Marco Polo Project
We bring cultures together

Our team

Our Team

Keeping the caravan together: our creative leadership team


Sam Shlansky -


Sam Shlansky is a Melbourne based Indonesian speaker working with diverse communities.

Tenacious community organiser with demonstrated speciality in non-profit organisation management and administration. Sam continues to support diverse communities while building on established skills. Sam is a recent RMIT Diploma of Youth Work graduate after completing a Bachelor of Arts at Monash University.

Sam joined Marco Polo Project in early 2018 as associate designer, developing the Out of the Box project, and now coordinates the growth of Marco Polo Education Projects

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Julien Leyre -

Founder / Senior Advisor

Julien is a French-Australian writer and educator. Julien studied Humanities and Classics at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris before teaching linguistics and translation at the Sorbonne. He migrated to Melbourne in 2008.

In addition to his role with Marco Polo Project, Julien is currently undertaking a PhD exploring the emerging digital ecosystem of Chinese language learning. From 2016 to 2018, he worked as Editor-in-Chief with the Global Challenges Foundation, a Stockholm-based organisation working to stimulate the development of better global governance models. In 2016, he was listed on the Victorian Multicultural Honour Roll and in 2017, awarded the title of New Australian of the Year. More about Julien at


Kishan Arava -

HR model designer - web guru

Kishan is a business systems specialist with consulting, executive and operational experience across industries - from technology to education. Experience includes growth strategy, pricing strategy, go-to-market strategy, operations strategy for small and medium sized businesses. Kishan is always on the look out for new challenging problems to solve (and great teams to work with). Strong interest areas include language learning (mandarin) and emerging technologies (machine learning and computer vision).

Kishan joined Marco Polo Project in 2016. He supervises all-things-tech for Marco Polo Project, and informs the development of a flexible HR strategy to support Marco Polo Project operations in a highly fluid and dynamic environment.


Harry (Pingjie) Zhang -

Business model designer - marketing guru

Harry is a trusted and resilient team player, creative problem solver and effective communicator with five years of professional experience in government and higher education sectors.

Harry is a founding member of Marco Polo Project, and now working closely with the Founder / CEO Julien Leyre to develop new business models and marketing strategies for Marco Polo Project


Eric (You) Li -

Finance and accounting guru

Eric graduated from the University of Melbourne with Master of Accounting degree in 2016 and finished his bachelor of accounting degree 2014. Eric's objective is to build a career in accounting, auditing, and financial management, fully utilize his expertise and develop new ideas to provide professional service.

Eric has been managing accounts of the Marco Polo Project since 2015, and conducted a complete audit of past accounts for the organisation. Eric recently started working on the development of a complete evaluation framework for Marco Polo Project.


Inspiring audiences and learners: our engagement and event team


Patrick Laudon -

Translation Club Tokyo coordinator - Marco Polo Museum co-designer

Patrick Laudon is an Executive Coach. He founded and runs LifeCrack, a firm based in Tokyo, operating all over Asia. LifeCrack aims to bring a more humanistic approach to organizations, when they want, or need, to change. For instance, shift to a human centered approach to management and leadership, excellence for leaders and their teams, raising creativity and capability to change, or enhanced communication across boundaries.

Patrick joined Marco Polo Project in January 2018. He co-designed the Marco Polo Museum with CEO Julien Leyre, and started and runs a weekly Translation Club in Tokyo.


Andrea Lasheras Ortiz - Hispanic World lead

Andrea is currently combining her work as a Chinese teacher in Mexico with social research. She graduated from the Autonomous University of Madrid with a Master of Social and Cultural Anthropology degree in 2010. Since 2005 she has lived and worked at nine different cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, where she has developed teaching, counselling, translating and cultural mediation skills. Her career has focused on deciphering the worries, behaviours and collective imagination of worldwide communities, with the aim of making different groups better understand each other in order to promote social harmony and cross-cultural exchange.

Andrea joined the Marco Polo Project in late 2018 and is in charge of launching Translation Club among the Hispanic World.


Allen (Yinglun) Wang -

Translation Club Melbourne


Allen Wang is an international student specialist currently working at RMIT university. Born in northern China, Allen studied social work at Melbourne University, and is committed to improving the welfare and well-being of international students and migrants in Australia.

Allen has been a regular attendee of Marco Polo Translation Club since 2017, and started taking responsibility for coordinating the event in 2018. In addition, Allen advises on text selection and partnership with universities.

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Charles (Won Chak) Leung - Translation Club Melbourne text curator

Charles is a a first year IT Master student at RMIT, who completed a Bachelor degree and a Master degree of Translation at Melbourne University . Originally from Hong Kong, Charles has a strong interest in languages, translation, science and technology.

Charles has been a regular participant of the Marco Polo Translation Club since the very start, and came on board as text curator in August 2018.


Kevin (Wen Tao) Chian - Marco Polo Museum Curator (China Collection)

Kevin is currently studying to be a Mandarin-English interpreter at RMIT University. Born in the beautiful garden city of Suzhou, China, Kevin has chosen another such city, Melbourne, as his second home away from home. As a keen translator, Kevin has been regularly attending the Marco Polo Translation Club, and now is in charge of curating the China section of the Marco Polo Museum.


Creating the building blocks of a different future: our learning designers


Dr. Christopher Bell -

Associate Consultant

Christopher is a consultant whose 35 year career reflects his operational expertise in cross-cultural environments, creative arts and business in leadership development, change management and communication.

Dr Christopher Bell has been working as associate consultant with Marco Polo Project since 2016, with principal focus on incubating the Switch-On Project.


Wesa Chau -

Associate consultant

esa is a facilitator, speaker and consultant on cultural diversity, especially in relation to leadership, community engagement and communication. She is also tertiary educated in software engineering.

Wesa has been a supporter of Marco Polo Project for over five years, and provided informal support and advice on a range of projects. Wesa more formally joined the team to work on the Switch-On Project in 2016, and is currently supporting further development of international student programs Design for Diversity and Out of the Box.

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Dr Bridget McPherson -

Associate consultant

Dr Bridget McPherson is a Psychologist who specialises in the treatment of the educational and developmental needs of young people. After providing mental health care for children and adolescents at the Austin Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, Bridget commenced as Head of Counselling at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School, where she works actively in the provision of clinical intervention and prevention programs to students and families. Bridget regularly provides seminars to staff, parents, and professionals. Bridget is dedicated to addressing the difficulties that young people face today, thereby enhancing their capacity to effectively and successfully lead future generations, both locally and globally.

Bridget supports Marco Polo Project's engagement with high schools, and co-designed the new Froj'.program.


Elizabeth Winkelman -

Associate consultant

Elizabeth Winkelman is a facilitator, linguist and digital curator who has delivered cross-cultural programs in China and Japan to a diverse range of people and organizations.

Elizabeth Winkelman has been working as associate consultant with Marco Polo Project since 2016, with principal focus on incubating the Switch-On Project.


Thomas Richardson - associate designer

Thomas Richardson is a Melbourne-raised student at Monash University, currently studying a double bachelors degree in Commerce and Information Technology. Thomas has a passion for languages - is learning French and Spanish, and looking to further understand new technological frameworks for financial transactions - blockchain and others. He is passionate about financial Technology and linguistic development. He joined Marco Polo Project in January 2018, co-designed the Language Connector card-set, as well as a module of Out of the Box on experience development


Keeping projects on mission: our board


Daniel Ednie-Lockett -


Dan is a specialist in second language acquisition and pragmatics. Dan has a talent for languages; he learnt Japanese in two years (2006-7) primarily through making friends with Japanese international students in Melbourne. In 2008, he founded Global Heart Tours – now Language Connection – which has since connected over 2500 local and international students in Melbourne. The events enable local students learning Japanese and Chinese to use their classroom knowledge, and gives international students to knowledge to attend more house parties, social events and make more local friends. Dan completed a Masters in education at Nanjing University, and worked as a host on Jiangsu TV. He teaches ESL at Monash College, and founded his own language school, Level Up English.

Dan is a founding member of Marco Polo Project, and has been providing support and drive on community engagement, partnership opportunities and event design.


Samuel Taylor -


Sam is a gregarious professional who has a passion for groupwork, innovation and change-making through connectivity. He has worked as research and media officer at the Parliament of South Australia, and is now running an independent strategic consulting agency in Adelaide. His goal is to contribute to Australia’s global citizenship, and help to increase the real opportunities for inter-cultural understanding (as an idealogical goal of multiculturalism) among Australians.

Sam is a founding member of Marco Polo Project, and has been providing support and advice on compliance, HR and operations.


Raphael Trantoul -


Raphael Trantoul is a French lecturer at Latrobe University, and is currently finishing a PhD on the work of French OULIPO writer George Perec. Since migrating to Australia in 2006, he has taught French, at Alliance Francaise de Melbourne, Melbourne University and Latrobe University. Raphael is exploring innovative language teaching methods in his academic work.

Raphael is a founding member of Marco Polo Project, and has been providing support and advice in liaising with universities, evaluating impact, and integration into language curriculums.


A global network of intelligence, courage and gratitude: our supporters and alumni

Marco Polo Project operates a large cloud-team, with associate consultants and designers joining projects on an ad hoc basis. As an ambitious charity organisation powered by intellectual and emotional labour, we adopted this model as the most fruitful for the success of our programs and to ensure the growth of all people working with us. Since 2011, we have worked with a range of exceptional people who joined our organisation as supporters, volunteers and advisors. We are currently developing a project to more systematically celebrate our alumni and past supporters. For now, you can find a list of the people who made Marco Polo Project over the years at this link