Since 1981

CAFNEC has been advocating for the protection of nature in

Far North Queensland since 1981.


The Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) is a not-for-profit incorporated association that acts as conservation council for the region from Cardwell north to Torres Strait and from the east coast to the Gulf of Carpentaria. We work to protect the environment by enhancing the capacity of local groups and community members to act for conservation, strengthening networks within FNQ, facilitating region-wide cooperation to identify and coordinate action on issues of regional significance and when necessary, engaging in campaigns that are strategically important for the region.

The FNQ environment needs a strong voice, and the people of FNQ who know, love and live in the region are the best ones to be that voice. Protecting the world’s largest living structure (the Great Barrier Reef) and the oldest continuously surviving rainforests (the Wet Tropics) – as well as the other spectacular natural areas in the region – is a huge challenge and needs resources. These World Heritage Areas are important to Australians and global citizens alike so we also need people outside the region to join and support us in giving voice to the local community members who speak and act for these globally-recognised natural wonders. 

Like many not-for-profit organisations, we have a small number of staff that keep things ticking along but volunteers, members and donors are the real power behind the organisation so the more we have, the more we can do.


CAFNEC was formed in 1981 by members of a number of local conservation groups. It was felt that group coordination and a higher profile for regional environment issues was needed with a single, accessible contact point. Since 1991 that contact point has been both an office and library in Cominos House, a restored Queenslander at the corner of Greenslopes and Little Streets, where the then city council chose tenants for their contribution to restoration and to co-operative management. Cominos House is one of the most well know cultural and historical buildings in Cairns, close to the Flecker Botanic Gardens. Since CAFNEC’s establishment it has been the focal point for environmental action and education in the region.


Our Staff

Lucy Graham | Director | She/Her

Lucy was born here at the Cairns Base, and grew up on the Atherton Tablelands. She has a deep love for our World Heritage Areas and the wide ranging nature that our region has. 

Prior to her appointment in August 2019, Lucy has been actively involved with CAFNEC for more than five years, as a volunteer, management committee member and representative. Lucy has strong networks with a wide range of organisations and community groups in Far North Queensland, as well as at a State and National spheres.

Lucy has a B. Sustainability from JCU, and has trained with The Change Agency and for many years worked in Outdoor Education and Tourism. Lucy has worked with organisations such as The Wilderness Society, GetUp and the Queensland Conservation Council and brings knowledge and exprience valuable to CAFNEC.

Email: director{at} 

Mari Short | Office Manager

Marie has worked for us for many years and maintains a vast knowledge bank in relation to our work and the not-for-profit sector.

She says there is never a dull day in the CAFNEC office and that she is fortunate to be able to interact with so many interesting and energetic people, and of course the myriad of environmental issues.

Apart from her CAFNEC life, she enjoys exploring the walking trails and waterfalls the region has to offer.

Email: admin{at}

Monique Jeffs | Community Organiser | They/Them

Monique is our community organiser, taking over the role in July 2023 from Aïsha who worked for CAFNEC for the past five years. Monique has been inspired by the important advocacy and deep organising work CAFNEC does centring grassroots community. They’re so excited to learn from the amazing membership groups, volunteers and funders that make CAFNEC great.

Monique has been working and volunteering as a community organiser and campaigner in Meanjin (Brisbane) on Jagera and Turrabul Country for the past five years and a half years. Most recently Monique worked for Amy MacMahon, MP for South Brisbane as a Community Campaigner collaborating and supporting community groups to fight against dodgy developments in the rapidly developing neighbourhood of West End and surrounds.

Monique fell in love with community organising when they started volunteering with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition in 2018 and believe it truly is the way that we can make the world a better place. They bring a wealth of skills and experience from community organising across the climate and environment space – both paid and unpaid, they love people and are deeply committed to the movement.

Find them playing and listening to music, reading or going on adventures in the rainforest.

Email: getinvolved{at}

Shannon Bredeson | Projects Officer | She/Her

Shannon is originally from California, USA and arrived in Australia as a Master of Science student in early 2020. She studied at JCU, specialising in Tropical Biology and Conservation. Being amazed at how green and beautiful Cairns is compared to the Californian deserts, she decided to make it her home and began volunteering with CAFNEC in early 2022. This fostered a deeper sense of community and connection within her, and she later joined CAFNEC as an employee in early 2023. She is passionate about helping others develop a love of the environment, and feel empowered to take care of it.

Email: projects{at}

Derryn Knuckey | Fundraising & Comms Coordinator | He/Him

Derryn is a long term Cairns resident with a diverse background in community work. Predominantly working in the human services sector in the past 20 years, Derryn’s journey has taken him to various parts of Australia, working in regional and remote communities at times and working in the creative industries, community arts, on Country projects and supporting vulnerable young people.

Bringing together a strong passion for people and the wild climes of tropical Far North Queensland, Derryn stepped into the Fundraising and Communications Coordinator role in October 2023.

Email: community{at} 

Bronwyn Opie | Community Campaigner | She/Her

Originally hailing from Ontario, Canada, Bronwyn has been in awe of the FNQ environment since she arrived in Australia in 2014. She joined the CAFNEC team in 2021 as the Climate Organiser, and has since taken on additional campaign work, including our Water Advocacy campaign.

As the Community Campaigner, Bronwyn’s role is to lead and coordinate CAFNEC’s Climate Justice Campaign and Water Advocacy Campaign. These campaigns aim to bring concerned community members together to advocate for better policies and actions to prevent further climate destruction, and ensure our local government is pursuing sustainable water security solutions that protect our vulnerable river systems and are resilient to the changing climate.

Bronwyn has a B. Sustainability from JCU and is currently completing a Master of Environment, majoring in environmental economics and policy, through Griffith University. When she is not working or studying, she enjoys hiking with friends, breakfast food, and painting.

Email: climateaction{at} 

Our Management Committee

Pia Harkness | President | She/Her

Pia was born and raised in Townsville and was fortunate to spend much of her childhood on Magnetic Island where the seeds of her interest in tropical marine ecosystems were sown. She studied a Bachelor Environmental Management at Newcastle University and a Master of Tropical Environmental Management at Charles Darwin University. Pia went on to complete a PhD which examined marine conservation and community development policies and their implications for coastal communities and their livelihoods in remote eastern Indonesia.

Pia is now a Social Scientist working with Traditional Owners to bring together Indigenous knowledge and western science) for land and sea management with multiple benefits. After nearly a decade living in Darwin, Pia is excited to be getting back into diving in Cairns, and has recently taken up mountain biking. 

Belinda Billing | Vice President | She/Her
Belinda has worked in sustainable tropical agriculture in the Mackay Whitsunday and Far North regions for more than ten years. Her focus has been on improving water quality in Great Barrier Reef farming regions by working collaboratively with agricultural communities.
She has a Bachelor of Communication and is currently studying Psychological Science and Sociology, her work experience spans journalism, adult education and, more recently extension and project management in sustainable agriculture.
Belinda's work and passion lies in bringing together science and community to create change for a more sustainable and equitable world. When Belinda is not working you'll probably find her playing with her dogs or hiking the region's beautiful trails.
Ellie Bock | Secretary |

Ellie has long been active in the Queensland and NQ /FNQ environment movement since her teens, as a supporter / participant and as a governance volunteer.

Living on Mamu Country inland from Innisfail, Ellie has had the wonderful privilege - over the past 2 decades - of learning and evolving as a professional land and sea country planner and facilitator, mainly contracted directly by Traditional Owners of the Wet Tropics, Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait. Ellie is undertaking a PhD through James Cook University, and has a part-time Regional Planner role with The Cairns Institute.

As a former member of the MC, Ellie feels it’s great to be invited back to renew a long-standing commitment to the exceptional regional peak body, and dedicated community conservation organisation, that is CAFNEC.

Bess Murphy | Treasurer | She/Her

Hailing from country NSW and trained as an Environmental Scientist/Biologist Bess is passionate about environmental advocacy, science, social change & sustainability. 

She has over half a decade of environmental campaigning and outreach experience spanning Bathurst, Wollongong and Cairns, including most recently working at CAFNEC from 2015-2020. 

When not at CAFNEC you can find Bess crafting sustainable timber jewelery in an off grid shed on the Tablelands, under the sea, or hiking in the rainforest nerding-out on botany. She now runs two eco-conscious businesses with her partner and teams.

Sioux Campbell | General Member |

Sioux Campbell currently works as a Disaster Resilience Officer for Cairns Regional Council. Until recently, she was a director of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation and continues to provide governance advice for not-for-profit organisations.  She is a keen outdoors sportswoman on land and in the water. Sioux has a long history of involvement in environmental management through past employment with New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, her own environmental PR consultancy and voluntary positions with marine conservation organisations. As a crisis manager and community engagement specialist, she is a Fellow of the PR Institute of NZ, a life member of the NZ Association for Environmental Education and an FNQ Ambassador for the International Association of Public Participation.

Avinash Chennuri | General Member | He/Him

Avinash is a multi-disciplined management and development professional with more than six years of experience. He was trained in international development, geo-political relations, sustainable development, and business management. Avinash has worked as a marketing and operations head for many enterprises in India and led several international projects. He recently finished his second masters and graduated from James Cook University in Masters of Global Development.

He is a passionate researcher and an ardent advocate of eliminating polarisations and inequalities and promotion of equitable development, social and climate justice, civil and political rights, and democracy.

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