National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. She also participated as a Queensland government representative on the ABS’ National Homelessness Statistics Reference Group in 2011, looking at a revised methodology to estimate homelessness using the 2011 Census. She completed a doctoral study in Economics at the University of Newcastle in 2016, where she used spatial data analysis techniques to explore entrenched unemployment in some Australian city suburbs.

    Anthea joined the new Centre in January 2017, transitioning from the Hunter Research Foundation, where she had worked in a similar role for five years.

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  • Kim Britton

    Public Relations & Fundraising Officer

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    Kim leads the HRF Centre’s sponsorship and fundraising programs, and oversees its media relations. She establishes and maintains relationships with HRFC’s sponsors and research clients.

    Working closely with other Centre and University team members, Kim contributes regular content for the Centre’s website and marketing materials. With a background in journalism and copy-writing, she contributes to a regular e-newsletter and other HRFC publications. She uses her extensive experience and network of contacts to help raise and strengthen the HRFC’s profile.

    Kim joined the new Centre in January 2017, transitioning from the Hunter Research Foundation, where she had worked in a similar role. She joined the Foundation in 2004 after working in a number of public relations and community interface roles at the University of Newcastle.

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  • Maree Campbell

    Marketing Officer

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    Maree is responsible for delivering the HRF Centre's marketing and communications strategy. Working closely with other Centre and University staff, Maree contributes to positioning the Centre in the region, nationally and internationally. She develops digital and non-digital marketing collateral, manages stakeholders, and manages the website and social media program.

    Maree co-ordinates the HRF Centre's Breakfast Series in Newcastle and the Upper Hunter, a series of regular business events based around unique updates on the Hunter economy.

    With a background in marketing and events management, she uses her experience to enhance relationships with the Centre's current and prospective client and sponsors.

    Maree joined the new Centre in January 2017, transitioning from the Hunter Research Foundation, where she had worked in a similar role for 16 years.

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  • Dr Michael Jonita

    Research Analyst

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    Michael’s primary responsibility is managing the Centre’s Hunter Pulse survey programs conducted with businesses and residents in the Hunter Region and Upper Hunter. He has over 10 years’ experience in programming Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) and web based questionnaires.

    Michael also provides data management expertise in maintaining the databases used in producing the Foundation’s economic indicator publications.

    Michael joined the new Centre in January 2017, transitioning from the Hunter Research Foundation, where he started in 2004 and subsequently completed a PhD in English from the University of Newcastle.

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  • Iavor Stefanov

    Upper Hunter Regional Economist

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    Iavor joined the HRF Centre in February 2018 to take up a new position as Upper Hunter Regional Economist, based at Muswellbrook Shire Council and shared with the University of Newcastle's HRF Centre.

    In this new role Iavor will provide analysis of investment and economic development opportunities for the Shire. He will also establish a means to enable investors, businesses and households to track trends in social and economic indicators across the region to inform their long-term decisions.

    After graduating with a Bachelor of Economics (University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 2007) Iavor gained international experience in cost-benefit analysis for regional infrastructure development projects in the water and renewable energy sectors across the European Union.

    Iavor is passionate about the power of economics to make sense of complex dynamic real life scenarios through thorough research and rigorous mathematical modelling.

    Iavor has lived in Newcastle since 2012 and has worked as a data analyst for the Coal Mining Industry (Long Service Leave Funding) Corporation, gaining a thorough understanding of the intricate workings of one of the Hunter’s main driving economic motors.

    His family are proud owners of an innovative small-scale buffalo dairy farm on the mid-North coast of NSW, so his interest in sustainable agribusiness for regional areas goes beyond the economic aspects of the matter, with plenty of real-life experience.

    These diverse perspectives have given Iavor the opportunity to understand the complexity of the area we are living in and will contribute to his aim to integrate multiple social and economic interests for the common benefit of the Hunter.

    Read our media release about the position

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  • Olivia Wyborn

    Communications and Engagement Officer

    As an accomplished events and community relations professional, Olivia has successfully managed significant events and community activities for a variety of stakeholders. She has a background in the finance and tertiary education sectors, and brings with her a wide range of skills, from managing and enhancing client relationships, project coordination & process improvement as well as executive support. Olivia is passionate about delivering exceptional service for clients.

    Having recently moved from regional NSW, Olivia loves all things fashion, fitness and community. She began working in events and community relations after completing qualifications in Business and Human Resource Management.

    Joining the Hunter Research Foundation Centre in 2018, Olivia is excited to continue to deliver engaging events and create valued connections and relationships within the Hunter Research Foundation Centre community.

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