Our people

ACIAR has an executive management governance structure. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) manages the administrative and financial affairs of ACIAR and its staff, subject to, and in accordance with, any directions given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The CEO leads an executive team, which provides strategic leadership of the agency to ensure program delivery is consistent with government policy objectives to an appropriate level of performance. 


Professor Wendy Umberger

Chief Executive Officer

Professor Wendy Umberger is directly responsible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and was appointed CEO in 2023. As agency head, the CEO manages the administrative and financial affairs of ACIAR and its staff. 

Professor Umberger has played influential roles in sustainable agriculture for over 20 years. From 2013 to 2022, she founded and led the Centre for Global Food and Resources at the University of Adelaide, which engaged with policymakers and industry to make positive changes in agriculture, food, and resource systems. Professor Umberger has also served as President of Australia's Policy Advisory Council (for International Agricultural Research and Development) from 2020 to 2023 and was on the Board of Trustees of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) from 2015 to 2021. 

Professor Umberger is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Agriculture and Food at the University of Melbourne and an expert in agricultural economics, development, and food policy. She has worked on food system issues across the Indo-Pacific region and led interdisciplinary value chain research projects in Asia, Australia, North America, the Pacific Islands and South Africa. Her research has explored opportunities for smallholder agricultural households to produce high-value (horticulture, dairy, beef) food products and adopt new technology to access modern food value chains. 

Professor Umberger is also a Director of the International Association of Agricultural Economists, a board member of Food Bank SA, an Honorary Fellow of Food Standards Australia New Zealand, a Distinguished Fellow of the Australasian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society and served as an Independent Director of Grain Producers South Australia (GPSA) for six years. Wendy has a B.S. in Animal Science (1996), an M.S. in Economics (1998) from South Dakota State University and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (2001) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Audrey Gormley

Chief Finance Officer

Ms Audrey Gormley is responsible for providing strategic financial advice to the organisation, in addition to managing human resources, business services (IT), procurement, legal, property and other corporate activity. 

Ms Audrey Gormley joined ACIAR in July 2017 and has over 30 years’ experience in all facets of finance and accounting both at strategic and operational levels, working in investment banking and insurance sectors before joining the Australian Government. Prior to joining ACIAR, Audrey was Chief Finance Officer at Food Standards Australia New Zealand for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from University College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.



Daniel Walker

Chief Scientist

Dr Daniel Walker oversees the strategic science focus of the ACIAR research portfolio and its impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation work. The Chief Scientist also provides leadership for Research Program Managers across nine research areas, and oversight of our relationship with the Australian innovation system.

Dr Daniel Walker joined ACIAR in November 2017 to take up the newly-created role of Chief Scientist. Prior to ACIAR, Daniel spent 23 years at CSIRO, where he was Research Director for Agriculture and Global Change with CSIRO Agriculture and Food and previously, Chief of CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences. Daniel has a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in agriculture, forestry and rural economy from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD from the University of Wales.

Eleanor Dean

General Manager, Outreach and Capacity Building

Ms Eleanor Dean has led the ACIAR Outreach and Capacity Building programs since 2017.

In this position, Eleanor has overseen a transformation of the Outreach program bringing a greater emphasis to reaching larger audiences through digital media channels.  The academic publishing program also ensures ACIAR research is captured and communicated broadly to partners.

Eleanor led the design of the Meryl Williams Fellowship, a leadership and management course for female agricultural researchers, and has driven a renewed and more active alumni engagement. Under her leadership the Capacity Building program now reaches many more researchers through increased rounds of the John Dillon Fellowship and online learning.

Stakeholder engagement is a key role for Eleanor, who leads government and ministerial liaison for ACIAR. She is also responsible for delivering a domestic stakeholder engagement strategy.

As co-chair of the Gender Equity and Social Inclusion Committee, Eleanor champions a program of work to ensure gender equity and social inclusion in ACIAR research and capacity-building.  She is also chair of the Executive Committee of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions.

Eleanor has a Bachelor of Communication with first class honours from the University of Canberra and extensive experience working in the Australia Government in communication roles across a number of agencies, including the environment and agriculture portfolios. Her previous position was as Manager, Safety Promotion Branch at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.