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SIAA appoints government big hitter as new CEO

The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) has appointed a former adviser to an ex-science minister to become its next CEO.

Maria MacNamara joins the organisation after a series of state and federal cuts to space investment last year, including the axing of a $1.2-billion Earth observation program.

She replaces James Brown who announced his intention to step back from the position in October.

SIAA’s executive chairman, Jeremy Hallett, praised MacNamara as a “respected transformational leader” with 35 years of experience in membership organisations, the public sector, and global ICT.


“As the Australian space sector reaches new heights driven by its commercial enterprise and academic institutions, Maria brings crucial expertise in strategy and delivery, a deep global network and the ability to unlock further opportunity domestically and abroad,” he said.

MacNamara’s CV has seen her hold a number of influential government-related positions.

Between 2012 and 2019, she was an adviser to Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who, in that time, held roles including assistant treasurer, cabinet secretary and minister for industry, innovation and science.

Significantly, during his tenure as science minister, Sinodinos announced a review of the space sector in 2017 that played a crucial role in the creation of the Australian Space Agency the following year.


Most recently, MacNamara completed a term as the director of government affairs and innovation strategy at global ICT infrastructure company Kyndryl.

“Australia plays a vital role in the global space industry through its strategic geographic location, skilled workforce, and the innovative technologies developed by its enterprises to address challenges within the international space ecosystem,” said MacNamara.

“I am excited to collaborate with the Space Industry Association of Australia members, our public and private partners, and the SIAA team to leverage this valuable asset and contribute to the expansion of Australia's share in the global space economy.”

MacNamara will be based in Sydney and begin as SIAA's CEO on 22 April 2024.

Last year’s wide-ranging cuts to space projects included the axing of a $32.3 million pledge to help Australia’s spaceports, the downgrading of South Australia’s Australian Space Park, and the abolishing of the high-profile National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO).

The NSMEO, announced by the previous administration in the weeks leading up to the election, would have seen four local satellites launched from 2028.

The initiative was hoped to reduce Australia’s reliance on international partners for Earth observation data. In the months since, several high-profile industry figures criticised the cuts.

Swinburne University professor Alan Duffy said the move had a “chilling factor” on the sector, while Equatorial Launch Australia chief executive officer Michael Jones went further, accusing space of now being a low priority for the new government.

However, the head of the Australian Space Agency was more positive, arguing in October at the SIAA’s Southern Space conference that the sector had maintained its “critical momentum”.

“We must not allow temporary challenges to derive our sense of ambition,” he said.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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