Stephen van Leeuwen
Curtin University

Stephen van Leeuwen photo

Professor Stephen van Leeuwen

Deputy hub leader, hub senior Indigenous facilitator

BHP Curtin Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science

See Professor van Leeuwen’s full research profile here.

Research outputs linked to policy change and decision-making 

  • Through the Indigenous advisory committee (IAC), Professor van Leeuwen has influenced Indigenous engagement and inclusion across major programs within the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) including the 2021 State of the Environment report, Reconciliation Action Plan, Reef Trust, 2019 Indigenous Protected Area competitive grants round, and design of the second phase of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP). He also co-authored the IAC’s submission to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act review and independent submissions tendered by Indigenous working groups for the Threatened Species Recovery Hub and Ecological Society of Australia.
  • Professor van Leeuwen was a key biodiversity and Indigenous influencer in the design and initial implementation of the Pilbara Environmental Offset Fund, the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority’s Section 16(e) advice on the Fortescue Marsh and the Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust’s threatened species implementation and bioregional management plans. He also chaired the biological survey strategy working group of the Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute.
  • Strong links and established networks with Indigenous ranger groups (e.g. Birriliburu Rangers), Prescribed Bodies Corporate (e.g. Tarlka Matuwa Piarku), Native Title Representative Bodies (e.g. South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council Aboriginal Corporation), Indigenous-led organisations (e.g. North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance), Indigenous-led land management practitioners (e.g. Firestick Alliance), Indigenous-focused land management organisations (e.g. 10 Desert Project) and not-for-profit organisations that support management of the Indigenous estate (e.g. Bush Heritage Australia, Rangelands NRM)
  • NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub project: Monitoring, mapping and safeguarding Kimberley bilbies.

Highest qualification

  • 1997: PhD (biology), Curtin University of Technology.


  • 2020–present: BHP Curtin Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science
  • 2015–2020: assistant director, biodiversity and conservation science, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
  • 2014–2015: science partnerships manager, Science and Conservation, WA Department of Parks and Wildlife
  • 2007–2014: science program leader – biogeography, WA Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Indigenous representation

  • 2021–present: initial director, Karri Karrak Prescribed Body Corporate
  • 2021–present: steering committee, First Nations Science Centre
  • 2020–present: independent reference group, Indigenous rangers program: National Indigenous Australians Agency
  • 2019–present: South West Australian Marine Parks advisory committee, Parks Australia
  • 2018–present: Indigenous reference group, NESP Threatened Species Recovery Hub
  • 2017–present: Indigenous advisory committee, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • 2017–present: Indigenous working group, Ecological Society of Australia.

Scientific representation

  • 2021–present: advisory board, Atlas of Living Australia
  • 2020–present: threatened species scientific committee
  • 2020–present: wildlife and threatened species bushfire recovery expert panel, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
  • 2019–2020: Western Australian biodiversity survey working group, Western Australian Biodiversity Science Institute (chair)
  • 2015–2021: research executive committee, NESP Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub
  • 2014–present: ecosystem surveillance monitoring advisory committee: Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network
  • 2013–2020: Great Victoria Desert Biodiversity Trust management panel
  • 2009–present: Western Australian threatened ecological communities scientific committee, WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.


Professor Stephen van Leeuwen is Australia’s first Indigenous Chair of Biodiversity and Environmental Science, based at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. He obtained all his academic credentials from Curtin University, completing his PhD in 1997 on the ‘Reproductive biology and mating system of Banksia tricuspis’, a rare species endemic to the Mt Lesueur National Park.

Professor van Leeuwen is a respected South West Boojarah Wardandi Noongar leader with a profound respect for Country who engages and builds collaborative relationships with Traditional Owners and other land managers to co-deliver novel and enduring outcomes for biodiversity conservation, bio-cultural land management, and the stewardship of Country.

Professor van Leeuwen is a botanical ecologist, research scientist and senior manager with a diverse research pedigree extending from threatened flora surveys, fire ecology and threatened flora and fauna management through to biological surveys, arid zone ecology, plant taxonomy and pollination biology. He has worked for over 39 years across Western Australia, principally in the rangelands (Pilbara and Western Desert) and the Kwongan sandplains of the biodiversity hotspot that is south-west Western Australia.

As a former senior manager within the Western Australian government, Professor van Leeuwen provided leadership and oversight to a highly motivated, capable and dedicated team of professional, technical and administrative staff committed to the delivery of evidenced-based science to inform nature conservation and sustainable nature resource management. Professor van Leeuwen strives to build and deliver research collaborations where the outputs are focused on solutions which were co-designed and co-delivered in concert with conservation practitioners.


My Projects

Current projectCompleted project
NESP RLH, 2021-2027NESP, 2015-2021NERP, 2012-2015TRaCK, 2005-present