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ABC Advisory Council

The ABC Advisory Council was established in 1983 under section 11 of the ABC Act, to provide advice to the Board on matters relating to the Corporation’s broadcasting programs. There are currently 12 members of the Advisory Council including the Chair, appointed by the Board. Applications to join the Council are advertised when vacancies arise.

In 2019-20, the Advisory Council welcomed a new Chair, Nicole Sheffield, and three new members: Dianne Rule, Bill Miliotis and Summer Gwynne. The members of the Advisory Council represent a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, and have deep connections to the communities they represent. Current members of the Council , their location and experience are set out below.

Nicole Sheffield - Chair
Lindfield NSW

Nicole Sheffield is a highly accomplished senior executive with extensive experience in the media, marketing and digital industries. In her role at Australia Post, Nicole is accountable for delivering key customer channels, including Australia’s largest retail network with over 4,300 post offices, the customer contact centre and digital channels. She is also responsible for brand, marketing, community and corporate responsibility. Prior to joining Australia Post, Nicole held a number of influential leadership roles in print, broadcast and digital media. Most recently, she was the Chief Digital Officer for News Corp Australia, responsible for the company’s digital revenue growth and strategy, audience and subscription growth, content optimisation and marketing. Her career also spans roles in broadcast media, publishing and telecommunications. Ms Sheffield holds a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Law from Macquarie University and a Masters of Business from the University of Technology Sydney.

Michelle McDonagh - Deputy Chair
Grafton NSW

Michelle McDonagh is a Special Education Teacher and Principal of Grafton Public School. She is involved in numerous education committees and is passionate about mental health and disability advocacy within the Clarence region. She has previously served on numerous local sporting committees.

Linda Cho
Brisbane QLD

Linda Cho is a criminal defence lawyer with Legal Aid Queensland working in South East Queensland. Linda was born in South Korea and migrated to Australia with her family in 1996. She grew up on the Gold Coast and graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and International Relations). After graduation she worked for a District Court Judge as an Associate.

Whilst practising law, Linda has continually volunteered with community legal organisations and her local church. She is currently a committee member of the Australian Asian Lawyers Association promoting diversity in the legal profession.

Jacob Matysek
Cairns QLD

Jacob Matysek is of Maori and Torres Strait Islander descent and has close family connections with both Erub (Darnley Island) and Ugar (Stephens Island) in the eastern Torres Strait. Jacob holds a Bachelor of Laws and Diploma of Information Technology from James Cook University. He is a member of the Australian Army Reserves and serves on the management committee of the Far North Medico Legal Society. He works with the Victims Legal Service Queensland and is completing postgraduate studies at the College of Law.

Nkosana Mafico
Brisbane QLD

Nkosana Mafico graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Business Management First Class Honours, and was Valedictorian of the Business School. He is currently a PhD Scholar at Monash University where he examines how cultural and political convictions influence organisations. Outside of academia, Nkosana has co-founded and served as CEO of a Telstra funded software company. He also founded CYALA – the Council for Young Africans Living Abroad, and for three years was its managing director.

Amara Barnes
Wollongong NSW

Amara Barnes is a proud Wiradjuri woman from central west NSW. Amara currently works with Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Corporation in Redfern with a vision to bridge the gap between corporate entities and Aboriginal organisations working at a community level to drive social outcomes. Amara previously worked with the University of Wollongong where she was responsible for the university’s inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan, she was the Manager of the Indigenous Careers portfolio at Westpac Group, an Emerging Leader on the Westpac Indigenous Advisory Committee, and a member of the St George Illawarra Dragons Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Group.

Amara is currently completing a Master of Business Administration with the University of Sydney and is a recipient of the University of Sydney Business School’s inaugural Indigenous Leaders MBA Scholarship.

Josephine Buontempo
North Freemantle WA

Josephine Buontempo has more than 25 years executive and senior management experience in the social services, legal, government, training and corporate sectors. She has qualifications in social science, migration law and training. She has worked across a wide range of civil society/for purpose organisations and developed and managed services in the areas of community law, education and training, social housing, employment, disability, family, youth and children’s services, refugee and humanitarian protection and resettlement programs, grant making and migration. Currently, Jo is a non-executive and independent director for community housing and Aboriginal corporations, and is managing director of a global Australian migration consultancy company.

Sarah Curran
Tennant Creek NT

Sarah Curran is a primary school teacher and business owner in the remote town of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. She grew up in Tennant Creek and returned there in 2010, after completing her university studies. Sarah has worked in a variety of roles in the Education Department, including Families as First Teachers Educator in three local communities, and Network Leader in the Learning and Performance team, Schools South. In 2015, Sarah and her husband took over her family’s plumbing business, which covers more than one million square kilometres, including Aboriginal communities and cattle stations. She is involved in the start-up of the Barkly BMX club. Sarah is passionate about empowering the community and its young people through education, health and wellness. She has three small children.

Jason Jingshi Li
Canberra, ACT

Jason Jingshi Li is a data scientist based in Canberra. He has more than a decade of experience in artificial intelligence research and development, and currently leads the technical delivery of AI solutions to public and financial sectors. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the Australian National University, and was previously a research scientist at the ANU and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). He co-founded the Black Mountain Piano Quartet, where he also serves as the principal violinist. Jason was born in China, spent his formative years in New Zealand, and moved to Australia when he was 18. He is married with two primary-school-aged children.

Dianne Rule
Melbourne VIC

Dianne Rule has worked in education, publishing, politics and community projects for 35 years. Her work experience has given her a sound working knowledge of government, governance, media, policy formation, strategic planning, financial management and marketing. She is a veteran of the craft of advocacy and has forged deep community liaisons through her career. She has served on several boards and committees, currently chairs the JMB Foundation, and is a member of the AusNet Services Consumer Forum and the Royal Children’s Hospital Advisory Committee.

Summer Gwynne
Richmond TAS

Summer Gwynne is a Child and Family Health Nurse who has spent 20 years working in the public health system in neonatal and paediatric fields. Recently, she has taken this passion for supporting Australian families in a new direction, starting her own business with a strong focus on supporting rural families in the early stages of parenting. She complements these activities with active participation in a number of for-purpose organisations, including the National Rural Women's Coalition, Australian Association of Infant Mental Health, Child Health Association of Tasmania and the Tasmanian chapter of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Her biggest motivator is her six children.

Bill Miliotis
Hyde Park SA

Bill Miliotis is a social worker by training, holds a Master of Health Service Administration, and has 25 years of experience in social, welfare community services and health care. He has a strong interest in governance, change, consumer-centred practice and advocacy. Bill is committed to addressing access, equity, and justice, and eliminating barriers encountered by the socially disadvantaged. Bill strives to achieve better health and welfare outcomes for people by fast tracking service re-design, performance improvement and change strategies. He is also a proud father of two boys.

ABC Advisory Council  Jason Jingshi Li, Michelle McDonagh, Nicole Sheffield, Linda cho.
Standing, L-R: Amara Barnes, Jacob Matysek, Nkosana Mafico, Dianne Rule, Bill Miliotis, Summer Gwynne, Josephine Buontempo, Sarah Curran. Sitting, L-R: Jason Jingshi Li, Michelle McDonagh, Nicole Sheffield, Linda cho.

The Advisory Council met three times during the year: October 2019 and March 2020 in Sydney, and June 2020 by videoconference. Either the ABC Board Chair or the Managing Director, or both, met with the Advisory Council at each Council meeting. ABC Leadership Team members and executives also met with the Council to discuss programming-related matters.

Over the year, the Council conducted workshops into ABC Life and ABC iview. Advisory Council members were asked to ‘immerse’ themselves in the platform content over a 2-3 week period and to canvass sentiment in their communities in order to provide feedback.

The Advisory Council also provided feedback on selected news and current affairs program episodes and participated in discussions regarding the ABC Content Plan, the ABC Australia iview app, Australia Talks and strategies by the News, Regional & Local, and Audiences teams to reach more Australians.

Council members played a key role in representing and facilitating discussion between the ABC and the community at events including the Heywire Regional Youth Summit and Australia Talks community events.


In 2019-20, the Advisory Council made a recommendation to the Board in relation to its immersive workshop into the ABC listen app. The Council provided a report to the Board on its immersion on ABC Life. No recommendation was made in relation to ABC Life.

ABC listen app

The aim of the workshop conducted in February 2019 was to provide the ABC listen team with clear and specific feedback about the value and performance of the app, its curation and content and to provide recommendations on how the service could be improved.

Members reported a positive experience of the app. Comments included: “One of the best kept secrets of the ABC”; “A hidden treasure”. Members sought out content that they may not have typically listened to and many found content that they liked, such as live sports coverage through ABC Grandstand, the latest News bulletin and a broad range of podcast material.

Members reported that awareness of the app in their communities was low even among regular consumers of ABC content, except for people who listen to podcasts. However, once people had downloaded it, they were pleasantly surprised by the offering and wanted to continue using the app.

The Council commended the ABC listen app team on the depth and breadth of audio content available via the app. The Council recommended:

  • greater promotion to increase awareness of the app and the audio content available to all Australians
  • development of the app to make content easier to discover
  • the addition of functionality to allow users to personalise their experience
  • better ‘how to’ instructions to make users aware of the functions of the app.

These recommendations have been taken into account in a number of initiatives put in place by the ABC listen team since the Advisory Council workshop, including:

Promotion: The app received extensive promotion as the destination for live radio streaming for content including the Australian Summer cricket seasons, Cricket World Cup and The Ashes, Local Radio Breakfast programming, Anzac Day, and Federal Election and Australia Votes content. Targeted state-based messaging promoted the app as the listening destination for content including State Election campaigns, AFL and NRL coverage. Teams across platforms have been provided with tools and encouraged to cross-promote listen app content. Links and banners have been used to direct audiences to relevant content.

Discoverability: The search functionality has been improved to help listeners find programs based on keywords and to find episodes and radio stations. A new ‘continue listening' feature has been added that allows users to easily find programs they haven’t finished.

Personalisation: Recommendations now enable discovery of ‘popular' and ‘trending' content, and will become increasingly personalised as the ABC extends its personalisation capability.

Better ‘how to’ instructions: A 'set up' function has been added to teach new users how to get the most out of their experience, including a location-based station finder.

The team continues to add new content that responds to audience data and insights and informs and entertains. Content has been provided in response to COVID-19, Your Mental Health and Walking Together; stations livestream events such as ABC RN's Big Weekend of Books and national listening events.

ABC Life

The Advisory Council participated in a workshop with the ABC Life team in June 2019. The aim of the workshop was to provide the ABC Life team with clear and specific feedback about the value and experience of ABC Life. In October 2019, the ABC Life team provided an update to the Council on developments and improvements since the workshop. The Advisory Council noted that the service was still developing, and several initiatives were underway. It did not make a recommendation to the Board.

Feedback provided by the Advisory Council was that the content was light, uplifting and positive and appealing to young women. However, the content would need to compete for attention in a crowded market with a difficult to reach target audience. To be distinctive, the content needed strong alignment with the ABC brand as a trusted source free of commercial interests.