Please note that registrations for the conference have now closed.

Presented in partnership with
the Australian Tourist and Heritage Rail Association and Puffing Billy Railway Board

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    Step back in time at one of Australia’s oldest and best-preserved heritage steam railways, Puffing Billy, situated in the picturesque Dandenong Ranges and only one hour from Melbourne CBD.

    With lush fern gullies brushing past the open side carriages and Mountain Ash trees towering overhead, Puffing Billy Railway makes for a wonderful opportunity to relax and breathe in the fresh air whilst the train makes its way through the temperate rainforest.

    Discover wonderful wildlife and spectacular landscapes made for adventure while sitting on the carriage sill of Puffing Billy’s open-side carriages; a truly iconic experience that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

    Located adjacent to Lakeside Station sits Puffing Billy Railway’s new state-of-the-art Lakeside Visitor Centre. Featuring a modern café with the best produce on offer in the region, a dedicated gift shop featuring locally designed treasures and a gallery of steam artefacts in the Lakeside Hall, the Visitor Centre offers guests a cultural hub with world class facilities. Open daily with free entry to passengers and visitors.

    • DATES

      Thursday 20, Friday 21 & Saturday 22 July 2023

    • THEME

      Sector unity, looking forward, development of best practice.

    The Lakeside Hall Museum, located within the Puffing Billy Lakeside Visitor Centre. Puffing Billy's original locomotive 3A can be seen sitting on a plinth, as can a variety of other historic assets and interpretive displays.


    • To build strong and sustainable Tourist & Heritage Railways along with Heritage Tourism, by equipping operators with relevant professional development and industry updates, as well as industry compliance.
    • To build collaboration and peer led insights amongst Tourist & Heritage Railways and Heritage Tourism
    • Explore the key future challenges and opportunities of the sector



    Learn more about our speakers by reading their biographies below.

    ABOUT STEFANO BENAZZO | During his diplomatic career (1974-2012), Stefano served at the Embassies of Italy in: Bonn, Washington DC, Moscow. Deputy Diplomatic Counselor to the President of the Republic of Italy. Inspector of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador of Italy in Belarus and in Bulgaria. Retired Dec. 31, 2012.

    Artistic activity: more than 50 personal exhibitions in Italy and abroad, participation to 40 collective exhibitions, 8 catalogues, more than 320 articles on Italian and international media.

    Stefano published four books on photos of stranded wrecks in Italian, English, and French. As a photographer of stranded wrecks, he photographed more than 450 wrecks in 20 countries in 4 continents over 50 years.

    As a sculptor (figurative and non-figurative), he works in wood, marble, alabaster, bronze.

    Stefano also builds architectural models (churches, mosques, synagogues, monuments civils, etc.), models of boats and ships, cars, and motorcycles.

    Stefano speaks French, English, German, and Spanish.

    ABOUT DANIEL ZOLFEL | Daniel Zolfel is the Acting CEO of the historic Zig Zag Railway in the NSW town of Lithgow. He first joined the Railway in 2016 as a volunteer, before becoming a member and moving into a full-time paid role as Infrastructure and Asset Manager. Most recently, he has led a team of hard working volunteers and staff to rebuild and reopen the iconic piece of Australia’s rail history following years of shutdown and setbacks. Daniel looks forward to continuing to lead his dedicated team and ensure the Zig Zag Railway remains a sustainable tourist gem for future generations over many years to come. 

    ABOUT DEREK HENEKER | Derek has more than 25 years’ experience in transport safety covering engineering, safety policy and regulation. In managing the Rail Safety Regulator functions in South Australia from 2004-2012, Derek was integral in the establishment of the national rail safety regulatory framework. He has subsequently held a range of senior operational and strategic positions with ONRSR since 2013.

    ABOUT SIMON CALABRESE | As Account Chair for the ATHRA facility, Simon will have oversight and responsibility for the overall strategic and service proposition that Marsh provides to ATHRA and its members. Simon’s knowledge, extensive senior level relationships locally and internationally, and passion to serve his clients will ensure ATHRA receives the best of Marsh.

    Skills and experience

    Since 2002 Simon has developed association solutions and led teams that support associations and their members. He has held various broking and management positions throughout his career. In May 2018, Simon embarked upon a new challenge and is now the National Manager of the Sport, Leisure & Entertainment specialty business at Marsh Australia.

    QUALIFICATIONS; Qualified Practising Insurance Broker (NIBA), Diploma of Financial Services (Broking, ANZIIF), Certified Insurance Professional (ANZIIF), and Senior Associate (ANZIIF).

    ABOUT MADELYN NUNN | Madelyn is an environmental advisor with VicTrack. She has worked in the rail industry for 10 years and previously in contaminated land consulting. One of her passions is to help VicTrack’s tenants including tourist and heritage railways understand their obligations under Victorian environmental legislation including in biodiversity, contaminated land, cultural heritage, and asbestos.

    ABOUT BELINDA MCKENZIE | Belinda is a biomedical scientist who volunteers in her spare time as a steam locomotive driver. She joined Puffing Billy Railway in 2010 and first trained as a steam locomotive fireman, qualifying in 2011, before continuing on to become a driver in 2019. Having worked in industries as varied as scientific research, intellectual property law, and rail operations, she brings a wide variety of skills and experience to the railway. Belinda particularly enjoys the mechanical and physical aspects of working on the heritage coal-fired locomotives. 

    ABOUT KATRINA NITSCHKE | Katrina Nitschke is a cultural/tourism sector executive who has spent time in some of Australia’s leading knowledge-based organisations, including museums, Botanic Gardens, CSIRO, and various universities and research centres. Originally trained as a marine ecologist, she found herself forging a career in places where curiosity and story-telling meet and describes herself as eternally fascinated by the world and loves inspiring that in others. She has been at Sovereign Hill Museums Association since 2019 and is now Deputy CEO and Chief Museums Officer. While at Sovereign Hill, she has led the transformation of the Gold Museum into two new centres for deep learning, the Australian Centre for Rare Arts and Forgotten Trades and the Australian Centre for Gold Rush Collections and currently leads rare trades, collections and curatorial, learning, external engagement and fundraising.

    She sits on the Ballarat Regional Tourism Board and the Victorian Tourism Industry Council Policy Committee.

    Katrina’s personal passions centre around access, inclusion and equity, and supporting education for women and girls. During downtime, you can find her in the garden with a book, her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel snoozing close by.

    ABOUT CHRIS LE MARSHALL | Chris Le Marshall is a sailor who has used his naval experience garnering leadership, technology and management skills to advance his career in business. He has experience in local and international strategy and business development across a range of industries including tourism, new technology development and rail. His company, Linqage International, also has extensive experience in the development of strategies and business plans for tourist and heritage railways. He has graduate and post graduate degrees in technology and business.

    Currently working in rail, Robert Shearer has been the Chairman of the Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway for 9 years, during which time the organization has grown and expanded its operational capacity. 

    He has, with Cert Rail, Apprenticeships Queensland and Energy Skills Queensland, developed training partnerships in both infrastructure and rollingstock maintenance programs which allow for mutually beneficial outcomes. He has travelled considerably to international rail operators and learnt from their operations what aspects can be useful to the local sector in attracting a new greater audience.

    Away from the rails has both a Master and Bachelor of Music, and has for many years been professionally engaged as both a performer, director and a conductor.

    Directions & Parking

    Puffing Billy Railway is located in the Dandenong Ranges, only 40 kilometres or one hour east of Melbourne. Getting to us is easy by car via the Eastern Freeway/Eastlink or Monash Freeway. 

    The Conference will commence at the Lakeside Visitor Centre on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 July, and at Belgrave Station on Saturday 22 July. You will find more information, including directions and parking, for each of these locations below.

    To assist delegates getting to Lakeside Visitor Centre in Emerald, Puffing Billy Railway will operate a shuttle bus service to and from Belgrave each day to suit the program. If you want to use this shuttle, please let us know in your registration form. We will contact you to confirm the details.

    Accommodation options

    Delegates are free to make their own arrangements for accommodation.

    Have a look below, including some special deals available to Puffing Billy Railway patrons!

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