“The greatest threat to our planet, is to believe that someone else will save it.”

Words by Robert Swan
Adventurer and climate activist

Refugia is a small team of dedicated individuals working to ensure a better planet for many generations to come.

Liana Cornell

Founder, Chair & Director
Liana is the founder of Refugia and is committed to her most valuable life role - that of helping to heal and protect our beautiful planet, preserving it for generations to come, whilst honouring culture, people and our natural world. She believes, ultimately, in the power of the good.

Stephen Champion

Trustee, Company Secretary & Director
Stephen is a Trustee of Refugia and has 38 years of experience as a highly valued and trusted business adviser to many of Australia’s most successful businesses. With a sound understanding of commercial strategy…

David Gyngell

Trustee & Director
David is a Trustee of Refugia and one of Australia’s most influential and experienced media executives. He served as CEO of Nine Entertainment Co. (NEC) from 2010 - 2015, and was a Director of NEC until 2018. In this role, David led the successful listing of NEC on the ASX in 2013.

Leigh Mathews

Trustee & Executive Director
Leigh is a Trustee of Refugia and our Executive Director. Leigh has over 17 years diverse experience in the international development, philanthropic and corporate social responsibility sectors. She hosts The Good Problem Podcast, and is a published author.

Briana Cavion

Director
Rev. Briana is a Director of Refugia and holds a Masters of Arts in Peace Education from the United Nations University for Peace and is an NLP Master Practitioner.   … She currently resides in California, United States, with her partner BearHear…

Delvene Cornell

Director
Delvene Cornell is a Director of Refugia. She enjoyed a successful on-screen television career from 1970 until 1989, then joined the set of Crocodile Dundee II as Producer of a behind-the-scenes documentary, Director’s Assistant, and Stills Coordinator.

Delta Kay

Director
Delta is a Director of Refugia and belongs to the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation along the east coast of Australia. Delta grew up on her homelands in Byron Bay learning from her mother and aunties the importance of caring for Country. Delta is inspired by her Elders…

Kemble Walker

Director
Kemble is a Director at Refugia and a family homesteader in eastern Australia where he grows trees, food, fibre and medicine on 1.5 hectares with his partner Sári and kelpie Zóra.

Nidala Barker

Director
Nidala is a Director at Refugia and a singer-songwriter, activist and gardener. Born of the Aboriginal Djugun people of the Kimberley, her music is an anthem for open hearts and raised fists. Driven by her relentless hope in humanity…

Naza Alakija

Director
Naza is a Director at Refugia and a humanitarian, philanthropist, and global education advocate. She believes that climate change is the defining issue of our time and threatens to wipe out the social development gains of the last half century in the most climate vulnerable parts of the world.

Aimee Aroha

Director
Aimee is a Director at Refugia and is a mother of two wild, home schooled children. She is a mixed race woman with Maori, Irish and Scottish roots living on Dharug and Gundungurra Country (also known as the Blue Mountains, Australia). She is also the founder of her business The Stoned Chrysalis…

Liana Cornell

Founder, Chair & Director

Liana is the founder of Refugia and is committed to her most valuable life role - that of helping to heal and protect our beautiful planet, preserving it for generations to come, whilst honouring culture, people and our natural world. She believes, ultimately, in the power of the good.

Born in the middle of a thunderstorm in the valley of Mullumbimby, Liana spent her formative years being home-schooled and traveling the world. This early experience opened her eyes to the necessity to bridge cultures and countries in order to collectively care for our planet.

Liana graduated with a Degree in Fine Arts and Media from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) and is an accomplished performer. The documentary series, Refugia is Liana’s debut as Director, Writer and Producer. 

In 2012, Liana founded Save Our Skins, a philanthropic organisation focused on ecological news and the continuation of research to help endangered animals and ecosystems worldwide.

Liana presently plays Ania, a lead in Sky’s TV series, Britannia, and her passion for performance has fostered her desire to have a resounding voice for those without one. She uses her earnings from the industry to bolster the philanthropic work of Refugia.

Stephen Champion

Trustee, Company Secretary & Director

Stephen is a Trustee of Refugia and has 38 years of experience as a highly valued and trusted business adviser to many of Australia’s most successful businesses.

With a sound understanding of commercial strategy, Stephen sits on advisory boards and management committees for many clients through his business, Champions Business Growth Advisors.

Stephen has a passion for mountain biking and motor racing or anything else that goes fast!

David Gyngell

Trustee & Director

David is a Trustee of Refugia and one of Australia’s most influential and experienced media executives. He served as CEO of Nine Entertainment Co. (NEC) from 2010 - 2015, and was a Director of NEC until 2018. In this role, David led the successful listing of NEC on the ASX in 2013. David founded and chaired Australia’s first subscription streaming service, Stan in 2015. 

David has previously held CEO at Granada US (ITV), Granada Productions (Australia), Nine Network (2004-2005); a Deputy CEO role at Nine Network (2002-2004); and Senior Executive roles at Publishing and Broadcasting Limited, International Management Group (IMG), and Transworld Media (TWS).

David has held / holds Directorships in diverse and high profile companies including: ACP Magazines, Ticketek, Ninemsn, Carsales, Hoyts, Perisher, Crown, Ebay, Charles Schwab, Wizard Home Loans, Sydney Roosters, NRL Players Union Advisory Board, FreeTV and Surfing NSW.

David is now retired from corporate life and co-owns the iconic Brunswick Hotel in NSW, and a number of retail businesses, including Bondi Surf Co.

Leigh Mathews

Trustee & Executive Director

Leigh is a Trustee of Refugia and our Executive Director.

Leigh has over 17 years diverse experience in the international development, philanthropic and corporate social responsibility sectors. She hosts The Good Problem Podcast, and is a published author. Leigh has a strong interest in ethics and is currently working on her forthcoming book - an exploration of the industry of doing good.

Leigh is the co-founder of the international advocacy network, ReThink Orphanages, a member of the Course Advisory Committee for the Master of Social Impact at Swinburne University, Advisory Board member for the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) ChildSafe Volunteering Hub, and sits on the Victorian Government School for Student Leadership School Council where she chairs the Student Equity Fund Committee.

Leigh holds an MBA from Deakin University and is the recipient of the Victorian Young Australian of the Year Award 2009, the Australian Leadership Award 2009, and the JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (Human Rights and World Peace) 2009. She is an alumni of the University of Melbourne AsiaLink Leaders Program (2014), and the Cranlana Centre for Ethical Leadership Executive Colloquium (2019).

Briana Cavion

Director

Rev. Briana is a Director of Refugia and holds a Masters of Arts in Peace Education from the United Nations University for Peace and is an NLP Master Practitioner.  

She currently resides in California, United States, with her partner BearHeart, and together they direct The Earth Temple - a loving collective of diverse humans who learn from, cultivate, channel and practice earth-based spirituality together, known as The Earth Way. 

Briana has spent the last two decades in deep academic and shamanic studies throughout Latin America. She has studied spirituality, plant medicines, meditation, and has undergone many rites of passage to be able to teach what she does today. Her greatest teacher always has and always will be, Nature. 

She is infinitely dedicated to her soul’s purpose: ending all wars with self, other selves and the world herself; and for all beings to embody heaven on earth in this lifetime.

Delvene Cornell

Director

Delvene Cornell is a Director of Refugia. She enjoyed a successful on-screen television career from 1970 until 1989, then joined the set of Crocodile Dundee II as Producer of a behind-the-scenes documentary, Director’s Assistant, and Stills Coordinator.

Delvene is currently engaged in low-impact property development, interior design and the hospitality industry. Delvene lives with her husband, John Cornell, on their 100 hectare Byron Bay tree and bee farm. 

During their 45 years of marriage, philanthropy has been the cornerstone of their relationship. In the 1990’s, Delvene and John funded the preservation of the overwintering habitat of the Monarch butterfly in Mexico, planting over one million trees. Other projects include establishing Fish Watch on NSW’s Clarence River, monitoring overfishing of prawn stocks, and the prevention of an unsustainable, residential development in a fragile area of Byron Bay’s coastline - habitat to over 54 threatened species.

Delvene and John continue to support numerous, varied environmental causes in the protection of our precious, planetary home.

Delta Kay

Director

Delta is a Director of Refugia and belongs to the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nation along the east coast of Australia. Delta grew up on her homelands in Byron Bay learning from her mother and aunties the importance of caring for Country. Delta is inspired by her Elders, cultural obligations have led to working at National Parks and Wildlife Service as an Aboriginal Educator and representing her people on NPWS management committees and advisory committees.

Currently Delta is now working for eco tours Explore Byron Bay, inspired by her Elders vision of looking after country and culture.

We respect Country, we protect Country, we are Country

Kemble Walker

Director

Kemble is a Director at Refugia and a family homesteader in eastern Australia where he grows trees, food, fibre and medicine on 1.5 hectares with his partner Sári and kelpie Zóra. He is an advocate for natural farming and agroforestry — which yields more with less — as well as healing society by reinstating the human right to land, so that any person can build a sustainable home in their place on Earth. Kemble studied anthropology and sustainability at Columbia and Sydney Universities. His Mayan nagual is K'at (the net) and indigenous Australian skin name is Tjakamarra (red/lore).

Nidala Barker

Director

Nidala is a Director at Refugia and a singer-songwriter, activist and gardener. Born of the Aboriginal Djugun people of the Kimberley, her music is an anthem for open hearts and raised fists. Driven by her relentless hope in humanity, her work dedicates itself to creating reconciliation; of ourselves with our emotions, of our bodies with our natural environments, and of Indigenous wisdom with innovative ideas. Nidala invites us to think of our place in the world, welcoming our innate belonging to the environment and stepping bravely into our responsibility to protect it.

Naza Alakija

Director

Naza is a Director at Refugia and a humanitarian, philanthropist, and global education advocate. She believes that climate change is the defining issue of our time and threatens to wipe out the social development gains of the last half century in the most climate vulnerable parts of the world. To protect the social development gains threatened by climate change, Naza focuses her work primarily on identifying and deploying solutions to address its negative impacts in low-income communities whilst providing both emergency and long-term solutions for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) through different institutions such as UNICEF and UNHCR. She has been a lifelong advocate for the freedom, equality and education of women and children, and serves as a global champion for education on behalf of the Global Partnerships for Education.

In 2018, Naza launched a foundation - SAGE Innovation Centre – to identify, mentor and fund climate-solution innovations developed by African and Middle Eastern SMEs that promote equitable and sustainable development. In 2020, she was named among the ‘Next Generation of Female Philanthropists’ by Women Moving Millions, a gender equality initiativ

Aimee Aroha

Director

Aimee is a Director at Refugia and is a mother of two wild, home schooled children. She is a mixed race woman with Maori, Irish and Scottish roots living on Dharug and Gundungurra Country (also known as the Blue Mountains, Australia).

She is also the founder of her business The Stoned Chrysalis, where she works as a Transpersonal Mentor, a radical birth worker and intuitive space holder for all people but particularly those traversing pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Through the births of her children and the broader social experience, Aimee understands the value and power of birth in healing the collective, for this reason the reclamation of birth influences many layers of her work and life.

Aimee’s career is deeply influenced by her own life experiences first and foremost, followed secondarily by her educational training in community services work rooted in social justice, birth work education with Birthing from Within and Cornerstone Doula Training, transpersonal counseling & art therapy with the College of Complementary Medicine and her personal journey with Rebirthing Breathwork.

All of these threads and many that could not possibly be listed here have created the tapestry of Aimee’s inclusive work which is deeply rooted in the belief that in order for people and the Earth to truly heal we must bridge the gap between the spiritual, mental and political realities of being a human at this time.

Prior to founding TSC (The Stoned Chrysalis) Aimee worked in the community sector with a year spent as an intern at Redfern Community Centre and in 2010 co-founded the Totem Collective; an organisation centered around community development and youth mentoring through skateboarding, art and other creative outlets. Aimee sold her share of the business in 2016 to focus solely on TSC.