John qualified as a lawyer after studying at the University of Tasmania. He spent 23 years as a Tasmanian Departmental Secretary, in the Justice, Environment and Land Management, Primary Industries, Water and Environment and Health and Human Services Departments. He worked as a consultant in the areas of health services, environment and natural resources after resigning from the Tasmanian public sector in 2005.

His previous appointments include Chair of the Land Use Planning Review Panel, and Chair of the Board of the Environment Protection Authority and Chair of the Board of the Forest Practices Authority.

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