Meet Robert (Bob) Kennedy AM

Qualifications: BEc(ANU), FCPARobert Kennedy

Why did you join the University Council?

Having worked for Mars who encouraged their people to participate in community activities it seemed a natural fit to join Council and contribute something where I could. Also I am a great supporter of higher education and big believer in the benefit of research and as Newcastle is strong in both Engineering and Medical research the choice was simple.

What do you look back on most fondly when it comes to your own education?

My first experience as a part time student was an Economics lecture when I heard “take a look at the person on your right, now look at the person on your left – only one of you will succeed this year".


With an extensive career as a global business leader in the food technology industry, Mr Bob Kennedy began his career in industrial engineering at Port Kembla before moving to the United Kingdom to work for British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC), the largest non-ferrous cables manufacturer in the world. He moved with BICC to Malaysia before returning to Australia to work in management consulting and then as CEO for Reed Consolidated’s New Zealand operations.

From 1984 to 2004, Mr Kennedy provided leadership and strategic business expertise to some of the world's largest companies including 11 years as CEO of Masterfoods Australia, growing the company's annual turnover from $50 million to $225 million. Mr Kennedy was also Managing Director of Uncle Ben's Petcare, a division of Mars Incorporated known for its Pal and Whiskas brands, growing sales six per cent per year to in excess of one billion dollars. At the same time he managed the New Zealand operation of Mars, overseeing its pet food sales to a record $NZD100 million a year.

In his time with Mars Incorporated Group, Bob also spent time in Indonesia as the Managing Director of Effem (a sugar confectionary business in Sumatra) and in Singapore as Vice President Supply – Asia Pacific covering China, Japan and Australia.

Mr Kennedy is the former Chair of the Hunter Medical Research Institute Board, and under his guidance, fundraising, research staff numbers and economic contribution all trebled. In his role as the inaugural Chair of the Central Coast Development Corporation, Mr Kennedy oversaw the amalgamation of three different tourism bodies into one. Mr Kennedy has also made a significant contribution to the Hunter Valley wine industry serving as a Director of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association from 2005 to 2010 and leading the Broke Fordwich Wine Association as President for two years.

He is a Fellow of Certified Practising Accountants, having graduated from the Australian National University in 1970 with a Bachelor of Economics. In 2019, Mr Kennedy was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to business and to the community of the Hunter.

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.