PRIA MasterClass: Communicating when Tragedy Strikes

Australia’s top technical experts all in one room –

From the Lindt Café Siege to a coroner’s inquest on wrongful death, from merciless fires to senseless gun violence and from healthcare errors to domestic homicide – tough times need special communication. Would you, as a professional communicator, have the experience to play a leading role in planning, managing and executing fast-paced communication and logistics strategies in such a crisis?

Learning how to respond quickly and knowing what to do, how and when is critical to saving lives, supporting communities, and reducing risks. Knowing how to look after your own wellbeing and the impacts of the tragedy is equally as important.

The media is essential to help understand the cause of disasters, but it is the role of responsible communicators to point out clear responses, to hear the needs of communities, and to be a first responder to crisis coordinating across many stakeholders.

  • Learn about the legal, insurance and psychological issues that come into play when working with people affected by the ultimate tragedy.
  • Explore case studies on how to be a first responder to crisis involving complex stakeholders.
  • Plan to look after your own wellbeing when handling the ultimate issue – this is crucial to being a great communicator in the toughest times.

This unique MasterClass will be led by people experienced in dealing with the most tragic situations. Discussion will be Chatham House Rule* to encourage openness and sharing of sensitive information by senior leaders in our profession.

* When a meeting is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.


Date Friday 10 February 2017
Time 8.30am - 5.00pm
Cost PRIA Members $499
Non-members $699

Aerial Function Centre
235 Jones Street
Level 7, Building 10, Ultimo NSW 2007

CPD Points 7
NB This event will be held under the Chatham House Rule

Who should attend?: Professional communicators currently working at the managerial, directorial or executive leadership level, whether in an in-house position (in government, corporate, health, education or not-for-profit sectors), consultancy, journalists, as well as executives and senior managers who need to know how to communicate, will benefit from this professional development day.


Highlights will include:

  • Understanding deathly tragedy
  • Command and control
  • Hearts and minds
  • The technicians
  • The communicators
  • Duty of care and self-care
  • Hypotheticals and a scenario-planning exercise


After completing the MasterClass, participants will:

  • Know how to accurately characterise and articulate risk in a live and evolving scenario
  • Have an 'in-practice' understanding of command and control crisis management, and an ability to work with emergency services and critical incident response teams
  • Have an understanding and ability to incorporate duty of care communication into your strategies
  • Know how to implement a 'putting people first' critical response plan and how to engage internal and expert stakeholders in implementing this style of response
  • Know how to practice self-care - as well as an understanding of the impact of trauma and crisis
  • Know how to look after impacted communities - understanding trauma, grief, distress, and the need to be connected to factual information


Director of Public Affairs - NSW Police

Strath Gordon has been Director of Public Affairs, NSW Police since 2006. This role is responsible for corporate and operational media relations, social and digital media, marketing, internal communications, film and television and corporate branding.

Strath has spent more than 20 years in a variety of public relations roles – the past decade with the Police Force and previously with the Australian Rugby Union.

Strath has led his communications team through numerous high profile events including the murder of police worker Curtis Cheng in 2015, the Martin Place Lindt Cafe siege and Operation Appleby counter terrorism raids in 2014, the recapture of Australia’s most wanted man Malcom Naden in 2012, the 2007 APEC Summit in Sydney along with strategies designed to highlight police actions against alcohol related violence and the ice epidemic.

He has an electronic media background in both radio and television – producing the Channel Seven Sydney nightly bulletin from 1992-1997.

Strath was an early adopter of social media with NSW Police which opened Twitter and YouTube accounts in 2009, Facebook in 2010 and has followed with Instagram, Weibo, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

Director, Media and Communications - St Vincent's Health Australia, Sydney

David Faktor has been Director of Public Affairs at St Vincent's Health Australia, Sydney for the past 15 years. In that time he has raised the profile of the NSW hospitals that are part of SVHA to make them some of the most prominent health facilities in the country. David has been particularly involved in driving health advocacy campaigns including the drive to address alcohol related harms in Australia. He has also embraced a transparent approach to media engagement which has included the participation in ground breaking TV series including Kings Cross ER on Nine and Miracle Hospital St Vincent's to be screened on National Geographic in 2017.

Managing Director – Primary Communication

Annabelle has more than 25 years of experience in designing and running successful communication programs. She has worked with blue-chip corporations, governments and community groups and has guided organisations in the technology, telecommunications, energy, aviation, law, insurance, travel and government sectors.

Annabelle brings a unique blend of academic, corporate, international and community experience. She is a former National President of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), as well as being the former National Chair of the PRIA Registered Consultancies Group.

Deputy Director, Head of Forensic Services - Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

David Ranson is the Deputy Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and heads the Institute's Forensic Services Division. He is responsible for the provision of Forensic Pathology, Clinical Forensic Medicine and Forensic Medical Toxicology and Molecular Biology at the Institute. His work includes includes responsibility for the Mortuary and the Coroners Admissions and Enquiries team.

David has been a medical specialist in forensic pathologist for over 30 years working in both the UK and Australia. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia and the Royal College of Pathologists (UK). David is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash University and has been a member of the Federal Government’s “Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Council”, a Member of the Forensic Science Advisory Committee of the National Association of Testing Authorities and the Anaesthetic Morbidity and Mortality Council in Victoria.

As a Disaster Victim Identification specialist, David has been engaged in the response to multiple disasters around the world including; the conflict in the Balkans, the Bali bombing and the loss of MH17 and has worked with families of victims and members of the community traumatised by both small and large scale tragedies.

Program Manager - Hunter Institute of Mental Health

Marc leads the Mindframe National Media Initiative, ensuring safe and effective portrayals of mental illness and suicide in mass communication in Australia. Marc has more than 18 years working in health, media and communication in both UK and Australia.

Marc joined the Hunter Institute of Mental Health in February 2009. He is a qualified journalist and communication professional, having completed the National Council for the Training Journalists pre-entry course (UK) and a Bachelor of Communication (Honours). Marc is also a full member of the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). He has 16 years’ experience working in and with the media, both as a senior print journalist (UK), in media and communication for the National Health Service (UK) and the South Australian Health Department (mental health reform).

Managing Director - Dart Centre Asia Pacific

Cait McMahon OAM, PhD is a registered psychologist and the founding managing director of Dart Centre Asia Pacific since 2003. Dart Asia Pacific has its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia and holds trainings and other programs throughout the Asia Pacific region. McMahon has been interested in the nexus of journalism and trauma since working as staff counsellor at The Age newspaper in Melbourne in the mid 1980’s and 90’s. This interest pushed her to pursue postgraduate research on trauma exposed journalists in 1993 with subsequent publications. Her PhD focused on Australian trauma reporting journalists, post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth. Cait has received a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), one of Australia’s highest civil accolades, for her work with journalists and trauma.

General Manager - Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals
Council Member, NSW/ACT - Australian Funeral Directors Association

Asha has a wealth of experience, having run two funeral businesses for four years, prior to which she worked in hospitality, customer service, operational management, guest services, sales and event management. Asha has also specialised in Learning & Development and Human Resources.

Currently Asha is the General Manager for AFDA Member Grace Funerals and Blue Mountains Funerals in Sydney and is on the NSW/ACT Council. Asha presented at the 2015 National Conventions on ‘Gen Management’ and was the 2015 AFDA Scholarship winner presenting at the 2016 National Convention on ‘Wow Funerals’. Currently Asha is working with the AFDA on the rollout of the training for the Your Goodbye campaign.

General Manager Communications & Media Relations - Insurance Council of Australia

Campbell has more than two decades of experience as a journalist and communications consultant and is responsible for the Insurance Council's Communications directorate. A former newspaper journalist and editor, Campbell joined the Insurance Council in October 2011 from a multinational public relations firm, where he specialised in corporate communications, reputation management, thought leadership and crisis management for professional services firms, ASX-listed companies and financial services businesses.

He was previously a reporter, sub-editor and senior editor on leading publications including The Herald and The Herald Sun, Sunday Herald, Sunday Herald Sun, mX, The Australian and The Sunday Telegraph, and news agency Australian Associated Press.

State Political Reporter - Nine Network Australia

In a tragic mix-up, a baby died and another was left with severe brain damage at Bankstown Hospital after being given nitrous oxide instead of oxygen. Chris O’Keefe quickly verified a tip-off to give a concise live cross confirming the details on Nine News. Within hours O’Keefe made contact with and interviewed the bereaved parents.

Chris O’Keefe is Nine News NSW state political reporter. He joined the Nine Network in 2012 as a junior reporter on the Gold Coast after three years as a producer with Network Ten in Sydney. He moved to Brisbane as a police reporter, winning an award for his work on the “Broadbeach Bikie Brawl” that sparked the Newman government’s ill-fated bikie laws. He returned home to Sydney for Nine News, covering mainly crime, before a keen interest in politics saw him land his current role covering the Baird Government.

Terms & Conditions

Please read the PRIA Cancellation and Refund Policies and PRIA general event terms and conditions before registering.

PRIA event tickets can only be purchased online via credit card payment in advance. Members are required to log into PRIA website to obtain the appropriate discount and to ensure continuing professional development points are tracked.

If you wish to purchase group (more than five) event tickets and require direct deposit details please call (02) 9331 3346 or email Note that cash or credit card payment at an event is no longer available.

Event Location: Aerial UTS Function Centre
Registrations Open: 24th Nov 16 12:00 AM
Registrations Close: 8th Feb 17 11:59 PM
Price: AU $ 699 (Inc. GST)


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