Staff & Key Facilitators
Neil Blake (OAM) - Port Phillip Baykeeper
For over three decades, founding director of the EcoCentre and multi-award winner Neil Blake (OAM) has been widely known and loved by the community for his deep knowledge, personable character, and extensive experience in environmental management, local natural history, biodiversity and community development. Neil is the Port Phillip Baykeeper for the International Waterkeepers Alliance, providing an independent voice for the Bay and its inhabitants large and small. He has a unique capacity to bring diverse yet complementing stakeholders together and facilitate projects of practical action to produce tangible outcomes.
Neil has been pivotal in managing many EcoCentre projects, as well as being invited to participate on environmental panels such as the EPA Water Report Card Advisory and the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne (EFFM). He is frequently asked to consult on issues regarding the Bay, by organisations like EPA Victoria, Melbourne Water, Catchment Management Authority, Port of Melbourne Corporation, local and state government, environment groups and community members of all ages. He regularly appears in the media, including on 3RRR, the ABC and Channel 7 News.
Neil enjoys engaging young and old on plastic pollution issues by becoming his alter ego Captain Trash, the ukulele-wielding pirate who teaches about the five ‘ARRRGHS’: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Remove. He is available for keynote speaking, workshop facilitation and consultancy services.
Book Neil or Captain Trash for your event
April Seymore - Executive Officer
After five years on our Education Team, April stepped into our Executive Officer role in 2015. With a summa cum laude BA in Media & Cultural Communication, April brings extensive international experience in the arts, education, sustainability and tech projects.
A driven and innovative educator, April expertly applies improvisation, visual recording, music and digital storytelling to creatively engage hundreds of students from Early Childhood to Year 12. She is committed to mentoring passionate young people, encouraging action beyond school-based programs.
Her qualifications include ResourceSmart Schools facilitator and assessor, CoPP community leadership, Waste Wise, WaterWatch, community based social marketing, and action research. April regularly presents on sustainability at regional and national conferences.
April is available for keynote speaking, workshop facilitation, media appearances, MC-ing events and panel discussions/facilitation.
Book April for your event
Gio Fitzpatrick - Youth Wildlife Ambassador
Multi-award winning Gio Fitzpatrick is a dedicated 20-year-old urban ecologist and conservationist, who was endorsed for his environmental volunteer work by Sir David Attenborough at age sixteen.
Gio has developed a reputation for knowledge and maturity far beyond his years, working and volunteering since he was eleven years old with multiple organisations including Museum Victoria and Port Phillip EcoCentre and is the convener of the Friends of Elster Creek. He has an innate ability to describe local wildlife to individuals and groups of all ages and backgrounds.
Dedicated to understanding local species, Gio has recorded three fauna species never before seen in Victoria, taken the world-first video footage of an intertidal spider not seen since 1902, and attracted an unprecedented array of species to the 40 local nest boxes he designed, maintains and monitors on public land. He is currently working on a comprehensive, photographic field guide of the fauna of Elster Creek.
This year his work continues to attract recognition through local and national awards including:
- 2016 'Individual Award' - United Nations Association of Australia World Environment Day Awards - Winner
- 2016 'Young Legends' - Keep Australia Beautiful National Clean Beaches Awards - Winner
- 2016 'Outstanding Individual Achievement (15 to 20 years)' - Inner Eastern Local Learning and Employment Network - Winner
- 2015 'Young Landcare Leader' - Victorian Landcare - Highly Commended Finalist
When he’s not up a tree somewhere, Gio is available for keynote speaking, guided nature discovery walks and workshops in nest box building.
Book Gio for your event
Karen Jones - Education Manager
National Park Ranger by training, Karen’s career includes cave (karst) researcher, outdoor educator, environmental consultant, and almost two decades with local government creating, managing and delivering sustainability programs and initiatives.
She is a trained ResourceSmart Schools Facilitator and Assessor and is in her element when working with schools inspiring them to embed sustainability into their classroom and curriculum.
Karen is renowned for her unique mix of inspiration and knowledge, with an incredible environmental passion. Her commitment to environmental education has been recognised with numerous awards including Environment Education Victoria (EEV), Landcare, Local Government, WeedBuster, and Victorian Coastal Council.
Karen is an expierenced motivational speaker, workshop and panel faciliator and event MC.
Book Karen for your event
Arweet Carolyn Briggs - Boon Wurrung Elder
Winner of the 2011 National NAIDOC Elder of the Year, Arweet (meaning 'respected Elder') Carolyn Briggs is Chair and Founder of the Boon Wurrung Foundation, which she established to help connect Aboriginal youth to their heritage.
Arweet Carolyn is member of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and also established the first Aboriginal Child Care Centre in Australia. She has contributed to the development of Indigenous employment strategies for the State Government and is a former Director of La Trobe University's Aboriginal Tertiary Support Unit in Bendigo. As a mediator with the Equal Opportunities Commission, Carolyn was seconded to work with the Federal Attorney-General as head researcher for Victoria on the Muirhead recommendations to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Carolyn gained entry in the 2012 and 2013 Who's Who of Australian Women, and was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2005. Today, she is pursuing a PhD in language and linguistics in the hope of recording her Boonwurrung language in oral and written form.
Book Arweet Carolyn for your event
Sharron Hunter - Education Programs Facilitator
A pedagogy expert at place-based learning and nature play, Sharron runs the EcoCentre’s Expert In Residence program. She helps teachers and principals integrate sustainability and environmental connection into school curriculum of all year levels, including for Early Learning Centres. She trains teachers for the Teacher’s Environment Network and is an experienced facilitator of Tomorrow’s Leaders for Sustainability and Resource Smart Schools.
Following her studies in Anthropology and Koorie Studies, Sharron became a secondary school teacher. In this setting she brought together her passion for cross-cultural initiatives and her commitment to social and environmental justice issues. Her teaching career began in the western suburbs of Melbourne working in a school setting that was culturally diverse, working with students and their families across socio-economic divides and from many cultures, including refugee families from the Horn of Africa.
In recent years Sharron has travelled extensively through the United States and Vietnam conducting research into the effects of Climate Change on the interface between human endeavour and the natural world and the needs for strategies of mitigation and adaptation. Place Based Education for young people has been a focus for Sharron in her design and delivery of community education curriculum. She has trained with Al Gore in Cedar Rapids, U.S.A and applied that training to her work in communities.
Sharron is available for keynote speaking and workshop facilitation, including immersive teacher’s Professional Development sessions of which the learnings can be taken straight into the classroom.
Book Sharron for your event
Fam Charko - Marine Biologist & Project Manager
Fam is a marine biologist (MSc) with specialisations in ecology and marine plastic pollution, Fam helps people reconnect to nature using science, storytelling and immersive experiences into the local environment.
Growing up a free-range kid in Europe, an insatiable curiosity about the natural world inspired Fam to study biology. During her first ever scuba dive, she lost her heart to the ocean and subsequently did a Master of Science, majoring in both Marine Ecology and Biodiversity & Nature Conservation.
Fam is now a Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership in Melbourne and a scuba dive instructor, teaching people how to care for their environment above and under the waves. She is a guest writer for Wild Melbourne, an organisation using science communication to inspire connection of people to their local environment. She is also a radio host on Out Of The Blue, a weekly show about all things marine on 3CR community radio.
Fam is available for keynote and public speaking, panel discussions, media appearances and workshop facilitation.
Book Fam for your event
Anthony Gallacher - Volunteer Coordinator
Anthony is the EcoCentre’s volunteer coordinator, expertly combining his love for community development with his skills in hands-on environmental land management. He runs several volunteer based programs, including a successful corporate volunteering program, a weekly social community garden group and the Port Phillip Urban Fresh Food Network.
Anthony’s previous work with Landcare saw him traversing northern Victoria establishing conservation projects and running education workshops for Landcare members. This grounding in not-for-profit environmental work built Anthony’s passion to continue to act as an “enabler” for passionate volunteers.
Anthony’s passion for the environment and conservation developed throughout his studies at the University of Melbourne. After attending a Summer School on Climate Change Adaptation in 2009, further study called in a Master of Science (Environmental Science), complemented by volunteer work with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition. This included logistics and volunteer management at four youth climate summits around the country.
Anthony is available for facilitation of event workshops, panel and table discussions, MC-ing and speaking.
Book Anthony for your event
Bronnie Walsh - Education Programs and Community Education Facilitator
As the EcoCentre’s Education Programs and Community Education Facilitator, Bronnie manages and facilitates practical environmental projects and citizen science activities for schools and the wider community.
She delivers a variety of sustainability programs, like Tomorrow’s Leaders for Sustainability and Resource Smart Schools, which embed sustainability and environmental education in the school curriculum. Some of her favourite work includes teaching students with a variety of learning disabilities, as well as engaging at-risk youth.
With over 20 years of experience working in secondary schools, Bronnie is an environmental education expert as well as an experienced instructor of a suite of outdoor activities, including snorkelling, kayaking, bicycle education, and cross-country skiing. She has played an integral part in the running of several community environment groups, like Upper Yarra Landcare and the city of Port Phillip’s Bicycle Users Group (BUG), which she helped develop from an idea to an active incorporated organisation.
For many years she was a professional penguin tour guide at Phillip Island, and she still uses her expert knowledge on penguins to guide people around the St Kilda penguin colony. She will even guide them in French!
In 2016, Bronnie won the Inner Eastern Local Learning and Employment Network award for Outstanding Individual Achievement. Bronnie is an experienced MC and workshop facilitator, and will happily lead a table or panel discussion.
Book Bronnie for your event
Peter Kelly - Education Programs Facilitator
Our talented and entertaining Educational Facilitator Peter has a Melbourne University background in Botany, Ecology, Psychology and Horticulture.
Peter has taught in a variety of Secondary Schools - typically Biological Sciences but more recently with a focus on Sustainability. As an Education Officer at the Victorian Schools’ Nursery, Museum Victoria and The Royal Botanic Gardens, Peter’s approach broadened into educational experiences for students outside of the mainstream classroom setting.
A longtime local resident to Port Phillip and father to two vegetarian daughters, Peter delights in promoting our relationship and connectedness to the living world, both for the current and for future generations.
Book Peter for your event
Dr. Nikki Kowalczyk - Litter Hotspots Project Manager
Nikki’s longstanding interest in the marine sciences and ecology led her to undertake a PhD program where she focused on the foraging and reproductive ecology of the iconic St Kilda little penguin colony. This research was important to identifying key foraging locations and key prey species within Port Phillip Bay.
Nikki has extensive education experience, teaching students from a primary through to tertiary level. For several years she taught conservation biology and marine biology at Monash University.
Additionally, Nikki managed the Penguin Protection Group during the extension of the St Kilda Breakwater and worked with various organisation and community groups to ensure the penguin colony was impacted as little as possible.
Book Nikki for your event
Sair Clarke - Administrator
Sair is our Admin Ninja: juggling reception, administration, and digital communications. Their long ninja history with both Corporates and Not-for-Profits has given them a thrill to the challenge of mixed admin roles.
Sair's life vision is to connect deeply with themself, others, and the earth. They see life as all about connection and work hard to learn and apply new relationship skills. That sounds serious but it actually involves learning diverse skills such as "how to be more playful", and "how to laugh more”!
Sair can often be found crafting articles for ilovable.com, their website on how to relate lovingly with yourself.
Otherwise you can find them reading in gardens, walking in nature, and geeking out over sci-fi, fantasy, and computer games.
David Giles - IT Specialist
Our humble Dave is one of the longest standing staff, originally hired in 2003 to improve computer equipment, systems and mentor staff in IT. Now Dave is our essential 'jack of all trades' with no task too big or small - solving a crashing computer system or fixing the seal on the fridge.
Hailing from the UK, Dave has worked in the corporate sector for names such as Coles Myer, Telstra and Honeywell, as well as for the UK Navy Army Air Force Institutes (N.A.A.F.I). Dave's Certificate IV in Assessment & Workplace Training, advanced MS Office and data processing skills and tireless trouble-shooting, make him a key component of the EcoCentres' operations. Dave fulfils valuable data monitoring, analysis and presentation of both the organisation's internal energy performance and for numerous project reports and research.
When Dave isn't solving a problem, you can find him winning a game of pool down at the local pub.
Fiona Second - Accounts
Our much loved and valued Accountant Fiona, is a natural fit into the organisation. Fiona's amiable blend of wit, warm nature and super efficiency provides the one stop shop Accounts department for the EcoCentre. Another international member of the team, Fiona is from Zimbabwe and also owner of her own successful company; 'Second to None Bookkeeping.'
Fiona brings a breath of fresh air into the place and always has a funny anecdote to share. Her favourite leisure activity is taking the family rescue dogs Stompie and Bonnie for a walk to the beach or local park to socialise with other dogs. Fiona admits to always remembering the other dogs' names but never the owners!
26 February 2017 - 11:00amAcland Street Plaza, St Kilda
26 February 2017 - 4:00pmSt Kilda Pier
24 March 2017 - 8:45amMelbourne Zoo, Parkville
2 April 2017 - 4:00pmSt Kilda Pier Breakwater
4 April 2017 - 10:00amSt Kilda Pier Breakwater