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 almost 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 a number of 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 has held since 2002. He is 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. In that time he was heavily involved in the 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, through the Indigenous Tourism Champions Program, to several aboriginal owned and operated businesses in the Top End, Central Australia, the Kimberley, Northern NSW and Sydney.
In 2015 Rick was appointed to the newly convened Tourism Advisory Committee of the Clarence Valley Council in Grafton, NSW, to assist with strategic tourism development and marketing in his new home region.
More info: www.middlestar.com.au
Dr Claire Ellis Deputy Chair
Dr Claire Ellis runs her own consulting company. Recent projects include working with the South Australian Tourism Commission (SATC) to develop the South Australian Strategic Tourism Plan 2015-20, working with training organisation AVANA on both the Welcoming and Servicing Chinese Visitor national projects, and with National Landscapes, particularly projects in the Kimberley, Flinders Ranges, Kangaroo Island and Great Ocean Road. She also works on projects wider than tourism such as Kangaroo Island's Brand development.
Claire also is an Honorary Research Associate at the University of Tasmania actively researching in several areas including employment issues for international students, cruise shipping and volunteer tourism.
Prior to consulting, Claire was Director, Infrastructure and Industry Development, at Tourism Tasmania, and oversaw a number of key areas of work including growing the capacity of Tasmania's tourism industry in the digital environment. Claire has also been Chair of the National Long Term Tourism Strategy's Destination Management Planning Working Group. During her six years in Tourism Tasmania, Claire has worked closely with key projects including the selection and development of the Three Capes Track. Claire grew up in Tasmania, but also spent 14 years living and working overseas, mostly in Indonesia, Vietnam, China, USA, and within Australia in Perth, Darwin and Canberra as well as Tasmania. During this time Claire started and ran her own tourism business, a charter expedition cruise ship company travelling to remote, little-visited locations in Eastern Indonesia and specialising in local culture and the marine environment.
She has also spent nearly three years working for the Indonesian office of the World Wide Fund for Nature, worked as a cruise lecturer for many different organisations through most of Australia as well as Indonesia, owned and operated a small shore expedition company in Australia, and worked extensively as a consultant mostly in tourism.
Michael Collins is currently the General Manager of the Hospitality Group of Companies, a diverse family owned group who have interests in accommodation, tourism and cinemas and, who have been in operation in Western Australia since 1962.
Michael oversees a small portfolio of accommodation properties throughout regional WA including the award winning Karijini Eco Retreat; Michael is also a director of the Eco Company Pty Ltd which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hospitality Group.
Michael has been in the hospitality and tourism industry for the past 20 years, managing hotels for the Austotel hotel chain in Queensland, the Swan Brewery in WA and was the Lessee of the historic Castle Hotel in York, also in WA for 10 years. Prior to his role with the Hospitality Group he was the regional manager WA/SA/NT for the international hotel chain Best Western for a period of 4 years.
The Karijini Eco Retreat is 100% owned by the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation and is managed in partnership with the Eco Company Pty Ltd. The retreat is located in the magnificent Karijini National Park, previously the Hamersley Ranges-1400 km North of Perth in Western Australia and is the heart of states Pilbara region. The retreat has quickly established itself as a market leader in Environmental and Indigenous tourism and is recognized as an innovative and progressive employer and skills trainer of indigenous people.
Through the Eco Company, Michael has also consulted with number of organizations, Aboriginal groups and Corporations wishing to enter the eco tourism market. Michael is a current board member of the Coeliac Society of WA," “Australia’s North West Tourism,” is the Chair of “Backpack WA,” a panel member of (ATEC) Backpack National Advisory Panel and an active member of WAITOC and FACET in 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 Hills has spent the last 23 years working in the tourism industry in various marketing and development roles, including destination, product and industry development. She has 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 seven 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 to maximise opportunities for wealth creation through home ownership, businesses enterprise and/or equity investments.
Her portfolio included managing the three states of NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as being the primary spokesperson for IBA’s Tourism strategy, managing the Indigenous Tourism Champions Program on behalf of IBA, along with Tourism Australia and the State Tourism Organisations.
In December 2011, Wendy joined the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the role of Manager, Cultural Tourism, which was directly related to the Office of Environment and Heritage’s (OEH) responsibility to support the NSW Government’s Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan, NSW 2021 and the Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan. Wendy’s primary role was to develop a model to support the development of Aboriginal owned and operated enterprises focusing on economic generation and employment outcomes, through the development of cultural tourism experiences within relevant NSW National Parks and Reserves.
She is currently the Manager of the Tourism and Partnerships Unit which is responsible for developing, implementing and evaluating nature and cultural tourism strategies for NPWS, managing the Visitor Research agenda as well as establishing and enhancing key relationships and partnerships with both private and public sector organisations for (mutual) commercial benefit.
Robert Pennicott is the Managing Director of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, a multi-award winning ecotourism company based in southern Tasmania. His passion and enthusiasm has seen the business he founded in 1999 grow to become one of Australia’s most acclaimed tourism enterprises. Today it operates five iconic nature based tourism experiences – Bruny Island Cruises, Tasman Island Cruises, Bruny Island Traveller, Iron Pot Cruises and Tasmanian Seafood Seduction. All of these products hold Advanced Ecotourism Certification, the entire operation is 100% Carbon Offset and the company contributes directly to conservation and community projects through its own Pennicott Foundation.
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys has won 10 Australian Tourism Awards and it has twice been inducted into the Australian Tourism Awards Hall of Fame. In 2014 Robert was also recognised as an Australian Tourism Legend for his individual contribution to the Australian Tourism Industry. He is also on the Board of Brand Tasmania and the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania.
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.