International Koala Centre of Excellence - home of the koala

About the Centre

The International Koala Centre of Excellence is a new initiative in South Australia. As a State, we are blessed with extraordinary natural beauty and through Cleland Wildlife Park offer a unique opportunity for guests to see a wide range of mammals, birds, and reptiles, all within a short drive of the city.  However, of all our animals, the Koala attracts the most attention nationally and internationally.

In order for the Koala to thrive and live within our community, as well as ensure that respectful nature based tourism experiences are offered to guests, the South Australian Government has established the International Koala Centre of Excellence.  The Centre will lead vital research to increase our understanding about this remarkable animal.

Purpose of the Centre

The purpose of the Centre is to enhance the management and conservation of the Southern Koala. The Centre aims to establish Adelaide as the ‘home of the koala’ by funding and directing ground-breaking research into our understanding and conservation of Australia’s best loved species. 

Whilst the Centre does not have a current physical presence, the vision is that one day a koala research centre will be located at Cleland Wildlife Park.

IKCE Advisory Board

To ensure the success of the Centre, an Advisory Board has been established to provide leadership and bring together expertise. The Advisory Board will focus initially in defining koala research requirements and will also act to foster key partnerships both locally and globally to promote nature-based tourism, education and training opportunities.

The Advisory Board is led by an independent Chair, Professor Chris Daniels and currently includes four other independent members, as well as four representatives from the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources and the South Australian Tourism Commission.

Professor Chris Daniels (Chair)

Chris Daniels (Chair)

Chris Daniels is Professor of Biology at the University of South Australia. He is also the Presiding member of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management (NRM) Board, is a Fellow of the AICD and holds 21 other positions and titles.

Chris has been a prolific scientist and author, having written or edited 9 books and 1 DVD and contributed to more than 170 scientific publications. He has been published on issues regarding the natural and built environments, and has an abiding interest in the relationship between people and the natural environment.

Chris is also an award-winning science communicator. He has regular sessions on 891 ABC Radio, and has written for many popular press publishers, on a range of science and environmental topics.

As Chair of the IKCE, Chris Daniels brings expertise in Board and organisational management, and an understanding of citizen science, community engagement and the development of government policy. As a Biologist Chris is a successful ecologist and academic who lead the great Koala Count 1 and has been integral in the development of koala management strategies since 2010.

Chris would like to see IKCE become the functional heart of koala management in South Australia. IKCE should become integral to eco-tourism and economic recovery in SA whilst supporting and enhancing the sustainable management and conservation of koalas both in SA and throughout Australia

Chris Rann

Chris Rann

Chris Rann is a highly experienced publicist and communications strategist specialising in crisis management, media training and international media.

His clients - in the UK, France, Finland, New Zealand and Australia -   include major corporations, government agencies, not-for profits, law firms, foreign embassies and private schools.

A former journalist, broadcaster and foreign correspondent (BBC, CBS News, Radio New Zealand) Chris has worked – and reported from – many parts of the world.

As a media consultant, he ran the public relations campaign to attract the $5 billion Collins submarine project to South Australia; managed media for the opening of Olympic Dam (the world’s biggest copper/uranium, resource); and promoted Jacobs Creek (the  wine brand)  around the world for Pernod Ricard.  More recently, he has helped clients with an interest in power- related issues following a devastating SA-wide blackout in 2016; conducted media training sessions for the directors of a major company and senior public servants working in a sensitive area of Government; promoted a visit to Australia by the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales; and helped raise the profile of the SA Museum by exposing some of its ‘hidden’ scientists and researchers.  

In 2008 Chris was awarded a presidential honour by Finland for his work in promoting Scandinavia in Australia and New Zealand.

His involvement with the media and journalism was triggered by a passion for natural history and ornithology and – as a teenager in Britain - he wrote (and had published) letters and articles about the natural world.  This interest is as intense today as it was then.

Chris Rann believes SA has great, under-explored, potential for nature- based tourism and is keen to become involved in this area.

Elaine Bensted

Elaine Bensted

Elaine Bensted has been the Chief Executive of Zoos South Australia since September 2012.  Since being in the role Elaine has led an improvement in the financial position of this conservation charity, achieved record attendance numbers and an increase in Zoos SA membership base from 26,000 to over 46,000.  She also led the work that culminated in the release of a 20 year Master Plan for both Adelaide and Monarto Zoos in early 2015.

Prior to being appointed as Chief Executive, Zoos South Australia Elaine held the position of Chief Executive, Office of TAFE SA.  Elaine has previously held senior positions in State and Local Government, and the private sector in the finance industry.

Elaine’s qualifications include an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy and Management as well as qualifications in finance.  She has experience in both the private and public sector in management, marketing and community engagement.

Elaine was the recipient of the 2014 Australian Institute of Management Not for Profit Manager Award.

Elaine is a member of the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) Board and Chairs the Wildlife Conservation Committee of ZAA. Elaine is also a Board member of Nature Play SA, The Australian Rhino Project, the Children’s University Australia Advisory Committee and the UniSA Business School Undergraduate Program Advisory Board.

Elaine brings her experience in leading a nature based tourism organisation that also delivers critical conservation and research work. Elaine would like to see the target for external research funding reached to lead to improved conservation, health and management outcomes for koalas and wider species.

Suzanne Gendron

Suzanne Gendron

With 38 years of experience working in the field of animal care and conservation for zoos and aquariums, Suzanne is highly experienced in managing the acquisition, medical and husbandry care of live animal collections, as well as training of husbandry staff. Currently, Suzanne is the Executive Director of Zoological Operations & Conservation at Ocean Park Hong Kong, responsible for the strategic direction for the Park’s conservation efforts, as well as overseeing the Park’s animal care and veterinary services.  Prior to joining Ocean Park in 1998, Suzanne had been working with Sea World California, USA and SeaWorld Indonesia where she was heavily involved in animal care and increasing public awareness on conservation for coral reefs and the marine environment of Indonesia.

Suzanne also devotes her efforts to contribute to the zoological industry. Currently, she serves as the Foundation Director of Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong; Board Member for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA); Chair for the Aquarium committee of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and Committee Member for the WAZA Membership and Conservation committees; Committee Member of the AZA Marine Mammal Taxon Advisory Group; Board liaison for the AZA Aquarium committee; Member of the Belantara Conservation Foundation Advisory Board; and Member of the International Koala Centre of Excellence Advisory Board (IKCE), Government of South Australia, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.  In Hong Kong, she serves on the Government’s Country and Marine Parks’ Advisory Board and its committees.

Yvonne Sneddon

Yvonne Sneddon

Yvonne is a professional non-executive director with more than 15 years' experience as a Board member in both the private and public sectors.

She has over 25 years' experience providing financial services and commercial advice. She was a partner at Deloitte and before that a partner at Ferrier Hodgson.  She left private practice in 2004 to become a professional company director.

Among her appointments, Yvonne is a member of the boards of Sage Group Ltd, Sage Automation Pty Ltd, South Australian Financing Authority, Motor Accident Commission and the Tax Practitioners Board.  She is also the Chair of Flinders Fertility.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants. She was appointed to the Board in November 2013.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson is the Group Executive Director, Economic and Sustainable Development, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR). Throughout his career, he has worked in various analytical, policy and executive roles in State Government, and has also worked as a senior associate in the private sector and as the South Australian Deputy Agent General in London from 2010-14. As Deputy Agent General, he was responsible for delivery of the Government of South Australia’s British and European objectives, principally investment and trade related.

Matt was previously Chair of St Matthew's Homes, a retirement village provider in Adelaide; a board member of the Britain Australia Society and advisory board member of the EU's Centre for Global Affairs based at the University of Adelaide.

At DEWNR, Matt is responsible for delivering DEWNR’s contribution to South Australia’s economic development across Government, and in partnership with business and the wider community. He drives the implementation of the ‘Nature Like Nowhere Else’ tourism strategy and management of South Australia’s Botanic Gardens and key iconic tourism sites, including Cleland Wildlife Park. He provides leadership on heritage and the broader impacts of land use planning, infrastructure and project development to realise new business opportunities.

Matt has a Bachelor of Economics at Flinders University, South Australia, and was conferred 'Distinguished Alumni' by Flinders University in 2014. He brings his strategic economic development expertise to the IKCE Board. He would like to see the IKCE Advisory Board provide a critical leadership role in funding and directing breakthrough science to improve our understanding of the koala and its habitat. His vision is to establish the Centre at Cleland Wildlife Park and make Adelaide the 'home of the koala'.

Sandy Carruthers

Sandy Carruthers

Sandy is the Group Executive Director of Science & Information and Chief Information Officer for the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).

Through her role, Sandy is accountable for the coordination and delivery of DEWNR’s core science capability to support Natural Resource Management (NRM) in South Australia. She plays a key role in the interface between NRM science, policy and delivery in South Australia, and recently led the development of a Research Partnership Strategy for DEWNR, to support the critical relationships between DEWNR and the South Australian Research sector.

A key focus for the Group Executive Science & Information role is the development of partnerships between and across government and research sectors, environmental not-for-profit groups and industry, where science supports policy development and decision making.

Brenton Grear

Brenton Grear

Brenton is the Regional Director, Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).  His previous roles include: Executive Director, Conservation and Land Management, DEWNR and Director, Natural Resource Management, DEWNR.

Brenton’s professional background is a geographer/geomorphologist with further qualifications in natural resource management and public administration.  He brings expertise to the IKCE Board on wildlife policy development and implementation of landscape-scale habitat restoration programs.

His vision for the IKCE Board is for it to be a leader in koala research related to both wild populations and captive animals. It should be an organisation that is known for being collaborative with other research institutions and gains the confidence of the community such that they choose to financially support the work of the Board.

Joanne Davidson

Joanne Davidson

Joanne is a research and strategy professional. Since commencing her professional career in 1999 she has worked in a number of roles across both private industry and government positions designing and using research to inform strategy and policy development. Her various roles have often positioned Joanne between the consumer and the provider, gaining insights from the user experience and using these to strategize the provider’s response.

In her current role with the South Australian Tourism Commission, Joanne combines this experience being responsible for the SATC’s strategic research program and it’s inter-governmental affairs. Joanne brings this research expertise to the IKCE board, enabling the board to effectively use data to inform their approach. Her strong background in how to understand and enhance the user experience will also benefit IKCE in terms of the public interface and interest in Koalas.

In her role with the SATC Joanne has been working closely with the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) on implementing the State’s Nature Based Tourism Strategy, ‘Nature like nowhere else, Activating nature-based Tourism in South Australia’. As part of this Joanne is excited to be able to assist in developing the International Koala Centre of Excellence and making South Australia and Adelaide the international destination of choice for koala experiences, research and education.

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