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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 AC, 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 and Qantas Superannuation, a Council member at RMIT University and a director of MYOB Group Ltd.



Ms Helen Thornton B.Ec ACA, GAICD

Helen was appointed to the board in February 2010; she was appointed as Chair of the Audit & Risk and Compliance Committee in March 2010 and as Deputy Chair of the Board in October 2015.Helen has extensive experience in risk management, audit, finance, strategy and corporate governance.  She has held a number of senior leadership positions in major corporations including BlueScope Steel, BHP Billiton, KPMG and Deloittes. Helen has over 16 years as a non-executive director and is currently also on the boards of Yarra Valley Water and Legal Practitioners Liability Committee and is an independent member of the Risk & Audit Committees for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Education & Training.  She is a former board member of Rural Finance Corporation and Big Sky Building Society.  



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

Ken was appointed to the board in May 2008. He is a graduate of the Melbourne Veterinary School and was Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science, and then the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, at the University of Melbourne between 2007-2015. He is currently the CEO (Warden) of Trinity College, Melbourne which is an educational institution of 2200 students affiliated with the University of Melbourne. Ken has completed advanced training program in large animal internal medicine and is the author of several international veterinary textbooks and approximately 200 scientific publications. He is deputy Chair of the Listing Committee of the Federation Equestre International, a member of the Board of Regents of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and Co-Editor of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Ken was a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University before joining the University of Melbourne in 2007.



Ms Natasha Bowness B Ec, ACA, GAICD

Natasha was appointed to the Board in April 2013.  She is an Executive Director of Wilbow Group, a private family investment group whose activities include property, listed and unlisted investments and private equity.  She is a Chartered Accountant and has experience in governance, strategy, risk, business management, audit, finance and philanthropy.  Natasha is Chair of the Bowness Family Foundation, a member of The Australian Ballet Foundation Board, President of the Australian Ballet Annual Giving Program and Chair of the Monash Gallery of Art Committee of Management.  She has also been Deputy Chair of Zoos Victoria Foundation Board.




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 and Parks Victoria.

Geoff is currently a member of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council and has just published a book (Big, Bold and Blue) on Australia’s marine protected areas. He is also Chair of an Expert Panel advising the state government on a new Marine and Coastal Act. 





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.