By Dr Hannah Sheppard Brennand, Senior Editor
In March 2022, two of Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s (AWC) long-serving Board Directors and biodiversity champions, Ross Ledger AM and Ross Grant, retired. At the same time, Graeme Morgan passed the position of Board Chair to Nick Butcher and took on the role of Board Director. These men are legends of the finance and business sector and have guided AWC in its pragmatic approach to conservation, applying philanthropic funds to deliver high impact outcomes for Australia’s biodiversity: delivering an ‘ecological return on investment’. Between them, Graeme and the ‘two Rosses’ have 63 years of experience on AWC’s Board.
Ross Ledger AM has been involved with AWC for over 30 years, advising Martin Copley AM on the purchase of Karakamia Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Australia before AWC was even established as a charitable organisation. Since then, Ross has helped guide AWC on a remarkable journey, evolving from a single 278-hectare sanctuary in Western Australia to more than 12.5 million hectares of sanctuaries and partnership areas across the country. Ross is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Taxation Institute of Australia and holds life membership with Chartered Accountants ANZ (life membership is rarely given and is the highest honour bestowed by the Council). In 2020 Ross’ contributions to accounting, wildlife conservation and the community were recognised in his appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia.
AWC Chief Executive Tim Allard notes that Ross’ ‘kindness, generosity of spirit, financial stewardship and governance have been fundamental in the transformation of AWC.’ These attributes are appreciated by everyone – from Ross’ involvement and contribution to the Board, the Audit and Risk and Gift Fund Committees, the members of staff he has mentored and encouraged at head office and across the many sanctuaries he has visited. AWC Chief Financial Officer Andre van Boheemen greatly values the mentorship and friendship Ross has extended him. ‘He’d never admit that he’s been a mentor, but he really has, both to me and the rest of the finance team. Everyone who knows him thinks the world of him.’
When on sanctuary, Ross has always made the most of it, soaking in the information and meticulously noting the name of every ecologist, cook, land manager and guide. Personalised thank you notes and photos would always follow each visit. Ross is proud of AWC and has a warm appreciation for everyone’s work. In his own words, ‘I pitch in when I can, and I’m very interested. I’ve been to just about every sanctuary over the years. I still wonder at how I ever got to go to places like the remote Pungalina–Seven Emu and Piccaninny Plains Wildlife Sanctuaries, and to see the floodwater running into Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary … It’s most uplifting.’
Ross Grant represents the evolution of AWC beyond Western Australia. A highly respected corporate advisor, Ross established esteemed independent corporate finance advisory Grant Samuel in 1988. Ross’ tenure with AWC stretches back to 2005, when the organisation began its transformation to operate on a national scale. Ross facilitated AWC’s establishment in the Sydney philanthropic community, actively introducing AWC to his considerable professional and social network and generously providing a home for AWC with office space in the Grant Samuel building in Sydney’s CBD. Ross has served on AWC’s Executive and Audit Committees and has never been afraid to offer constructive criticism.
Bridget Grant, legal counsel to Grant Samuel and Ross’ niece, notes that Ross ‘is a strong, successful businessman and also someone who gets really emotional about watching a little furry Australian animal being released into the wild. Ross is incredibly passionate about the work AWC is doing and has loved sharing this with others, along with his passion for rugby and fine wine.’ These passions have sometimes pushed Ross to extremes, even to the extent of wiring up a TV set on Mt Zero at Mount Zero–Taravale Wildlife Sanctuary to watch the All Blacks play in the Rugby World Cup.
Grant Samuel Co-CEO Guy Fergusson adds to this, saying that Ross’ passion for AWC’s work helped to ignite the passion that he and wife Georgie now feel. ‘At the start of every year Ross would tell me ‘You’ve got to get on sanctuary! It will be the best thing you ever do.’ Lo and behold, when we finally made it to Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary four years ago, it was.’ Continuing the connection with Grant Samuel, Guy joined AWC’s Board in 2021.
Guy describes Ross as ‘the great connector. Honesty and integrity pervade everything we do at Grant Samuel, and these are values established by Ross and that are in keeping with AWC. The relationship between Grant Samuel and AWC has always been a good alignment as it combines Ross’ passion for protecting wildlife with doing the right thing by the world we live in. AWC does that in a more tangible way than most.’
From all corners of Australia, the entire AWC team would like to thank Ross Ledger AM and Ross Grant for their contributions to AWC. We wish them all the best in retirement. Graeme Morgan sums it up: ‘It’s a great privilege and honour to work for AWC, it gives you more than you give it. It’s a very rewarding endeavour and organisation and that’s how we all feel.’
Read and download the full issue of Wildlife Matters here.