Connector Newsletter Issue 30

CEO’s Report

June 24, 2021

Mel Baker
CEO, WP Biosphere Foundation

General Introduction

It’s been a busy few months since I started with the Biosphere Foundation!  The team and Board have been very welcoming and helped me to settle in quickly.  I’d also like to acknowledge my predecessor, Greg, and his ongoing support over the past few months.  As many of you know, his history and knowledge of the Biosphere and Foundation runs deep, which is a great asset for me to be able to tap into.  You’ll read a farewell note from him in this edition and I also asked him if he’d write an article to let you all know about a sighting of a wild Orange Bellied Parrot in the Biosphere (he didn’t take much persuading!).


You’ll get a great snapshot of some of our activities by reading the Connector articles from Stephen Brend and Lance Lloyd from the Foundation team.  There are also several articles from other organisations in our network.


We’ve recently executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the three Landcare networks within the Biosphere Reserve:  Bass Coast Landcare Network, Mornington Peninsula Landcare Network, and the Western Port Catchment Landcare Network.  It’s great to be able to formalise our partnership and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them.




In the Spotlight


What makes Mel tick?

I’ve always been interested in the world around me and have been fortunate to spend a significant part of my life living, travelling and working in a variety of places.  I went hiking in Nepal after finishing university and the amazing natural beauty of the country, along with the friendliness and generosity of the Nepalese people, made an indelible mark on me that I still remember fondly.  It also fuelled the fire of my travel bug and I subsequently spent many years exploring various corners of the world.  I particularly liked getting ‘under the skin’ of a country rather than just passing through, so I often took up either paid or voluntary work so I could stay longer and get to know the locals.  It was during a 5 month long trip to South America that I decided to embark upon a career change – I was volunteering in a cloud forest in Ecuador and realised I wanted to work professionally in the environmental field.


Tell us a bit about your professional background

After graduating from the University of Adelaide I started out in consulting working as a Business Analyst at manufacturing and logistics companies – my first role was at Pilkington Glass in Dandenong.  I then got posted overseas and did similar work in Hong Kong, the UK and Europe.  After deciding to make a career change I ended up coming back to Australia to do a Master of Environment at the University of Melbourne.   Coincidentally, the timing of my career change (2002) aligns with the year the Western Port Biosphere Reserve was designated by UNESCO as meeting the criteria to join the Global Network of Biospheres (places which have both environmental significance and people that live within them).

For the last 18 years that the Western Port Biosphere Foundation has been operating, I’ve worked in a range of management and leadership roles at EPA Victoria, Sustainability Victoria and on a large CO2 reductions project.  I have completed an Australian Institute of Company Directors course and sit on a national charity’s Governance, Finance and Risk board sub-committee.


What led you to join the Biosphere Foundation?

The most important reason for me was that the purpose and priorities of the Biosphere Foundation aligned with my own values.  With the increasingly urgent need to take action on climate change and ecosystem protection and restoration, I wanted to take on a leadership role with an organisation that was playing its part in tackling these issues.

After 18 years in State Government, I was also ready for a change and a new challenge.  Whilst I’d volunteered with a number of independent non-profits over the years, I’d never actually worked for one.  I’m excited to be working locally given I live within the Biosphere Reserve and I’ve really enjoyed being able to work together with the team at our office in Hastings (COVID restrictions allowing!).


What would you like to achieve as CEO of the Biosphere Foundation?

Lots!  But to be more specific…… of my main aims is to broaden the awareness of the Western Port Biosphere Reserve so that the Foundation can deliver more projects and programs to make the Biosphere a better and more sustainable place.

I’ve learnt a lot about the Biosphere since I joined and it truly is a unique and special part of Victoria.  It’s the only place in Victoria recognised by UNESCO under its Biosphere Program and has a wide variety of species and habitats that are protected under State, Commonwealth and International legislation.  For me, one of the key challenges lies in trying to balance the protection and restoration of the environment against the needs and impacts of us humans.  This is one of the underlying reasons UNESCO established their Biosphere Program 50 years ago, and I’d like to see the Western Port Biosphere Foundation play a key role in tackling that challenge and driving better outcomes locally.

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