Zoological Parks and Gardens Board

Zoological Parks and Gardens Board

The Zoological Parks and Gardens Board is the governing body of Victoria’s three great zoos: Melbourne Zoo, Healesville Sanctuary and Werribee Open Range Zoo. 

Set up in 1973 as a statutory authority, the board’s role is to protect and promote the zoos and their roles in conservation, research and education.

The board is appointed by the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change. 

The Zoological Parks & Gardens Act 1995

The Zoological Parks and Gardens Act 1995 (version incorporating Amendments as at 5 April 2005). The objectives of the Act are to

  • Conserve, protect, manage and improve the zoological parks and managed land and the zoological collections
  • Promote and increase public enjoyment of the zoological collections, zoological parks and managed land
  • Increase public knowledge and awareness of the zoological collections and the zoological parks through publications, educational programs and advisory services and other activities
  • Carry out an promote zoological research, the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats and the maintenance of biodiversity

The Werribee Zoological Park (now known as Werribee Open Range Zoo) was established by the board in December 1975 and opened to the public in September 1983.

Healesville Sanctuary (originally The Sir Colin MacKenzie Zoological Park) was placed under the management of the Zoological Board on 27 June 1978.

Our Patron

The Hon. Linda Dessau AM, Governor of Victoria

The Chair

  • Ms Anne D F Ward B.A., LLB (Melb), FAICD 

    Anne was appointed as Chair in March 2013. She came to the Board with over 30 years of extensive experience in business management, strategy, finance, risk and governance across a range of industries including banking, agriculture, property and tourism. Prior to becoming a professional director, Anne was a commercial lawyer advising major corporations on strategic transactions, mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, contract law and regulation and corporate governance. She was a corporate partner at two major Australian law firms, Minter Ellison Lawyers and Herbert Geer in Melbourne. Anne is presently Chairman of Colonial First State Investments, Avanteos Investments, Qantas Superannuation and the Centre for Investor Education and a director of FlexiGroup Ltd.


  • Dr Kenneth Hinchcliff BVSc (Hons), MS, PhD, DACVIM

    Kenneth was appointed to the board in May 2008. He is a graduate of the Melbourne Veterinary School and Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Melbourne. He has completed an advanced training program in large animal internal medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a PhD at the Ohio State University. Kenneth was a faculty member in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University, rising to professor before joining the University of Melbourne in 2007.

  • Mr Sahil Merchant LLB (Hons), B Comm, MBA, GAICD

    Sahil was appointed to the Board in April 2013 and is a seasoned entrepreneur who is equally comfortable in the corporate setting. He has particular expertise in digital strategy and execution in the context of large organisations, data strategy, digital marketing, e-commerce and customer engagement. He has founded numerous companies, including (but not limited to) a physical retail brand, a consulting firm which was successfully merged into Ogilvy Australia, and a medical services company (using ground breaking surgical techniques).

    Sahil is a Senior Vice President at McKinsey & Company, He is responsible for leading McKinsey's digital practice in Australia, including McKinsey Digital Labs, to drive transformative change through Australian enterprise. 

  • Ms Natasha Bowness B Ec, ACA, GAICD

    Natasha was appointed to the Board in April 2013.  She is an Executive Director of the Wilbow Group, a private family investment group whose activities include property, listed and unlisted investments and private equity.  Natasha has experience in governance, strategy, business management, finance, accounting, audit and philanthropy.  Prior to joining Wilbow, she had a 7 year career with PricewaterhouseCooper in Australia and Internationally. Natasha is Chair of the Bowness Family Foundation and has been Deputy Chair of the Zoos Victoria’s Foundation Board.

  • Ms Helen Thornton B.Ec ACA

    Helen was appointed to the board in February 2010; she was appointed as Chair of the Audit & Risk and Compliance Committee in March 2010. Helen has extensive experience in risk management and both internal and external audit. She has worked in a number of executive positions in the private sector. She was an independent member of the Audit & Risk and Compliance Committee for a number of years prior to her appointment to the board. Helen is also on the boards of Rural Finance Corporation and Big Sky Credit Union.

  • Associate Professor Geoff Wescott B.Sc (Hons), M.Sc, M.Sc, Ph.D FEIANZ

    Geoff was appointed to the Board in 2011 and is Associate Professor of Environment at Deakin University in Melbourne, a Fellow of the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand, a member of the World Commission for Protected Areas of the IUCN and Vice President of the Australian Coastal Society. He has served on the Australian National Oceans Advisory Group, the Victorian Coastal Council, Parks Victoria and has just written a new edition on rocky shores, flora and fauna of Wilsons Promontory National Park.

  • Ms Carolyn Jackson LLB, BCom MPA

    Carolyn was appointed to the Board in August 2014 and is the Executive Director of Finance and Planning (CFO) with the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning. Carolyn has extensive experience in policy and strategic financial management across the Victorian Government, including roles with the Department of Treasury and Finance. Carolyn has a double degree in Law and Commerce (Economics), and a Master Degree in Professional Accounting.

  • Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmão AO 

    Dr Sword Gusmão is the Goodwill Ambassador for Education of Timor-Leste, Chair of the Alola Foundation and Expert Adviser to the Timor-Leste National Commission for UNESCO.

    She has a long service history in fostering international relations, and improving education, health and living conditions. Her expertise in international engagement and education will be valuable assets for marketing and promoting Victoria’s zoos to the world.