Amelia Evans

Chief Executive Officer | Queensland Airports Limited

  • Change agent
  • Diversity champion
  • Future focused
Based in: QLD
Modes: Aviation
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"Airports are threefold – we are infrastructure, aviation, and tourism - and that provides a different perspective in terms of what the industry can offer women, along with an incredible diversity of roles."

Current positions

  • Chief Executive Officer, Queensland Airports Limited
  • Council Member, Chair Finance and Infrastructure Committee, Pro-Chancellor, Griffith University
  • Advisory Board Member, UNIQ You

Previous positions

  • Chief Financial Officer, Queensland Airports Limited
  • Head of Finance – International Commercial Sales & Customer Experience, Qantas
  • Head of Finance – Ground Operations, Qantas
  • Head of Finance – Engineering, Qantas
  • Financial Controller – Fleet & Commercial Projects, Qantas
  • Finance Director and Chief Operating Officer, IGA INC.
  • Head of Financial and Portfolio Planning, British Telecom
  • Financial Controller/Management Consultant, Commodities Export Marketing Authority, Solomon
  • Islands, EY Secondment
  • Business Services/Tax Manager, EY
  • Director, Destination Gold Coast
  • Chair of the Risk and Audit Committee, National Trust of Australia (QLD)
  • Committee Member, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Career Snapshot 

Amelia Evans was appointed Queensland Airports Limited (QAL) Chief Executive Officer in July 2022 after joining as Chief Financial Officer in 2016. 

As CEO, Amelia is responsible for setting the group's strategy, and leads an experienced executive team to deliver safe and exceptional airport experiences and infrastructure projects, expanding QAL’s connectivity, promoting an inclusive culture and delivering sustainable outcomes for all stakeholders. 

Amelia is a qualified Chartered Accountant with over 25 years’ of strategy, finance and operational experience in Australia and global destinations such as the United Kingdom, Pacific Islands, United States of America and Caribbean.  Her experience extends across multiple sectors and organisations including EY, Qantas, British Telecom and private retail and property companies. 

Amelia is currently a Council Member and Pro-Chancellor for Griffith University and an Advisory member for UNIQ You, with previous board roles including Destination Gold Coast, National Trust Queensland and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.

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In her own words

My dream at university was to be a partner in one of what was then the big six accounting firms, and I joined EY where I specialised in tax and business services.  I was then offered the opportunity to go to the Solomon Islands with EY and work as a seconded consultant with the Commodities Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) which involved not only running the business as a financial controller, but managing people, marketing, and strategy. The role involved exporting copra (coconut products including oil) globally and setting up copra mills across the Solomon Islands.  It was a pivotal transition from professional accounting into industry.

I was living in Honiara and at 22 years old was the most senior woman in the country and the business. Sometimes it was quite scary, not having any guidance on how to nail the role, but at the same time it gave me the confidence that if I could do what I was doing, I could do anything!

That was the start of my industry career, and it involved logistics and an element of transport. I spent two years in the Solomon Islands and while I was offered the opportunity to return to EY Brisbane, I decided to move to London where I stayed for seven years working for British Telecom. My role was incredibly interesting because it while it involved finance, it was cross functional incorporating strategy, capital and transformation projects including the roll out of broadband into Europe. I managed a lot of people, travelled extensively, and lived in New York and Washington on and off as well.

I was in the process of returning to Australia to join a banking institution when an opportunity came up to work in the Caribbean with a holding company that owned an IGA, significant property holdings and land. I spent the next five years in supermarket operations, property development, marina logistics and transformation projects. It was a whole new industry for me, and I definitely had a lot of people questioning my career choice. I looked at it as an opportunity to work in a new industry, challenge myself, gain learnings, make a difference and travel. I am adventurous and I took the punt. I only promised six months but stayed close to five years. 

When I returned to Sydney, I joined Qantas which was actually a dream come true for me. I always loved military aircrafts and attended airshows in London all the time. I greatly enjoyed my near seven years at Qantas, working across engineering, projects, commercial, operations and customer experience. It played a key role to me joining QAL as CFO. 

My CFO role was unusually broad incorporating strategy, finance, treasury, technology, analytics and people and culture. I was literally being set up for success with this portfolio strongly aligning with my passion for people and strategy. I built confidence with the executive team, our banks, and our shareholders through my leadership during COVID when the business was decimated. My sole focus through COVID was to protect our people and business’s sustainability, as best as we could control.

When I was appointed CEO, I was excited about how I could make a difference and I’ve introduced a number of initiatives to reset the business. The reality is as a CEO the buck stops with you. It’s my responsibility to instil a good culture, set the tone from the top and manage risk.

The biggest challenge coming into the role was that my stakeholder eco system changed dramatically and I am managing new stakeholders such as Premiers, Ministers, governments, and tourism bodies.

An immediate focus of mine was to get every individual in the business to think about how their job connects to the organisation’s purpose and how they are contributing to our overall outcomes. I have also focused on the Board dynamic and heightened attention on building our culture of safety, sustainability, learning and being brave. Nothing was specifically not working when I stepped into the CEO role – the business overall was in a good state, but I wanted to elevate everyone’s thinking about purpose, making a difference, and thinking strategically about the longer term.

Doing the best we can be doing

I am passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and believe we should always be striving to do the best we can do. The diversity of QAL’s workforce is good, and three of our seven member executive leadership team are women. 

Throughout my career I was always been one of the most senior women in those roles and even now I am only one of two airport CEOs in Australia who are female. I have had to deal with a lot of bias because I was young, a woman, and came from a mixed cultural background.  Today
I think if I can use these experiences for the greater good – then now is the time. Since being appointed CEO I have had a lot of young women, with varying personal backgrounds (including culturally) reach out to me saying ‘if you can do it, so can I.’ I feel so humbled by that.

In the past year I have spoken on a lot of panels and when I do it, I do it with heart.  I believe you need to be impactful, really clear on direction, vulnerable so people can see you for you, and deliver outcomes – and while that is hard, if you do all that people will come on the journey with you.

I was recently speaking with new starters in our business and said ‘go home tonight and think about what you want to learn from the industry that excites you, and suddenly you will find something new inside you that says I love this industry and you will be an advocate for the next person.’

Traditionally airports have been all about infrastructure, but I don’t see it like that. I say we are three fold - we are infrastructure, aviation and tourism – and that provides a different perspective in terms of what the industry can offer women, along with an incredible diversity of roles. 

Some of our new starters aged 25 to 30 have said an attraction was the opportunity to work with a female CEO and having role models in the executive and senior leadership positions. People are also interested in the recovery of travel tourism and aviation transport and excited about the role they could play in it. When I am interviewing people to join the organisation 90% of the time one of the first questions from prospective employees is ‘tell me why you are here Amelia, why you wanted the CEO role and what you can do for me?’

Vulnerable leadership

The best advice is to back yourself, don’t be afraid to take risks, and it’s ok to not know something. If you can find confidence in those three things within you, you will be a better leader, because you will not be afraid to be vulnerable and say ‘I don’t have the answer but let’s work through it.’

Earlier in my career there were definitely people questioning my decisions regarding the roles I took on and the places I lived, and while I am not naturally a risk taker, I needed to prove to myself that I can do great things by not following the trodden path. I found myself through these experiences and would not change a thing.

My vision for the next five years is...

Airports will be a destination in their own right, using technology and digitisation to ensure accessibility, sustainability, and the focus on customer and people are always at the forefront of all we do.

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