Recent Blog
Recent Blog

19 February 2018

Why mental health needs a bigger focus in Australia’s prisons and detention centres

Author :

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are outrageously over represented in Australia’s justice system.

According to the Human Rights Watch Report 2018, Indigenous children and youth are 25 times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system compared to non-Indigenous youth.

About one quarter of Australia’s prison population is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, Indigenous people only make up three per cent of Australia’s total population.

The Human Rights Watch Report also reports that over half of Australia’s prison population has a disability, which often includes mental health issues.

However, as prisoners don’t have access to Medicare, it’s up the states’ health and justice budgets to accommodate for prisoners’ needs.

Leaders from across Australia will come together to speak at the upcoming National Indigenous Mental Health & Wellbeing Forum in Perth on the 21st-23rd February, to share their thoughts on the growing mental health crisis.

Some of the speakers include Ngaree Ah Kit, Assistant Minister for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health and Disabilities and Assistant Minster for Seniors and Youth in the NT, Josie Farrer, Member for Kimberley, Aunty Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian from the Indigenous Wellness Centre, Gerry Georgatos, Suicide Prevention and Prison Reform Researcher and Mervyn Eades from Ngalla Maya.

They will, together with other presenters, share their stories, case studies and practical strategies on how to change the statistics and improve the mental wellbeing of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Speakers will also discuss the correlation between mental health issues and imprisonment, and discuss the importance of appropriate support within jails and detention centre as well as post-release.

It’s time to change the statistics, and that starts with everyone taking action.

Written by: Mimmie Wilhemson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

13 February 2018

Payment Diversion Fraud - A disturbing new hacking trend hitting corporate Australia

Author :
When Sydney business owner, Mr Tony Davies (not his real name), hit the send button on the $175,000 payment to Malaysia in October 2017, he had a bad feeling about the payment. His gut instinct told him something was wrong but he needed the shipment of products urgently to satisfy his customers in Australia.

He had met his Chinese supplier, Mr Jack Sim (not his real name), in person some months previously. Mr Sim was a reputable Chinese building product supplier who manufactured products from his factory in Fujian province. Mr Sim’s office girl, Tammi, dealt with all financial matters involving the company.

In early October 2017, Mr Davies sent his first deposit, for a large order of products, to the Chinese bank account controlled by Mr Sim’s company. The product order was prepared for shipment.

When Mr Davies was preparing to send the final payment of $175,000 he received an urgent notice from Tammi by email not to pay the money into their China bank account as they had some tax issues with the Chinese authorities. She advised him that the money needed to go into their Malaysian account as they wanted to keep the funds offshore whist they sorted out their tax problem.  

Mr Davies expressed his concern to Tammi about sending the funds to Malaysia but was convinced by Tammi that this was the only option. “Sir, we use overseas accounts for many of our international customers, this is normal for China business and Mr Sim has told me to give you this message”, Tammi wrote in her email.

The products needed to be shipped urgently and the only option was for Mr Davies to pay the funds into their Malaysian account or face delays. “Okay Tammi I will make the wire today, thank you”, Mr Davies wrote. “Please send the remittance immediately so we can release the products”, Tammi responded. Mr Davies wired the funds and sent Tammi the remittance but something worried him about sending the funds to Malaysia.

Several days later, Mr Davies received an email from Tammi stating, “Sir, we have not received the funds, please send urgently”. Mr Davies immediately responded saying the funds were already sent to the Malaysian bank account and the remittance was also sent. “Sir, I did not receive any remittance from you and we don’t have a Malaysian bank account”, Tammi replied.

Mr Davies slumped on his desk with shock. “How could this be possible, I will forward you the email again”.  Mr Davies sunk further into shock and despair when he received the real Tammi’s response. “Sir, that’s not my email address, that’s a fake, it’s my signature details but not my email, how could this happen?”.  Mr Davies was gutted. He just became the latest victim in a new crime wave targeting corporate businesses in Australia.

The hackers had entered the email communication between Tammi and Mr Davies and were monitoring every conversation. They cleverly set up an almost identical email addresses of Tammi and used her real email address in the signature. They also set up an almost identical email address of Mr Davies and communicated with Tammi, making excuses why the payment was delayed. Both parties were communicating with the hackers and not each other. The fraud was blatant but clever. The fraudsters knew when to strike and celebrated another big pay day before disappearing offline, never to be seen again.

This new trend of payment diversion fraud has become much more prevalent in Australia during 2017. The hackers are always offshore and work with highly organised fraud groups to perpetrate the frauds in an anonymous online environment. They slip away before any action can be taken. The offshore bank accounts are closed and money withdrawn in cash, before they can be frozen. The evidence trail is cold before law enforcement agencies can even record a complaint. The jurisdiction of the fraudsters is never known so no law enforcement agency will put their hand up to take the complaint let alone investigate the fraud.

So, what can be done to avoid these costly frauds? Firstly, companies need to be made aware of these frauds and have proper countermeasures in place for sending money overseas. Even a simple code word only shared with the genuine supplier could be used by text message to verify payments. Secondly, companies must ensure that their emails and servers are secure. Regular penetration testing can be carried out to check for vulnerabilities. Software security updates should be kept current and email programs should be regularly checked and updated by an IT security professional. Many companies become so busy they forget to patch simple flaws in their system or forget to update their software not knowing that exploits and vulnerabilities have been identified causing online security risks.

These vulnerabilities can be easily identified by foreign based hackers using sophisticated remote access tools to silently gather data about your company’s computer habits, email usage, security software, browser types and operating systems. Many companies who operate in the manufacturing industry don’t place enough emphasis on their computer security until it’s too late. For Mr Davies, it’s a $175,000 lesson learned. Meantime the hackers who got his money are busy perpetrating the next attack.

Written by: Ken Gamble

Ken Gamble is the Executive Chairman of IFW Global, an international cybercrime intelligence firm. 
He is also the current Australian chairman of the International Association of Cybercrime Prevention. 

Professional investigator, corporate security specialist and cyber crime expert with 30 years experience working with multinational corporations.

12 February 2018

Can technology put the elderly at the centre of their care?

Author :

Technology and the elderly may seem like a coupling comparable to water and electricity, but new initiatives in the sector are seeing innovation with the consumer in mind.

In a world-first, Silver Chain is piloting ‘holoportation’ to deliver remote consultations. Doctors will be able to appear in real-time as holograms via a holographic computer which is worn as a headset.

 This will eliminate the time-consuming and often exhausting experience for elderly residents of being physically taken to a healthcare facility.

The development of a smart robotic companion, capable of assisting the elderly with everyday tasks, has received a $1 million grant from NSFA. Brown University and American toy manufacturer Hasbro have formed a collaborative partnership to add artificial intelligence capabilities to Hasbro’s Joy for All Companion Pets.

Whilst the robotic cats and dogs provide companionship, they will also be able to help senior citizens with tasks such as finding lost objects, medication reminders or let them know that it’s time to do something.

In another world first, Australian aged care provider IRT Group has partnered with UK Company RDM Autonomous to bring driverless cars to aged care. Testing will take place at the Canberra-based facility this year before moving up to Brisbane.

Pod Zero will be able to safely navigate private roads within IRT and residents will be able to hail the vehicle to travel independently to appointments or social activities.

We can expect to see further innovation in the space given the release of the Technology Roadmap for Aged Care which provides guidance and a framework for integrating technology in aged care which will ensure independence, choice and control for consumers. 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire Dowler is a Senior Conference Producer with Akolade. She recently graduated with a double degree: a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies majoring in International Communication. Claire minored in sarcasm and puns.

A ballroom-dancer who collects salt and pepper shakers and volunteers for animal rescue, you might say Claire has eclectic interests.

07 February 2018

How to Be One of Our Best Speakers – Winning Over the Hearts (and Minds) of Your Audience

Author :

Having watched countless presentations ranging from piling and deep foundations to Artificial Intelligence, read volumes of feedback across almost every industry event, and spent countless hours networking and researching, it’s pretty clear what makes the most compelling presentation.

As a rough guestimate, I would have seen around 400 presenters over 22 events.

And regardless of audience feedback, I’m a person with only surface knowledge of the topics we cover, so to be engaged by a speaker from an industry which is pretty foreign to me is a big ask.

***Full disclaimer – the opening remarks are enough pressure to spin me into a shy, nervous panic and make me crumble, and that is only a matter of minutes on stage. So hats off to the rest of you who bear 30 minutes of it, before being put on the spot with impromptu and often demandingly specific questions for another 10.

The thing is, you either have it or you don’t - humour on stage that is. And most of it comes from confidence. However, humour is probably the last thing on your mind when you are standing vulnerably in front of leading executives for 40 minutes convincing them you are worth listening to.

It’s a great icebreaker, but not a necessity. In my humble opinion, listeners want 3 things:


You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to win over the audience’s hearts with humour.

Whether you were the ’class clown’ or not, if you stand up there with the intention of enjoying yourself and act as though you are having a one-on-one light-hearted conversation with the audience (interlaced with serious, meaningful insights), your authenticity and quirks are bound to shine through and ensure you’re seen in an endearing light. Not only this, your audience will connect with you and remember a lot more of what you say. It’s hard to relax on stage, but if you do, it’s bound to pay off.

I’m hooked as soon as I see someone is passionate about what they do. I want what they have. It’s human nature to want to be excited about something – and it makes you want to hear more to figure out why they’re so enthusiastic about this topic.

It’s incredibly contagious, everyone has the inherent ability, and no one can resist its charm.
Passion aside, do a show of hands, prompt them with questions to discuss with the person next to them, make them feel included.

It’s kind of an obvious one, but people want golden nuggets. The ‘Aha!’ moments that just click and help all the pieces of the puzzle connect. They want to see themselves in your story and link parts of what you have done, or the mistakes you have made, to their experience to help navigate the next part of their journey. Future thinking, opinion, imagination, anything thought-provoking is absolutely key in being remembered as insightful.

Don’t hold back with sharing your vision, people crave a bit of dreaming big.
But then you also need to balance this with proof.

As great as vision is in winning over your audience, there also need to be cold, hard facts, practicality and measurable past wins to give you credibility.

The old adage ‘the proof is in the pudding’, meaning you can only judge the quality of something after you have tried, used, or experienced it, is very relevant here.

Which leads me to the final factor:


All we want is for you to drop the act that everything has worked out successfully and instead, air the dirty laundry.

We are all human. It’s actually a badge of honour to have failed, and failed fast, these days. To have tried something new and had the ability to look at why it failed, then have the guts to share that with your peers is bigger picture action and collaboration.

It’s refreshing in a world of facades to be brave enough to be transparent and speak openly. As much as you think it will bruise your professional image, these days, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Written by: Gracie Fea

Originally from NZ, Gracie worked as a Broadcast Journalist for a few years before moving to London, and then to Sydney, where she fatefully came across conference production and quickly realised it was her dream role. Getting to speak with such passionate and successful people and create an agenda so that people can see themselves in other’s experiences, really spins her wheels.

She has a hunger to hear everyone’s unique story and really thrives from creating a platform for them to share these and help move their industry forward through collaboration.

30 January 2018

The gruesome reality inside NSW mental health units

Author :
 Photo: ABC News
A recent review into the conditions inside NSW mental health units has revealed the shocking reality for mental health patients.

The report, led by NSW chief psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright, was commissioned by the State Government earlier this year following shocking revelations of the death of Miriam Merten in 2014 at a NSW hospital.

CCTV footage showed how Merten had been locked into a dark room without any food or water, naked and chemically restrained. She fell and hit her head more than 20 times and was later found dead.

The inquiry told of how “consumers and carers described services that traumatise and show a lack of compassion and humanity.”

“Many reported feeling dehumanised and stripped of their sense of autonomy, agency, dignity and human rights,” the report stated.

According to Dr Wright’s review, patients were placed in seclusion units almost 3,700 times in NSW during the last financial year.  The average lock-up length was five and a half hours and rooms were often deemed as unhygienic and patients were left without access to bathroom.

“Some consumers and carers reported that seclusion and restraint were used as a threat or a punishment; as a means of enforcing compliance and obedience,” the report stated.

“This form of coercive compliance has more in common with custodial correction systems than it does with a therapeutic setting .”

The report made the recommendation that there’s a great need to address the cultural problems within NSW emergency. Patients were often met by discriminating and unprofessional attitudes from staff.

The review identified seven key themes for improvement:
  • Culture and leadership
  • Patient safety
  • Accountability and governance
  • Workforce
  • Consumer and carer participation
  • Data
  • The built and therapeutic environment
Written by: Mimmie Wilhemson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

23 January 2018

Keeping students safe on social media platforms

Author :
We’re dealing with a generation of digital-engagers. ‘Screen-agers’ if you will. Right or wrong, a majority of Gen Z’s social interactions take place on social media and in the online universe.

As of 2017, approximately 99% of 18-29 year olds and 96% of undergraduate students in Australia actively use social media on a daily basis.

Research conducted by the ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) has shown that the number of Young Australians who rate the internet as ‘very important’ has doubled since 2009.

For students in higher education - whether it’s Universities, TAFEs, VETs, RTOs or other – the pros and perks of social media engagement are compelling. Offering opportunities for real-time engagement with peers and professors, access to information, sharing ideas, finding social events or simply expanding your circle of friends, the boom of social media has changed the face of student interaction.

Not only this, but from a University’s business perspective, it seems the most powerful tool for current and prospective student engagement is in the online universe. Using social media effectively can expand market scope, increase student recruitment and drive engagement. 

However, it’s a risky space.

There is little denying the social media makes it easier for students to bully or abuse their peers — coupling the sense of anonymity with an seeming lack of consequence for negative comments and bullying, the online universe can be a hostile place for young people. Particularly when personal information is not protected and/or students aren’t aware of how to keep themselves safe on social media, the dangers can become much more real than the benefits.

It’s imperative that Universities understand the best strategies for maintaining a safe social networking space, and encourage students to learn more about how to stay safe on social media. When used safely and effectively, online social platforms can act as a strong catalyst for engagement and positive student experience throughout their higher education journey.

What policies and procedures does your organisation have in place for the use of social media?

Written by: Beth Hampton

Beth came to Australia in late 2016. Having spent some time travelling through Southeast Asia and briefly living in Singapore – she was ready to embrace the lifestyle of a working Sydneysider!Beth grew up in London, and completed her degree in Psychology at the University of York. She always dreamed of landing a job in the police, but figured it was worth swapping the handcuffs and late shifts for an exciting new city and a job full of fun and opportunity in a fantastic company like Akolade!
Beth loves cooking, playing the piano, terrible British soap operas, an ice-cold G&T and exploring new places.

22 January 2018

Emergency communications: How the Hawaii false alarm faux pas will lead to improving systems

Author :

For thirty-eight frightening minutes on the 13th of January, the residents and tourists of Hawaii did not know how to react to a blood-curdling emergency alert on their mobiles: Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.

Whilst luckily it was a false alarm and Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) took to Twitter shortly after to announce that there was no threat or missile headed towards the island, however, it took the better part of an hour for Hawaii’s EMA to issue an official retraction cancelling the alert.

It was nothing more than a human error, however, it raised legitimate questions regarding the process – just how trustworthy is the alert system after all? Is it a reliable system if mass panic is just one click away?

There is a silver lining - without a doubt, the Emergency Management Agencies across the USA as well as abroad will look into their systems to determine whether additional safeguards are required in order to prevent human error of such kind.

Incredibly, just days after the Hawaii faux pas, the Japanese national broadcaster NHK erroneously sent an alert warning about North Korea’s missile headed towards Japan. While the Japanese were speedy in retracting a false notification, it is still striking how easy such errors can occur and the incredible damage it can cause.

The lessons to be learnt from these stories are that humans are much better at engineering systems and machines as opposed to having full control of them.  Undoubtedly, nuclear weapons are the most dangerous technology to ever exist and when the safeguards fail, the potential harm is completely catastrophic. 

By Simona Zukaite

Simona joined Akolade and relocated to Sydney after eight years in Hong Kong where she worked for a leading media and publishing company producing legal and financial conferences in Asia-Pacific. Simona studied Law in the UK, Paris and Hong Kong and found her passion for events after working on an international arbitration law conference and moot trial competition in Hong Kong in 2012. The recent move is the next chapter of adventures Simona has sought to pursue in Australia following the running of an annual FX investment conference in Sydney for three consecutive years.

21 December 2017

Why Amazon is not “just another competitor”

Author :
Many words have been written about the timing of Amazon’s Australian launch, with constant speculation and misinformation about the date. In coming years, the launch date will be nothing but a footnote. What really matters is how to respond to Amazon and, on this, there is much well-intentioned but unhelpful advice. Unhelpful because many commentators are now downplaying Amazon as “just another competitor” – when in fact the retail marketplace is about to be transformed. Following that advice could be the modern-day equivalent of launching a cavalry charge towards soldiers armed with machine guns.

My advice is to take a fundamental look at your online operating model.

Why Amazon is different and not “just another competitor”
To assess Amazon’s likely impact, it helps to understand why Amazon is different and not “just another competitor”. Let me explain by illustrating a framework based on two key elements of online retail strategy – product range and delivery offer (see matrix below).
The horizontal axis categorises an online retailer according to its range:
  • A “niche” range is based on a curated selection of products or a differentiated service.
  • A “category” range is based around one category (or a small number of related categories).
  • An “everything” range is made up of products from several unrelated categories.
The vertical axis categorises an online retailer according to its delivery model:
  • “Consolidated” delivery is when the consumer normally receives multiple products in one delivery, for example when ordering through Amazon Prime.
  • “Split” delivery is when the consumer receives several deliveries after ordering different products, for example when ordering on eBay.
To illustrate with real-life examples, let’s assume that by 2020 Amazon in Melbourne and Sydney offers a similar range and fulfilment model to Amazon in the UK right now. In the matrix, Amazon would sit in the top-right quadrant, offering products from almost every category (including fresh) in one consolidated delivery. For the consumer, this will be more convenient and cheaper than receiving multiple deliveries.

If we look at the Australian market now, we see online retailers in every quadrant except the top right. Only those operating a “niche” strategy, in my opinion, will be in the “blue ocean” and able to stand up in the long-term against Amazon’s consolidated / everything strategy. Everyone else will be competing in the “red ocean” of a market dominated by Amazon - unless they adapt their models. Here are some examples.

1. “Niche” retailers
Niche players target a specific segment with a differentiated service or range. An example is Appliances Online which offers an end-to-end service for white goods, including installation. Strong niche retailers have least to fear from Amazon’s arrival because Amazon is unlikely to seek to compete head-on. Amazon will sell white goods, but it will struggle to match Appliances Online’s exceptional customer proposition and product knowledge, built up over years of experience.

2. “Category” retailers
Category retailers make up most of the online market and focus on one category (or a few related categories). Their challenge is that Amazon will likely match their range but also offer consumers consolidated delivery with the rest of their shopping. If I currently buy groceries from Woolworths Online and clothes from The Iconic through two separate deliveries, then Amazon can make my life simpler by delivering everything in one go. In the long-term, my prediction is that these retailers will either need to become niche players, so they are not competing directly with Amazon, or partner with other retailers to offer a consolidated delivery option.

3. “Everything” retailers
The everything retailers are at greatest risk but also have the greatest opportunity. The risk will eventuate if their business model stays unchanged because Amazon will provide a superior offer – a similar range but ordered and delivered together.

The opportunity comes if these players can find a way to consolidate fulfilment. eBay is the longest-standing member of this camp, and will find it challenging to shift to consolidated fulfilment. Some others have more flexibility:
  • Catch Group is enjoying fantastic success with its new marketplace and already possesses Australia’s most sophisticated pick and pack operation.
  • Shipster, Australia Post’s innovative multi-retailer subscription service, could offer an alternative to Amazon Prime, if it can transition to shared fulfilment. 
  • Wesfarmers and Woolworths could match Amazon’s range across their portfolio of brands. The big challenge will be shifting their business model (and culture) to enable collaboration.
Within a few years Amazon in Australia will have a much stronger hand than most Australian online retailers, if the latter have not found a way to consolidate deliveries and extend their range. We see from recent moves by Catch, Shipster, and new developments in Wesfarmers’ and Woolworths’ brands, that some of Amazon’s Australian competitors are now moving in the right direction.

For leaders keen to truly understand Amazon and its likely impact, check out my one-day workshop Are you ready for Amazon? We have public workshops coming up in Melbourne on 5th December and Sydney on 6th December and I also offer in-house workshops and executive briefings for teams. Find more information on my website.

Guest Blog Written By:

Jonathan Reeve is a speaker, author and adviser. He is passionate about helping retailers to build profitable, stress-free, online operations.

Jonathan has worked in retail businesses in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia for over fifteen years. He was part of the team that developed the operating model for, a global pioneer of online grocery retail. Jonathan’s perspective is unique: he has both developed online retail strategy and led the frontline teams that deliver the service to customers. Jonathan has also worked in store retail and was the store manager of a large Tesco supermarket in London.