Don McKenzie, MNF Ship Operations Manager

What is your current role?

I look after the science teams that carry out research on Australia’s Marine National Facility (MNF) research vessel. Until late 2013 this was Southern Surveyor but it will soon be replaced by our new research vessel, Investigator. I work with the scientists who apply for sea time onboard the ship during the applications process, then once the Science Advisory Committee and the Marine National Facility Steering Committee have ranked the applications against the assessment criteria set by the Minister, my team and I prepare the annual schedule of research voyages. The planning process for each voyage starts about two years before the scientists go to sea.

Don McKenzie presenting an HSE Award at the Sembawang Shipyard

Why does this work appeal to you?
Every day is different, every voyage is different, every port is different and every challenge is different. I work with some of the best marine scientists in the world, and help them to successfully and safely plan and carry out their research at sea. I travel to ports around Australia and in the Pacific, to mobilise the ship for voyages, and about once a year I join a voyage. I work in a great team of people who all enjoy their work as much as I do, and I have a pretty amazing office with a view over the wharf and harbour in Hobart.

Don McKenzie flat out at sea

What is the most memorable moment or achievement you have had at Marine National Facility?

On the back deck of Southern Surveyor, at 50 degrees South, at sunset; it was so calm and the sea so glassy, that every albatross was perfectly reflected on the golden surface. When it got dark even the stars were clearly reflected.
Sunset (image Don McKenzie)

Who in the Marine National Facility, past or present, has inspired you and why?

Professor Richard Arculus who is a volcanologist from the Australian National University (ANU) has been a frequent user of the MNF vessels over the years, and he has also been part of in the MNF Steering Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee. Richard is always really enthusiastic about his work. He is an amazing communicator and very generous with his time in explaining what they are doing and why it is important – when talking to different groups he can change gear seamlessly depending on his audience to make sure everyone understands. He is also a very knowledgeable rugby fan, which I’m a bit partial to.
Don McKenzie leading a ship tour in Darwin

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up – are you doing it now?

A fisherman. And, as for doing it now, only on weekends, sometimes.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Fishing! I also like travelling, cooking and enjoy a good meal and I like to source fresh, local and seasonal produce.

Don McKenzie at sea on the weekend

What do you like most about working at the Marine National Facility?

The people, the ships, the sea, the science and the variety of work I’m able to do.

What one word would you use to describe the Marine National Facility?

Facilitating great science (there are three kinds of people in this world: those that can count and those that can’t).


  1. Well put Don!
    Your thoughts almost exactly echo my sentiments.

    Bob Beattie, ORV IT Support (Retired)

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