THE Honorary Commanders Program

Based on the ‘Fighter Country Partnership’ developed at Luke Air Force Base in the USA, the Honorary Commander Program commenced in 2016 as a facilitated program to strengthen relationships between the leaders of the ADF and the Hunter Community.

The Honorary Commanders program teams voluntary ‘commanders’ from the Hunter community with a participating Military Commander from RAAF Base Williamtown. The program provides an opportunity for each Honorary Commander and Military Commander to establish a mutually supporting relationship that opens visibility to each other’s professional challenges and activities, exchange ideas, share experiences and build friendships between the defence and wider communities.

Honorary Commanders are invited to participate, as much as possible, in the activities of ‘their’ squadron or unit - and vice versa.   The Program provides insight for leaders within our community to the importance of RAAF Base Williamtown and the roles and missions of the Australian Defence Force in the Hunter. The program also allows Military Commanders and their units to learn more about the community in which they live. Military Commanders and personnel benefit through increased association with the community and its leaders.

Both Community and Military leaders personally benefit from the program through a mutual sharing and understanding of the leadership challenges faced by each other in different disciplines.

An HDSN Honorary Commander:

1.     Is a recognised outstanding community or business leader.

2.     Is an enthusiastic supporter of the ADF.

3.     Is willing to find resources to accomplish the objectives of the HC’s program.

4.     Is able to invest time and effort to fulfil the two-year term as an HC.

5.     Will, at the completion of their HC tour, maintain an active interest in HDSN and the program and will continue to support where able.



kari armitage - quarry mining

Kari’s career began at engineering firm Parson Brinckerhoff where she designed and supervised the construction of a range of infrastructure projects.  Kari broke new ground for women through her leadership of high profile developments including the Hunter Economic Zone and PB’s first ‘design and construct’ of an underground mine in NSW, Mandalong Mine. In 2006 Kari was asked by her father to take over the running of his innovative and well respected, but relatively small, drilling equipment company - Quarry Mining. Under Kari’s leadership as the sole director of Quarry Mining, the company has become a leading Australian manufacturer, employing more than fifty tradesmen, technical representatives, operations and support staff across workshops and offices in Newcastle, Sydney and Mackay. Quarry Mining is an Australian manufacturer recognised and highly regarded as a business partner among some of Australia’s largest blue-chip mining and construction companies.

 42 WING 

Matt was appointed Chief Executive Officer of NJC in February 2016. Matt’s background includes CEO of the South Australian Jockey Club and Sturt Football Club and more recently had worked with McEvoy Mitchell Racing as Manager of Business Development. Matt is also a Director of HDSN.

JOe clayton - business owner JNP resources
76 squadron

Joe, a mining engineer, has lived the itinerate life of the miner having lived and/or worked in every state in Australia, PNG and Indonesia. Much like members of the armed forces! Now happily settled in Newcastle running an industrial abrasives business, AIMinerals, with sand mining and processing operations in the Northern Territory and South Australia.

PETER COCk - CEO newcastle airport


Peter is the Chief Executive Officer of Newcastle Airport.  Peter has extensive aviation industry experience working both for airports and as an industry consultant. 

MICHAEL DE IULIIS - De luliis Wines


Michael is a leading Hunter Valley winemaker and wine judge.  Mike delivered his first complete vintage using grapes grown on the De Iuliis family vineyard in 2000.  

hennie du plooy - CEO port waratah coal services
RAAF williamtown

Hennie is is the Chief Executive Officer at Port Waratah Coal Services. Port Waratah Coal Services has been receiving, stockpiling, blending and loading coal for export in the Port of Newcastle for almost 40 years. They own and manage the Kooragang and Carrington Coal Terminals, with a combined capacity of 145 million tonnes per annum (mtpa). They employ approximately 350 employees operating the terminals 24 hours per day, 7 days a week.  Hennie has a B. Comm in Mineral Economics and Accounting and hails from South Africa. Hennie is also the President of the Hunter Business Chamber.


KYLIE FREARSON - Director Property Solutions 101 


Kylie is Buyers Agent and Director with Property Solutions 101. Kylie created Property Solutions 101 in 2011 with immediate commercial success.

 gillian geraghty - health infrastructure NSW
81 wing CWKS

Gillian Geraghty has over 20 years’ experience in operations, property and project delivery with a particular focus of delivering within a government framework. Gillian currently holds a senior role with NSW government delivery agency, Health Infrastructure. Health Infrastructure works on behalf of the Health Administration Corporation managing the planning, design and delivery of health infrastructure capital works. The NSW Health portfolio is one of Australia’s largest totaling $5 billion with over $800 million spent last financial year. Prior to this role Gillian managed a consultancy business in Newcastle, employing over 40-people One of Gillian’s key successes during this time was advising and supporting the University of Newcastle in their realisation of a Newcastle CBD campus with the planning and development of NeW Space, the new faculty for Business and Law. In her role as Vice President of the Hunter Business Chamber Gillian has developed strong working relationships with many key stakeholders in the Hunter region. Gillian is very passionate about the region and am excited about how the rest of the region can leverage off the Newcastle CBD revitalization being full swing.

GREG GRAHAm - Chief Executive NSW/ACT Westrac


Greg Graham is Chief Executive NSW/ACT for Westrac.

BOB HAWES - CEO Hunter Business Chamber


Bob is the Chief Executive Officer of the Hunter Business Chamber.  He has previously served as General Manager of the Hunter Development Corporation.

 matt howell - ceO TOMAGO ALLUMINIUM
AIR COmbat group

Matt Howell has been Chief executive of Australia’s largest aluminium smelter (Tomago Aluminium) since September 2013. Prior to that he held the position of Group General Manager Smelting for Nyrstar, based in Zurich, Switzerland. This role was responsible for 9 smelters operating in Australia, The USA, China, Belgium, The Netherlands and France. Matt has in excess of 32 years in base and precious metals smelting, refining and recycling and has lived and worked in USA, China, Belgium and Switzerland. He and his Wife Katrina, have 3 children; 2 daughters studying at University of Queensland in Brisbane  and a son at the Royal Military College, Duntroon in Canberra. Now that they are finally ‘empty nesters’, Matt & Katrina enjoy relaxing on the shores of Lake Macquarie and taking in everything the wider Hunter Valley region has to offer.”

leah jay - leah jay property
88 squadron

Leah is a pioneer and leader in property management, losing her son to Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2008 and for summiting Mount Everest this year. After managing rental properties at a Newcastle real estate agent for seven years, Leah ventured out on her own in 1994 to set up what was the first business in the Hunter Region that focused entirely on property management. Leah realised there was a need for a service dedicated to property management beyond the established ‘rentals departments’. After setting up as a sole trader in Hamilton, Leah’s business grew to include two more offices in Warners Bay (2003) and East Maitland (2004), before a fourth office was opened in Belmont in 2015 – a year after Leah celebrated her 20th year in operation. The business now employs more than 50 people, with Leah still proudly at the helm providing guidance and support to all. Leah Jay overall are the most awarded property managers in the State.


RICHARD JONES - CEO Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service Northern NSW


Richard is a former top rugby league player and long serving Chief Executive Officer of the Hunter Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

 ali kimmorley - director people fusion
77 squadron

Ali is the co-founder of Peoplefusion and a highly respected recruiter with more than 15 years’ experience in the industry. Her long-standing business partnership with Sally Bartley is one of the strongest in the region. Ali is a trusted advisor to her clients, providing authentic and strategic advice at every stage of the recruitment process and at every level of recruitment. Ali’s passion for getting the best results for her candidates and clients is matched by her passion for fundraising for children’s charities Camp Quality and Harry’s House. Ali is an Accredited Professional Recruiter and has reached Member status with the industry body Recruitment & Consulting Services Association (RCSA). She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.


JANE MORAN - Newcastle Manager Aurecon 


As a civil engineer with experience and keen interest in city shaping infrastructure projects, Jane has lead Aurecon’s growth strategy in the Hunter region as Aurecon’s Newcastle leader since January 2018. Projects such as Newcastle Light Rail, Wickham Transport Interchange and the University’s NeW Space building are engineering highlights for her team. Jane is passionate about directing a conversation where the Hunter can be in the best position to obtain more infrastructure funding. 

Jane is a Member of Engineers Australia and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, sits on the Water Polo Australia Board, is an Olympic bronze medallist and was also named one of six Young Executives of the Year in the 2018 Australian Financial Review BOSS awards.

TIM OSBORn - Owner Osborn Law


Tim holds a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Business from the University of Newcastle and has been qualified as a solicitor since 2004.  Tim founded Osborn Law in January 2011.

rebecca phillips - fair play oosh


Rebecca is the founder of All Recruitment Australia; the team specialises in healthcare recruitment nationally and internationally. Rebecca is a very passionate & experienced Healthcare Talent Manager with a track record of success in the Australian & International Market. 

In more recent years Rebecca has acquired x 3 childcare centres with 205 children across 3 centres.

With a busy work load ensuring both businesses are delivering and exceeding national legislation and standards, Rebecca’s number one asset are her staff and delivering a quality over quantity service in both businesses.




Warwick was appointed as COO in March 2018, after joining Ampcontrol in July 2017. Warwick has over 20 years industry experience across the legal, manufacturing and logistics sectors. Prior to rejoining Ampcontrol, Warwick held a number of senior management positions within Asciano. In his role as COO, Warwick draws on his extensive experience in logistics and commercial disciplines, to be able to develop business strategy and deliver on strategic objectives. Warwick holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from the University of Newcastle, Bachelor of Laws from Macquarie University, Graduate Diploma of Management (Technology Management) from Deakin University and a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice from the NSW College of Law.


MYLES WEST - National Sales Manager BME


Myles is the Head of Business Development for the BME Group of companies.