Keynote speakers

ACORN are excited to introduce you to our keynote speakers and MCs.

Georgie CarrollNurse A

Nurse Comedian, Georgie Carroll, will be bringing the lols to the 2022 ACORN International Conference. Author of Off the Charts and creator of the viral stand up clip '3 stages of nursing' is happy to show you her funniest bits in this session. You won't be learning, you will be in stitches – the good kind.

Caleb Ferguson


Dr Caleb Ferguson RN BScN MHlth PhD FCSANNZ FACN FESC is an Associate Professor at Western Sydney University and Western Sydney Local Health District. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (University of Stirling, 2005), Master of Health Leadership (University of Tasmania, 2011) and a PhD (University of Technology, Sydney 2015). A cardiovascular nurse researcher by background his research program is designed to improve the lives of people living with atrial fibrillation and heart failure, with a focus on the use of technologies to support self-management for stroke prevention. With expertise in translational health research and implementation science, his research spans ageing, frailty, cardiovascular disease, health technologies and consumer engagement.

Gail O'Brien AO

Gail Obrien

Gail O'Brien AO is a director of Chris O'Brien Lifehouse and prominent advocate for holistic and integrated cancer care.

A health professional of 40 years, Gail trained in physiotherapy and is skilled in a diverse range of therapies including orthopaedic rehabilitation, gerontology and women's health. For 20 years she was practice manager of a large head and neck surgical practice at Royal Prince Alfred and St George Private Hospitals.

Gail’s late husband, Professor Chris O'Brien AO, is the celebrated surgeon, cancer specialist and visionary behind the Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, an integrated cancer centre and not-for-profit hospital in Sydney, Australia.

Since his death from brain cancer in 2009, Gail has dedicated herself to bringing Chris's vision to life – a purpose built, state-of-the-art complex that offers everything a cancer patient needs in one place from surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy to allied health, education, complementary therapies and psychosocial support. 

Amidst her grief for her husband and also her eldest son, Adam, who died suddenly in 2011 from undiagnosed epilepsy, Gail stepped forward to fill the gap left without Chris, as well as harness the lessons of her husband's and son's illnesses and deaths. She joined the Board of Directors in 2009 and took on the role of steward for the culture and vision of Chris O'Brien Lifehouse. 

Today, she works in the hospital in an executive role as Patient Advocate. She continues to serve as an active member of the Board of Directors, public advocate and spokesperson, patron of the Bequest Society, and member of the Chris O'Brien Foundation.

On Australia Day 2018, she was awarded the Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to the community as an advocate for and supporter of cancer sufferers and their families.


Your MCs at the ACORN 2022 Conference will be ACORN CEO Rebecca East and ACORN Education Manager Edwina Blannin-Ferguson.

Rebecca East Feb 2019

A respected national perioperative leader, Rebecca East assumed her appointment as ACORN’s Chief Executive Officer in late 2019. Having served six consecutive years as an ACORN board member, initially as Victorian representative, then Victorian director and finally as president, Rebecca brings unique perspectives and deep knowledge of the Australian perioperative community.

Rebecca was awarded ACORN Fellowship in 2018, the same year she completed a Master of Nursing Practice (Perioperative) and Master of Nursing Practice (Nurse Practitioner) at Deakin University. Rebecca’s clinical practice is diverse. For the past nine years Rebecca has worked in private practice, she gained endorsement as a nurse practitioner in 2014 and is now a proud director of her own orthopaedic and sports injury practice in central Victoria. Rebecca is responsible for overall management of the team’s orthopaedic and sports injury patients and continues to practice at the coal face assuming a weekly surgical assisting role with her business partner who is an orthopaedic surgeon. Rebecca well understands, supports and represents the broader Australian perioperative nursing community. ACORN directors, members and staff are grateful for Rebecca’s leadership and look forward to ACORN’s bright future under her strategic direction.Edwina Blannin-Ferguson 2021

Edwina has held a number of education and management positions within the perioperative environment in both New South Wales and Victoria. Her passion for enhancing and progressing the role of the perioperative nurse in Australia is ongoing and her background in both clinical education and tertiary education provide a robust foundation for delivering content in a variety of learning environments.

One of Edwina's passions is continuing professional development to ensure best practice is underpinned by up-to-date evidence for the best possible patient outcomes. She has completed a Masters in Nursing, a Diploma of Leadership and Management and a range of clinically relevant qualifications. She is also passionate about multi-disciplinary education opportunities, the use of simulation to improve learning experiences and the incorporation of technology-based learning to improve accessibility of content to perioperative nurses across Australia.