Founder and Executive Director
John is the founder and Executive Director of The Sunrise Project. Prior to founding The Sunrise Project in 2012, John spent ten years working in senior positions with Greenpeace Australia Pacific, where he performed a wide variety of roles, including managing the climate and energy campaign, the genetic engineering campaign, and the outreach and mobilization department. Prior to working for Greenpeace, John co-founded several non-profit recycling businesses and worked on a wide variety of environmental campaigns at a grassroots level. John holds degrees in Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Business Management from the Queensland University of Technology and before becoming an activist worked for several years as an engineer making components for the oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries.
Director and co-chair
Aviva is the Deputy Director of the International Energy Programme at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), which she joined after two years with The Sunrise Project as Pacific Coal Network Coordinator for the international coal network. In this role she supported the activities of a diverse set of groups in the Pacific coal region, working to develop the support structures and infrastructure for the international coal network. Prior to joining The Sunrise Project, Aviva worked with International Rivers first as Southeast Asia Program Director and then as Campaigns Director, managing the organisation’s Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa and re-granting programs. Aviva has extensive experience in campaigning, fundraising, grants management, and financial and organisational management.
Director and co-chair
Mark is the CEO of Environment Victoria (EV), one of Australia’s leading environmental non-government organisations. He has led successful campaigns to close Hazelwood power station and prevent the proposed HRL coal-fired power station in Victoria. Prior to working at EV, Mark worked as a campaigner with Greenpeace Australia Pacific where he successfully campaigned for the introduction of renewable energy and energy efficiency targets in Victoria, NSW and nationally. Before that he was Coordinator of the Environment Centre of the Northern Territory where he grew the organisation considerably and ran successful campaigns to prevent uranium mining in Kakadu National Park and land clearing in the Daly Basin. He has degrees in economics, Australian History and Adult Education.
Miranda is a Principal in Maurice Blackburn’s class actions department in Sydney. Her legal practice is centred on corporate governance, market integrity and consumer protection. She has a long standing interest in environmental protection and has advised and conducted litigation on behalf of environmental organisations on many occasions and also practises in the areas of class actions and human rights. From 2004 to 2006 she was a co-chair and board member of the Mineral Policy Institute Inc. She has worked with the Central Land Council and with an Aboriginal community corporation in the Northern Territory and has a particular interest in the interaction between mining development, Indigenous land and native title rights.
Erna de Vries Director
Erna is a retired petroleum geologist and financial analyst with a keen interest in sustainability and corporate ethics. She studied Earth Sciences and worked as a geologist with international oil and gas companies including Shell, BHP and Ampolex. After working in the UK and Brunei, her career brought her to Australia. Erna obtained her MBA in Sydney and went on to work as a senior executive in corporate and institutional banking with Bankers Trust and then Westpac as Head of Resources Research and Commonwealth as a senior risk manager. She has been involved in the financing decisions of many major mining and energy projects. For the last 15 years Erna has been an active volunteer in various local community campaigns.
Carmel has lived and worked all her life in regional NSW, having spent most of her time in north-west NSW. Carmel trained as a botanist and linguist and now works as an environmental consultant. In her role as Campaign Co-ordinator for the Lock The Gate Alliance, Carmel works with a wide cross-section of the community, including farmers, Traditional Owners, environmentalists, and town residents, to prevent the uncontrolled expansion of coal and gas mining. Carmel is committed to providing support for people and communities that are facing massive pressure from mining giants who threaten their land and water resources. She recognises the power of collective effort and the importance of genuine participation from grassroots groups and the community to deliver lasting social change.
Julie Lyford OAM
Julie is a strong, dedicated and experienced advocate for rural and regional communities. As a former registered nurse, local councillor and mayor, Julie is committed to the core values that build progressive and resilient societies. Her priorities are sustainable, liveable communities with fair, transparent and trustworthy political processes. Julie has extensive board and decision-making experience with Hunter Councils, Regional Development Australia (Hunter), Mid Coast Water, Upper Hunter Arts, tourism and economic development committees. As a young mother concerned about climate change, Julie co-founded the Gloucester Environment Group in 1990 and went on to chair Groundswell Gloucester; a volunteer team protecting the Gloucester and Manning Valley from coal and coal seam gas extraction.
Dave is the Lead Organiser of the Queensland Community Alliance, a local alliance of faith groups, charities, unions, community organisations and ethnic associations based on the community organising tradition of the United States. The alliance identifies and trains people to become community leaders and builds stronger communities by encouraging active citizenship across diverse groups. Dave has previously worked as a human rights campaigner for Amnesty International in Queensland and East Africa, after volunteering with the Movement for Democratic Change, the political opposition in Zimbabwe, in 2002-2004. He has also worked on trade union campaigns and for the Queensland Government. Dave grew up in a family committed to environmental activism and preserving our ecology and recognises the importance of communities organising around their common interests through mechanisms other than just electoral politics.
Sam La Rocca
Sam has over twenty years experience as an activist committed to building people powered movements for a socially just and ecologically sane world. While completing his honours thesis on activist mobilisation, Sam co-founded activist education outfit The Change Agency to deliver campaign training for NGOs and community groups around Australia and the Pacific. He’s worked as a senior advisor to the Australian Greens and managed the campaign to successfully re-elect the first Greens lower house federal MP. This campaign is widely regarded as one of the best organising campaigns in recent Australian political history. More recently, Sam facilitated a process within the Climate Action Network to reset the Australian climate movement strategy, before moving to GetUp! to lead their Environmental Justice, election and organising strategies.