2021 e-Conference

Strategy and Execution

Evolving Perspectives

adapting to a changing world

Speakers and Panellists



Celeste Bruce 

The Pandemic hit in March 2020 and I made a snap decision to close my studio on a Sunday night and woke up Monday - my whole world had changed instantly. Turned upside down.

Leaving me with massive uncertainty; Income stream loss; clients cancelling classes; Lost access to studio premises and equipment; and a general Fear of illness through community and client base

Zoom was an obvious short term solution but many clients had dropped off dealing with their own issue and I had difficulty in teaching many Pilates constantly. Class after class.. was a heavy toll on body as well as home life.

Total disruption, cramped space issues, scheduling difficulties all underpinned by a climate of fear and uncertainty.

Clean, positive, clear Communication with client base was not only critical but imperative. And indeed also with landlords in order to get assistance with lease etc and similarly with suppliers.

But my feeling was that people need to continue to exercise, stay healthy.

The studio opened and closed through lockdowns.

My approach was to stay positive. We are all in this together. My experience at the moment is the same as everyone’s. I am no different and the flow on effect through businesses and into personal lives just keeps going. I, like everyone else, needed to get my business and life stable.

But also I realised that I needed to show compassion and help others where I could.

So with a series of Newsletters; Gifts; Conversations; Positive chat; Laughter and finding happiness in the small things, I had some amazing moments.

           Lea-Ann McNeill  - Opusxenta

Doing business with an improved level of care and data management

Digital Business Systems in Death Care Services

2020 forced the world into the digital space with volition.  Cemeteries and funeral homes saw the increased provision of streaming services and in our offices we participated in Zoom and Teams meetings.  We were given a taste of how business can start to be re-imagined.  At Opus Xenta we are looking to assist our customer in the death care industry by taking this innovation further.  During this presentation discover how you can continue to do business with the same, even improved level of care and data management.  

   Joey Busuttil

With a strong vision of steering clients away from the medication path , we redirect them to - 

More focus on meditation, mindfulness, and better Lifestyle choices. 

Client centred solution work. 

Values re-connection. 

Adaptability goal setting/ creation. 

new Belief network awareness.  

Past trauma healing. 

Addiction self medication awareness. 

Proactive Meditation strategies.

   Chantelle O’Neil

Industry insights and caring for your personal and professional wellbeing.

Whether you are a supplier, funeral director, celebrant or grave digger, we are all here for the same reason, the families we care for. It is hard to understand a person's job without having done it yourself, so let's learn more about the importance of each person within this industry. So often we are quick to assume that we understand the role each of us play for the families we care for, but is that assumption correct? This is a complex industry, with so many moving parts that come together almost seamlessly at a crucial time for many.

In an industry that requires so much of ourselves, our mind, our compassion and our knowledge how do we look after ourselves and those around us? How do we recognise when we need to step back? What are some signs in others that show they need to step back? We have to take care of ourselves to truly take care of others.


Hosted by Celeste Bruce

Panel Members :  Johanna Adams, Kathy Hodges, Mark Coates, Gordon Tansey, Rebecca Lyons, Louise Acheson.

   Rebecca Lyons

Dying to learn: A look at alternate technologies and disruptions

  • About me
  • Why death?
  • Highlights from Rebecca's Churchill Fellowship research
  • Since returning

   Annetta Mallon

Annetta is an end of life consultant and educator, offering private services for humans and pets along with regular death literacy information events. Annetta is also a seasoned psychotherapist who specialises in grief, loss, PTSD, injury and trauma recovery, and personal growth and development. Awarded her PhD in social science and with a health background, she frequently addresses palliative care and medical staff, contributing to a stronger understanding of the benefits of community engagement and non-medical end of life workers for best practice quality end of life approaches.

A passionate consumer rights advocate, Annetta is committed to ensuring that rights, options and choices for end of life care, body disposal, assisted dying (where legalised) and home funerals is understood in our communities. Annetta designed and wrote a comprehensive and culturally inclusive online end of life training course with all seven non-medical end of life roles discussed in depth. Her latest publication is an open access micro model for supporting those who wish to die at home.

Link to article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/26323524211052569

   Marcus Willis

Cute dogs and espresso martinis are currently the most engaging pillars online. So how can you drive awareness for your funeral business in a space dominated by entertainment? In this presentation, Marcus will discuss how scroll stopping content can be formulated to to drive conversion for your funeral business and how a new pair of sneakers may hold the answer this question.

   Andy Fernie

I will be telling my story around my Mum being diagnosed with Alzheimers and watching her live with it, and how it affected her and the family. I will be touching on how we felt about the decision on removing her from the nursing home and taking her to my home during Melbourne's 2nd wave from COVID. From there I will be sharing about the beautiful, but difficult experience of nursing her until the day her soul crossed over during a global pandemic, and the wonderful support we had from the Community Palliative care team and my special friends which helped us get through this hard time.

   Mike Smits

Many things go into creating a successful and robust business including a well defined strategy, the right people and team culture, focus on customers/clients and quality, targeted marketing initiatives and operations excellence, to name but a few. However, if you select the right type of market or segment you can significantly increase your chances of success, and reduce the risks over the long term.

What if you learned of an Australian industry with the following: 

  • An annual spend of $1.6B+ per year
  • Expected to grow at double CPI (inflation) in 2022
  • This industry would last indefinitely regardless of global crises and challenges
  • Eventually all of Australia’s 26M population would require the services of this industry at some point in time
  • That the largest corporate organisations account for just over 30% of the market, which means a lot of opportunity for small, private and medium sized business to thrive
  • And most importantly…..being involved in this industry gives you the chance to make a ‘real’ difference to people at some of the most challenge times in their lives.

Sounds enticing right?

Well, that’s the Funeral and Death Care Industry in a snapshot and I’m excited to share some interesting data on our market, and help make common sense of the numbers and highlight just how incredible the opportunity is within this industry to do good for people, and have a successful business the same time.

   Jacquie  Wise

   In my work as a psychotherapist, and as a tutor at Monash University, it is essential that I keep completely up to       date with the latest developments in wellbeing and the prevention of mental illnesses, including anxiety and             depression. Because I facilitate courses to the general public, I have had access to thousands of people, which           has  given me the advantage, over the years, to spot trends. I am acutely aware of the changing demands of our       lives as technology speeds up our work, leaving less ‘downtime’ for our families or ourselves, compounded by the disruptions Covid 19 lockdowns have created. These crises force us to search for better ways to enhance our peace of mind and re-evaluate our priorities. I have observed a growing awareness of the need to connect with our inner processes. Teaching our children these skills are essential, as resilience and confidence are the greatest gifts we can give our children. Mindfulness is growing in popularity as we realise it’s key to helping us find instant calm amidst chaos, and to understanding ourselves. In the time we have together, I would like to share with you ways people today enhance their wellbeing, and to illustrate why Mindfulness is so important to your happiness and peace of mind.

Speaker BIOs

Lea-Ann McNeill

Experienced Business Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the government administration and regulation industry. Skilled in Change Management and business improvement, Government, Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, and Training Delivery. Strong asset and facility management professional with a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) focused in Adult and Continuing Education and Teaching from Queensland University of Technology.

Joey Busuttil

IA qualified Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach, Clinical Supervisor and Meditation facilitator. 

I have worked in the mental health sector for over 15 year. Prior to this I worked in HR for one of the big banks where I experienced a major breakdown with stress and anxiety due to corporate work culture  and unrealistic work load expectations. 

After receiving treatment I started to understand the dysfunction that I was creating in my life. Progression in technology had actually caused the always available mentality, causing me to live life in a never ending feeling of dread and unhappiness. 

Finally Transitioning to the mental health sector, allowed me to listen, teach and guide clients with mental health issues to a more self accepting space within their lives. Using my personal experience with mental health I was able to create accessible pathways to real time solutions. Especially working with men who had not much experience in seeking help when things become overwhelming. 

We are  now Living in unprecedented times, which is highlighting that  more people in our communities are not mentally prepared for all the rapid change. Mental health treatments  had to align with this  new landscape, helping clients whom in the past had never experienced mental health problems, find accessible solutions. Anxiety increased by 250% in 2020. Especially more so with  teenagers and men.

Passionate about providing new ways to serve our clients. Working in business development and sales, relationship management, customer service and marketing new product ranges.

Chantelle O'Neil

Chantelle never saw herself working for her parents, nor in the funeral industry but has found her place within Final Touch Australia (FTA) and is here to stay. Prior to starting at FTA Chantelle was living and working in London with a lot of travel in between. In a year like our last one, she is glad she took every opportunity to explore the world. Now that she is home, with a knack for conversation and a passion for supporting businesses she fits right into her role as Business Development Manager for Final Touch Australia.

As Business Development Manager she works closely with clients, so that FTA can continue supporting the industry in the best way possible. As FTA supplies a broad range of products, supplying to the funeral, cremation, cemetery, mortuary and embalming sectors she has a good understanding of many aspects of the funeral industry. She has a passion for supporting people at a time they need it most and working in the death care industry as it continually grows and changes to cater to our client family’s needs and wants.

Rebecca Lyons

Bec hails from the Blue Mountains in NSW but made Tasmania her home in 2006. Over her career she has worked in various industries including finance, real estate and the law, but in 2011 she found her path into the funeral industry and stayed there until mid-2017. During that time she worked across the many roles offered in the contemporary funeral industry; including pre planning, administration, mortuary, funeral arranging and directing. Retraining as an End of Life Doula and becoming an independent Funeral Director, she has worked in home based death care and family led funerals ever since.

Bec has also been actively working to advance the mission of You n’ Taboo which is the education and advocacy service she co-founded with her partner in 2016.

In 2018 Bec was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to undertake international research and report on ‘the human relationship to death and ceremony through alternate technologies and approaches’. A link to her Churchill report can be found by clicking here.

Since her return, she has become the President of the Natural Death Advocacy Network and has formed the new Australian Home Funeral Alliance.

In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, photography, attending the theatre and travel but what makes her most contented is time with her family. The subjects of death and dying, natural burial and the DIY approach to death care are her passion and she loves being out in the community raising awareness and promoting good honest conversations, she is a dedicated advocate for positive change.

Annetta Mallon

One of Australia's leading end of life consultants and end of life educators, Annetta's extensive range of services include grief support and counselling, advance planning and End of Life Doula (Death Doula) work.

Marcus Willis

Marcus Willis is the founder of the marketing agency Eight Clients and the social media trainer to Accor, Toyota, Lindt, NSW Office of Sport, Hitachi, IVF Australia, Ray White Australia, Deakin University, Reece Group, Bakers Delight and the Australian Federal Government.

Andy Fernie

I began my career many moons ago as a nurse in the aged care sector, where I worked for a number of years providing care for those suffering from Dementia and Alzheimers. During my career as a nurse, I then discovered through further study, that I was quite entrepreneurial and took the plunge in starting my first business in 2001 in the Transport and Logistics space in which I am currently still an active member on the board. Between then and now I have started a number of start up businesses which I have been successful in creating , building and selling. Interestingly I feel I have done a full circle with my new venture "Become Funerals" which has a strong focus around the environment but most importantly giving back and supporting families going through loss and grief.

Mike Smits

Mike has held senior positions in Australia, Asia and Europe in Sales, Marketing, Business Development, Strategy and Change Management over 20+ years and has led large businesses from $200M+, all the way through to the taking on startups and integrating business acquisitions across a range of industries and market segments.

His passion is business growth with a clear strategy, the right people and team culture and a relentless focus on customer or client service and quality.  With this simple philosophy as a foundation it is possible to achieve long term, above market growth regardless of sector, industry or competitive environment, coupled with engaged, motivated staff and happy customers and clients.  With ‘people’ being at the centre of everything when it comes to long term business success, one of his favourite quotes is; “anyone can copy your strategy, your products or your business, but no one can copy your people, or your unique team culture”.

Mike is the Managing Director of ‘grive’ (grow + thrive), a new company focused on supporting SMEs with growth strategies, is the Vice President for the AIFP and is also the Director for Mordialloc Florist that has a strong funeral industry alignment, and he also holds a graduate certificate of business and has completed numerous leadership programs in Australia, Asia and Europe.

Jacquie Wise

Jacquie Wise has been in private practice as an Integrative Counsellor, psychotherapist and life coach for over 35 years.

Following an early career in human resources management, she developed her business as a corporate consultant and trainer and coach.  A pioneer in Australia’s career planning industry, Jacquie wrote the first prescribed school-to-work text. Other books focus on personal development.

She spearheaded public workshops on various topics of confidence building and wellbeing in Melbourne in the 70s.  Peer feedback indicates that her public courses are considered a benchmark for excellence in the personal development industry. 

Her multi-skilled approach to counselling integrates a number of processes to suit each individual’s needs. 

In demand as a speaker, she gave a well-received presentation to members of the Australian Funeral Directors Association many years ago, at their annual conference. She has an understanding of the demands of the funeral industry.

Focusing on happiness and wellbeing, she has taught Mindfulness meditation to her clients and in the Medical and Pharmaceutical Faculties of Monash University for over 15 years

Celeste Bruce

I am Celeste Bruce, the owner of Soul Pilates established in South Melbourne in 2001. With over 25 years industry experience, As a qualified Pilates instructor, I am certified with the Australian Pilates Method Association (APMA) and have been a significant committee Member on Executive Council and Chair of the Education Committee on the board of the APMA.

I studied dance in Australia and the United States, and have travelled widely teaching body conditioning and anatomy and physiology for dancers, as well as delivering community lectures on osteoarthritis, scoliosis, osteoporosis and disease prevention from a Pilates perspective. 

I am an active volunteer and have contributed to Second Bite collecting food for people in need, E.motion21, working with Down Syndrome dance students and teaching Pilates at Napier Street Aged Care Facility. I have raised in excess of $10,000 for charities that work with child trafficking and slavery, by organising a Ping Pong-a-thon and running a half marathon in Angkor Wat. My personal interests include walking along the beach, reading, films, and all aspects of the Arts. I am motivated and love to exercise and eat well.

In March, 2020 when my studio had to cease face to face appointments, as a result of COVID lockdowns, I created an online pilates business within a very short timeframe, during this time I spoke with all my longtime clients on a personal level as to how COVID was affecting each one of them and how I could assist them going forward. I was also very appreciative that my business was able to continue during those uncertain times by pivoting how the business was presented to my clients.

I was also able to use my skills that I have gained within my studies at RMIT in Health Science during this time, to enable me to work on the front line at COVID Screening Clinics. I feel very privileged to be able to have kept my business operating during this time as well as being able to make a contribution to the Health Care Sector during the Covid journey.

Mark Coates

Deceased Transportation Service for Funeral Director

Johanna Adams

Johanna is one of Australia’s most respected embalmers and mortuary technicians with more than 30 years’ experience throughout Victoria and NSW. She holds qualifications in Forensic Science & Necropsy from the University of Technology Sydney (NSW), with further studies in phlebotomy, anatomy and physiology. She also holds qualifications in forensic photography, fingerprinting, ballistics and handwriting analysis from Swinburne University (VIC) and a award winning European qualification as a unisex hair stylist.

Kathryn Hodges

Attaining a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, Kathryn has developed a programme of Professional Development seminars in After Death Care. She has certificates in Strategic Planning in a Crisis, Group and Individual Crisis Intervention, Psychological First Aid, Resilience Leadership Training, Suicide Awareness and Prevention and Caring for the Carer, She is also co-creator of the Companions in Grief programme.

Kathryn is a member of CIMA (Critical Intervention and Management Australasia) and a Clinical Officer in the SES. As a Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR) facilitator she is trained to help people recovering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

Louise Acheson

Role: Acting Chief Customer Officer

Organisation: Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

As Acting Chief Customer Officer, Louise is currently responsible for the Customer Care division of Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust (SMCT) in Melbourne. This division is comprised of customer experience, contact centre, marketing, digital, events, communications, partnerships, Centre for Care and Wellbeing, and community engagement. As a trust responsible for 9 cemeteries across the south eastern corridor of Melbourne, we have had to adapt our offerings significantly during COVID to ensure we continue to service the needs of the Victorian community through essential services at this difficult time.

Louise has been with SMCT for 3 years, and has prior experience in the global INGO and not for profit sector, as well as with state government and commercial clients in Australia and the UK.

Gordon Tansey

With over 20 years’ experience, I take great pleasure in working with families to farewell their loved ones with dignity, love and celebration. I am a caring celebrant who strives to create the right atmosphere in fulfilling my clients’ requirements. I am experienced with traditional and non-traditional funerals, baby and child funerals, suicides, sudden deaths, as well as expected deaths. I deliver exceptional service, with a passion to ensure that every funeral is personal and meaningful, fulfilling the wishes of the deceased as well as the family, and most importantly, accurately reflecting the life of the deceased. I believe honesty, compassion, integrity and insight is crucial in building ongoing relationships with bereaved families.

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