Robert Johanson – Chair

Robert Johanson has worked at corporate advisory firm Grant Samuel since 1993 and is responsible for its Melbourne office. Robert has 30 years’ experience in corporate finance and investment banking, including the corporate division of Macquarie Bank, and has been involved in a wide variety of capital markets transactions for leading corporations. Previously he worked as a solicitor, a law lecturer and as a consultant to mining and finance businesses. He is the Chairman of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited. He is Deputy Chancellor at the University of Melbourne and Chairman of the Melbourne University Fund. He is Chairman of the Australia India Institute, a member of the Takeovers Panel and a director of the Robert Salzer Foundation, an arts foundation. Robert is also a sheep farmer.

Penelope Ward-Ambler

Penelope is a speech pathologist by profession and works in education, and as an Intermediary with the Victorian Court Intermediary program. She has over 30 years’ experience in the areas of education, health and local and international aid.

Penelope has had a keen personal connection and interest in Australian Friends of Asha since its inception.  She acknowledges the significant financial, professional and personal support that Asha has offered students, and how that has enabled real individual and slum community transformation. Penelope regards it to be a privilege to support Australian Friends of Asha by connecting people, raising funds and spreading the word of Asha in Australia.

Caroline Chernov

Caroline is the Executive Director of The ten20 Foundation, a venture philanthropy organisation that in ten years, seeks to transform the lives of children and young people in 20 of Australia’s most disadvantaged communities. She has over twenty years’ experience providing strategic focus and management support to corporates, government and non profit organisations. Following ten years with Accenture’s Strategy Group across Australia, Asia and the US, Caroline has directed her passion and skills toward generating social change for our most disadvantaged communities. She has served as Director of Strategic Planning for the US non profit New Sector Alliance and as Strategy and Performance Manager for Social Ventures Australia. She holds a BA (Hons) from The University of Melbourne, an MBA from the International Institute of Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland and a diploma in Managing Non Profit Organizations from Harvard University, Boston, USA. She serves on the Board of the VCA Foundation (Victorian College of the Arts), Play For Life and the Australian Friends of Asha Slums and is an Ambassador for the Melbourne Human Rights Film Festival.

Sunil Lal

Sunil is a lawyer by profession and leads the Corporate Advisory Division of the firm for international joint ventures outbound and inbound investments from India, other Asian markets and UAE in sectors as diverse education, health, mining, technology and insurance. Sunil regularly presents on Indian and Asian business practices. Acknowledged as both nationally and internationally for regional expertise, Sunil has been invited to present to the Australian Federal Parliamentary Committee on bilateral trade and investment between Australia and India.

He is a current member of the Chamber of Australia India Trade & Investment and also serves on the NSW Multicultural Board of Parramasala. He has also served on the Boards of Australia India Business Council, Senior Mentor- Australia SAARCLAW and member of AFL Committee Multicultural (NSW).

In his social responsibility sphere, Sunil is committed to philanthropic activities in Australia and Asia pacific. His philanthropic work includes organisations such as Lymphoma Australia, Legacy Australia, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and various other charities.

Richard Leder

Richard is a partner and Head of Commercial Litigation at the law firm Wotton + Kearney. As a commercial litigator and media lawyer, Richard has established long-lasting relationships with his clients – including the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Channel 7.  He has acted in many high profile defamation cases, including for Rebel Wilson and Grant Denyer.  Richard has a deep commitment to pro bono legal support.  He Chairs the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation and serves as a director of The Conversation Media Group and the Melbourne Press Club.  He also sits on the Committees of the Mt Buller Race Club, the Mt Buller Ratepayers Association and the Law Council of Australia Media and Communications Committee.  He was Deputy Chair of the Mt Buller & Mt Stirling Resort Management Board for 5 years until September 2022.   He was awarded a medal in the Order of Australia in 2019 for his contribution to the community.

Kiran Martin

Dr Kiran Martin is the founder and director of the Delhi based NGO Asha Society. Dr. Martin studied at the University of Delhi’s Maulana Azad Medical College, gaining a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree. She then specialized in paediatrics at Lady Hardinge Medical College within the same university. Responding to a cholera outbreak in a Delhi slum in 1988, Dr. Martin began treating those residents and saw the need not only for quality healthcare in the slums but also the need to address other social determinants including education, empowerment, income generation and better supporting infrastructure. This gave birth 34 years ago to the Community Health and Development NGO that has transformed lives of hundreds of thousands slum residents. Around 700,000 people in 95 slum colonies of Delhi now benefit from the work of Asha, which means ‘hope’. Dr. Martin’s achievements were recognized by the Indian Government when she was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards. Asha’s work has been praised and replicated by organizations in many countries. Dr. Kiran is  the nerve centre of Asha, envisions the strategic roadmap and provides key management input in all aspects of Asha’s endeavours.

James McCluskey

Professor McCluskey is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at The University of Melbourne, appointed in March 2011. Prior to this he was the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Partnerships) and Chair of Microbiology and Immunology. 
Professor McCluskey trained in Perth as a physician and pathologist. He spent four years at the National Institutes of Health in the USA. On returning to Australia in 1987 he worked at Monash University until 1991 before joining Flinders University and the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Professor McCluskey joined the University of Melbourne in 1997 and has an international reputation for his research in basic and clinical immunology and is recognised for his leadership in the field of HLA and the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). He has consulted for the Australian Red Cross for more than 20 years and is Editor-in-Chief of the international immunogenetics journal Tissue Antigens. Professor McCluskey led the development of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity. He is on the Board of Directors of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Florey Neuroscience Institutes, Bionics Institute and is Chair of the Nossal Institute Council and the Board of Nossal Institute Limited.

Elizabeth Peak

Elizabeth PEAK
Elizabeth is an officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. She currently leads Australia’s services and investment trade negotiations in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and is deputy chief negotiator of the Australia-Indonesia free trade agreement. She has represented Australia in the United Nations on climate change extensively. From 2011-14 she volunteered with Asha Society in Delhi, establishing the Asha Internship Programme and Asha Mentorship Programme, engaging corporates such as Macquarie Bank, Rio Tinto, Pepsi and Bausch and Lomb to provide workplace experience to talented Asha students. Elizabeth was formerly a lawyer at Freehills and Dwyer Durack. She holds an Executive Masters of Business Administration from Kellogg-HKUST, Masters of Law (International Law) from the Australian National University and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons)/Arts from the University of Queensland.

Harish Rao

Harish has been the face of the Sundaram Finance Group in Australia since 2004. Sundaram is a US$5billion financial services conglomerate, based in Chennai, India. In Australia, the group is involved with Financial and Business Process Outsourcing & Robotic Process Automation through its subsidiary, Sundaram Business Services Limited. He currently Chairs the Advisory Panel for Sundaram in Australia and also consults to a number of other companies in the Australia-India corridor on market entry opportunities in India and has led multiple business delegations to India.

Harish has been involved in the Australia India business space for over 2 decades, notably having set up the first TGA approved herbal facility in Kerala India, importing natural products from India to Australia before pioneering the concept of business processes outsourcing for accounting firms in Australia.

Besides his Non-Executive role with the Australian Friends of ASHA, Harish is also the Executive Director of the Australia India Chamber of Commerce Limited & Director of his family’s foundation, Australia India Social & Charitable Ventures Limited and Board member of the Australia India Institute, & the World Mosquito Program

Harish originally hailed from Chennai, India but migrated with his family to Melbourne in 1968. He attended Melbourne Grammar School before completing higher studies at the Australian National University and Monash University & has an MBA (Finance) & Graduate Certificate in Asian Business from Monash University and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Patron:The Governor of Victoria, Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Margaret Gardner AC











Professor the Honourable Margaret Gardner AC is the 30th Governor of Victoria and the second woman to hold the office. Prior to her appointment in August 2023, she was the 9th and first woman President and Vice-Chancellor of Monash University from September 2014 until August 2023.

Prior to joining Monash, the Governor was Vice-Chancellor and President of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) from April 2005 until August 2014. She has extensive academic experience, having held various leadership positions in Australian universities throughout her career, including as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at The University of Queensland and Pro Vice-Chancellor at Griffith University in Queensland.

She attained a first-class honours degree in Economics and a PhD from the University of Sydney. In 1988, she was a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow, spending time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, New York, and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2018, she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

The Governor was Chair of the Group of Eight Universities in Australia from 2020 to 2023. She was also a Director of Infrastructure Victoria from 2015 to 2023, the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) from 2015 to 2023 and Chair of CASE Asia-Pacific Regional Council from 2019 to 2023.

The Governor was Chair of Universities Australia from 2017 to 2019 and Museum Victoria from 2008 to 2016 and chaired the Strategic Advisory Committee and the Expert Panel of the Office of Learning and Teaching (Federal Government Department of Education and Training). She has also been a member of various other boards and committees, including the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, the ANZAC Centenary Advisory Board and the International Education Advisory Committee, which led to the Chaney Report.

In 2007, the Governor was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in recognition of service to tertiary education, particularly in the areas of university governance and gender equity, and to industrial relations. Subsequently in January 2020, the Governor was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for her eminent service to tertiary education through leadership and innovation in teaching and learning, research and financial sustainability. In her inauguration speech, the Governor expressed a desire to listen to the voices of all Victorians, and to support and preserve the State’s democratic institutions.


Founding Patron: The Honourable Alex Chernov AC KC

Alex Chernov was educated at Melbourne High School and then at the University of Melbourne where he gained the degrees of B.Com. and LLB (Hons). In 1968, Alex Chernov signed the Roll of Counsel at the Victorian Bar and in 1980, was appointed Queens Counsel in Victoria. Whilst a barrister, Alex Chernov played a significant role in the leadership of the legal profession and legal education in Australia and in our region. His career includes Independent Lecturer in Equity for the Council of Legal Education, Honorary Consultant to the Australian Law Reform Commission, Chairman of the Victorian Bar, Vice President of the Australian Bar Association, President of the Australian Law Council and Vice President of LawAsia. In 1997, Alex Chernov was appointed a Judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria and, in 1998, was appointed to its Court of Appeal. In 1992, he became a member of the Council of the University of Melbourne and chaired a number of its major committees. In 2004, he was elected a Deputy Chancellor of the University of Melbourne and in 2009, was elected as its Chancellor. Alex Chernov was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008 and was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in the 2012 Australia Day Honours. Alex Chernov was sworn in as the 28th Governor of Victoria on 8th April 2011. Alex and his wife, Elizabeth, who is also Law graduate of the University, have three children, who are also graduates of the University. They have seven grandchildren.