Martin Hirons, Chairman
Martin Hirons has spent his career in sport and brings a wealth of experience to the Red Dust leadership team. More recently, he was a Director of Sweeney Research/Sports and was responsible for the growth of this part of the business over a 12 year period. In November 2007, Martin sold his stake at Sweeney Research to commence a new chapter in his life. He is currently combining his chairing role at Red Dust Role Models with working on a range of new and exciting projects in the sports and commercial sector as Head of Research with Sports Business Partners.
Prior to joining Sweeney Research in 1995, Martin worked in the sport and sponsorship industry for various sporting bodies and event organisers in Australia and Canada.
Previously he has held roles as a Councillor of the Women’s National Basketball League and as a Director of the Vancouver Zoo.
Martin was introduced to Red Dust Role Models through his basketball connections (the most important being his wife, coach Lori Chizik). The enthusiasm of John Van Groningen and the impact of the program on the children and communities in remote NT have had a dramatic effect on his outlook of life in Australia.
Ray Minniecon, Cultural Advisor
Ray’s most recent career engagement was with the Anglican Diocese of Sydney as a Pastor and Director of Crossroads Aboriginal Ministries. He is also the Chairperson of the Sydney Anglican Indigenous People’s Committee.
Ray is also a Director of Bunji Consultancies, which supports Aboriginal leadership and business initiatives with a number of corporate clients and is a consultant on the development of programs and projects for the remaining men of Kinchela Boys Home (KBH) with the University of New South Wales.
At Murdoch University, WA, Ray earned a BA in Theology and helped establish the Aboriginal Education Unit where he worked as its co-ordinator. Ray has worked for World Vision Australia’s Indigenous programs for twelve years and was its National Director for six of those years.
Ray has spoken about indigenous issues at local, national and international forums. In 1995 he made an intervention at the UN in Geneva on behalf of Indigenous Peoples at the first hearing of the Draft Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2001, he spoke in Italy at a Global Forum on Ethics and Economics, where he also had a private audience with the Pope.
Ray is the father of three children and two grandchildren. He loves music, writing songs, sport, public speaking and travel.
Paul Guerra, Director
Paul Guerra has enjoyed a 20-year career in the telecommunications sector working at senior levels for renowned companies Motorola and Vodafone. Paul has a strong record in sales and marketing and has been instrumental in solidifying the presence of both organisations in Australia. In addition to his full-time work commitments, Paul dedicates some of his time to serve as a Director on several charity-based organisations. His passion for Red Dust Role Models is driven by a desire to help all Indigenous Australians live a healthy and fulfilling life.
Simon McKeon, Director
Simon is Chairman of CSIRO and Business for Millennium Development.Simon is a Director of VisionFund, World Vision International’s microcredit arm and Global Poverty Project.
He is an Australia Day Ambassador for the Victorian Government and serves on the Federal Government’s Human Rights Grants Scheme Advisory Panel and the Victorian Government’s NDIS Implementation Task Force.
He previously served as Founding President of the Federal Government’s Australian Takeovers Panel, Founding Chairman of MS Research Australia and Founding President of the Federal Government’s Point Nepean Community Trust.
Simon is the helmsman of Macquarie Innovation which in March 2009 became the first sailboat in the world to sustain more than 50 knots and in so doing, peaked at a speed of 100 kmh (54 knots).He is also a Patron of the Australian Olympic Sailing Team which won 2 gold and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Melanie Jones, Director
Melanie (MJ) Jones is known as a pioneer for women’s cricket in Australia and around the world. She brings a wealth of sporting experience and achievement to her role as Ambassador, having represented Australia in test and one day cricket, and has amassed such career highlights as:
· Member of winning World Cup team (India – 1997)
· Member of Australian Women’s Cricket Team – Ashes (1998)
· Captain of Surrey County Cricket Team (England – 2002-2004)
· Member of the Victorian Spirit NL Title Team (’96, ’01, ’03)
· Member of World Cup winning Australia Team (2005)
· World Record Test Debut Batting Record (131 – 1997)
After 142 matches for Victoria, Melanie recently announced her retirement from domestic cricket. She departs with two World Cup wins, five Tests, 61 ODIs and a record 122 Women’s National Cricket League appearances…not to mention third on the all-time-scorer list with 3338 at 30.3.
Melanie has coached in numerous countries around the world; project coordinated in South Africa and has commentated for Sky Sports UK, ESPN Star Sport and Channel 9 in Australia. A qualified teacher, she is currently pursuing a media career while also working closely with elite female athletes in career development with Elite Sports Properties – Majestic Division.
Along with these endeavours, Melanie also coaches her beloved Essendon Maribyrnong Park Cricket Club. She approaches her ambassador and board director role with just as much energy and enthusiasm, keen to be as involved in Red Dust programs as possible.
“The chance to work with passionate people on amazing projects with indigenous people is a dream come true,” she says.
Benjamin Lawrence, Director
Ben holds a Bachelor of Science in Business / Labour Relations from Utah State University and advanced management education from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. He was appointed Chief Human Resources Officer for Wesfarmers Limited in February 2008.
Prior to joining Wesfarmers, Ben was the global head of Human Resources for Foster’s Group Limited based in Melbourne from 2001. Prior to Foster’s, Ben held a variety of senior executive roles in the United States including Chief Human Resources Officer with Beringer Wine Estates, Senior Vice President International and Corporate Human Resources with the Clorox Company, a global consumer goods company, and Human Resources Director with FMC Gold and FMC Company, a global diversified mining, minerals and chemical business.
John Van Groningen, Founder
Armed with three years’ experience living in the remote indigenous community of Lajamanu John understood the challenges and hurdles faced by people living in these areas of Australia. He created a unique program that saw elite athletes visiting remote communities and conducting sport and healthy lifestyle programs, and by 2006 it had evolved to become the successful entity that is Red Dust Role Models.
John took on the adventure of creating a new organisation with a fierce desire to make a difference and enough passion to fill the Northern Territory. That sort of determination and enthusiasm was a magnet for like-minded people to join John in his vision to see healthy and self sustainable remote communities.
Sadly, on December 23, 2012 John passed away due to complications with his battle with cancer. Red Dust staff, role models and supporters have naturally all been deeply affected by this tragic loss. John worked very hard to build Red Dust to what it is today and we will be eternally grateful for all that he achieved. John’s passion for Red Dust’s work in remote Indigenous communities was unwavering and we will continue to work hard to improve the health and well being of youth in remote communities in John’s honour.
John’s legacy will live on and at Red Dust we are looking forward to continuing our work in remote communities into the future.