Scholar Profile - Max Ervin PDF Print E-mail
Max Ervin


Trustee at Trust for Nature (Victoria)

Awarded a scholarship for AICD's Governance Foundations for Not-For-Profit Directors course, February 2014

What sort of work does your organisation do?

The Trust works with private landowners to protect the native plants and wildlife on their properties, in perpetuity through Covenant on title. The Trust then provides stewardship to ensure compliance with the covenant. In addition, through a Revolving Fund the Trust purchases properties of bio-diversity significance, protects them with a covenant, and then on sells them and so protects them in perpetuity also.

Describe a typical day's work.

I am semi- retired and work part time as a consulting engineer, in the field of geotechnical engineering, on average about 15 hours per week. This role is as a senior reviewer for significant projects, and as a technical mentor for staff throughout our Australian operations. In this mentor role I undertake review of work product and provide feedback to staff, and also facilitate interactive training sessions with junior to middle level staff.

As a Trustee of Trust for Nature, I participate in Committee and Board meetings, and the associated planning and document review.

When not working or acting as a Trustee, I enjoy working around our home, and spending time at our “bush block” of about 150 acres in north central Victoria (Moonambel).

What were some of the key learnings from the Governance Foundations for NFP Directors course?

Having been involved in corporate governance in a relatively large and International Private (for Profit) organisation for some years, and now involved as a Trustee of a NFP organisation, I wanted to check if there were any nuances in the associated governance I should be aware of. The course confirmed for me that I had a reasonable understanding of governance, that our Board is well organised and has an appropriate relationship with our CEO. The refresher nature of the course was highly valued.

How has it impacted / changed / benefited your role and your organisation as a whole?

I do not think the course, per se, has impacted my role or that of the organisation. Of greater value was the confirmation that the governance of the organisation is effective, to a high level, with a good culture and high level of engagement. With this confidence, I will feel even better empowered in my role as a Trustee, to try to influence and engage with the organisation.

How did you come to be working in the not-for-profit sector?

I was on the Board of an international private company for 7 years, up to 2010, and its Lead director for 4 of those years. In that time the Company’s gross revenue increased from about USD300M to over USD1 billion. I found this experience on this Board to be interesting and challenging. When I retired from full time work in 2012 I thought it would be interesting to use that governance experience. I am a member of AICD and saw that Trust for Nature was seeking new Trustees. Having an interest in conservation, and owning two properties which we had covenanted through TfN, I was well aware of TfN and decided this would be a good thing to do. I was successful in my application, after an interview process, and was appointed a Trustee in April 2013.

What do you feel is most needed to sustain and build the impact of the not-for-profit sector?

The NFP sector covers a wide range of public interest activities, and so this is a very broad question. However, the most critical issue facing NFP organisations as I see it is funding. Those reliant on Government grants/funding are seeing this income stream drastically reduced. At the same time philanthropy is being constantly extended, and in the current less than buoyant economic times is also a dwindling source of revenue. To add to these woes, successful organisations become victims of their success, and need to grow to deliver on their mandate. Growth means more cash, and so the problem escalates.

The other potential issue is ensuring succession planning and turn over on Boards of Governance to keep fresh minds and new ideas coming forward.

What is something interesting / unique / unusual about you?

Nothing particularly unique or unusual that I am aware of. I have enjoyed a successful career as a geotechnical engineer, and been recognised by my peers for that. I am married with 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren, all of whose company and friendship I strongly value.

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"I feel even better empowered in my role as a Trustee, to try to influence and engage with the organisation."


Max has a background in geotechnical engineering, initially with the Country Roads Board of Victoria, but since 1977 as a consultant. He has won several awards, including Geotechnical Practitioner of the Year (2006), and Australian Civil Engineer of the Year (2001). Max is also an honorary Professorial Fellow of the University of Melbourne.

He was appointed in his role as Trustee at Trust for Nature mid-2013 and in late 2013 ASF awarded him a scholarship to attend AICD's Governance Foundations for NFP Directors course in Melbourne in 2014.


Annual revenue / size:

Large - $5m - $25m pa

Segment of NFP sector:

Environment & Animal Welfare

Operating in: