Council members represent Traditional Owners, environmental and agricultural industry groups, water industry experts, landscape architects, Yarra River community groups and other members selected for their specific skills.

The composition of the council is specified in the Yarra Protection Act. Our members bring a range of knowledge and industry experience to the council and a passion for protecting and improving the Yarra.

Who we are

Chris Chesterfield

Professor Chris Chesterfield


Chris has been involved in river and catchment management in Victoria for more than 30 years. He has contributed to advancing the protection of rivers through recent roles as chair of several ministerial advisory committees that have led to significant planning and legislative reforms, including the Willip-gin Birrarung murron (Yarra River Protection) Act.

Chris is also Commissioner and Chairperson of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

Uncle David Wandin

Uncle David Wandin

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder

Uncle David Wandin is a Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder and Cultural Practices Manager (Fire and Water) at the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.

He is a recognised leader in the promotion and execution of cultural (cool) burns in Victoria. He has also sat on the Waterways of the West Ministerial Advisory Committee

Diana Kerr

Aunty Diane Kerr OAM

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder

Aunty Diane Kerr is a Wurundjeri Woi -wurrung Elder, and a well-known advocate in the health, welfare, childcare, education and land rights arenas.

She has sat on committees advising the Royal Women’s Hospital, served as Director and Chair of the Board of Native Title Services Victoria and also sat on the Victorian Aboriginal Working Group.

Uncle Shane Clarke

Uncle Shane Clarke

Bunurong Elder

Uncle Shane Clarke is a highly respected Elder and valued member of the Bunurong Land Council. He has provided great service and dedication to the land council and community.

Uncle Shane has a wealth of knowledge regarding Aboriginal culture including Landcare management, culture practices, language and storytelling.

For many years Uncle Shane has worked and been involved in cultural heritage management. He has also held various positions within several Aboriginal community organisations.

Uncle Andrew Gardiner

Uncle Andrew Gardiner

Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder

Uncle Andrew is a proud descendant of the Wurundjeri clans of the Woi-wurrung people and a Muslim since 1995. He identifies as an Aboriginal Muslim Australian.

Uncle Andrew was nominated by his community to represent the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung on the Birrarung Council.

Uncle Andrew’s working life has been in the service of Aboriginal communities, Aboriginal community controlled health and self-determination.

Uncle Andrew has held and continues to hold numerous positions across a range of organisations, Boards and committees.

In May 2021, he was appointed as Co-Chair of the Interim Elders Voice until the Assembly elections in 2023, to engage with all Elders across the state to inform and support their involvement in Treaty and help establish a Permanent Elders Voice who will provide cultural oversight to the work of the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria.

Zena Cumpston

Zena Cumpston

Zena Cumpston is a Barkandji woman with Afghan, Irish and English heritage. Zena works as a writer, artist, researcher and curator and her multidisciplinary practice is centred around empowering Country and community. Zena co-authored three chapters of the Federal State of the Environment Report 2021. She curated the exhibition Emu Sky (Ian Potter 2022) and co curated the exhibition ngaratya (on tour nationally until 2026).

In 2024 her art practice will feature as part of exhibitions at the Art Gallery of NSW, the Darebin FUSE Festival, Town Hall Gallery, Lightscape Melbourne and the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands.

David Jones

Dr David Jones

David is a planner, landscape architect and heritage advisor with over 30 years’ experience in academia, research, and practice, with strengths in First Nations’ Country values and care, regional planning, statutory and strategic planning, urban design, and cultural heritage.

From 2010-2020 he was Professor of Planning & Landscape Architecture at Deakin University, and from 2020-2022 oversighted the strategic planning and urban design activities and engagements of the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.

Dr Erin ODonnell

Dr Erin O'Donnell

Erin is a Senior Lecturer at University of Melbourne Law School. She has worked in water resource management since 2002, in both the private and public sectors.

She is recognised internationally for her research into the ground-breaking new field of legal rights for rivers, and the challenges and opportunities these  create for protecting the multiple social, cultural and natural values of rivers.

Alexandra Lee

Alexandra Lee

Alexandra is a Landscape architect with over 20 years’ experience in the private and public sectors, with a career focusing on urban water management.

She is currently a member of the City of Melbourne Parks and Gardens Committee and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Victoria’s reconciliation committee.

Bronwyn South

Bronwyn South

Bronwyn is Finance Manager at her family’s apple and pear orchard / Angus cattle grazing enterprise on the Arthurs Creek.

She is an active participant in Melbourne Water’s Stream Frontage Management program and is a life member of the Strathewen Landcare Group.

James Thyer

Dr James Thyer

James is a professional scientist who has worked for CSIRO, industry and research institutes working in diverse areas from agriculture to microbiological safety, and most recently he has worked at DEECA in areas such as their Open Spaces program.

James has volunteered or served on the boards of several conservation organisations involved in revegetation and National Park advancement. He is a keen canoeist and has paddled most of the Birrarung.

Dr Sanrda Brizga

Dr Sandra Brizga

How we work

The Birrarung Council understands that the way it works is as important as what it achieves. We commit to being independent, transparent, accountable, consultative, expert and considered.

As a bi-cultural body, we seek to work in true partnership between Traditional Owners and non-Indigenous members. We recognise the unique perspective of Elders and ensure other members hear and understand these views.

The Birrarung Council developed the Walking Together Statement (PDF, 2.5 MB) which sets out the way in which the Council operates as the voice of the Birrarung, advocating on behalf of the River in planning and policy contexts so that the river can be heard by all.

Our logo – the Sacred Kingfisher

The Birrarung Council has adopted the emblem of the Sacred Kingfisher to symbolise our role in understanding and speaking for the River. Perched high over the River, the Sacred Kingfisher patiently observes everything happening on the banks and in the water. We are like the Sacred Kingfisher, perched high over the River, observing what is happening along its land and water.

Sacred Kingfisher

Contact us

The Secretariat for the Birrarung Council is provided by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action. To contact us, email the Birrarung Council.

Page last updated: 16/04/24