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Our Patron and Board

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Our Patron

The Honourable Steve Bracks AC

Steve Bracks is dedicated to Victoria and the Otway region and has played a key role in protecting the Otways natural heritage for the future.

During his term in office Steve Bracks’ government was responsible for the creation of the Great Otway National Park, the cessation of clear fell logging and the subsequent protection of this area’s incredibly valuable natural heritage. Mr Bracks has close personal ties to the Otway coastline and a keen knowledge of the area.

Learn more about our Patron.

Our Advisory Board

Dr Deborah Seifert AM (Chair)

BSc(Hons) DipEd MEdSt DEd MACE

Deborah has a diverse background in education and philanthropy. Deborah facilitates strategic planning reviews and improvement agendas and has undertaken a range of projects in Asia, the Middle East and Australia. She is involved as Director and on advisory boards with a number of organisations in education, philanthropy and international affairs. Her leadership positions have included Head of Fintona Girls School, Melbourne, Head of University College, University of Melbourne and CEO of Philanthropy Australia. She is currently Head of International House, The University of Melbourne.  Deborah joined the Advisory Board in 2014 and was appointed Chair of the Conservation Ecology Centre Advisory Board in 2016.

Mr Matthew Bridges

Matthew is a commercial lawyer with broad experience in areas including private M&A and transactions, commercial contracts, general corporate and commercial advisory work and employment law. He also has experience advising in relation to local government and town planning issues having spent time working exclusively in that area. He has worked in private law firms for over a decade and recently completed a 12 month stint working as an in-house lawyer with Deakin University. He is currently employed as a special counsel with Melbourne law firm, Hall & Wilcox. Matthew joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2011.

Associate Professor Charlie Corke

After training as a physician and anaesthetist Charlie chose to specialise in intensive care. He left the UK in 1986 and worked in Hong Kong before coming to Australia. With extensive Board and management experience, Charlie was Director of Intensive Care at The Geelong Hospital until 2009 and is now a senior specialist in Geelong and is President of the College of Intensive Care Medicine. Charlie has published a number of papers and books on medicine, anaesthesia and intensive care. He has extensive experience in concept development and application in a diverse range of projects including developing IT systems to enhance quality health care delivery, improved methods of medical training and decision making and communication in relation to End-of-Life care. Charlie divides his time between Geelong and Apollo Bay. Charlie joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2005.

Mrs Alison Corke

Ali has been involved in advertising, public relations and communications for the majority of her career, working freelance for a variety of organisations and charities. Born and educated in England, where she established and ran her PR company ‘Words’, Ali came to Melbourne in 1986. After living near Geelong, Ali now resides and works in Apollo Bay. Ali joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2005.

Mr Doug Humann AM

From early days camping at Blanket Bay in the 1960s to more recently living on the Surf Coast, Doug has maintained a life long interest in natural and cultural heritage management generally and in the Otways in particular.  Doug maintains his own consultancy and pro bono work, concerned with advancing the interests of community and Indigenous groups, having formally been Chief Executive of Bush Heritage Australia and Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association.  Doug also holds a range of board and advisory roles including with Landcare Australia Ltd, Dhelkunya Dja Traditional Owner Land Management Board and the Melbourne Indigenous Transition School. Doug joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2016.

Mr Gerard McMahon

Gerard is one of the founders and is the Chief Operating Officer at SHAPE which is Australia’s leading fitout and refurbishment company. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the construction industry. He has responsibility for a number of key corporate functions including People and Culture, Finance, Business Technology and Corporate Strategy. Gerard shares his time between Melbourne, Sydney and Apollo Bay. Gerard joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2005.

Dr Nigel Strauss

Dr Nigel Strauss is a Consultant and Occupational Psychiatrist who is the Medical Director of the Millswyn Clinic in South Yarra.  He has a long association with the Otway region particularly in relation to environmental issues and was the President of Doctors for Forests and a political candidate on two occasions standing for green issues. He continues to farm and grow trees and has just written his memoirs “Apollo’s Lookout”, a mythological journey. Nigel joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2011.

Dr Rik Thwaites

Dr Rik Thwaites is a senior lecturer in ecotourism, a social scientist and member of the Institute for Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University.  Having trained at the University of Melbourne as a geologist, Rik worked as a glaciologist with the Australian Antarctic Division before turning his hand to photography and photojournalism focusing on travel, wildlife and conservation.  Rik has been an active environmental advocate for many years, and following a consultancy to develop a strategy for Sustainable Development for Albury Wodonga, Rik embarked on a PhD study looking at land degradation and sustainable land management on the steppe grasslands of Inner Mongolia, China.  In his role as an academic at Charles Sturt University, Rik has been involved in a great variety of research projects and consultancies related to ecotourism, protected area and natural resource management in local and Indigenous communities, and climate change adaptation. In recent years, Rik has also taught and undertaken research in Nepal, India, Vietnam, East Timor, China and Fiji.  Rik is passionate about the natural environment and rural communities and lives on the edge of the Beechworth Historic Park. Rik joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2015.

Mr Ian Wilcock

Ian was a member of Australia’s diplomatic service for 38 years, retiring from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 2010.  He was Ambassador to Israel, High Commissioner to South Africa and had other diplomatic postings in London, Washington DC, Manila and Tel Aviv. A member of DFAT’s Senior Executive Service for 21 years, Ian also held a wide range of senior policy and management positions in DFAT’s headquarters in Canberra.  He was DFAT’s State Director for Victoria from 2004 to 2008.

Ian was appointed in 2010 as Chair of Melbourne University’s Faculty Advisory Board for the Victorian College of the Arts and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Ian joined the CEC Advisory Board in 2011 and served as Chair from 2011-2016. Ian is based in Melbourne but now spends several months a year in Apollo Bay.

Associate Professor Alan York

Alan leads the Fire Ecology and Biodiversity research program within the School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences at the University of Melbourne. His research group, based at Creswick, is currently investigating how fire causes patterns in the landscape, and how plants and animals respond to these patterns. They are researching how land managers might use planned fire to develop mosaics of post-fire age classes in space and time, and how biodiversity responds to these mosaics. Alan has been involved in applied ecological research for over 35 years; working primarily in universities and State research agencies in NSW and Victoria. Alan joined the Conservation Ecology Centre Advisory Board in 2017.