Staff

Staff & Key Facilitators

   April Seymore - Executive Officer

April Seymore serves as EcoCentre Executive Officer since 2015, previously coordinating EcoCentre Education Programs for five years. April brings innovative, integrated expertise with over 15 years of community development, tech projects, sustainability initiatives and school teaching experience in Australia, Ireland and the USA.


April applies improvisation, citizen science, music and digital storytelling to teach Early Years, Prep to year 10, secondary specialist programs and adult education. She brings a global systems perspective, and is committed to empowering meaningful action across our whole community. She is also a ResourceSmart Schools facilitator and assessor, and a member of the global Waterkeeper Alliance.

April is available for keynote speaking, workshop facilitation, media appearances, MC-ing events and panel discussions/facilitation.

 Book April for your event

 

 Neil Blake (OAM) - Port Phillip Baykeeper

For over three decades, founding director of the EcoCentre Neil Blake (OAM) has been widely recognised and loved by the community for his deep knowledge, personable character, and extensive experience in environmental management, local history, biodiversity and community development. Neil is the Port Phillip Baykeeper for the global Waterkeeper Alliance, providing an independent voice for our Bay and its inhabitants large and small. He has a unique capacity to bring diverse stakeholders together, facilitate collaboration and produce tangible outcomes.

Neil regularly participates on environmental panels and consults with groups including EPA Victoria, Melbourne Water, local and state government, and community groups. Hear Neil the last Sunday each month on Radio Marinara (3RRR) or in the award-winning doco Baykeepers.

Neil inspires all ages to prevent plastic pollution, assisted by his alter ego Captain Trash, the musical pirate who teaches the five ‘ARRRGHS’: Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Remove. He is available for keynote speaking, media appearances, workshop facilitation and consultancy services.

Book Neil or Captain Trash 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

 

  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.

Fam is a Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership in Melbourne and a science communicator, teaching people how to care for their environment by using science. She is a guest writer for Wild Melbourne and 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

  Reiko Yamada - Education Programs Facilitator

With a background in engineering and experience in the corporate sustainability space, Reiko understands the big picture well when she explores tangible community solutions to environmental challenges. She champions cultural diversity and seeks to foster inclusion within our multi-cultural communities through sustainability and improve our well-being by connecting deeply with our culture and the natural environment.

Born in Japan and having lived in four countries, Reiko is a cross-cultural maven. She spent two years in Indonesia where she encouraged local schools in low-income urban communities to take up recycling, composting and classroom-based environmental education.

Reiko is a Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership in Melbourne. She volunteers in community gardens and enjoys long-distance running along leafy urban trails. 

Book Reiko for your event

  Belinda Daly - Education Programs Facilitator

 Belinda is a qualified, experienced educator who develops programs that give primary and secondary students hands-on learning experiences in real places, where students engage in real life issues in the context of the environment and heritage they are immersed in. She is particularly interested in ‘pedagogy of place,’ which she has used to incorporate drama and theatre into history. She works with schools and individuals on embedding sustainable practices as a means of building our future.

Born and bred in Melbourne, Belinda spent 21 years in Queensland, where, following on from studies in Environmental and Heritage Interpretation, she worked with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Working on islands, heritage sites and World Heritage rainforests, she made displays, signs, a museum, delivered on park activities and trained others to help create experiences that connect people with the beauty, complexity and importance of the natural world. 

Book Belinda for your event.

  Deb Punton - Garden Coordinator & Education Programs 

 
Deb comes from generations of farmers. She brings Landscape Design and Horticulture training to ther roles as Garden Coordinator and Education Programs Facilitator. Her 5 years working in Singapore in early childhood settings has allowed her to use reconnection and sensory exploration pedagogy to empower individuals to take sustinable actions 
 
She also has a background in nursing and community work and aims to support individuals interweaving sustainability of self, environment and community through mindfulness of the everyday things in nature, sensory joys and growing, cooking and sharing food.
 
She volunteers with Climate For Change organisation with an interest in our changing climate's effects on well-being and food security. In her spare time Deb conducts workshops and facilitates online ecopsychology and eco-art classes. 

 

Book Deb for your event.

 

  Ella Ryan - Education Programs Facilitator

Ella is a qualified primary school teacher, specialising in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and ResourceSmart Schools. She completed her Masters of Teaching from University of Melbourne in 2015 and has since been teaching in schools around Melbourne. Ella has experience integrating science and sustainability into all areas of learning, inspiring students to see the connections in their everyday lives.

 

Born in Canberra into a family of scientists and nature lovers, Ella grew up with a deep love for the bush and all things outdoors. Ella also loves to experience and learn from different cultures, having volunteered for one year teaching English to children in a refugee camp in the West Bank, Palestine. She is involved in the worker-owned co-operative movement which aims to provide people from diverse backgrounds with meaningful and dignified work, with a particular focus on creating more green jobs in and around Melbourne.

Book Ella for your event.

 

  Gio Fitzpatrick - Youth Wildlife Ambassador

Multi-award winning Gio Fitzpatrick is a dedicated 21-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. 

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  

 

  Ben Francischelli - Education Programs Facilitator

 

Ben is a Vertebrate Palaeontologist with a background in prehistoric ancient marine organisms of Australia’s southern coastline. As an avid participant of  palaeontological digs he has found evidence that is re-writing the known history of Port Phillip Bay including a new species of mega-toothed sharks (capable of eating baleen whales) and fossil evidence of the largest flying bird that ever existed. Ben is the science advisor for “Bayside Earth Sciences Society” and is creating a documentary series about the strange life of lesser-known animals that exist within Victoria.

Ben brings his passion for the strange biology of animals both past and present to the EcoCentre Education Team and is skilled in interpreting complicated science for diverse audiences. If Ben isn’t fossicking in the field or in the lab, he’s available for keynote and public speaking, panel discussions, media appearances and workshop facilitation.

Photo: Ben holding a 5.2 million year old beaked whale, representing a completely new species currently unknown to science

 

Book Ben for your event.

 

Matt McArthur - Education Programs Facilitator

Matt grew up on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. His childhood hobby observing the organisms in the rock pools inspired his career in marine science. For the past 25 years Matt has researched and taught about marine systems around Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica. His passion for diving with, studying and photographing marine life translates into the passion with which he shares his knowledge and experience. 

Experience in radio, talking books and podcasts combine his story-telling skills  for a variety of projects and roles in the science communciation field.

Matt lives in Altona and is married to a fellow marine ecologist with whom he is raising two young children.

 

Book Matt 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

 

 

Malcolm Dow - Education Programs Facilitator

Malcolm has worked as a Primary School educator for the past 40 years. He is passionate about the natural environment and sustainable living and has made these an integral part of his work in teaching children.

He has developed sustainability policies, established school gardens and Green Teams, and helped his school become one of the first 5 Star Sustainable schools through the Resource Smart Schools Program.

He co-founded the Stonnington Sustainable Schools Network and has assisted many other schools and teachers in their journeys toward sustainability. He has been a presenter at numerous sustainability conferences and in 2016 was awarded ‘Sustainable Teacher of the Year’ at the School Sustainability Festival.

Malcolm is a member of a wide range of environmental organisations and has developed a wide range of skills, knowledge and expertise across many aspects of sustainability, including renewable energy, climate change, sustainable transport, biodiversity and species loss and forest ecology.

Book Malcolm 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

 

  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!