Our board of directors


ZNE-Ag CRC Board of Directors

Dr Debra (Deb) Cousins – Chair

Dr Deb Cousins began her career an applied microbiologist working for the Department of Agriculture and Food in Western Australian (WA).  For more than 20 years her focus was on the successful eradication of bovine tuberculosis from the Australia cattle herd.  Her expertise was recognised by the World Animal Health Organisation by her appointment as Director of the International Reference Laboratory for Tuberculosis from 1993 to 2010, providing technical and policy advice to scientists and global policy making committees, respectively.  She was a member of the WA Science Council for 6 years, providing independent policy advice to government, and has recent Board experience that includes the WA Marine Science Institute, the WA Biodiversity Science Institute, the WA Cyber Security Innovation Hub, and the WA Data Science Innovation Hub.

Deb has extensive experience working at the interface of government, universities and industry in agriculture and food, biosecurity, and public health. Her strengths include high-level policy development, strategic and creative thinking, stakeholder engagement, governance, and risk and project management.  Deb has significant experience in Senior Executive leadership roles including in the Australian Biosecurity CRC for Emerging Infectious Diseases, in Primary Industry Departments in WA and Victoria and in the five years prior to her retirement in 2022, providing high level policy advice to government in support of industry development, and building science, innovation, and STEM capability in WA.

Deb grew up in the WA wheatbelt and stays connected to agriculture through family farming businesses involving broadacre crops, sheep and horticulture.  She has a B App Sci from Curtin Uni, a PhD in Microbiology (with Distinction) from the University of WA, more than 90 publications from her time as a researcher (up to 2003), and a current H-index of 44. Deb is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Tresslyn (Tress) Walmsley

Tress Walmsley has been CEO of InterGrain, a national cereal breeding business, since 2012. Having joined the business at inception in 2007 as the first staff member, Tress played an integral role in building the company.  She has an extensive understanding of plant breeding and over 25 years of agribusiness experience.

Tress previously worked at DPIRD for ten years. During this time, she played an industry leadership role in the development of the Australian grains industry End Point Royalty collection system which has enabled cereal breeding in Australia to become commercially sustainable.

Tress is well networked and engages with industry through her industry roles including Chair of Australian Crop Breeders, the Chemistry Centre of Western Australia and the Grains Industry Association WA. She is also a member of Grains Australia Barley and Oat councils.

In 2020, Tress was a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Award, in 2015 she won WA Rural Woman of the Year, and in 1999 she won the WA Young Business Women’s Award. Tress is based in WA and holds a Bachelor of Science (Hons) and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Anthony (Tony) Lee

Tony Lee, a descendant of the Yawuru people with Asian heritage, hails from his birthplace and hometown, Rubibi (Broome).

Formerly a General Manager at Nyamba Buru Yawuru (NBY), Tony was Deputy Chairperson of the NBY Board and Chairperson of Yawuru Holdings Company until December 2023, where he oversaw Gumaranganjyal Roebuck Plains Station.

With a lifelong dedication to Indigenous affairs, Tony has marked several milestones.  Notably, he made history as the first Aboriginal person appointed as a Member of the National Native Title Tribunal, a role he held for nearly a decade.  His extensive experience includes serving as a Senior Policy Advisor to various WA Government Ministers, holding senior management positions in both the Public Service and the not-for-profit sectors, and operating his consulting business specializing in Indigenous affairs.  Tony has a particular interest in education and training and is on the WA Education Department’s Aboriginal Advisory Body as well as the Steering Committee of the Aboriginal Cultural Centre being planned to be built in Boorloo (Perth).

Until May 2024, Tony served as the Chairperson of Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation in Broome.  He generously lent his expertise as an advisory member to various community organisations, including the Sydney World Pride 2023 First Nations Advisory Committee, the Australian College of Rural & Remote Medicine’s Community Reference Group, and the Rainbow Knowledge Kimberley Project.  Throughout his career, Tony has contributed significantly to numerous government bodies and community organisations.

Before the onset of the COVID Pandemic, Tony also dedicated years to volunteering for a Malaysian not-for-profit organization, providing HIV and STI community services and outreach to vulnerable communities and families in Kuala Lumpur.

Dr Nicholas (Nick) Austin

Dr. Nick Austin is an internationally recognized expert in agriculture and natural resources, with extensive experience across public, private, and non-profit sectors both in Australia and globally. He chairs the Agriculture and Food Forum at the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE), serves as President of the Policy Advisory Council on International Agricultural Research, and is a member of the governing board of Bill & Melinda Gates Agricultural Innovations LLC, a St. Louis-based startup focused on accelerating technology translation.

Previously, Nick was the Director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, where he managed a portfolio of investments worth approximately USD 2.8 billion and led the development of the foundation’s climate strategy. He has also held key leadership roles, including interim Executive Director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Montpellier, CEO of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and Executive Director of Agriculture and Deputy Director General of Science and Research at the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Originally from a sheep station in Far North South Australia and currently based in the ACT, Nick holds a BEng (Agriculture) (Hons) and a PhD in the sustainable use of water and fertilizer in Australia’s irrigated dairy industry.  He is an elected Fellow of ATSE, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and an experienced non-executive director, having served on numerous agriculture-related boards, including Cooperative Research Centres.

Dr Kathleen (Kat) Giles

Dr. Kat Giles is a respected leader in agricultural strategy and governance.  She is an experienced production animal veterinarian, chief executive officer, government executive, and non-executive director.  Kat holds a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from Murdoch University.  She is a member of the Australian New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, a graduate of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Veterinary Education in Ruminant Nutrition, and a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Currently, Kat is the Deputy Chair and Audit Risk and Compliance Committee Chair of Rural Business Support, an organisation that supports businesses, farmers, landowners, and communities in rural and regional South Australia and the Northern Territory.  She also holds a non-executive board position with Integrity Systems Company. Kat was significantly involved with the SheepCRC and other CRCs and has held executive roles within large, complex collaborative environments to formulate research, development, and extension programs.

During her career, Kat has been involved in the red meat supply chain as a farmer through to market access and free trade negotiations, contributing to sustainable production and a positive reputation for Australian products.  Her strong expertise in biological systems as a beef, sheep, and dairy veterinarian and ruminant nutritionist, coupled with extensive experience, has enabled her to translate technical skills into research, policy, legislation, and guidelines throughout her career.  Today, she remains well connected to primary industries and the grassroots of broadacre cropping and red meat production in South Australia.

Melinee Leather

Melinee Leather is a Director of Leather Cattle Co (LCC), a progressive family-owned beef cattle operation running 5 000 head of cattle across three properties in Central Queensland. Their operation breeds and finishes cattle for the EU, Grasslands and Wagyu markets with a focus on sustainability and how they contribute to global food security and climate action.

A key focus for the family business is ongoing research and development. As Project Manager Melinee is responsible for planning and overseeing projects including:

·                    Registered Soil Carbon Project

•          Accounting for Nature Level 3 Soil Assessment for Productive Land (Landcare)

•          Australian Government Agricultural Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program (BSPP)for Enhancing Remnant Vegetation (ERV).

•          Steak ‘n wood: demonstrating livestock productivity and environmental service benefits of trees on farm in northern systems.

•          Wild Dog Producer Demonstration Site (PDS)

•          Northern Breeding Business (NB2)

Melinee and LCC have been recognized for their excellence in environmental stewardship, animal management and industry advocacy being awarded 2019 Farm Biosecurity Producer of The Year, finalist in the 34th National Banksia Sustainability Awards and finalist in the Queensland Landcare Awards.

Melinee has worked fulltime in the family beef business for 36 years and over the last 16 years has held various director roles within beef and agricultural industry organisations including Australian Beef Sustainability Steering Group, Agforce Queensland, Cattle Council of Australia, Australian Organic Soil Regeneration and Carbon Advisory Committee, Livestock Biosecurity Network, Road Freight Industry Council and Chairperson of the National Farmers Federation (NFF) Farming Systems Committee.  Melinee has a Diploma of Rural Business Management and Agriculture and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Christopher (Chris) Murphy

Chris Murphy has over 25 years of senior management and consultancy experience in the agribusiness sector.  Since 2018, Chris has operated as an independent advisor and consultant, offering specialized services to commercial agribusinesses, Rural Development Corporations, research consortiums, industry organizations, and other entities. His expertise encompasses strategic planning, project and program evaluation, RD&E priority setting, business development, project management, and communication and adoption advice.

Chris’s career began with research and extension roles at two major Australian dairy companies, followed by senior business and marketing positions within several large agribusinesses. Before moving to consultancy, he held a senior extension and adoption role at DairyNZ, and subsequently, a Group Manager position at Dairy Australia, where he managed an RD&E project budget exceeding A$25 million annually.

With an in-depth understanding of the unique challenges facing agricultural, environmental, and research sectors, Chris has experience across public, levy-funded, and commercial organisations in dairy, meat and livestock, forestry, grains, horticulture, and other rural industries in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and several other countries.

Chris is based in Victoria and holds a degree in Agricultural Science, a Master of Business Administration, and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He currently chairs the DairyNZ Science Panel, Herd Test Centre Committee (HTCC), and the International Dairy Data Exchange Network (iDDEN)