About Us » Our Staff

Our Course Developers and Teaching Staff 

John Mason 
Dip.Hort.Sc.. Cert.Supn, Adv.Cert.Mgt., FIOH, FCIH

From the mid 60's John worked on building sites during his holidays while completing secondary school and then moving to studyiung horticulture and horticultural engineering at Burnley Horticultural college. He worked in landscaping, parks management and gardening through the 70's before founding ACS Distance Education in 1979. In 1983 he built the school's first office from mud brick and to this day continues to apply his practical skills in both construction and horticulture, as well as managing ACS education. He has been teaching, writing about and practicing his diverse knowledge and skills for more than half a century. John comes from a family of builders from his great great grandfather who owned a building business in  the UK to his father, a carpenter who ran his own building business in Melbourne for 45 years.


Lachlan Allan

B. Engineering, B.A.

Lachlan has wide ranging experience across project management, engineering and other industries in both Australia and the U.K.


Jacinda Cole

B.Sc., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA

Jacinda worked as a painter and decorator and builder in the 80's and early 90's before studying building, landscaping and psychology courses.  
s. Over the decades she has worked across all of these industries She has also renovated and sold property, and continued to apply her trade knowledge in a variety of situations both in England and Australia. Jacinda also has many years experience in course development and educational writing.  
Diana Cole
B.A. (Hons), RHS Diploma in Horticulture, BTEC Higher Diploma in Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C.

Diana has studied and worked in landscaping, horticulture and permaculture. She runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens), and has also been actively involved with volunteer groups for many years, including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. and the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners Ltd.

Megan Cox
B.Sc (Hons) Environmental Conservation, M.Sc.
Megan has over 10 years of practical and industry experience in farming, land conservation and gardening in both the U.K. and South America. She spent 2 years working on farms in Sth America. She has taught and practiced permaculture in the UK. She has a passion for sustainable living and is now living on and developing her large property in north Wales.

Adriana Fraser 
Adv.Cert.Hort., Adv.Dip.Hort.

Adriana has lived the self sufficient lifestyle for decades on her home properties on the eastern fringe of Melbourne. She has written for many magazines regularly, including Grass Roots and Home Grown; and over several decades has been a major contributor to books and courses written by staff of ACS.

Gaynor Hartley

Gaynor has worked for ACS periodically since 1986. She few up on a large farm in northern Victoria before studying horticulture in the late 70's. She owned and operated a propagation nursery for more than 2 decades, and has always followed a strong passion for arts, crafts and gardening. Her experience is immense and diverse, and her support of students has become legendary here at ACS.

Melissa Leistra
Bachelor Education, Masters Human Nutrition

Melissa built her own "off the grid" home together with her family and lived the self sufficient lifestyle on her home properties in both northern NSW and in Tasmania. Beyond her wealth of practical experience Melissa is a fully qualified teacher and nutritional scientist with over 2 decades of experience in teaching and writing.


Jade Sciascia 
B.Sc.Biol, Dip.Prof.Ed, Cert Food Hygiene.

Jade grew up in Scotland with a passion for the land. She moved to Australia in her 20's and along with her husband built her own home on acreage in Queensland. From painting and cabinet making to fencing and gardening she has done it all. Beyond that she is a skilled and experienced writer and educator with qualifications in education among other things.


Nicola Stewart

BA(Hons); Dip.Pub; CIM Dip.Marketing; PGCE; Masters in Education

Nicola has worked in the building, education, writing and health industries. Today she splits her work life between working with ACS, studying toward a PhD and helping with her husband's building business.


Mitchell Skiller.

Assoc. Dip. In Horticulture, Cert IV in Training and Assessment.  
Mitchell has had over 25 year’s experience in the Horticultural Industry.  He has held positions  as a supervising horticulturist, landscaper, consultant, and a business owner growing cut flowers, specialising in tropical plants.

Timothy Walker 
B.A.(Botany),  RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed.

Timothy is a Botanist, Horticulturist and Gardener. He is an Author, and also a lecturer at Somerville College, Oxford. After training at a number of gardens  including Windsor Great Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Timothy commenced work at Oxford Botanic Gardens in 1986. Appointed as "Horti Praefectus" (Superintendent/Director) there in 1988, he held that position until 2014. Under Timothy's watch, the garden won four gold medals at the Chelsea Flower Show, and developed 67 acres of MG5 wild flower meadow at the Harcourt Arboretum; a UK threatened habitat. Timothy remains an active practical gardener as well as a highly respected international academic in the fields of horticulture and plant botany. 


Rajy Xavier
 M. Eng., M. Ed.
An Electrical Engineer with 12 years of experience in Engineering and Education. After completing masters in Telecommunication Engineering,  she worked as an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering for 5 years. She has also completed her masters in education with double major from Queensland University of Technology. 



  • Hold a tertiary qualification (diploma or degree).
  • Have a minimum of five years of industry experience.
  • Hold an appropriate training skills qualification.
  • Are still working in industry (at least part time).
We endeavour to employ tutors who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their respective fields. Current Academic Officers include former presidents and secretaries from professional associations, managers and department heads from a variety of organisations and successful owner operators of a wide variety of businesses.