Ecotourism Australia is governed by a board of directors located around Australia. Meet them here.
Rick Murray Chairman
Rick Murray runs his own consultancy, Middle Star, offering Tourism Business Development Services to businesses across the north of Australia and beyond. He is now based in Grafton, NSW after spending most of his working life based in Darwin, NT.
Rick Murray, pioneered experience-based, minimal impact tours across the north of Australia with Odyssey Tours & Safaris, the company he established and developed into an industry leading operation. Odyssey was eventually acquired by a major national resort operator as their touring flagship and Rick remained on their Senior Management team for four years.
He has been actively involved at the ‘coal face’ of nature based tourism for over 30 years and has a detailed knowledge of the interaction between tourism and our natural and cultural heritage right across the north of the continent. His experience covers lands both within Protected Areas and other lands of the north such as Aboriginal Freehold lands and Pastoral Leases. Over the years Rick has spoken at Ecotourism conferences and provided advice in regions as diverse as Sabah Malaysia, Papua New Guinea’s Western Province, Tasmania, Central Australia, the Pilbara and the south and west coasts of the Gulf of Carpentaria, commonly on the interaction between government and private enterprise in the development of a sustainable regional economy.
Over the past three decades he has served on several tourism industry committees and Boards, particularly those focussed on issues affecting our natural and cultural environment and on the continual improvement of industry standards among tour operators and guides. He served as a member of the Advisory Board of Tourism NT from 2006 until 2011. Until recently he was Chairman of the Kakadu Tourism Consultative Committee and a member of the Kakadu National Park Board of Management, positions he held since 2002. He has been a Director of Ecotourism Australia Ltd since 2006 and is currently their Chairman. He is also Chairman of Savannah Way Ltd.
Rick served for five years as a Director of the leading, aboriginal owned, tourism business, Nitmiluk Tours Pty Ltd, based in Katherine, NT. He was heavily involved in their joint-venture development of Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park.
His projects include the collaboration on the Experience Development Plan for Australia’s Timeless North and Red Centre National Landscapes and the development of a Visitor Experience Plan for the Garnamarr/Jim Jim/Twin Falls area in Kakadu NP.
In recent times Rick has been providing mentoring support to several aboriginal owned and operated businesses in the Top End, Central Australia, the Kimberley, North West Queensland, Country NSW and Sydney.
In 2016 Rick was appointed Judging Coordinator for the Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards assist with improving business standards in his new home region.
More info: www.middlestar.com.au
Dr Claire Ellis Deputy Chair
Dr Claire Ellis is currently Deputy Chair of Ecotourism Australia and is standing for her fourth term. She is committed to good governance and is keen to see EA play a stronger and more effective role in lifting the profile and importance of quality ecotourism across Australia, including via partnerships with other industry associations. She is interested in growing the value-add EA provides members, particularly through global recognition of our standards (such as the automatic inclusion in TripAdvisor GreenLeaders program).
Claire has worked for over 35 years in tourism starting out running her own small charter expedition cruise company in Asia, then working for other tourism operators, in State Government, as an academic and researcher and most recently as a consultant. She now runs her own consulting company, working across Australia on a range of tourism, regional and volunteer projects focussing on the development of new product and tourism experiences, ensuring they are developed to create sustainable long-term outcomes for communities and the wider region.
Claire is recognised nationally, having chaired the Destination Management Working Group for the National Long-Term Tourism Strategy for Australia for several years, and currently works in most states of Australia as well as her home of Tasmania.
Recent consulting projects include working with SATC and DEWNR to develop a Nature Based Tourism Plan for South Australia and working on Kangaroo Island on Brand and regional tourism programs. Claire also worked with SATC on the South Australian Strategic Tourism Plan 2015-20, worked on national projects including Welcoming Chinese Visitors, and with National Landscapes projects in the Kimberley, Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Island and Great Ocean Road. She also undertakes work in the volunteer sector and is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania.
Michael is currently the Principal of CF Global, a boutique consultancy and import agency, specialising in business and capacity building through cost effective and operational efficiencies and international procurement. Michael has more than 25 years' experience in the Hospitality, Accommodation and Tourism sectors throughout Australia and is currently a director of Ecotourism Australia.
Michael's career, has over the years seen him manage a number of hotels for the Austotel Group and the Swan Brewery, was the lessee of the historic Castle Hotel in York for more than a decade, prior to joining the international hotel chain Best Western in 2002 as their Regional Manager for WA/SA/NT.
Michael joined the Hospitality Group of companies as Group General Manager and Director of its subsidiary the Eco Company Pty Ltd in 2006. The Eco Company was engaged to open and operate the multi award winning Karijini Eco Retreat on behalf of the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation in the magnificent Karijini National Park, some 1400 km North of Perth in Western Australia. Michael also acted as the Preopening General Manager for the Hospitality Groups boutique 5-star Terrace Hotel.
Through his many roles, Michael has also consulted with number of organisations and businesses, including Aboriginal groups and Corporations relating to ecotourism and sustainability, tourism marketing, product distribution, operational management, infrastructure requirements and new projects.
Michael has also been a representative on numerous national, state and regional tourism bodies, was a former board member and deputy chair of the Coeliac Society of WA and a board member of Coeliac Australia. And until recently, Michael also worked with Caravan Industry Association Western Australia.
Shelley Lavender has spent a 40+ year professional life in the education and tourism industries, most recently as the Victorian CEO of YHA Victoria (from 1995 – December 2011). During her time at YHA, she encouraged and championed ecotourism principles in many aspects of the organisation's operations; most notably YHA built two dedicated ‘eco-hostels’ at Halls Gap and Apollo Bay (in 1999 and 2005) and was an early innovator in the introduction of energy, waste and water saving measures across all aspects of YHA nationally. She also introduced measures to recognise traditional owners and support indigenous communities.
As a member of an international committee of Hostelling International, Shelley worked hard to gain the peak organisation’s commitment to sustainability principles. She co-wrote the Sustainability Policy of Hostelling International which spearheaded its membership of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council
Since retiring from the mainstream workforce, Shelley has trained as a Lead Auditor with the aim of better informing herself about Ecotourism Australia’s certification and audit processes and assisting with audits. She chairs the Certification and Governance Committees and is a member of the Executive and Finance Committee.
Peter Cochrane’s passion is to make a difference in safeguarding our natural assets, building social capital and supporting and enabling resilient regional economies. He works with a small company - Empowering Engagements - to collaborate in facilitating the cross-fertilisation between conserving nature, community action and workplace well-being, aiming to improve prosperity - for individuals, local communities, enterprises and regions.
Peter headed Parks Australia, the Australian government's national park agency for 14 years, initiating and developing key partnerships to deliver valued environmental, social and economic outcomes. He worked closely with indigenous communities to look after country while respecting and supporting the protection of cultural values and community aspirations for self-determination and improved health and education.
Partnering with Tourism Australia he helped develop the National Landscapes initiative - regional collaborations to deliver world class visitor experiences, conservation outcomes, and regional and national benefits.
Lizzie Corke is Chief Executive of the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC). Based in the Great Ocean Road region of Victoria the organisation works to create an Otways region once more vibrant with native wildlife. The CEC’s Conservation and Research Program commenced in 2011, focussed on addressing the most urgent conservation issues in the Otways. The CEC has proven success in applied science, conducting field research and directly applying knowledge to bring about wildlife and ecosystem conservation through strong relationships with our local community, government agencies, NGOs and research institutions. The CEC particularly focusses on engaging individuals and communities in conservation issues and solutions, attracting supporters locally, nationally, and from around the world. In recognition of this work Lizzie was awarded the 2005 Prime Minister’s Award for Environmentalist of the Year, becoming the youngest ever and first female recipient of this award.
The CEC established the Advanced Ecotourism Accredited Great Ocean Ecolodge in 2004, providing an avenue for engagement and raising funds for conservation. A TripAdvisor Platinum Green Leader, the enterprise has also been recognised by the National Geographic Society World Legacy Awards.
Lizzie has been a member of a number of advisory groups and a Director of Ecotourism Australia since 2013.
Wendy has spent the last 25 years working in the tourism industry in various marketing and development roles, including destination, product and industry development with a proven expertise in sustainable indigenous tourism and the importance that this sector plays in identifying Australia's cultural strengths and 'point of difference', in a very competitive global marketplace.
She has worked for private enterprise companies, two State Tourism Organisations and Tourism Australia as the head of the Australian Experiences team, responsible for the development and marketing of Australia's 7 key experiences, including ‘Natural Australia’ and ‘Aboriginal Australia’.
In November of 2008, Wendy joined Indigenous Business Australia (IBA), the federal agency responsible for assisting Indigenous Australians maximise opportunities for wealth creation through home ownership, businesses enterprise and/or equity investments.
Wendy joined the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in December 2011, in the role of Manager, Cultural Tourism, responsible for the development of cultural tourism experiences within relevant NSW National Parks and Reserves.
For the past 4 years, she has managed the Tourism and Partnerships Unit, and is currently acting Manager of the Marketing Unit, a key senior management role in the Visitor Experience Branch.
She is a Board member of the Booderee National Park Joint Board of Management and a Director of Ecotourism Australia.
Innes Larkin has been active in the outdoors from an early age and remembers climbing Mt Barney for the first time at age 11. A trained teacher with a Masters of Arts in Outdoor Education, Innes has taught in London, Brisbane and at an outdoor education centre at Maroon Dam. In 2003 Innes and his wife Tracey managed Mt Barney Lodge, then purchased the property in 2006 and have grown the business 900% since then.
During his time at the Lodge Innes has been involved in many rescues including once getting winched from a helicopter to rescue four climbers, stuck on the cliffs of Mt Lindesay. His skills and knowledge and position give him the unique ability to interact with emergency services to effect rescues in a timely and cost effective manner. Innes sees this community service as a way of giving back to the mountains that sustain his business.
In 2011 a local newspaper reported on a proposed coal mine in Mt Barney region and Innes became involved in the community group “Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic”. Community meetings, information sessions, database mail outs, speeches, government deputations, meetings and finally a 10-day Blockade in January 2012 where he was arrested for his beliefs, created the impetus for stopping all forms of coal and CSG mining in the Scenic Rim. This experience has led Innes to utilise the Mt Barney Lodge business brand to simply get the balance right - firstly in his region of the Scenic Rim but also now in the greater regions of Qld and Australia.
A current member of the community advisory committee (and for the last 4 years) for the Gondwanan Rainforests of Australia World Heritage property, Innes is passionate about sustainable tourism and the lasting legacies that a ecotourism industry can bring to a region.
Michele Bain manages Yondah Beach House, a deluxe accommodation business based in SA. Set on 300 secluded oceanfront acres with its own private beaches, Yondah offers guests the opportunity to see whales, dolphins, kangaroos and rare birds in their natural habitat. Yondah holds Advanced Ecotourism Certification, and in 2016, was inducted into the SA Tourism Awards Hall of Fame and named 'Best Deluxe Accommodation' at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards for the second time.
When Michele and her husband Nick purchased Yondah, it consisted of bare paddocks. In 2011, they received a $340,000 Commonwealth Biodiversity grant via Trees for Life to create new habitat for rare local species including the malleefowl, heath goanna and western pygmy possum, and to develop an ‘Australian wildlife and conservation experience’ based around deluxe holiday accommodation. In 2013, with assistance from two TQUAL grants, they extended Yondah, and began construction of a second deluxe beach house. They have also designed and installed a simple 'gravity-powered' water harvesting system that makes both houses 100% water self-sufficient and provides wildlife watering points throughout the property.
Michele's professional background is in brand and communications, particularly in connection with tourism and visitor experiences. For 30 years, she and Nick have operated Designhaus, an Adelaide-based creative consultancy that specialises in brand strategy and design for organisations with a nature-based or tourism focus.
Michele has also served on the Interpretation Australia National Executive and regularly presents a post-graduate elective on heritage interpretation at Flinders University. In 2017, she was appointed to the SA Government's Nature-based Tourism Task Force.
Steve Wroe is the Director of Customer Experience and Destination Planning at Parks Australia, managing the Tourism, Marketing, PR and Communications for all reserves including the iconic Kakadu and Uluru Kata Tjuta National Parks.
Previously, Steve was the General Manager of Marketing at the Intrepid Group, leading a marketing team which promoted brands such as Intrepid Travel and Peregrine. Prior to that, he was General Manager of Peregrine Adventures and has held other senior roles within the adventure travel industry. Steve has also run tourism operations in many regions around the world including the Middle East, South East Asia and the Sub-Continent.
Steve has a degree in Tourism Management and Marketing and has divided his career between Marketing and Operations Management. He is currently acting Park Manager in Kakadu National Park, where he lives with his wife and young children.
Outside work, he is a keen mountain biker, skier and traveller, although his style of travel has changed a bit since the arrival of his two young daughters.