meet the team
Our festival wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to bring it to life. Get to know the talented and passionate members of our team who make the Cairns Tropical Writers Festival an unforgettable experience.
With 30 years of experience in marketing, communications, leadership, and business management, working locally and internationally in fields as diverse as construction, media, conservation, women’s leadership, fashion and the arts, Jules has an acute understanding of the importance of establishing and maintaining productive relationships, and the ability to engage stakeholders to produce a win/win situation.
Renowned for her balanced viewpoint and direct, collaborative approach, Jules is motivated by her passion to see Cairns and the Far North thrive, and joins the CTWF Board with enthusiasm and drive to ensure the 2024 event is a huge success.
Margaret is a proud (almost) local having lived in the far north since the mid 90s.
By day she works with Spinal Life Australia as their regional manager for the northern half of the state and outside of work hours Margaret loves to read (of course) and swim and be part of things happening around the community.
She’s not sure why, but parades make her cry happy tears.
This year her favourite reads have been All The Living and the Dead by Hayley Campbell, God of No Good by Sita Walker and Love Stories by Trent Dalton.
Tiina Horn is a Cairns local with a career in hospitality that spans more than twenty years. She co-owns Little Sister restaurant with her husband and enjoys the challenges and flexibility that come with running a small business.
As an avid reader with a passion for storytelling, when not working in the restaurant or wrangling her three kids, Tiina enjoys the creativity of writing both short and long-form fiction. With a commitment to developing her craft, she is currently working on her first novel and hopes to one day fulfil her long-term goal of becoming a published author.
Tiina joined the CTWF committee in 2022 and is enthusiastic about seeing the festival thrive well into the future.
Sonya Barber is a career health and fitness professional, writing and presenting local and statewide media and ABC Radio. Sonya is a teacher at CQUniversity here in Cairns and has taught Sport, Recreation and Fitness for 30 years in the VET Sector. Sonya specialises in Women’s health and fitness, Corporate Health, Pre and Post-Natal fitness, and Positive Ageing and presents all things healthy lifestyle with a ‘use it or lose it’ message for us all. Sonya also works for Belgravia Leisure in marketing, and social media and helps to drive programs for Access and Inclusion. Sonya enjoyed the Tropical Writers Festival last year so much, volunteering and interviewing Australian of the Year, Taryn Brumfit, from the Body Image Movement and her Book ‘Embrace for Kids’, that she joined the committee and is thoroughly looking forward to the CTWF in 2024.
Val Schier is retired from paid work and spends lots of time being actively involved in environmental and cultural matters; when she’s not travelling, that is! She puts her skills in management, training, planning, team-building and negotiating to good use in various roles in volunteer organisations that make our place an even better place to live. Before this, she was Mayor of Cairns, proud of initiating an events strategy to attract visitors, stimulate locals, build on our resources and promote the region. She shares the Writers’ Festival committee’s vision to grow the event and make a mark on the national calendar. She is lucky enough to live on the waterfront at Machans, always finds time to devour books, (loves Robbie Arnott from her home state, Tasmania), and every day feels gratitude to live in such a stunning local environment.
John Shute is an English and Humanities teacher at Redlynch State College. He moved to Cairns in 2021 from Victoria. He has been an educator for over thirty years and is passionate about exposing youth to the writing world. As a teacher he set up writing clubs, took students to the Melbourne and now Cairns Writers Festival, organised writing workshops and ran poetry slam competitions. He is keen to promote the youth program.
Outside his work role, John helps lead the local parents climate action group and his recent writing has been mainly non-fiction to help protect our unique World Heritage listed rainforests and reef. He has a strong commitment to social justice. John’s own writing interest is in poetry and short stories. Moving to the tropics has inspired him to set aside more time for his fiction writing.
Clare Holliday is a dynamic and accomplished professional, known for her exceptional leadership skills and unwavering dedication. For the past seven years, she has served as the General Manager of Sunshine Tower, a prominent establishment in Cairns. Clare's visionary approach and commitment to excellence have propelled the hotel to new heights of success.
Beyond her professional achievements, Clare possesses a deep love for reading and the arts. She finds solace in the pages of captivating books and has a profound appreciation for various art forms. Prior to her role as General Manager, Clare honed her marketing expertise at renowned companies such as Diageo and Calvin Klein, where she utilized her creativity and strategic thinking to drive impactful campaigns.
Clare's multi-faceted talents and friendly demeanour make her an exceptional leader and an invaluable asset to any organization she is a part of.
Judith Ketchell is a proud descendant of the saltwater people of the Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation, Torres Strait where language and culture remain strong today.
Judith graduated as a teacher in 1982. Her teaching career has spanned over 38 years in many remote, rural and urban school communities. Over many generations, the strong women in Judith’s family have always been the first teachers and storytellers who helped to shape her purpose in life and these same teachings and stories have been passed down to her children.
Judith has recently retired from her role as Executive Principal at Tagai State College and has been focussed on establishing her own consultancy business influencing Indigenous leadership and Indigenous women’s business in the community.
Judith remains an active member of the Australian Institute of Teaching, School Leadership (AITSL) Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander advisory group with specific work about how best to build the cultural capabilities of leaders and teachers in all Australian schools.