Office Bearers and Councillors

The Society’s rules set out the purpose of the Council as being to:

govern, manage and control the affairs, business, assets and funds of the Society and shall direct, prescribe, or transact, as it may deem necessary or useful, all such acts, matters, business and things for the purpose of the Society, and either at meetings of the Council or otherwise, as it may decide.  Without limiting the amplitude of the authority and powers of the Council, it is expressly provided that it shall have full power concerning all publications of the Society and the employment and amount of remuneration of any suitable persons.’

President – Leigh Radford OAM

Leigh Radford OAMLeigh trained as a Physical Geographer and has strong interest in landscapes from a biogeographic and geomorphological perspective.  He believes that background helped enormously in a career as a Rural Broadcaster and reporter with the ABC, travelling extensively across the nation for more than 30 years.

Now semi-retired, Leigh has come full circle and is again actively involved in the world of Geography and is the current President of RGSSA.  He believes that the Society is one of South Australia’s best keep secrets and he’s on a mission to avail others about our remarkable and priceless collection of books, maps and historical artefacts.

Vice-President – Emeritus Distinguished Professor Iain Hay

Iain first joined the RGSSA in the early 1990s, served on Council from 1996-2000, and edited the South Australian Geographical Journal from 1996-99.  He re-joined Council in 2019, reflecting his deep interest in the state and future of the discipline,

Iain is also Vice-President of the International Geographical Union, Deputy Chair of the Australian Academy of Science’s National Committee for Geographical Sciences, and a past President of the Institute of Australian Geographers.

Iain’s academic work covers geographies of domination and oppression, inequality (especially focusing on the super-rich), research methods/ethics, and human-environment relations (including the perverse outcomes of ‘sustainable’ behaviours).  He is currently Matthew Flinders Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Geography at Flinders University.

Vice-President – Dr Ian Overton

Ian has a passion for maps and his interest in Geography and the environment has led him to a career in research, consulting and governance in spatial information systems and natural resource management. Much of his career has been spent on water and environmental management in the Murray-Darling Basin with a long period as a scientist at CSIRO. He is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Adelaide University and works for the South Australian Government in driving the transition of South Australia to a circular economy.

Treasurer – Tony Merchant

Tony was introduced to the Society in 2019 through his membership with the Friends of the State Library of SA and has a particular interest in History and Geography.

He is a Fellow of the Institute of Public Accountants and has been employed as a Financial Accountant at various companies in the motor vehicle and manufacturing industries throughout his career. He is a playing Member and Treasurer of Ascot Park–Vermont Tennis Club for the past 30 years. Recently retired, Tony is able to pursue some of his other interests including bushwalking, family history and Travel.

Immediate Past President – Rod Shearing OAM

Rod was President from 1993-97 and  2008-17.  He came from a solid administrative background in finance and a general administration skill set.  This background enabled program implementation at the highest levels of enterprise.  These skill sets saw him catapulted onto the Society’s Council three months after joining in 1985!  His strengths include private enterprise in Australia and the United Kingdom, and, at state level, Education, Local Government, Arts and Cultural Heritage and the Attorney General’s court and licensing regimes.

How did a generalist administrator become President, twice, of the Royal Geographical Society?  The membership saw that the skills that I had could lead and enhance the Society’s operations into the future. Academically studying Geography up to matriculation level, with very good grades, having a tertiary financial qualification and having travelled around the world at the start of my involvement with the Society, helped me to start joining up the dots as a member of the Society’s Council.

The other dots to join came from my broad knowledge of Local Government and Libraries, Arts and Heritage/Cultural services, Education and community networking.  So, what are most of the dots that I joined?

  • Developing a strategic ongoing program of activities for members and marketing the Society to the wider community.
  • Networking with the geographical community (GTASA, IAG, IGU, other Geographical Societies in Australia and overseas, Australia’s Cultural Institutions, Spatial Sciences, Local Government, Libraries Australia, the Australian Academy of Science and kindred historical community groups).
  • Fostering close ties with our landlord, the Libraries Board of S.A., for the foreseeable next 40 years.
  • Encouraging a collegiate approach to decision making, promotion and marketing.
  • Maintaining and developing publications and research and awards programs.

Secretary – Melissa Gibbs

Melissa first joined the Society in the early 80s to gain access to some of the rare resources in the Society’s library relevant to her research with CSIRO on the history of the pastoral lands in the North East of South Australia. From the mid-80s to the early 90s she was actively involved in many of the Society’s committees including Program, Library and as Council Secretary and membership officer; earning the Society’s Silver Centenary Medal in 1993.

She re-joined Council as Secretary in 2017 and took over maintaining the Society’s website in August 2018.  She has recently retired after working for nearly 40 years at the University of Adelaide and is interested in arid lands, walking and geocaching.

Councillor – Wally Armitage

Wally joined the Society in 2009 and was a Council member until 2011, subsequently re-joining Council in 2016.  Wally retired in 2008 after an extensive career as a Primary School Principal in both State and Independent schools.  He is interested in the development and promotion of the Society’s resources to students and schools as a means of enhancing the awareness and importance of Geography in the community.

His interests include travel, sport and archiving.

Councillor – Frances Gnodtke

Frances joined the RGSSA in 2015 when resettling back in Adelaide after living overseas for almost three decades.  Frances is now retired after 40 plus years in nursing in Australia and internationally. Frances became involved with repairing RGSSA maps shortly after joining. She continues to do this and has also been a Member of the Program Committee for the past three years, and is now in her second year as Chair of that Committee. Frances became a Council member in 2016 and is currently involved with planning the RGSSA Outback Tour for October 2019.

Her interests include Egyptology, Middle Eastern archaeology, astronomy, botanical painting, history and discovering what lies over the horizon!

Councillor – Browyn Lewis

Bronwyn joined the RGSSA through her family connection and her background as CEO in the Arts, Health and Entrepreneurship.  In 2007 and 2012 she represented Australia at the Global Social Entrepreneurs Forum (Zurich and Oxford) speaking on the burgeoning issue of Aged Care and the impending tsunami of homelessness for aging women.

As an academic she has taught: Marketing, Communications, Fundraising, Entrepreneurship and Business Strategy. She has been a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors since 2008 when she founded the State Library Foundation of WA. In 2017 she moved to Port Elliot and was elected to Alexandrina Council in 2018.  In 2019 she was appointed to the Libraries Board of South Australia and is the Chair of the Public Libraries Committee. She is also  a Committee member of ALGWA (Australian Local Government Womens’ Association).

Councillor – Dr Noel Richards

Noel joined the Society in 1999 after receiving the John Lewis Level 1 prize and became a Councillor in 2015.  He has served as editor of the Society’s newsletter, GeoNews, and as a Vice President.  He is also secretary of the Research, Publications and Awards Committee.

He is interested in human and environment interactions, an interest which led to his completion of a PhD in 2008 which examined the controversial practice of prescribed burning in Australia.  Noel was awarded the John Lewis Silver Medal for this research.  He has also undertaken research into invasive species management and worked in forestry and primary industry roles and as an adjunct lecturer at Flinders University.

Now retired, Noel is able to pursue his interests in bird photography, bushwalking, sea kayaking and travel.

Councillor – Professor Guy Robinson

Guy joined Council in 2021, having been a member of the RGSSA since 2008. He is a human geographer with degrees from the Universities of London and Oxford, and has over 45 years of experience as a researcher working on rural development and environmental management. He began his career at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded the President’s Medal of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. He is a former President of the British Australian Studies Association and has been a visitor in several Australasian universities, including Canterbury, Melbourne, Newcastle, New South Wales and Otago. At UniSA he was Director of the Centre for Regional Engagement from 2010-2014. Currently he is a Departmental Associate in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Population at the University of Adelaide, and Editor of Research in Globalization.

Councillor – Joc Schmiechen

Since the early 70s Joc has had an ongoing involvement in outdoor education, expedition leadership, Aboriginal education, environmental management, cross cultural and eco-tourism, encompassing some of the remotest and wildest locations in Australia and Antarctica. He has presented widely at international conferences, on expedition cruise ships and at leading institutions like the Smithsonian in the US.

Joc has been a member of the RGSSA for over 25 years having been encouraged to join by Warren Bonython, with whom he shared numerous walking and cart hauling adventures. He has been a long-standing member of the RGSSA Program Committee and through his diverse contact network, over many disciplines has been responsible for obtaining many outstanding speakers for the monthly lecture program. He has a strong belief in the values and fundamentals on which the RGSSA is based and is happy to contribute further to its advancement by serving on the Council.

Councillor – Rob Shepherd

Rob is a long-time member of the RGSSA and has formerly been a Council member and Chair of the Program Committee.  Rob is a recently retired secondary Principal, who continues part time as an educational consultant particularly in the areas of Aboriginal Education and leadership development.

Rob has a strong interest in Geography and was the SACE Geography Chief Examiner over many years.  He taught Geography, Biology and Natural Resource Management at Secondary level.  He has also been an occasional lecturer in the Post Graduate Dip Ed program at the University of Adelaide.  He is particularly passionate about sustainable environmental, social and cultural development and has worked internationally and throughout South Australia.  Rob has worked on the accreditation of international schools and has been an assessor for the Council for International Schools (Madrid) and the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (The Hague).  He has been a frequent presenter at international conferences in the Asia Pacific region regarding international mindedness and language reclamation.

He established sister schools in South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Laos and Mongolia and had educational experiences in Zimbabwe.  He has worked extensively in Aboriginal education and has been Chair of and is currently a board member of SAASTA (the SA Aboriginal Sports training Academy) and the Ice Factor Ice Skating) Program.  He is also a strong advocate for the reclamation of indigenous languages and speaks Kaurna language.

He has recently been made a life member of the Dare2 Dream Foundation, an Australian not-for-profit charity that supports abandoned children and people in difficult circumstances in India.

Councillor – Julia Short

Julia joined the Society in 2015 after winning the John Lewis prize after her first year of university.  She now sits on the Council and the Program Committee.

She is currently undertaking a PhD at the University of Adelaide, looking at how lakes have responded to human arrival in New Zealand.  When not studying, Julia loves travelling, the outdoors and cooking.

Councillor – Dr Gerti Szili

Gerti joined the RGSSA Council in 2021 to help promote Geography to the wider community.  She is a human geographer with degrees from the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia.  She began her career at the University of Adelaide and was awarded the Environment Medal in 2004.  Her expertise lies in uncovering the social and environmental implications of landscapes in transition, with a particular focus on urban regeneration projects.

She has infused her passion for all things Geography through her teaching and research appointments at the University of Adelaide and University of South Australia and the University of Melbourne and Deakin University in Victoria, regularly receiving commendations for her excellence in teaching. Her current role as Lecturer in Geography and Scholarly Fellow at Flinders University involves teaching across several disciplines including Geography, Environmental Studies, Tourism and Development Studies.

Councillor – Dr Md Younus

Md Younus, PhD (Adelaide) is an Adjunct Fellow at GEP at the University of Adelaide.  He has published two books; and 24 articles in international refereed journals.  His publications have been cited in academic literature across the World.

He has taught and/or coordinated several courses on environment at Flinders University as a Sessional Lecturer.  Younus is an editor, academic Editor, advisor, editorial board member and/or reviewer of dozens of international journals.  He is a Fellow or member or life member of 19 International Academic and Development Societies including the RGS-IBG, IAG & AAG.  Younus has 26 years of teaching and research experience in Asia Pacific Region.  Younus is also the Founding President of the Bangladesh Australia Hub Inc. (BAH) (A Think-Tank based in South Australia). The BAH website is at

Younus’ wife is a GP; they have two daughters and one son.