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 Board 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.

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

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.

Ian Wong, Committee Member
Ian, a former Partner within IBM’s consulting business, at various times led IBM’s digital strategy, experience and design practice, and retail industry practice in Australia and New Zealand. During this time he worked across multiple industries to assist clients in transforming their organisations and businesses to become more customer focused through the adoption of digital capabilities.

More recently, he has been involved in volunteering with non-profits as a skilled volunteer. He currently serves on the board of the Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation Victoria in addition to the Yarra Riverkeeper Association Board. Ian also has his own digital consulting business, helping small businesses take advantage of digital technologies to develop customer and stakeholder experiences to grow their business whilst staying true to their core values.

He has lived in many places across the world including England, Mauritius, Canada, Singapore, the USA and has finally settled in Melbourne with his lovely wife and two young children who are growing up to become “eco-heroes”.

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