David B McNeil OAM Award

David B McNeil OAM Award Recipients

2023 - Nicholas Cook

Nick Cook, Director and Proprietor, Kingsway Welding made a major life-decision to move beyond the family farm, buying out the business from his father to take it to the next level. He has since grown it to one of the key employers in the region with further growth and expansion well underway. The Transformative Leadership Program will equip Nick with the confidence and skills to lead his team forward as the company continues to build its national brand and footprint.

2022 - Matthew Wilkins

Matthew Wilkins, CEO and Managing Director of Venergy Australia has demonstrated a serial entrepreneur track record while building Venergy as his core business. He has an ability to sense when to drive forward and when to pause growth and consolidate and the ILF has high expectations for his future business success and expects a significant contribution to the SA economy to follow.

Ben Klason and David McNeil

2021 - Inaugural recipient Ben Klason

Ben Klason, National Enterprise and Marketing Manager LEADER, was working for a LEADER-authorised agent in a regional town, he was offered a position to join the company. Within 12 months, he relocated to Melbourne to establish a new warehouse and office, which grew beyond expectations.

After a few short years in that role, Ben relocated to Adelaide and was subsequently promoted to his current role. His innovation and development skills have been instrumental in the rapid growth of the largest Australian-owned computer manufacturer in the country.

The Board was conscious the inaugural recipient would set the benchmark for future recipients and Ben was chosen after very careful and thorough consideration.


The David B McNeil OAM Award is funded through a generous “Living Bequest” donated to the Industry Leaders Chairman’s Foundation by David McNeil OAM. The bequest will provide an additional top up to the standard grant amount to be offered for attendance at an Australian Institution that offers an international component of the course. It seeks to build a corpus which could, provided agreed conditions are met, fund the grant in perpetuity.


All applicants for an ILF grant will be eligible for the David B McNeil OAM Award provided they satisfy the following criteria:

  • They must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • They will show the greatest potential to contribute more than others to employment and wealth generation in South Australia.
  • They should have exhibited entrepreneurial flair in their workplace to date.
  • Must be proposing to undertake a course at an Australian University that includes an international component.
The Award will be given to a suitable applicant assessed by the Board of the ILF in its absolute discretion. If the Board does not consider there is a suitable applicant in any year, no award will be made.


The ILF will advertise and promote the award recipients through appropriate media channels, a website honour board, the ILF brochure and in appropriate displays.

About David B McNeil OAM

David McNeil OAM is one of the three visionary leaders, including the late Colin Peters AM and Stephen Myatt, who jointly created the Industry Leaders Fund when the Engineering Employers Association of SA Group Training Scheme ceased to operate.
As Treasurer for many years, he set the foundations for, and shepherded, the financial success which is the cornerstone of the accomplishments of the ILF to date. His term as Treasurer was followed by two years as the second President of the ILF, following the retirement of Colin Peters. He is an Emeritus Member of the ILF and continues to provide valuable service, guidance, and insights as a member of the Board today. David has had a long and highly successful entrepreneurial career in multiple businesses, many of which have seen significant growth under his leadership. His services have also been regularly sought after to turn around businesses that are in difficult circumstances.  David has served on many government, business and educational boards and was an office bearer for the Australian Industry Group SA branch, and nationally for several decades.
David McNeil
David B McNeil OAM