Who we are

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association speaks for the Yarra, Melbourne’s own beautiful, resilient, iconic River. The Association is the credible and authoritative voice for the River. It is an independent community of citizen-advocates that works solely in the interest of the river. The spokesperson of the Association is the Yarra Riverkeeper, and the Riverkeeper boat is permanently moored in the Yarra and patrols the River. As the population of Melbourne balloons and demands for open spaces grow, our River is coming under increasing pressure.

“We advocate for the River: for green spaces, for water quality, for biodiversity, for the birds, animals, insects and reptiles along the River, for good planning decisions, for the tributaries, for the parklands, for appropriate recreation; and for an understanding of our river and its role in the life of the city of Melbourne. We lobby governments and we educate the community. We tell the story of the River.”

— Andrew Kelly, Yarra Riverkeeper.

The Yarra River Association was incorporated in 2005 and is part of the Waterkeeper Alliance of more than 150 waterkeepers worldwide.

The Members of our Committee of Management:

Christopher Balmford, President

Christopher, a former lawyer with Baker & McKenzie and Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper), is the founder and managing director of Words and Beyond an Australian-based plain-language training, rewriting, and cultural-change consultancy launched in 1999. Clients include major law firms, public companies, government agencies, the United Nations, and the European Central Bank.

Christopher is also the founder, and former Managing Director, of online legal document provider Cleardocs, which launched in Australia in 2002. In June 2012, Thomson Reuters acquired Cleardocs.

Also, Christopher:
• is a Director of the Robyn Boyd Foundation — the Foundation runs programs to increase awareness and understanding of design, 2013-ongoing, see www.robinboyd.org.au
• is on the steering committee of Birds of King Island “BOKI” — where he has a holiday house. BOKI aims to research and protect the Island’s birds, and to encourage bird-related tourism to the Island. 2014-ongoing. See www.birdsofkingisland.com; and
• served on the Council of Wollangarra Outdoor Education Centre, from 1988-96 and 2006-11, see www.wollangarra.org.au.

Christopher grew up in East Ivanhoe overlooking the Yarra River and its flood plain. He is a keen sea-kayaker, bushwalker and amateur ornithologist.

Andrew Kelly, Vice-President

Andrew Kelly grew up along the banks of the beautiful Yarra River.  Andrew is out on the river at every opportunity —when he leaves Burnley Harbour in the patrol boat he struggles with the decision about whether to go upstream or down. Upstream to the beauty of Yarra Bend National Park or downstream to the excitement of the city centre and the humming Port of Melbourne. Andrew has degrees in geography and archaeology from the University of Melbourne. He pursued a career in publishing and communications before becoming Yarra Riverkeeper in 2014. He is a passionate advocate for Yarra — not only protecting it but improving it as a sanctuary for wildlife and a place for everyone to enjoy.

Ian Thomas, Secretary

Ian Thomas joined the Board of the Yarra Riverkeeper Association as Company Secretary in March 2017. Ian has extensive experience in business and strategic planning, financial and risk management and corporate plan budget settings in very large private sector corporates, local government and smaller not for profit organisations. Ian has been a Certified Practicing Accountant for over 40 years and has worked, on secondment, with major consulting firms (McKinseys, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Hay Group and Ernst and Young).
In 2000 Ian assisted the then Mayor of Moreland Council Mike Hill to establish the limited by guarantee public company Moreland Energy Foundation Limited (MEFL). Ian became to initial company secretary and board member and remains in that position to this day. Ian is also a member of the MEFL Board Governance Committee. MEFL has grown from the initial three staff to now over 30 personnel, and is nationally recognized as a leader in the field of encouraging the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2012 Ian has served as an ex-officio member of the CERES (Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) Board Finance Committee.

As a long serving company secretary of MEFL, and senior officer of the Moreland City Council until his retirement in mid 2016, Ian has conducted, as an independent consultant, numerous board performance appraisals for a range of not for profit enterprises. Ian is well versed in interpreting legislation and regulations, meeting procures, preparing meeting agendas and meeting minute taking. Equally Ian is very familiar with ACNC and ASIC requirements under the Corporations and Incorporated Associations Acts.

With his relatively recent retirement from full-time work, Ian now finds the time to devote to his interest in assisting large and small not for profit enterprises in the environmental field.

Gillian Jervis, Treasurer and Membership Secretary

Gillian joined the Yarra Riverkeeper Association Board as Treasurer in May 2014 and is now also the Membership Secretary. Her background is primarily audit, risk management and forensic accounting across a variety of organisations within the corporate and public sectors, including ANZ, BHP Billiton and the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry. More recently, she has held various committee positions in other not-for profit organisations including the Early Childhood sector and Australian Plant Society. Gillian also has her own bookkeeping business, her client base largely focused on the not-for-for profit sector and local small businesses.

She is a member of CPA Australia and a Registered BAS Agent with the Tax Practitioners Board and has also been Treasurer of the Australian Plants Society,South East Melbourne Region.

Gillian has a Master of Applied Finance Degree from the University of Melbourne.

Gillian grew up on a sheep farm in South-West Victoria where her passion for the environment, sustainability and native flora & fauna first started. She is also involved in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program at her children’s local primary school.

Jeminah Alli Reidy, Committee Member

Jeminah designs spaces/sets and costumes for contemporary experimental theatre and has a particular interest in creating and producing site specific performances in the outdoors. Her work is a direct result of collaboration and inspiration with directors, actors and other arts practitioners.

During the initial development of her designs for the theatre is a series of discussions with the director and performers. This is then followed up with research, these layers of knowledge and development help to craft together a design that connects the audience setting time and place. The set becomes part of the storytelling. Jeminah’s work in theatre includes the recent set design for Requiem for Dalinka for The Artisan Collective at Gasworks, Dolores for Theatre Q44, and The Doll House for Daniel Schlusser at Fortyfivedownstairs. She has also been privileged to work with many other theatre directors; Andrew Gillbert- Blue Remembered Hills, Attempts on her Life directed by Susie Dee, The Masque of the Red Death directed by John Bolton.

Recognising the psychological effect that physical surrounds play on our emotions, Jeminah examines new ways to explore this. With this notion in mind she developed a series of community art events that celebrate place and the environment. Artists are brought together to work on site and the audience is then led on a guided walk past the art installations and performances. During the site-specific performances audiences experience an insightful connection to the chosen places such as the Yarra River and the tall trees and tributaries of the Yarra Ranges. These immersive performances connect the audience to the precious natural resources and explore elements of history, indigenous song lines, myths and environmental insight. Her work is created through a dialogic process incorporating experiences and memories of the place she is acknowledging. At the core of Jeminah Reidy’s art practice is recognising our connection to place both physically and emotionally.

Jeminah’s Site-Specific works include a series of 7 events along the Yarra River in Melbourne, Scenes on the Yarra. Other similar community events she has produced and directed are Waterway Reflections as part of Healesville’s 100 year celebrations and Tall Trees and Tributaries funded by the Yarra Ranges Council showcasing the source of the Yarra River in the forests of the Yarra Valley in juxtaposition to the Yarra River as it courses it way through the centre of Melbourne at Fed Square and Birrarung Marr.

Jeminah has broadened her scope in running her own business The Art of Place from this platform she has developed a workshop for children that encourages play in the outdoors working with nature and art. It is also her objective to pursue further opportunities working with communities in exploring the environment both built and natural.

John Lam, Committee Member

John is a senior corporate lawyer, having worked throughout Asia with King & Wood Mallesons, Clifford Chance, UBS, J.P. Morgan and ANZ. With expertise in banking and finance and debt capital markets, John has been a valued contributor to the development of Australian market practice for the finance industry through committee membership of key industry bodies such as the Asia Pacific Loan Market Association and the Australian Financial Markets Association. Prior to becoming a lawyer, John worked as a rafting, cycling and bushwalking guide in Tasmania and Europe. He maintains a passion for cycling, paddling, walking and backcountry skiing, and for the possibilities for discovering adventure in our own backyards.

Warwick Leeson, Committee Member

Warwick Leeson OAM has been a resident of Kangaroo Ground for 20 years, is a former councillor and mayor of Nillumbik. He is passionate about the natural world, especially that which has been protected by Green Wedges legislation. He has been actively engaged in many local Nillumbik activities including the award winning ‘Be Ready’ bushfire campaign. Warwick Leeson has a strong track record of standing up for the Yarra River. He has been a powerful advocate for our river and for our waterways and for the associated open spaces in the riverine corridor, which are so important to the liveability of Nillumbik and of greater Melbourne. Warwick has a clear and balanced understanding of the environmental issues that matter to the people of living near the Yarra and its tributaries. He has used that understanding to make significant contributions to the formulation of the Association’s policies and strategies As a Nillumbik councillor and mayor, Warwick worked to provide the Diamond Creek Community Stadium, Eltham and Diamond Creek Reserves water-harvesting projects, improved local bus services and a street lighting program that reduced council’s green house emissions by 50%. Also, he worked to provide the Kangaroo Ground War Memorial Tower Moor-rul ‘viewing platform, Kangaroo Ground Kindergarten and the Eltham Leisure Centre upgrade. In the aftermath of the 2009 bushfires, he worked extensively supporting community re-building and recovery projects and encouraging property fire awareness planning; these community contributions were highlighted in Warwick’s Order of Australia citation. Some of Warwick’s community activities include: Secretary: Warrandyte Community Association Deputy Chair: WCA ‘Be (Fire) Ready Warrandyte” Project Committee member: Yarra River Keepers Association Member: Bend of Islands Conservation Association Member: Christmas Hills Landcare Chairman: Andrew Ross Museum @ Kangaroo Ground Member: Kangaroo Ground Rural Fire Brigade Secretary: St Andrews Community Bushfire Recovery Association Committee Member: St Andrews Community Centre Member: St Andrews Landcare Committee member: Friends of Panton Hill Bushland Reserves Member: Nillumbik Reconciliation Group Member: Rotary International (Diamond Creek branch) Member: Green Wedges Coalition Committee member: Friends of Nillumbik Committee member: Green Wedge Protection Group Community Member: Victorian Local Governance Association White Ribbon Ambassador: Committed to eliminating family violence Committee member: Victorian White Ribbon Ambassadors Network

John Merory, Committee Member

I have had environmental interests since childhood. They began with my witnessing the destruction of native forests in northern NSW and Queensland, and the erosion of good farmland by bad land care, over several years of family holiday travel in the 50s and 60s. Then school, university and medical professional development supervened. I specialised in Neurology with subspecialty interests in stroke and dementia.

In the early 1970s I decided to become more active in environmental issues. I joined Men of the Trees The Tree Project, and took part in several revegetation projects. In 1980 after returning from some years overseas I became president of the Chelsworth Park and Wilson Reserve Protection League, which evolved into the Riverland Conservation Society. We changed the landscape of the local Yarra flood plain from bare paddocks back to indigenous forest, battling the introduced weeds. The Society continues revegetation and biodiversity projects with the local council and Parks Victoria. I have also joined several state and national environmental groups

In 1988 my friend and famous local conservationist Betty Dowell and I did a semester of Environmental Ethics with philosopher Freyer Matthews. It culminated in our participation in a conference by the Commission of the Future. Presentations on atmospheric CO2 and global temperature trends by the late Stephen Schneider from Stanford University opened my eyes to the issue of global warming.

This issue has dominated environmental concerns ever since Kyoto. I have been involved with the local Yarra Valley Climate Action Group and climate networks. However I am concerned about the one dimensional aspect of this concern with neglect of other environmental issues such as biodiversity, ill health from pollution, and animal rights.

In 1997 -2000 I completed a Master of Environmental Science at Monash with Frank Fisher, who became a close friend. He taught that the environment is socially constructed, and has been emphasising the importance of social design for the environment for many years. He was a great advocate of systems thinking. He was the most inspiring teacher I have ever met.

A few years ago I became involved with medical colleagues working on environmental issues. This started with the Green Clinic program with the AMA and ACF. I joined the Climate Change Working Group of the RACP and the Victorian subcommittee of Doctors for the Environment. I found working with dedicated and environmentally aware medical colleagues very enjoyable.

Another environmental interest has been sensible sustainable transport. For the past 17 years I have commuted mainly by bicycle, walking and public transport. I promoted it as a synergy of environmental, health and social benefits. I tried to lead by example at the Heidleberg Repat and Austin hospitals. I thought I had failed but there are now increasing numbers of young trainees, nurses, allied health professionals and consultants getting to work by bicycle. I started some Bicycle User Groups including Banyule with Michael Oxer, and later the Austin-Mercy. I stepped down into the background after the BUGs got going and let them continue with enthusiastic participants.

Lately I have been involved in Transition Towns, specifically Transition Banyule. It is a powerful grass roots movement building community networks in local food gardens, energy conservation and renewable energy, sustainable transport and mutual support.

Finally it has been a great joy to watch the next generation becoming so involved in the environment. This includes my wife and children, my friends, the young medical professionals in the DEA, and the network of climate action groups, forest and biodiversity activists.

My day job is Neurology, with particular interests in cognitive problems, stroke and movement disorders. I am always stimulated by the knowledge given to me by my patients, junior staff and colleagues. Helping sick people is amazingly rewarding.

Maudie Palmer, Committee Member
Maudie Palmer is an expert in the field of Australian modern art and contemporary visual art as a curator and director.

Her most recent major curatorial project the travelling exhibition Danie Mellor, Exotic Lies, Sacred Ties won the AAANZ 2015 prize for the best University Art Museum Catalogue.

As a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at Monash University, Maudie initiated the Birrarung Project which encompasses Indigenous heritage, history post settlement, art, architecture, environment and sustainability. She has recently completed the collaborative project, Birrarung: Art Water Refuge Tumbleweed, and a film titled Birrarung about the Yarra River from its source to the sea.

Maudie has fulfilled a number of roles including that of Founding Director and curator of both Heide Park and Art Gallery 1981 – 1996 (now Heide Museum of Modern Art), and TarraWarra Museum of Art (TWMA) 2000 -2009. She was also the Project Director of major buildings at both.

Maudie has also worked as a consultant on a wide range of projects including: Moet and Chandon Australian Art Foundation (1996 – 2001); New Commonwealth Law Courts, Melbourne, public art program (1999); Parks Victoria, Yarra Valley Artists in Residence Program; Herring Island Environmental Sculpture Park (where she developed the vision for the park and the gallery), and the Melbourne Festival Visual Arts Program (1997 – 1999). She was also the art consultant on the AAMI Stadium. In 2015 she delivered the St Arnaud Street Museum and Artist in Residency program and later a Pop Up Museum in Halls Gap for the Shire of Northern Grampians. Earlier this year she completed the organization of the inaugural Artist in Residence for the Friends of the Hamilton Art Gallery.

She is a Fellow of Heide Museum of Modern Art, the first Life Member of TWMA and a Life Member of the Members of the National Gallery of Victoria, Life Member of the National Gallery of Victoria and has a Rotary Club of Melbourne Vocational Service Award. In 2006 she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2011 she was appointed as an Honorary Fellow of Monash University.

David Redfearn, Committee Member
David was a Councillor and Mayor of the former City of Northcote and played an active role in the council adopting a local conservation strategy as well as helping set up the Merri Creek Management Committee (MCMC). He was a foundation director of the MCMC and its chair for nine years. David is also president of the Victorian ALP Conservation, Environment and Resources Policy Committee. He is current president and a life member of Friends of Merri Creek in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. He is also a director and chair of the Merri Creek Environment Fund and a director of the Inner North Community Foundation. He is currently a member of the Darebin Environment Reference Group and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2012 for service to conservation and the environment, to local government, and to the community.

Janet Bolitho, Committee Member

Since settling in Port Melbourne in 1987, Janet Bolitho has been actively and deeply involved in the life of Port Melbourne. Witnessing and participating in planning debates on Port Melbourne’s transition from industrial to residential development led to two terms representing Port Melbourne on the Council of the City of Port Phillip (2004 and 2012), Mayor in 2006 and 2007.

She loved local government because it gave a rare opportunity to approach community wellbeing in a holistic way. Local government has a unique capacity to improve the quality of people’s lives, not only through services, but through caring for the places where they live. Janet represented Port Phillip on the Association of Bayside Municipalities throughout her time on Council.  As acting chair of the Victorian Coastal Council in 2011, she oversaw the revision of the Victorian Coastal Strategy (2008) and the studies that underpinned the 2014 Victorian Coastal Strategy which has a strong focus on the health of catchments, and catchment to coast management.

She also chaired the Victorian Local Sustainable Accord between 2008 and 2012. which supported collaborative council projects and policies advancing sustainability   The much awarded Growing Green Guide, was such a project.

Since 2012, Janet has continued her involvement with community groups including  the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society, 3207 Beach Patrol (a group that picks up litter borne by the Yarra to Port Melbourne’s beaches) and Friends of Westgate Park. She observes and comments on the changing landscape of the Lower Yarra at Port Places She is also a community representative on the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Fishermans Bend.

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association acknowledges the traditional owners of the Yarra River and its environs, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation.